We didn’t Feel Free Anymore

Angelika Schröter was part of the hippie movement, the so-called “tramper scene,” in East Germany. In her free time she wore the typical attire -- a green shell parka, jeans, the so-called “Jesus slippers” -- and she hitchhiked to blues concerts. The trampers’ non-conformist behavior and appearance did not correspond to the East German regime’s image of a proper socialist society. She was labeled “negative decadent” by the secret police. The state authority countered the freedom sought by trampers’ by harassing them and demanding constant ID checks. This is what led many of them to decide to apply for an exit visa.

Angelika Schröter was born on July 16, 1957 in Weimar. Her mother was from Oldenburg in West Berlin. Angelika Schröter lived there until she was six when she moved with her mother and siblings to be with their father, who lived in Weimar, East Germany. Angelika Schröter had a “normal” childhood. She was in the “Young Pioneers” and later the “Free German Youth” (FDJ), the East German state-run youth organizations. She started to think differently when she was 15 when a friend of hers tried to flee and was arrested. After he was released from prison he committed suicide. This experience affected her deeply.

Angelika and Wolfram Schröter 1978 Angelika Schröter began training in business management and officially resigned from the FDJ because she no longer felt like a free German youth. She had just begun studying for an economics degree in Burg near Magdeburg when the songwriter Wolf Biermann was expatriated from East Germany. Angelika Schröter tried to collect signatures there in protest against his expatriation. She had little success with her protest action but after being strongly encouraged by the school director to end her studies, she returned to her work in business management and trained to become an accountant. In 1979 she married Wolfram Schröter, a musician and founding member of the Weimar blues band “Knuff.” They had two children.

The clean-up project of the St. Jacobs Church group in Weimar that Angelika and Wolfram Schröter belonged to, October 1983 As part of the tramper scene, Angelika Schröter repeatedly caused offense in East Germany. Moreover, she increasingly acted in opposition to the East German state. Once a week a roundtable took place in the Schröter’s apartment. Angelika Schröter and her husband got involved in a church discussion group in the St. Jacob Church in Weimar where they offered advice on how to fulfill the required military service as a building soldier as an alternative to having to use a weapon. The Schröters participated in projects in Weimar: they helped improve the appearance of a fountain plaza and distributed self-made angels at Christmas time. The East German state authority tried to put a stop to these activities, which were carried out outside the state-controlled organizations. To avoid these kinds of restrictions, the Schröters decided to apply for an exit visa in the fall of 1982. Their application included a statement demanding that if something were to happen to them, their children should be cared for by their parents. The Schröters wanted to make sure that if they were arrested, their children would not be handed over for forced adoption or placed in an orphanage.

After that Angelika Schröter was under constant observation by the secret police. She lost her job. She was repeatedly summoned to the Council of the City of Weimar, Division of Internal Affairs, where the Schröters were pressured to rescind their application to leave the country. A year and a half later, on the evening of March 29, 1984, they were informed that they were to appear at the Division of Internal Affairs the next morning at 8 a.m. There they were told that they were to travel at 10 o’ clock by train to East Berlin, where they would be permitted to cross the checkpoint into West Berlin at the Friedrichstrasse S-Bahn station. Before this, the Schröters had to complete a list of tasks including providing confirmation from the bank that they had no debts, from the city of Weimar that they were no longer registered as residence, and from their work place that they were no longer employed there. Highly stressed, they finally found themselves sitting with their children on the train to East Berlin. Following their successful departure, they were greeted at the Friedrichstrasse subway station by a former band member and friend of Wolfram Schröter’s who had immigrated to West Germany just a few months earlier.

Lydia Dollmann

Photo credits:
Angelika and Wolfram Schröter as a young couple, 1978, photo: privately owned.
The clean-up project of the St. Jacobs Church group in Weimar that Angelika and Wolfram Schröter belonged to, October 1983, photo: privately owned.

Angelika Schröter 2010

Angelika Schröter, 2010, photo: L. Dollmann, Berlin Wall Memorial


Angelika Schröter speaking about her work in the discussion group of the St. Jacobs Church in Weimar

Report on the application to leave

Under Stasi surveillance

From an interview on September 15, 2010, Berlin Wall Memorial (in German)