Despite their construction of the Berlin Wall, the East German authorities failed to stop the flight of their citizens towards the western part of the capital following the end of World War II.
After the division of Germany in that period into an eastern part, known as East Germany or the German Democratic Republic, and a western part, known as West Germany or the Federal Republic of Germany, the East German authorities, backed by the Soviet Union, did not hesitate to build a wall that extended for tens of miles and divided the capital into two parts .
Through this heavily guarded wall, Berlin found itself divided into an eastern section under the influence of the German Democratic Republic and a western section under the influence of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Eastern officials erected this wall in the hope of stopping the movement of East Germans fleeing towards the western part. Between 1949 and 1961, US officials counted the flight of at least 3 million people from East Germany to its western neighbor.
Nor did this wall prevent the East Germans from continuing their escape attempts to the western section.
A picture of Soviet tanks in East Berlin during the month of October 1961
To counter this, East German forces fired back, targeting anyone who tried to approach the wall.
Between 3 and 4 October 1964, East Germany experienced the most significant mass flight since the inception of the Wall.
During that period, about 57 citizens of East Germany were able to cross into the western section using a tunnel dug under the Berlin Wall and connecting two buildings in the two Berlin sections.
About 20 to 25 students from East Germany took on the task of digging this tunnel, the construction of which lasted about 5 months.
In difficult circumstances, these students headed to prepare this tunnel, which extended for a distance of 145 meters under the Berlin Wall.
A newspaper headline about the story of 57 Germans who escaped under the Berlin Wall
During the entire period of excavation, they carried out their mission secretly, adopting a strict exit and entry system to the building, in order not to arouse the suspicion of State Security soldiers known as Stasi.
They also relied on wooden boards that they fixed well against the walls and ceiling of the tunnel to prevent it from collapsing.
In addition, it took everyone who used this tunnel, to get to West Berlin, to bend and walk on all four sides of about 10 minutes to reach the other bank.
Photo of the process of crossing a number of East Germans towards the western part of Berlin
To secure the entrance to the building in East Berlin, all participants in the escape operation were asked to adopt the password “Tokyo”, which came after the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games.
While securing the escape towards the western section of Berlin, armed clashes broke out between a number of security forces, who exposed the plan, and a small group of armed students.
This armed confrontation resulted in the killing of an East German soldier named Egon Schultz, who was said to be twenty-one years old.
Part of the Stasi forces in East Germany
During the following years, soldier Egon Schulz became a national hero of East Germany and many streets and schools were named after him.
In addition, the escape through the tunnel resulted in the escape of 57 East Germans towards the western part of Berlin.
During the following days, the Germans named Tunnel 57, after the number of East Germans fleeing, to a place that became a disgrace to East Germany, which failed to provide adequate living conditions for its citizens and simultaneously failed to prevent them from escaping.