A Taste of Freedom
Christian Bürger’s Diary, 3rd Entry
25 June 1989
“Hardly had I dashed through the doorway than one of the guards called a Herr Weber, a diplomat tasked by the German Ambassador Huber with looking after the refugees. He came down and picked me up at the gate and very cordially bid me welcome – a friendly man and very frank. Because Herr Weber simply admitted that nobody at the Embassy knew what was going to happen to the refugees. Not that I cared. The only thing that was important to me was that I was on West German territory and that I was sure that they wouldn’t be allowed to throw me out.
Even a few days ago I was on the run – today I am in a palace. Lobkowicz Palace is a huge, splendid building. It is touching how the Ambassador, Hermann Huber, and his wife look after us. I think there must now be about 100 of us refugees. It’s as if we were a large group of squatters who have taken occupied this splendid Lobkowicz Palace. It is the West German Embassy building. And what are squatters? Free human beings! Which is exactly how every single one of us here feels.
“Even a few days ago I was on the run – today I am in a palace. It’s as if we were a large group of squatters who have taken occupied this splendid Lobkowicz Palace.”
We’re living in a wing that also belongs to the Embassy. It used to house the visa department for Czechoslovakian citizens. The offices have been cleared out to make space for the bunk beds. We lie here together, sometimes feeling like young people on a school outing. New refugees arrive at the Embassy every day. The news that we are welcome here appears to be spreading like wildfire. The Embassy guards have already had to move out and are now quartered in hotels downtown to make room for us. We have everything we need. I sometimes wish I had brought more clothes with me – I threw my fatigues away in the forest and all I have in my rucksack is some underwear and a spare pair of jeans. But I’m glad that at the moment that is the greatest of my ‘problems’.”
Video Diary Episode 3
A TASTE OF FREEDOM
28 June 1989
“Three days after the last entry in my diary I am happy to report that my “problem” has been solved. Today, the Embassy concierge brought me some clothes that Ambassador Huber’s wife had bought in town. It is touching how Huber and his wife look after us. They recently organized a barbecue, my first opportunity to actually speak to the two of them. I was surprised when I saw them for the first time – a small, slight man and his even slighter wife. Somehow fascinating that diplomats don’t have to be imposing figures but can also be slight. That same afternoon I learnt that the Hubers are absolutely fascinating, engaging people. She looks like a film star and speaks with a French accent – rather like Edith Piaf. But she doesn’t have a trace of that arrogance that people tend to accuse the French of. With her, you straight away sense how kind she is, you immediately know that she is an unbelievably warm-hearted person. And her husband’s exactly the same. That afternoon he greeted every one of us in person, talked to everybody, asked about our reasons. I soon realized how empathetic a man he is, how he really is interested in our problems. The Hubers are kind to the core. They don’t put it on, it’s not an act nor is it forced. And because they are here, we all feel safe.”
CONTEMPORARY WITNESSES – AND WHAT BECAME OF THEM
Hermann and Jacqueline Huber, Embassy officials (married)
They handled organising accommodation for around 13,000 East German refugees in the German embassy in Prague. The event made a lasting impression on them.
I remember really well that first time I was in Prague to inspect things at the refugee drama, as we were already calling it back then, well, there were about 30 or 40 East German citizens who had taken up lodgings inside the embassy walls. That was kind of the bedrock figure, as sometimes there were more, sometimes less, but always about that number of East German citizens in the embassy.
It had rained and the temperature dropped and we were really glad how many parkas the German Armed Forces had given us, and the pullovers, and we’d been given a whole lot of them for the kids. As I said, I had good friends, we had good friends here who sent us really enormous parcels full of great things. And they all arrived in Weiden and were needed every day of the week, as that way we were able to really clothe the kids to keep them warm, which was great.