Arrival in the West
Christian Bürger’s Diary, 13th Entry
14 August 1990
“Hardly had the four Stasi men left the train than a wave of exuberance flooded the compartments. Some people opened the windows and through their remaining money to the border guards and the railwaymen: “Go buy yourself a sausage!” or “We don’t need it anymore!”
It was but a few kilometres to the border now. But we still hadn’t made it. We were still in East German territory. I was worried that the exuberance would be our downfall at the very last moment. But then the train started moving again, and our fears disappeared. “Now there’s simply the strip of no man’s land ahead,” I thought, “and then we’ve made it.” And in fact I really hardly noticed the few minutes before I saw the sign saying we had entered Bavarian territory. And then we’d arrived! At the station in Hof, Bavaria.
“It was an incredibly cordial reception. I felt like one of the World Cup winners coming home. Yes, at that moment I felt that this here was my home. And that this was the way it should be.”
I found it hard to breathe. My knees started to wobble. The doors hissed and opened, and it all sounded so loud. It felt like in the movies: I watched people jumping down from the train and throwing themselves on the ground – of the railway station in Hof. A few seconds passed before I realized I was not watching some silver screen. No, I was looking out of my compartment’s window. And I could easily be one of them!
I got up and took my place in the long line of people getting off the train. “Took my place.” Nonsense, hardly had I got up than I simply became part of the flow. And then I stumbled out into liberty, almost fell to the ground to kiss it. Sure, looking back it all seems so pathos-like, so silly. But at that moment I really had the need to kiss freedom! And absurdly at that moment it was symbolized by a railway platform in a small town. I wanted to scream for joy, dance, hey I wanted to… Well, I don’t really know what I wanted. My whole body was so inundated with joy that I’d long since stopped thinking. Simply unadulterated, undiluted joy – the likes of which I hadn’t felt before and haven’t felt since. And the very opposite of that paralysing despair I had felt years before in my kitchen when forced to confront the official slip rejecting my application to leave.
Video Diary Episode 13
ARRIVAL IN THE WEST
Only then did I see the bridge across the tracks. Full of people all waving the Bavarian and German flags, welcoming us with cheers. In fact such that today I can’t really say what Hof station looks like. The bridge was full of people, the platform was full of people. There were old grannies with trays bearing sandwiches and coffee pots. Inside the station any number of organisations and institutions had set up stands; the Red Cross and Caritas were handing out clothes.
It was an incredibly cordial reception. I felt like one of the World Cup winners coming home. Yes, at that moment I felt that this here was my home. And that this was the way it should be.”