A Golden Chance – Escape to the West

The Axel-Spring-Hochhaus or the Axel Springer Skyscraper is a Publishing house in Berlin inaugurated on 6th October 1966. A glittering golden building towering over the Berlin Wall. The building was a statement. Axe Springer believed in the rejuvenation of the old newspaper district of Berlin but also of a united fatherland with its capital in Berlin in a peaceful Europe. Yet politics had different ideas.

On the 13th August 1961, 20,000 East German soldier surrounded West Berlin. West Berlin, although controlled by the western allies, wasn’t connected to west Germany. Instead it was surrounded by the heavily soviet controlled communist East Germany. With the 20,000 soldiers a human wall was built, but in the coming days it would become a wall of bricks and mortar. This was the Berlin wall.

The Berlin wall divided families, it divided friends, it interrupted the flow a city that had existed for over 700 years, a piece of man made madness. Very few were happy, of course, in this situation, but few people had the chance to do something about it.

The chance: During construction, both known to Axel Springer, the publishing house and the builders, Rudolf Müller started a tunnel. With the building of the wall Rudolf Müller was separated from his family, he being in the east and his wife and three children. It was from the building site of the Axel-Springer-Hochhaus that he hatched a plan, to tunnel back to the east and smuggle his family out. It was their golden chance, to escape to the west. The plan went well until a border guard, Reinhold Hühn, asked for papers, Müller panicked and shot and killed the young officer, for which later he received a one year suspended sentence. But despite the tragedy of the death of a young officer, a meer puppet in a dictatorship, it was with elation that Rudolf Müller and his family escaped. The tunnel however was not used again.

Also, according to mythology, the DDR (East Germany) did not like the building. They believed it could subvert their ideologically superior people and took the decision for those people to block the view. But especially to block the view of a news board attached to the roof. The East German regime, to solve these issues, set about building tall apartment blocks called Springerdecker which would block much of the view. Although it is important to note the architects dispute this.

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