A Meeting of Far-Reaching Consequences

A meeting at the Friedrichsstrase S-Bahn station and a shared trip through West Berlin changed Rosemarie Platz’s life. It did not take long for the young West Berlin medical student to win over the heart of the physiotherapist from East Berlin. They shared happy months together that came to an abrupt end when the Berlin Wall was built, tearing the young couple apart.

When the sector border was sealed off, the consequences were dramatic for some people. It presented them with a desperate situation out of which there appeared to be no escape. In the days after August 13, Rosemarie Platz noticed that a number of her colleagues from the Charité Hospital had not returned to work. When someone asked her why she was still there, she made up her mind to make a change. Rosemarie Platz began looking for a way to escape.

The first attempt to cross the border fortifications at the Sophien parish cemetery at Bernauer Strasse turned out to be too dangerous. Border guards were patrolling the grounds. A number of people had been arrested. But someone suggested to Rosemarie Platz that she try to cross through the back courtyards of Bernauer Strasse. Her heart was thumping as she approached the first guard, who was controlling access to Brunnenstrasse. She was turned away both there and on the other side of the street. But the third guard on the next cross-street let her go through. Rosemarie Platz had told him convincingly that she had an appointment with a bed-ridden patient and she showed her ID from the Charité. Armed guards stood in the doorways of the buildings on Schönholzer Strasse. Only one building was unguarded. Rosemarie Platz headed straight for that building, entered the courtyard only to discover that the entrances leading to Bernauer Strasse had already been walled up. But there was no going back. Residents of the border house helped her to enter an empty apartment and then locked the door behind her. If their help had been noticed they would have been severely punished.

Rosemarie Platz did not wait for the help of the West Berlin fire department. She went to the window and jumped down from the 1st floor apartment onto Bernauer Strasse. She was very tense but uninjured when she surprised her boyfriend that evening. He had waited for many hours at Checkpoint Charlie before returning home disappointed. They had agreed to meet there to get a glimpse of each other across the border fortifications. That was no longer necessary. Now they could begin a new life together.

Her mother and brother had stayed behind in the East. They told the young woman about the increasing difficulties that they experienced. For Rosemarie Platz, there was only one thing left to do. She had to bring them both over to the West. At Christmas 1964 she and her boyfriend drove to Italy, supposedly to attend the wedding of a friend. Before they left, they had built a hiding place into the car that Rosemarie Platz was driving. The route took them through Hungary, where she met her mother and brother. On Christmas Eve she continued on her journey through Yugoslavia on her way to Italy. Her brother was travelling with her, hidden beneath the seat. On the return trip back from the wedding that they had supposedly attended, she picked up her mother to bring her across the border to Austria. Everything went according to plan. Rosemarie Platz had already reached the border crossing where she had to show her identification. It was a bitter cold evening. A border guard just happened to touch the side of the car, but instead of being cold, it was warm. He immediately became suspicious. The car was carefully examined and the mother was discovered hiding beneath the backseat. She had taken off her shoes and pressed her feet against the side of the car. The border guard’s attentiveness had grave consequences for them both. Rosemarie Platz, who was in possession of a West German passport, was tried by a Hungarian court and sentenced to one year of forced labor. Her mother was brought back to East Germany and tried there. She was sentenced to four years in a penitentiary. By the time Rosemarie Platz was released a year later, West Germany had already paid ransom for the release of her mother, who had suffered greatly under the prison conditions.

Only then was Rosemarie Platz able to establish a life together with her husband. She had risked a lot for her happiness which made it all the more painful later when she was disappointed in love.

Maria Nooke

Rosemarie Platz

Rosemarie Platz, photo: Maria Nooke


Rosemarie Platz speaks of her escape at Bernauer Strasse

Excerpt from an oral history interview from June 7, 2010, Berlin Wall Memorial (in German)