If YouTube was around in the 1980s... Dramatic user-generated footage of East Berlin Escape

Written by David Shapton

UnknownEscape from East Berlin

Today, when something dramatic happens, there's nearly always someone there with a smartphone camera to make a video. This wasn't the case in the 1980s, which makes this video even more remarkable

Do you remember what it was like in the 1980s if you wanted to make a video? The equipment, mostly very well made, was heavy, bulky and - to be honest - didn't take very good pictures. It didn't seem to matter much then because the very fact that you could shoot a video and then watch it play back immediately on the TV was thrilling enough.

Another characteristic of the 80s was that the Cold War was still simmering, most viscerally in Europe and nowhere more intensely then in Berlin.

Hard to imagine

For those who never went there, it's hard to imagine the incongruity of the situation in Berlin. There was literally a giant wall that separated decadent West Berlin (complete with expensive department stores like KaDeWe) and the downtrodden East Berlin. The wall wasn't a straight vertical line between West and East Germany: Berlin was actually right in the middle of East Germany, and the wall went around it. To get to Berlin, you had to drive out of West Germany and across the "Corridor": a dark dual-carriageway across East Germany, that eventually arrived in Berlin. Nevertheless, West Berlin was about as Western as you could get, and East Berliners, who had been cut off from their families since the wall was erected on August 13th 1961, tried all sorts of ways to "escape to the West".

Many succeeded, and many didn't. Trying to escape was immensely dangerous.

With that background: the danger of escaping from East to West Berlin, and the unusual availability of an early video camera, this video clip is poignant and remarkable. 


Tags: Technology


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