Axel Mitbauer, Eastern German champion, born in 1950,
swimmer, escaped in 1969
“In the night from August 17 to 18 the tournament of my life began. I swam through the Baltic Ocean in the middle of the night – I only had the stars for orientation“
Mitbauer ended up in the cross-hairs of the Ministry of National Security after he had planned his escape with the help of a Western German coach. Mitbauer was arrested but still refused to defame his helper as a “slave trader“. After having been interrogated in solitary confinement in Hohenschönhausen for seven weeks, the socialist regime suspended him for life and banned him from all stadiums, thus effectively destroying his future as a professional athlete. In the night of August 17 1969 Mitbauer swam from the Eastern German sea resort of Boltenhagen trough the Baltic Ocean to Lübeck. Before his escape he had watched the procedures at the border for a week. Orienting himself with the help of the stars, he was able to reach a buoy in the Bay of Lübeck, where he was picked up by the ferry “Nordland“. The story of his escape soon was published by the magazine „Stern“. As a result the Ministry of National Security started keeping a tighter watch on Eastern German top athletes.