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VIDEO: The Veleka

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Rememberings 30 years after
Christian W. Staudinger
Berlin, November 2000

if German speaking: hear it
selfmade translation with help of Stasi = state security of GDR


I wanted to leave. To leave the GDR as I felt threatened. The Stasi gave me the choice between working together with them or starve at the machines. My family were unwanted persons. They were titeled as having no allegiance to the state because - over all as restaurant keepers - they did not go to election (in GDR you had to), did not put the flagg on their house when they had to do so and they spoke critically about the system in their restaurant.

Neither I wanted to work together with Stasi nor I wanted to starve at the machines. I was not allowed to choose the profession I wanted. At the end the qoutation about starving at the machines gave me the way. My plan was to leave at the borderline between Bulgaria and Turkey. The plan was growing in former holidays in Bulgaria with my parents. With me was Dieter F. Beside him and my brother nobody had known about my wish to escape. Especially in my family nobody should know as I did not want to endanger them. My brother is dead. He later was imprisoned by nothing than arbitrariness, was condemned to 4 1/2 years - they said because of agitation against the state - came to me in West-Berlin and short later committed suicide in the underground. When I went I did not know that short before I had conceived a baby. When I went I was in the age of 18.

We were standing at the river. Near Aktopol. Under the steep coast. From Aktopol to here it was about 10 kilometers. To move above it was too dangerous. Therefor we went all the way long from Aktopol to here down the steep coast. It was stormy in that night, stormy and drizzly. And it was dangerous as it was dark. There was no beach. Just rocks and the surf of black see. It took us about three or four hours to reach the river. The Veleka. We thought now the borderline between Bulgaria and Turkey was behind uns. Our maps told so. We were happy. And were singing from the treetops. But we were mistaken. The maps were wrong (all maps you could buy in GDR were wrong near the borders).

In the middle of our dance of joy we suddenly heared some noise behind us on the Bulgarian side. We turned around and saw two Bulgarian border guards. Machine-guns focused on us. They kept us covered in one meter. I thought the game is over. One of them fired flares to the air. I don't know how long it took until others in uniform came. And I am not sure were they two, three or four. After arriving one kept me covered, two kept Dieter, one on the left, one on the right and one stroke a blow upon Dieter. Again and again. Into stomach and everywhere. Until he fell down lifeless to mud. I thought he was dead. Then they did the same to me until being senseless. How long it took coming back to consciousness I don't know. After wake up I was cold, pain everywhere and the wet mud stuck on me. They chained Dieter's hands with a rope on his back and did the same to me. Then we were ordered to go. Up the steep coast. Right and left they pushed their gun barrels into our sides for making us to go. As soon as we went they pulled us back with the rope. Pushing again for going on. Pullig back again. I was screaming. All the time. When they started to beat us and also now. Always up the steep coast. I cannot say how long it took but it seemed to me endless. Arriving on the top we did not go to the street having been anywhere there. We stayed at the coast. Had to go close to the steep coast. Close to the edge. The gun always in the side and being pushed and pulled.

Then they stopped. Directly on the edge. Right down the rocks and the sea. Then they forced me to my knees. One put the gun barrel of his Kalaschnikow to my left temple. I was screaming: fascists, fascistic pigs. Then I saw his finger pullig the trigger. This picture had burned into my brain. I never will forget. I heared a click. But - there was no round. I don't know why.

Then we had to go on. To the station of them. There were huge floodlights glaring everthing. Therefore we went down the steep coast: that they would not find us with their floodlights. It seems to me that we went by foot all the way back, may be 10 kilometers. The guns in our sides, being pulled back, being pushed forward. Today it seems strange that the others should have come by foot but I cannot remember a car. Strange too that we all should have gone back by foot. But I cannot remember having been driven by car. Instead of this the time it took to go on the edge of the steep coast seemed endless and it is as if I am sure having gone by foot all the way long.

At the beach they already had made body checks and by this they found chewing gums. May be therefore they thought we should have been american agents as they said something like this again and again. After arriving at the station they put us to a big room. A sort of agit-prop-room, huge, nearly a hall, with long tables and a lot of chairs and the four pictures of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin. We were left in chains. Then a plain-clothed person came speaking a little German. He was really shocked when he saw us. Shocked about us being so young. He could not understand what we wanted there. I explained him not being agents, that we wanted to leave the GDR and that the German-German border seemed us too dangerous as there people were shot and that we had heared that in Bulgaria the people were not shot. He was friendly, did not want to believe us being agents but he answered with a shake of his head that we wanted to take this way. So it looked like. He said that it also is forbidden to hurt the Bulgarian border.

The night we were sleeping on the floor of this room. Completly exhausted I fell asleep immediately when they left us alone. The next morning a car arrived and picked us up. Up to now we got nothing to eat. In front of the car there was sitting someone and eating and he gave me something of his food. He spoke a little Geman. I asked what they would do with us and he said he would not know. They brought us to Burgas.

I cannot remember the house in Burgas. There was a forecourt and a high wall. In the house the divided Dieter and me. Now they brought me downstairs in a kind of basement bunker. Without window, without light, a door of steel, stinking awfully. They put me in and shut the door. Inside there was some litter. First I had the idea being alone but then I noticed that in the back there were two or three Bulgarians. They did not speak German. There was no WC. Therefore the breath-taking smell. Mud floor with litter, not more. It was stuffy. I was crying and screaming and shouting for somebody from the German ambessy. I thought I would never survive this. Once a day somebody came when I was screaming so much and kicked me into genitals. There was nothing to eat. Somewhat water. Once a day with some skin of tomato in. I had pain by hunger. But when the pain was beginning to stop they came and gave somewhat sweet like Halva. I was eager guzzling it. But then again the hunger-pain came. In this box I was about 5 or 6 days. I never know when there was day or night.

After days the put me out. I was blinded by the light. We went to an office. There was a fat man. In saxonia dialect he was talking to me in a most cynical way: why I had been so dirty, not having been washed, I would have been stinking and I should cut my hair, what a dirty pig I would have been. And what I wanted in Turkey? Fucking the Turkish women? But I never would come to Turkey, never would be able to fuck the Turkish women. And the GDR I also would never see again. May be I would stay alive, then perhaps I would see again the promised land of GDR. I kept calm. Was too groggy to get excited. Was trying to calm him down. Said that I had no water, no soap to wash myself, no scissors to cut my hair. Then I should take a spoon to cut them. But I had no spoon, I told him. There was nothing and I asked him to have a look to that bunker in which I had to stay in my own piss and shit. Yes I would stink exactly like this, he said. I only was praying for an escape and did not want to make him angry. What I would look like, he said, all over loosy and filthy dirty, not worth the GDR. And I had the idea, here comes a German to talk with, to tell him all what happened here and what they had done to me. How long it took I don't know. Then he had a phone-call. My hope was: better accomodation. But I could not understand what he was talking, it was too silent and I believe it also was Bulgarian language.

Then there came two tackling me rude. On my arms. Downstairs again. This time left side. In that room there was a gloom. Two already were inside. In the middle there was a chair somewhat like a former chair of a barber. I had to sit down. Three held me on. One at my left arm, one at my right arm, one was behind me putting his arm around my neck. One had a scissors like that one to shear sheep. With that he teared out my hair more than cutting it. There was big pain. I again thought the game was over. But then he put away the scissors and took a shaving razor. Four, five times he cutted my scalp from front to back. It felt like he went down to the bone. But it did not hurt. It just became warm.

Then they put me off the chair and two were tackling me. Again outside the room to the corridor. Then I saw the blood droping down to the floor. Then I noticed it was my blood. I touched my face and had all my hands full of blood. I was like apathetic. Then they brought me into a holding cell, another than before. They threw me in, on a Bulgarian man. Behind me they had thrown the door into the lock. I wanted to stand up. Noticed it was not possible. The room was not high enough. And when I was sitting with my back at one side I could reach the other wall with my legs bent. The lengh was 10 centimeters longer than me. Again mud floor with litter. And another Bulgarian man inside. I do not remember him. I was crazy blooding. I don't know how it stopped. Was apathetic and had no picture of the others, only one of the fat saxon. Still today I have the picture of him. The Bulgarian looked at me as if I had been a ghost. He spoke a little German and told me that they killed people. His idea was they also would kill him. When the blood stopped I don't know but then the hunger appeared again. Pain again. I was crying and screaming a lot. It was much worse than in the holding cell before. Had worsened my situation. The Bulgarian said to me I should shut up because otherwise it would become worse and worse. But I had a lot of pain because of the hunger and I could not help screaming. When I was screaming one came and kicked me. Again and again he came and kicked me. Always into my genitals. At my testicle on the right side sometimes there is some pain even today. They kicked me so often and so hard that I became senseless. That went for about three weeks. Then I came out. Here again they provided me with pain of hunger by giving me some sweet, Halva or similar. Not enough to feel full, just a little cube, but enough to keep the pain alive. In the next weeks there was nothing to eat but this warm water with skins of tomato in and about every two days this little cube. There was no bread, no potatoes, no fruit. Nothing but this watersoup and the cube. I don't know how long I was in that holding cell. Three weeks or four?

Then they put me out. I had to change dress, had to put off the cothes being dirty and encrusted with blood. I never got them back. Hat to put on clothes from my backpack. Then they had driven me by car. The way was not log. They drove me to the airport. Dieter was there too and I saw him again. He was brought there by another car. There was an airplain, more little that a passenger-machine, a russion turbo-prop-machine? Out of the car. Seeing Dieter. We both were escorted by Germans with pistols focused on us. Into the airplain. They turned up their noses about us, we would stink and they complained that they have to sid down beside us while we were stinking. Sheer cynism. I asked a woman for something to eat. She said it would have been my problem. If I had stayed in GDR I would have got something to eat. Then I asked to go to the toilet. No she said, again with some cynical remarks. It would have been my own guilt. It became more and more a problem. Asking again. No again. She did not let me to go to the toilet. And then I pissed. In front of her eyes. She was sneering. What a pig I would be. I feared her beating me but she didn't. They did not touch me. But they did not stop to badmouse me being a pig, stinking and pissing into the own pants. And anyway I only would wish to fuck the Turkish woman. How long the flight to airport Schönefeld in Berlin took? I don't know.

On the airport, beside the usual terminal, the airplain stopped and there was waiting a Barkas-bus (special bus in GDR). Outside there was standing "fresh fish". There have been a lot of fresh-fish-busses in GDR. We still were in chains. Then they put us into the bus. They opened the chains and chained me to something in front of me. In a tiny little holding cell. In the airplain I already had headache. Now, in this bus, I asked a woman for medicine. She just sneering. The trip was endless. Again and again the bus stopped. Waiting. Going ahead again. Stop. Waiting. Going ahead again. Up to Erfurt.

In Erfurt I was brought to Andreasstreet, the prison of Stasi. First I had the idea being at Petersberg. But that was a prison in Nazi-time. Here they had imprisoned my grandfather as he was against Hitler. He did not survive the prison. He croacked there. In times of GDR there should have been no more prisoners. After arriving in Andreasstreet I first noticed that there everywhere were blankets. Then somebody said: "First you have to take a shower." I was maximum afraid of being turned into gas. I had the pictures in my mind which I had seen as a child when visiting Buchenwald. I did not want to go to the shower. Have been sure now they turn me into gas.

They thankfully did not touch me, spoke calm to me that I was so dirty and should be washed and desinfected. But I was full of fear. Did not believe them. Again and again the pictures of Buchenwald. Then they sprayed me with something, I don't know was it fluid or powder. There was such a long thin thing with a nozzle in front and with this they sprayed me. I feared it. After this I was allowed to take a shower. Under the shower being alone I calmed down. Although they were not bad to me like in Bulgaria I was full of fear. They did not beat me, did not scream and have not been cynical. I could make myself dry and could dress again. Jailweare? I don't know. Or? I am not sure. Then they brought me over a floor with blankets an into a holding cell. A wooden door. Right and left there were three beds above each other. On one side there was a washbasin, on the other a toilet. There was no window but some glass bricks giving some light. Above the door there was a light bulb, before it a grid. The light bulb was on day and night. There was no swich button for it. After about one hour they brought me bed clothes, clean, blue-white checkered, a fork, knife, spoon and a dish - all plastic -, a toothbrush and toothbrush cup and toothpaste. I felt like in paradise. Feelings of a great happiness. I could walk up and down, could move, got things making me feel like a human being. In the evening there even was something to eat. I don't remember what it was but it was delicious. For two or three days they left me alone. I was allowed to stay in bed. Three times a day I got something to eat. Sometimes some fruit, even a banana. And I was able to go to the toilet. With lavatory flash. Everything in the holding cell. When bringing the food it was a very quick act. Seconds. Food and dishes they gave through a flap in the door. In seconds. Flap open, flap shut. I tried to talk to the one bringing the food but it was not possible. Sice sitting in that holding cell nobody had talken to me. Only open the flap and shut it again. Six times a day. Once before and once after eating.

After two or three days an attendant kame and gave instructions. No longer I was allowed to stay in bed, nor to sit on it. I just was allowed to sit on a stool. That had to stay 5 centimeters away from the wall and I was not allowed to lean to the wall. After this instructions I was told that I now had once a day some yard exercise. Ten or fifteen minutes, don't remember exactly. In the yard there were separated narrow floors, I had to walk alone. When on the indoor floors somebody came I had to turn with my face to the wall until the other person had passed. Beside this instructions nobody talked to me. Also when I was brought to the yard no one talked.

After about two or three weeks it started. I thought I would become crazy. I could not bear. I did not know what really was. It is difficult to describe. And there was some knocking, again and again. Was it really? Or my phantasy? I did not cry, not scream, was like convolved. I was not really depressive. I felt like annihilated. It was as if the madness had come over me. Not being sure whether I was existing or not. The walk in the yard was fine. But beside this it seemed to me worse than in Bulgaria. The day long there was nothing to hear. Only in night there was the knocking. But I did not understand the meaning and I was not sure whether I just imagine it. I did not know what they were about to do with me, what they wanted, why nobody was talking to me. Then there was a spider. I talked to her. I observed her all the day long, was looking what she was doing. Sometimes I not really was sure whether she was there or not. Then I again talked to her. Wondered why she was alone. One with long thin legs, little body with button eyes which sometimes seemed to grow. I delighted in the asthetics of her net. And she always was alone. Like me. And I talked to her. Sometimes I was her. And I thought I become mad.

Sometimes an attendant came and said I had to clean something. He gave me bucket and cloth and brought me to another holding cell. Opposite. There was a lot of blood. I had to clean it. Later I heared that someone opened with the plastic knife his artery. I had to remove the blood. And again they did not talk to me. The blood was not dry, it must had been fresh. I did not hear somebody screaming. Different to Bulgaria. There always somebody was screaming. Here never.

After 2 months of solitary confinement someone hit at the door. In the middle of the night, at 4 a.m. They brought me to a young interrogator. I was happy that there was somebody to talk to. I was talking and talking without interruption, was speaking about Bulgaria and asked whether they would not have known what happened there. He said he had not known, he did not really believe me. I was talking. Then he again asked what happened there at the borderline. I said it should stand in the documents what happened but then I told about and was allowed to go again. This repeated two, three times a week at different time. Always at night, in the middle of deep sleeping they took me. But they were no more interested in Bulgaria. Instead of this they wanted to know who were my friends. I said they could torture me but I never would tell names. I told them that I have been looking TV from the west, political films, told them that there were partys at home and told where I was and what I did, what were my interests but he wanted names and I did not want to tell names. I tried to involve him in conversation about socialism and communism and sometimes I succeeded. I told him about my great shock when realizing the treating people by communists. But he was not interested in that. He just wanted names. Then I kept silence. They became angry. The interrogators became more and more high level. First one. Then more. Sometimes four, two in front of me, two behind me. The spoke paradoxical to me. First I used it for talking. Was trying to discusss, to talk  at all to somebody. But they did not give up, wanted names. Then I kept silence again. They tried to get me with delicious meals. Chicken, they did not know that I never liked chicken.

After some interrogations they brought me to another holding cell. Three others have been there. This was better, about one month before my trial. The others told me about the knocking. I learned how it works and how to talk to others by means of the toilet. You have to put off the water, then it works. I became books, was allowed to read and was no longer alone. The women were sitting downstairs and by help of that talking through the toilet I got the important tip. Heared about the two in Germany famous advocats Stange and Vogel (one from West, one from Ost) and what I had to do to get in contact with them. Now I also was allowed to write and to get post. Once a month. All this was not before when sitting alone. My parents did not know for a very long time where I was. They got no answers for their questions. Now my mother was allowed to visit me the first time. In December. Before the trial one of my parents was allowed to visit me. The madness stopped in this holding cell. I could calm down.

The trial was a farce. My parents had organized an advocat. He asked me to keep calm and to adapt. Told me in a roundabout way that the verdict already was spoken before the end. Half a year after my trial he commited suicide by jumping from a apartment tower. In the trial I saw Dieter again. We both have been in chains. The public was not allowed. My parents and the parents from Dieter kept sitting when the public was excluded. The female judge asked them and when they answered to be the parents of the accused the judge said, parents as well are public. And they had to leave. So they did not see anything of the trial. The judge refused my last words. She said "you are not allowed to say anything here if we do not want" and all that without the public. Again and again she said "shut up". The trial also was in Erfurt. Aber that I was brought back to the prison for some days. After that I was brought to the prison in Cottbus by railway. During the trip I was in chains, in a little shed. The trip seemed endless. Again I was separated from Dieter. Don't know where they brought him. I never saw him again.

In Cottbus I came to a holding cell with 25 people. There was appeal, we were counted. I was there for about one or two weeks. When we did not put the clothes exactly one above the other they came with dogs and sic the dogs on us. The dogs were biting, not me as I had the bed above.

14 days later I was put to a cell for 6 persons. Then we had to work. There was a cameraman, a mathematic, an elder spy and I don't know. We had to work, 12 hours a day, on a punching machine and it was not safe. I had seen somebody cuttig off three of his fingers. He wanted to work more quickly to get better food. There was food in A, B, C, according to ones output. I got only C-food. They beated people in Cottbus but not me.

My mother visited me. Once I sliped her a secret message for she had to know how it works with the advocats Vogel & Stange. A representative of Vogel came someday. After that they brought me to Karl-Marx-Stadt (today: Dessau). Then everything went quickly. I was asked some times whether I did not prefer to go back to the GDR. I did not want to. They told me that they will dismiss me from the citizenship of GDR and that I have to give my signature for that. I gave it. And got the paper about my dismissing. Dismissed from the GDR! In Karl-Marx-Stadt they treated me best. Accomplished all desires. Have been there for about three days. A Mercedes-bus was coming, others have been already in, the way was to national border. The bus stopped in GDR. Vogel & Stange came in. Gave us congratiolations. Somewhere they stopped and changed the numberplates of the bus. Then we were in the West. Way to Giessen. To the so called "Notaufnahmelager", a kind of concentration camp for the people of GDR. All had to go first to this camp. The first station in freedom.

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▸ Photos

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Photos: Christian W. Staudinger
What happened to uncounted other citizens of GDR at this place?
More about at the political scientist Prof. Stefan Appelius

especially about death at the Veleka
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The crime

Translation in work

auslieferung an ddr

Translation in work

flucht in bulgarien


flucht in bulgarien


flucht in bulgarienflucht in bulgarienflucht in bulgarien

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▸ Exhibitions about the topic

flyer for the exhibition so near-far away

Exhibition: "so near...far away"
in Andreasstreet
with photos & videos


flyer exhibition "the horror" in speicher

Exhibition: The horror
Prison & torture in Bulgaria & GDR
in "Speicher"
with photos & videos

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Enlarging the map shows details of Veleka-outlet (red pin)


At this place a lot of refugees failed,
some of them payed with their life


berliner mauer

Video: Riding the Berlin-wall 1988
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last update: 3/14/15


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