My Travels to the West in 1955 and 1987
(Chart IV – III, IV)
Contributed by Norbert Werner
Born in the year of the founding of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) I have been living here up to its collapse and beyond. How many can claim to have gone through the beginning and end of a state?! It is well known that we citizens lived here in the GDR well protected, isolated, and screened off from the rest of the world. Travels to only a very few countries were permitted in those days.
I vaguely remember that during my early childhood my mother, Elsbeth, and I were allowed to visit her parents in Velbert, West Germany. That was definitely before the building of the Berlin Wall. My brother Christian asserts that it must have been in 1955, because during that time he had to go to a children’s home across the street from where we lived at Reinhardsbrunner Street.
One thing will always remain in my memory of our visit. On the bookcase shelf in the living room was on prominent display the 20-volume encyclopedia. Later on, I found out that my father had mailed the books in separate parcels, partly using different return addresses, to his parents-in-law, who had to leave the heavy items behind at their flight in 1954 (Read more in bieneklopp.com).
On our return trip West German border officials thoroughly examined our papers. The reason for their curiosity was that they were puzzled by my father’s name (Paul Werner), which they had come across somewhere in our transit papers. At the time there was a high-ranking member of the East German government by the name of Paul Verner! This was my first visit to the West.
In Part II I will report about my second journey in 1987.