Dirk Schlegel and Falko Götz: The East Berlin footballers who fled from the Stasi

Götz (left) and Schlegel (realizing) pictured in 1984 – a year after what Schlegel calls their “obliging budge”

Dirk Schlegel and Falko Götz had been net page visitors for years by the level they decided to likelihood every thing.

That they had grown up together, two football-obsessed young folk from the equal aspect of a divided Berlin. They lived shut to the wall that had defined their city since it became as soon as in-constructed 1961. Their world as children became as soon as divided into realizing and unhealthy, west and east, capitalist imperialism and communist utopia. They both knew no longer to sign the western TV they secretly watched at residence.

Schlegel and Götz rose during the equal Dynamo Berlin formative years teams. They were portion of a sporting organisation embraced tightly by the Stasi – East Germany’s brutal and invasive secret police. Erich Mielke, the unsuitable Stasi leader, became as soon as Dynamo’s honorary president.

The two avid gamers had something else in popular. In the eyes of the speak, neither might perhaps be entirely be depended on.

“We both had problems with the authorities and with Dynamo on legend of our history became as soon as the equal,” Schlegel says.

“He had family in West Germany and I had an aunt in England. That selection of thing became as soon as no longer realizing for our future. There became as soon as suspicion. Nonetheless it became as soon as higher for our friendship.”

Götz made his senior debut for Dynamo in 1979, on the age of 17. Schlegel made his two years later, frail 20.

The two net page visitors broke into their country’s strongest crew, no topic sturdy years within the formative years academy. They are saying they were assuredly wilfully lost sight of, and their fogeys were told it would no longer be correct politically to ogle them rewarded – no longer with their background.

Nonetheless their expertise became as soon as no longer attainable to ignore. As they developed, both avid gamers also began to appear for East Germany’s nationwide formative years teams. As athletes, they were portion of a in level of fact catch out sequence of electorate who travelled in a foreign country – always under shut scrutiny.

The Stasi monitored every factor of East German day by day lifestyles, gathering intelligence through a community of informers – and informers who told on the informers. Some estimates suggest it employed one in every Sixty three folk. The construction became as soon as refined, audacious, all-extra special. The cause became as soon as to retain elaborate: to additional the Communist trigger. Soccer also performed its role.

Mielke believed Dynamo ought to mute was the most a hit aspect in East Germany. They gained the league a document 10 consecutive times between 1979 and 1988. There have been assuredly accusations of officers giving them preferential treatment, and – as Schlegel remembers – opposition followers vastly resented their victories.

While taking half in for East Germany’s Underneath-21s in Sweden, Götz began to noticeably opt into legend an alternative.

“As I began to play continuously for Dynamo’s first crew, and internationally too, I began to attain extra about what a occupation in football might perhaps mean,” he says.

“I had to then ask myself the inquire of: Where attain I desire it to opt me? Manufacture I desire to play the total time in East Germany with a membership that doesn’t offer the correct treatment? That from sooner or later to the next might perhaps articulate, ‘thanks but now on legend of of who that it is likely you’ll presumably be, football stops’?”

Schlegel became as soon as having equal tips, introduced to a head by the trip of taking half in in a foreign country in Can also 1982 at a formative years competition in France.

By the summer of 1983, the net page visitors had decided. That they had to catch out of East Germany. And they’d a plan. Nonetheless they might ought to mute watch out.

You can no longer merely discuss anyplace, no longer about something like this. Schlegel and Götz did quite loads of walking – merely the two of them. They would drag off for hours within the forest. It became as soon as the handiest safe assign.

“We talked about it,” says Schlegel. “May perhaps perhaps well we attain this immense thing? It became as soon as no longer so uncomplicated.

“We had to advise in regards to the Stasi and the diversified folk in our membership. It became as soon as a immense secret for me and Falko – no-one else.”

As champions of East Germany, Dynamo would qualify per annum for the European Cup. In currently, the competition featured a straight knockout format – residence and away in every round. The exact Dynamo done became as soon as reaching the quarter-finals in 1980, as soon as they lost to eventual winners Nottingham Forest.

The major realizing became as soon as to opt a stare at to flee wherever the competition might perhaps opt them that season – 1983-eighty four. The diagram became as soon as type.

In the indispensable round came Jeunesse Esch – champions of Luxembourg. It became as soon as an easy tie that might perhaps guarantee one more likelihood to flee if the alternative did no longer articulate itself. And they’d a chum who they realizing might perhaps be in a quandary to wait on.

The major leg became as soon as at residence. Götz opened the scoring in a Four-1 victory. The second leg became as soon as on 28 September 1983.

Their friend had currently been granted permission to toddle to West Germany – there became as soon as an agreeable route of in which it became as soon as sturdy, but no longer no longer attainable, to legally emigrate – and became as soon as residing shut to the border with Luxembourg.

That they had realizing to be the alternative of getting him to meet them and whisk them away in his vehicle, but the timing became as soon as off. The friend would no longer be in a quandary to wait on – he mute hadn’t obtained his fat identification papers and so might perhaps no longer shuttle all over the border into Luxembourg from his new residence in West Germany.

Silent, Götz and Schlegel realizing there might perhaps be an alternative.

Götz pictured in Dynamo Berlin equipment as a 17-year-frail in 1979, the year of his senior debut

In personal, Götz told his father about their intentions. All he acknowledged became as soon as there became as soon as a likelihood he might perhaps be leaving for realizing – sometime soon. Schlegel did no longer articulate a observe to anybody – no longer even his mum and dad.

The match became as soon as performed in Esch-sur-Alzette, realizing on the border with France. Belgium became as soon as handiest one more 10km to the west and West Germany about 1/2 an hour’s drive to the east. Götz and Schlegel were attempting out for something they might opt safe thing about. Any second of aloof or confusion that would enable them to ride away.

“It merely wasn’t that that you will be in a quandary to factor in,” Schlegel says. “We had no alternative at all.

“All over we went – to the hotel, to lunch, to coaching, to the stadium – we were all together, accompanied by quite loads of our ‘net page visitors’ from the Stasi. We had even flown there in Erich Mielke’s personal plane. It wasn’t a popular vacationer time out. It became as soon as merely too unhealthy for us.”

Dynamo gained 2-zero, and the avid gamers returned to Berlin. Most appealing days after discussing the alternative of no longer seeing him one more time, Götz’s father welcomed his son residence.

They would have one more likelihood very soon.

Dynamo were next drawn in opposition to Partizan Belgrade – the champions of what became as soon as then Yugoslavia. This became as soon as even higher.

In Luxembourg security became as soon as tight, but this might perhaps be diversified. Yugoslavia became as soon as a fellow Communist country, although no longer within the Jap Bloc of states formally allied with the Soviet Union, like East Germany. Completely it’d be realizing to be low likelihood?

All over again, Dynamo were at residence within the indispensable leg. All over again, Götz scored the opener – within the indispensable minute. It done 2-zero to the East Germans. Lift on the return fixture – in Belgrade.

At about midday on the day of the match – 2 November 1983 – the crew travelled together by bus into the centre of Yugoslavia’s capital city.

As they pulled up, a member of Dynamo’s group rose out of his seat and told the avid gamers: “You have one hour free time. We meet abet right here at thirteen:00.”

Schlegel and Götz were sitting on opposite sides of the bus.

Schlegel (realizing) made his Dynamo debut two years later than Götz, in 1981

“We did no longer discuss; we handiest looked every diversified within the eyes,” says Schlegel. “We realised it became as soon as the second. And we knew how unhealthy it became as soon as going to be.”

As their crew-mates filed off, Schlegel and Götz had mute no longer spoken. They acknowledged nothing of the likelihood they were taking, nothing of the gravity of this one pivotal second in a lifestyles’s route.

“I’ve in mind we were angry in regards to the total moments we would already tried to catch away but might perhaps no longer,” Götz says. “On the indispensable day after coaching it became as soon as too unstable, the equal thing next morning after breakfast. There have been too many folk round.

“Nonetheless now in these few seconds we were entirely advantageous on what had to happen. We had every thing in our pockets. Papers, reasonably money. One ogle of it became as soon as enough – this became as soon as our likelihood. Now or by no arrangement.”

The clock became as soon as ticking. The rest of the Dynamo squad most indispensable to employ the hour procuring. Götz and Schlegel tagged along. Their first stay became as soon as a document store shut by.

As the two went in, Götz noticed something to the aspect of the building – a reasonably hidden entrance and exit, separate to where they’d advance in. He and Schlegel gave nothing away.

“We tried to protect very shut to every diversified,” Götz says. “The total guys round us were procuring susceptible recordsdata for his or her households.

“The one particular second became as soon as as soon as we noticed the door. We noticed there became as soon as a arrangement that you will be in a quandary to catch out of the shop with out anybody noticing. When the time became as soon as realizing, that is as soon as we acknowledged: ‘Let’s drag.'”

They continuously peeled faraway from the greater neighborhood. They made advantageous they weren’t being watched. They moved to the door, then went through it. And ran.

“When we would made it outside, that it is likely you’ll presumably be no longer in level of fact brooding about something,” Götz says. “We were handiest brooding about running. To rapid catch as a long way-off from our crew as that that you will be in a quandary to factor in.

“We ran for approximately 5 minutes in a single route. Then we noticed a taxi. We got in but then there became as soon as a terror on legend of he did no longer desire to opt us to the West German embassy.

“We had to hail a second cab. As we got in I gave the motive force 10 Deutschmarks. He must have driven us about one kilometre – it perchance would have been more straightforward to drag by foot.

“We looked abet to ogle if anybody had adopted us. We might perhaps no longer stare anybody.”

Half an hour earlier, they’d been sitting with their crew-mates. Now they were internal the West German embassy, talking to group about what they ought to mute attain next.

“We were extremely apprehensive,” says Schlegel. “It became as soon as merely very unbelievable what we would performed. All with out lengthen we were discussing a plan to catch us out of Yugoslavia and into West Germany. We were coming up with a time desk for our lives.”

The plan began to opt shape. First they might be driven to Zagreb, about four hours away. The embassy group realizing it very most appealing to catch them out of the building – and out of Belgrade – as rapid as that that you will be in a quandary to factor in. The embassy might perhaps be the indispensable assign the authorities would advance taking a stare.

As their vehicle emerged from the underground vehicle park, the avid gamers were sitting within the abet seats.

“On the model, the deepest thinking became as soon as handiest about surviving this difficulty,” says Götz.

“Which it is likely you’ll be jumpy something might perhaps happen on legend of you made the first step in a immense memoir. That is why the biggest emotion is merely to stay through it. That that you will be in a quandary to attain it, that it is likely you’ll presumably deserve to attain it. Because in something like this, when the end will not be any longer realizing you’ve got quite loads of trouble. More than a number of trouble.”

In Zagreb, the plan became as soon as finalised. At the West German consulate there, Götz and Schlegel were given fraudulent papers – two new West German identities to wait on catch them out of Yugoslavia.

Personnel told them that driving out, all over the Yugoslav border with Austria, would automatically trigger no disorders. Nonetheless things were reasonably diversified that week, they acknowledged, and it wasn’t entirely safe. The pair by no arrangement got a fat clarification but it became as soon as decided it’d be very most appealing to drag by practice. They were to affirm they’d been on vacation, had lost their passports and had to catch new ones, and were on their arrangement ‘residence’ to Munich.

The advice became as soon as to shuttle on the night time practice from Ljubljana. It would drag away at nighttime, and they ought to mute reach as shut to departure as that that you will be in a quandary to factor in. It became as soon as now about 6pm – they’d been on the tear for six hours.

They were given some meals. The group gave the impression relaxed – this had been performed sooner than, and they were composed and assured of the plan’s success. To a diploma, this succeeded in soothing the pair’s worries. Nonetheless mute, the level of likelihood they confronted became as soon as exhausting to ignore.

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The BBC reports from the scene because the Berlin Wall goes up

Encourage in Berlin, Götz’s father tuned in to perceive Partizan v Dynamo. The broadcast started at 7pm. Kick-off became as soon as 8pm. His son wasn’t within the starting XI. Queer – he became as soon as one in every of their very most appealing avid gamers. Schlegel became as soon as missing too, and neither were even on the bench. No clarification became as soon as given, but he knew. It must have took assign. Had they been a hit? Or had they been caught?

There became as soon as one closing hurdle to advantageous.

Schlegel and Götz were driven to Ljubljana. They arrived on the situation merely sooner than their practice became as soon as assign to leave, tickets in hand, the residence owners of new identities. Schlegel’s name became as soon as Norman Meier. Götz can’t engage who he became as soon as purported to be.

The practice trigger off. There have been about 30 kilometres to quilt sooner than it would reach on the border and Yugoslav customs.

Then the practice halted.

In the 1/2 gentle, sitting up in their sound asleep compartment, the pair might perhaps hear the faucets on doors.

They might hear the drawing advance sound of heavy boots, the guard canines panting and the jangle of their chains.

“We were both so extremely apprehensive but the policeman checked out our documents and acknowledged ‘OK, handsome’ and left. It became as soon as presumably 20 seconds,” Götz says.

“It became as soon as so uncomplicated. It became as soon as nothing.

“For the total day, we had existed in this speak of excessive rigidity, where in your mind that it is likely you’ll presumably be always shrinking.

“We did no longer know what we had started. We did no longer know what selection of dangers lets face. Nonetheless as soon as we got past the Austrian aspect and the practice hadn’t been stopped to catch the two footballers off, we knew we were safe.

“I advise we arrived in Munich at about 6am. I can’t focus on it as of late, but we even slept a number of hours.”

In the newspaper stands all over the situation that morning, their names were already within the click. The headlines read: ‘East German avid gamers sail to West.’

Nonetheless the memoir wasn’t barely over. There might perhaps be penalties.

The West German diplomatic group who arranged their fraudulent papers had given Schlegel and Götz instructions on what to attain. They were to shuttle to Giessen, where there became as soon as a facility that processed refugees.

They arrived leisurely within the afternoon. It became as soon as about 7pm by the level both might perhaps make a cell phone call residence. Schlegel rang his mum.

“She became as soon as reasonably bit shrinking,” he says.

“It became as soon as a immense surprise. She knew nothing of our plans but she had heard about our sail from reports on West German TV. I acknowledged it became as soon as all OK, that I became as soon as safe and that became as soon because it. We knew the Stasi might perhaps be listening.”

Götz also rang residence.

“My fogeys straight gave me observe to affirm they were no longer alone,” he says.

“It became as soon as: ‘OK handsome, that it is likely you’ll presumably be OK, realizing, we discuss later.’ Because when something like this happens, the authorities are in response mode.”

Both avid gamers realised they might ought to mute be very careful.

“When a participant from Dynamo Berlin leaves the membership, he’s no longer any longer an even boy,” Schlegel says.

“Falko and I had decided that in all interviews we ought to mute no longer discuss at all about politics, no longer about any criticisms of the East, to handiest discuss football. It have not got been safe – for us or our households.

“We knew that the Stasi also have quite loads of oldsters within the West too. That there have been folk watching us. Spies.”

Götz and Schlegel called upon Jorg Berger, a frail East Germany formative years coach who had fled to the west in 1979.

Berger helped prepare contact with attainable new clubs. They chose to ticket for Bayer Leverkusen, but would deserve to attend a year to make their debuts – Dynamo Berlin would no longer acknowledge the toddle. Fifa’s 12-month taking half in ban became as soon as seen as a compromise to refined over their unlawful transfer.

At the time, Berger became as soon as supervisor of KSV Hessen Kassel, then within the West German second tier. Sooner than he died in 2010 on the age of 65 after suffering from most cancers, he wrote an autobiography whereby he claimed he became as soon as centered for assassination within the 1980s, that he became as soon as poisoned by a Stasi agent.

Berger also spoke several times about Lutz Eigendorf, a frail Dynamo participant who defected to the west on the model abet from a match in Kaiserslautern in 1979. He had been in particular vocal in his criticisms of East Germany after defection.

In March 1983, eight months sooner than Schlegel and Götz arrived secretly in Munich, Eigendorf died in a vehicle smash. Berger believed the accident showed the indicators of a Stasi operation – where the motive force of a vehicle might perhaps be blinded by a intellectual gentle while driving at excessive waddle. Exams showed alcohol in Eigendorf’s blood, but his net page visitors acknowledged he had no longer been exciting sooner than coming into his vehicle.

Schlegel (a long way realizing) and Götz (third from left) pictured in their debut season for Leverkusen, 1984-Eighty five

Götz and Schlegel had made it to the Bundesliga. They expert with Leverkusen, they settled into their new atmosphere, but their frail lives were by no arrangement a long way within the abet of. They were being watched very closely.

“That is why the Stasi became as soon as so properly-known – for what they did,” says Götz.

“They watched us in Leverkusen, and they adopted my fogeys all day prolonged. No longer in secret, they most indispensable them to ogle. There have been interviews, interrogations, stress. After I became as soon as in a quandary to entry my files on the Stasi archives, as soon as they were made available after German reunification, I chanced on things that I’d now reasonably no longer discuss.

“Nonetheless for me for the time being, it became as soon as vital no longer to affirm that every thing in East Germany is unhealthy, that communists are unhealthy, no longer handiest on legend of I knew what the response to this might perhaps be but additionally on legend of it wasn’t.

“My time in Dynamo made a in level of fact realizing participant of me. I had 12 years on the membership. They helped me delivery a legitimate occupation. Our motivation became as soon as no longer politics.”

As the Wintry Battle thawed in opposition to the end of the 1980s, both avid gamers were in a quandary to retain up extra in model contact with their households, while also contributing on the pitch after their suspensions expired. That they might seem every Saturday night time on the Bundesliga highlights programmes – mute watched secretly in so many East Berlin properties – became as soon as a provide of serious pride for his or her fogeys.

Götz stayed at Leverkusen till 1988. After winning the Uefa Cup, he left to join Cologne.

Schlegel left Leverkusen in 1985 and had a season with Stuttgart sooner than signing for Blau-Weiss Berlin in 1986. He now lived on the west aspect of the town where he became as soon as born. Nonetheless if truth be told, he might perhaps by no arrangement flawed to the diversified aspect.

He handiest managed to ogle his mum and dad one more time in 1987, in Czechoslovakia. For Götz it became as soon as the summer of 1988, in Hungary.

Then came 9 November 1989.

Schlegel became as soon as in a hotel along with his crew-mates when he heard the news. He’d merely got abet from coaching when someone shouted over from the bar: “Good day Dirk, the wall has advance down.”

He realizing it became as soon as a funny memoir – for no longer decrease than 5 minutes he would no longer focus on it, even after he’d seen the TV images, the thousands of smiling East Germans walking through checkpoints, past the barbed wire, past the spotlights, past the shrinking border officers. What now precisely?

“I acknowledged: ‘Oh advance on! The wall came down and I became as soon as no longer in Berlin!’ Shall we as soon as in some time have been additional away in Germany too – we were taking half in an away match in opposition to Schalke,” says Schlegel.

“That became as soon as merely a crazy trip for me; it became as soon as unthinkable. Observing it, I realizing presumably or no longer it is a drama or a movie. It became as soon as something unbelievable.

“On the weekend, I came abet from the game at Schalke and my family lastly came round to roar about with me with two net page visitors. We had dinner at residence, talking, exciting.”

It wasn’t till December that Götz returned to the East aspect of Berlin for the indispensable time since he and Schlegel had left with their Dynamo crew-mates in 1983. He went abet residence – “nothing had changed, it became as soon as precisely the equal” – and spent time along with his family exact through that season’s iciness break. His mother might perhaps lastly toddle on the few assets she had been in a quandary to conceal and support safe for him.

Thirty years on, the friendship between Schlegel and Götz endures.

They trip taking a stare abet on their plucky feat and roar continuously – assuredly by cell phone as Götz mute lives on the diversified aspect of the country.

“My son is highly proud,” says Schlegel as we discuss at a cafe shut to his west Berlin residence.

Now he has to drag. He and Götz are employed as scouts; work is asking.

I develop no longer even deserve to ask the closing inquire of.

“I have been asked on many cases,” Schlegel says. “Would I attain it one more time?

“Completely. With out inquire of. Whenever. I did it for my lifestyles. It became as soon as about setting up my future, shaping my lifestyles, deciding on my gain course.”

Schlegel became as soon as a formative years coach with Hertha for several years – right here celebrating A-Juniors Club Cup victory in 2004
Götz (realizing) became as soon as Hertha’s supervisor from 2004 to 2007. Pictured right here in 2006, his assistant (left) is ex-Celtic participant Andreas Thom – who made his European debut for Dynamo on the night time Götz and Schlegel fled
Two ladies wander along Sebastianstrasse, along which the Berlin Wall as soon as ran, in October 2019. The photo underneath reveals the equal assign in 1963

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