A Daring Escape From Communist East Germany to the West via China
They were young and in love — and trapped in an oppressive regime. In 1987, an East German couple traveled clandestinely from Berlin to Beijing in a brazen attempt to escape to the West. Only one of them would make it to freedom.
It would have actually taken just 10 minutes for Jens and Marion to walk the 1,400 meters (4,600 feet) that separated Rykestrasse, in East Berlin, from the western half of the divided city.
But on a day in August 1987, they were somewhere in Mongolia, roughly 7,500 kilometers (4,650 miles) from their street in the Berlin district of Prenzlauer Berg. The two students had taken the longest conceivable route from East to West Berlin — and they were still a long way from reaching their destination. Beijing was still some 1,500 kilometers away, and they had no visa to cross the border into China.
Using a forged invitation, Jens and Marion had made it to Mongolia, which was politically controlled by the Soviet Union at the time. Now came the most difficult part of their trip: China was a forbidden country for citizens of the former East Germany (the German Democratic Republic, or GDR). But it was only in Beijing, at the West German embassy, that they could apply for political asylum and acquire the passport that would allow them to live in the West.