A couple of days ago, I spoke of Aug 13th, when 55 years ago, the border between East and West Germany was sealed, giving birth to the Wall.
55 years ago, today, Conrad Schumann was first East German border guard to escape in a dramatic fashion, by jumping the barbed wire (it was before the wall of concrete blocks was completed) to the French sector under the calls of West Germans “Komm’ rüber!”.
Conrad was 19 at the time. On a later photo below posted here, he was 44, 3 years before the fall of the Wall he had fled.
His escape may seem a detail and, in the big picture probably is. However, the world media and memory feed on symbols. If you find yourselves walking the street of Berlin, you will realize that the moment of his escape has become a strong symbol. The photo is literally unmissable, on posters, wa
lls, statues, postcards, graffiti, in art galleries and souvenir shops, etc…
The question is : did he get any royalty for this single act of spontaneous bravado?
Probably not, since he died at the age of 56, suffering from depression. He hanged himself in 1998. Years later, in 2011, his photo, named the “leap into freedom” was inducted into the UNESCO Memory of the World program.