Between 1961 and 1989, escaping from East Germany was serious business. Almost 300 people died making the attempt, but several thousand actually made it. Many escapes involved sneaking through isolated parts of the Berlin Wall or depending on luck or the unwillingness of the sentries to kill. Others leaned on technology to smuggle people through the checkpoints. Plus baldfaced guts.
In May 1963, Austrian Heinz Meixner drove up to Checkpoint Charlie in a fancy British sports car, a bright red Austin Healey Sprite convertible. The top was down, and Meixner had made one important modification to the car: he removed the windshield. When the border guards ordered him to pull over for inspection, Meixner lay flat and hit the accelerator. Without the windshield, the entire car was low enough to slip under the lowered barrier. Meixner made it across—along with his East German fiancée hiding behind the seat and his prospective mother-in-law in the trunk.
Norbert Konrad pulled off the same trick a few months later in the exact same car, but the East Germans then added steel bars under the barrier arm to prevent a third attempt.
I recall reading that story as a child, particularly the detail of how Meixner stacked bricks around his girlfriend’s mother in the trunk, knowing that the car would be shot at from the rear as he drove away. But that’s just one story; others involved a homemade helicopter, a homemade balloon, and a homemade submarine, among other ingenious schemes. Read about them at Popular Mechanics. -via Digg