Posts Tagged ‘Wolfgang Vogel’

Human Trafficking Called Haeftlingsfreikauf

Monday, April 17th, 2017

 

Haeftlingsfreikauf is the German word for ransom money once paid by West Germany to East Germany for the release of East German political prisoners. West Germany also paid ransom moneys for East German citizens who had applied for exit visas but were denied exit by East German authorities. Such human trafficking was unofficially practiced between 1962 and 1990 and sanctioned by both governments.

According to Andreas Apelt, author and historian, 33,755 political prisoners (which included people who had attempted to cross the east/west border illegally) and 250,000 of their relatives were sold to West Germany between 1964 and 1989. The Haeftlingsfreikauf cost West Germany a total of 3.5 billion West Marks. http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-29889706 Some of these political prisoners were well-known agents; others were nameless. The prisoners were given the option of being released into the East or into the West. Most of them chose the West. At times, the ransom consisted of western currency. Other times, “buying free” involved “merchandise” for merchandise, such as cadmium, copper, crude oil, rubber, equipment, cooking oil, coffee, tropical fruit. Human trafficking infused the East German economy with much needed cash and merchandise. West Germany assisted for humanitarian reasons.

Haeftlingsfreikauf = ransom moneys paid by West Germany to East Germany of the release of its political prisoners between 1962 and 1990. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Haeftlingsfreikauf = ransom moneys paid by West Germany to East Germany of the release of its political prisoners between 1962 and 1990. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Start of the Haeftlingsfreikauf practice

The first East German political prisoners were bought free during the Christmas season of 1962. At that time, ransom moneys were paid for 20 prisoners and a number of children. They were released to the west in return for three truckloads of fertilizer. During those initial exchanges, the price per prisoner was about 40,000 West Marks. By 1989 that amount had risen to over 95,000 West Marks. Supposedly, the price was based on the “damage” the prisoner had caused to the regime plus the educational investment the East German state had made in the prisoner. For the last Haeftlingsfreikauf in January 1990 West Germany paid with copper, crude oil and light trucks amounting to 65 million West Mark. The funds were deposited in special accounts held by Stasi chief Erich Mielke http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/erich-mielke-master-of-fear/ and by General Secretary Erich Honecker http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/erich-honecker-berlin-wall-architect/.

How the Haeftlingsfreikauf practice worked

Neither side wanted the public to find out about the Haeftlingsfreikauf practice. East Germany did not want to appear weak, and West Germany did not want to be seen as supporting a communist regime. Therefore, the operation remained clandestine. Government representatives unofficially handled the arrangements. Representatives of the Protestant and Catholic Church acted as intermediaries. Attorneys from both sides facilitated the operation. Wolfgang Vogel http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/wolfgang-vogel-east-german-profiteer/ represented the East German side; Juergen Stange acted on behalf of the West German side. Some prisoner releases took place in the underground railway. In other cases, prisoners were driven across the border in buses with revolving license plates.

How the Prisoners were actually exchanged

Exchanges were handled with utmost discretion. If the exchange involved busses, the prisoners were usually transported to the Kassberg prison in Chemnitz and then driven to the Herleshausen/Wartha border where they were expelled to West Germany. While still in East Germany, the bus displayed East German license plates. At the border crossing, the driver pushed a button on the dashboard, and the license plate pivoted to display a West German license. https://www.bundesregierung.de/Content/DE/Artikel/2014_Deutsche_Einheit/1990-01-23-haeftlingsfreikauf-letztes-kapitel.html

I have a friend who was one of the 33,755 political prisoners bought free by West Germany. His story is hair-raising. When he was a high school student still living in East Germany with his family, he and a group of boys in his class decided to defect. It was more of a boys’ prank than a serious desire to leave East Germany. Nonetheless, the boys planned their get-away. But someone denounced them to the authorities. All of the boys were immediately taken into custody, separated and sent to prison. My friend found himself in solitary confinement for the better of six months. One night, he and a number of prison inmates of all ages and both sexes were told to get on a bus in a hurry. The bus was standing ready. They were not allowed to take anything. My friend did not know anyone on the bus.

It was completely dark inside the bus. All the prisoners could see was that they were being driven into the woods. There was dead silence in the bus. The prisoners feared for their lives. Finally, headlights became visible in the distance. Moments later, the headlights went off. The bus continued in the direction of the headlights now gone dark and then came to a stop. The driver turned off the engine. The prisoners were told to quickly get off. Once outside and still in complete darkness, they were barely able to make out the outline of another bus parked directly next to theirs. At gunpoint, they were told to get on the second bus as quickly as possible. Once everyone had boarded, the doors closed, the engine started, and the bus took off. It was still completely dark inside the bus. No one spoke.

A few minutes later, the lights came on inside the bus, music blared from the radio and the driver said, “Welcome everybody. In a few minutes you will be in the West. You are free.”

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Wolfgang Vogel: East German Profiteer

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

Not only capitalist societies spawn profiteers. During the Cold War, Wolfgang Vogel, largely unknown to the general public but known to many prominent figures, pulled strings in Moscow as effectively as in Washington. For three decades, he was an extremely successful communist profiteer. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/23/world/europe/23vogel.html?_r=0

Licensed to practice law in both East and West Berlin, Vogel was the “point man” between East and West Germany. He was central to the exchanges of more than 150 spies from 23 countries and the last hope for many emigrants from East Germany. He earned millions in the process

Wolfgang Vogel was central to the exchanges of more than 150 spies from 23 countries, photo www.dw.com

Wolfgang Vogel was central to the exchanges of more than 150 spies from 23 countries, photo www.dw.com

The life of Wolfgang Vogel

Born in 1925 in Lower Silesia (now Poland), Wolfgang Vogel studied law in Jena and Leipzig and passed the equivalent of the bar exam in 1949. In 1954, he began practicing law in East Berlin. Three years later, he gained the right to practice in West Berlin as well. The East German Ministry for State Security, known as the Stasi, employed Vogel to make contacts among West German lawyers and politicians. These contacts eventually helped him broker exchanges of spies captured by the West for political prisoners held by the East. Vogel died in Bavaria in 2008.

Wolfgang Vogel’s famed spy swaps

Wolfgang Vogel brokered some of the most famous spy swaps between East and West. In 1962, he was instrumental to negotiating the exchange of both, the American U-2 spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers and the American Ph.D. student Frederic L. Pryor for the Soviet KGB spy, Vilyam Genrikhovich Fisher (also known as Rudolf Abel). The exchange inspired the 2015 movie, “Bridge of Spies, starring Tom Hanks as James Donovan, Abel’s defense attorney, and Sebastian Koch as the East German attorney Wolfgang Vogel. For more information on Glienicke Bridge, visit http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/glienicker-bruecke-bridge-of-spies/

In 1981, Vogel negotiated the exchange of East German Stasi-agent Guenter Guillaume for Western agents captured by the Eastern bloc.

 In 1986, Wolfgang Vogel brokered the exchange of Israeli human rights activist and author Anatoly Shcharansky for Czech sleeper-agent Karl Koecher and his wife.

Wolfgang Vogel – the profiteer

Representing the East German leader Erich Honecker, Wolfgang Vogel not only helped facilitate East-West prisoner exchanges, he also negotiated the re-location of thousands of East Germans to the West. However, his assistance did not come cheap. He became a wealthy man in the process.

Between the 1950s and 1989 (the fall of the Berlin Wall), Wolfgang Vogel was an official “representative of the German Democratic Republic for humanitarian issues.” In that capacity, he “sold” 33,755 political prisoners to West Germany. Their value varied according to their profession, their “crime” and how well they were known in the West. He also reunited 215,019 families and individuals in line with to the East German government’s maxim, “Human relief against hard Deutschmark”. http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/wolfgang-vogel-tot-der-anwalt-zwischen-den-welten-1.692361 The family reunion-seekers were individuals who had been left behind when the Berlin Wall was erected in August 1961, or they were relatives of escapees or of those who had defected on business trips to the West. When these individuals turned to Vogel to obtain permission to emigrate, he was often able to negotiate the necessary permissions, provided these family reunion-seekers had private property to sell. Only then would Vogel locate buyers – for a fee, of course.

For his efforts, Wolfgang Vogel received benefits in cash and in kind. These benefits amounted to the equivalent of more than a half billion euros. http://www.welt.de/geschichte/article130633378/Darf-man-einen-Menschenhaendler-heiligsprechen.html At times, he earned half a million Deutschmark and more in just one year, practically tax-free. Still, Wolfgang Vogel saw himself as a humanitarian and a lawyer of the people. He said, “My ways were not white and not black; they had to be gray.”

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Glienicker Bruecke – Bridge of Spies

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Glienicker Bruecke (Glienicke Bridge) is located in Germany and connects Brandenburg’s capital Potsdam to Berlin’s Wannsee district. Since the division of Berlin, the border between Soviet-occupied East Berlin and the US-occupied western sector of Berlin ran right through the center of the bridge. For this reason, the Western Allies and the Soviets used Glienicke Bridge during the Cold War years to exchange captured spies.

Glienicker Bruecke – History

Today’s Glienicker Bruecke, is the fourth bridge that spans the Havel River in this site. The first bridge was build around 1660 and was made of wood. In order to accommodate increased traffic between Berlin and the Emperor’s new castle in Potsdam, the wooden bridge was replaced with a brick and wood drawbridge in the first quarter of the 19th century. At the beginning of the 20th century, the drawbridge no longer met the needs of the populace and was replaced with an iron bridge. But at the end of World War II, in April 1945, an unexploded shell severely damaged Glienicke Bridge. Reconstruction was completed in 1949 and the East German government renamed it “Bridge of Unity” because of the close proximity of East and West.

During the Cold War years, East German authorities closed the bridge to the people of West Berlin and West Germany in 1952 and also to East German citizens in 1961, when the Berlin Wall was constructed. Soon, Glienicker Bruecke became a favored point of exchange of secret agents between East and West. By the 1970s, the bridge needed significant repairs. West Berlin repaired its half of the repairs to the bridge in 1980 and for the work on the East German half of the structure in 1985. The deal included a provision that the East German authorities would rename the bridge “Glienicker Bruecke” once again. One day after the opening of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the bridge also reopened to pedestrians.

1960 - Tourists having their picture taken on the western side of Glienicker Bruecke, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2014

1960 – Tourists having their picture taken on the western side of Glienicker Bruecke, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2014

Glienicker Bruecke – Bridge of Spies

During the Cold War, Glienicker Bruecke became the site of three well-known East/West spy exchanges, which resulted it the name “Bridge of Spies.”

1962 – The US exchanges Soviet Intelligence officer Vilyam Genrikhovich Fisher (also known as Rudolf Abel) for American pilot Francis Gary Powers whose U-2 spy plane was shot down while flying a reconnaissance mission over Soviet Union airspace and the American Ph.D. student Frederic L. Pryor. The exchange inspired the 2015 movie, “Bridge of Spies, starring Tom Hanks as James Donovan, Abel’s defense attorney, and Sebastian Koch as the East German attorney Wolfgang Vogel who brokered some of the most famous spy swaps between East and West.  For more information on Wolfgang Vogel’s involvement, visit http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/wolfgang-vogel-east-german-profiteer/

1964 – The British exchanges Soviet intelligence officer Konon Molody for British spy Greville Wynne.

1986 – The US exchanges Czech spies Karl and Hana Koecher, Soviet spy Yevgeni Zemlyakov, Polish spy Marian Zacharski and East German spy Detlef Scharfenorth for human rights campaigner Anatoly Sharansky and three low-level Western spies. http://www.planet-wissen.de/politik_geschichte/ddr/geteilte_stadt_berlin/agententausch.jsp

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

 

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS