Everyday Madness

9. September 2014

Christian Bürger’s Diary, 5th Entry

19 September 1989

“It looks crazy: Me lying on the staircase in the Lobkowitz Palace entrance hall. I’m asleep, next to me Jens Hase, a refugee who was a really hard worker. All around us others are huddled up in the space and trying to get a little peace and quiet. And the smell is quite overwhelming as our clothes aren’t washed. The dirt sticks to everything. We can no longer get it under control. And then suddenly I’m awake because I hear a door opening over in the Hubers’ residence. A couple, the one resplendent in a cocktail dress, the other wearing tails, worm their way through the mass crush on the staircase. And only at third glance do I realise it is the Hubers themselves. Perfectly turned out they waft past us en route to performing their duties as Mr. and Mrs. Ambassador somewhere out there, in a world that will hopefully soon be accessible to us all. Before they leave the embassy they stop to ask us all: “Everything OK? Bearing up? No one hungry?” My heart goes out to them – after all the time we’ve been here, they’re still so patient and friendly.

„“Well there are already over 5,000 of us. There is no space left, the air is poor, the mood increasingly tense.”

We are now a firm part of the media coverage, and the flood of incoming refugees does not let up. Herr Huber is really upbeat. “Hey, even if it’s 6,000, we’ll find space somehow,” he declares optimistically. Well there are already over 5,000 of us. There is no space left, the air is poor, the mood increasingly tense. We try to do our best to make everyone realise we will only achieve our common objective if we pull together as one. On the whole, talking earnestly tends to work. My experience is that people who are prepared to leave everything behind them to achieve their goal are very clear-thinking people. I have no idea where new arrivals will be lodged. But then I didn’t when there were “only” 4,000 of us. Tents designed to house 25 are now home to 60 or 70 people. Not everyone’s able to sleep, so we’ve introduced “sleep shifts”. The toilets and sanitary installations have packed up completely. The Red Cross has arranged toilet trucks. And there are queues outside them all day long. Showering is now out of the question. We use bowls and watering cans to get water from the embassy so that we can at least wash our faces and hands. But basically hygiene is now impossible. And especially rain is a problem as it turns the beautiful park inside the embassy grounds into marshland. Using wooden pallets we try to keep the paths sturdy and span tarpaulins between the tents. For a long time the Czech militia was a problem. The militiamen have repeatedly tried to pull people off the fence before they could climb over it. And they were pretty brutal about it. Last week Ambassador Huber himself saw how a woman who was climbing the fence had her trousers pulled down. He stepped up to the fence in person and confronted the militia and with his staff members prevented the militiamen from further harassing the refugees. Since then they have stopped intervening.

Video Diary Episode 5

So for all the hardship we have taken upon ourselves we can be certain that here in the embassy something truly marvellous is happening. We don’t know what will happen to us. But we were never less hopeful that we would at some point get to safety. I above all had the feeling on 13 September. The East German football club FC Hansa Rostock played the Czechoslovak team Caník Ostrava in the European Cup. That day a special train with Rostock fans headed for Ostrava, but 300 of them jumped train in Prague and promptly clambered over the fence. 300 Hansa fans in their blue team shirts climbed the fence, one after the other, until well after nightfall. An incredible image it was and my first thought was that East Germany had simply opened its borders completely. I’m convinced now that all the refugees in the embassy will never have to return to East Germany. But that good fortune will no doubt remain a utopia for a long time to come for most East German citizens…”

German Embassy in Prague
Christian Bürger floh im Juni 1989 in die Bundesdeutsche Botschaft in Prag. Er half der Botschaftsleitung bei der Organisation und Erfassung der Flüchtlinge. Er verbrachte nach der Ankunft in Hof ein paar Jahre in Dingolfing und arbeitete in der Gastronomie. Heute lebt er wieder in Chemnitz.

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