* 1937 IN LÜRSCHAU (KREIS SCHLESWIG) †1977 IN THE BALTIC SEA
A DECISION WITH DEADLY CONSEQUENCES
Heinz-Georg Sender is a sergeant in the German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) in Flensburg and in debts because of a car accident. In early 1961 he volunteers to be a paid informant for the Ministry for State Security (MfS, also known as the Stasi). He also tells the MfS that he has realized “the full extent of the instability of West Germany’s system.” As a radio operator, he is able to reveal code encryptions to the Stasi.
When his contacts to the east are on the verge of being exposed, he decides to relocate to the GDR (German Democratic Republic). He crosses the border on February 19th, 1961 with his fiancé, Ulla, and both pass through the reception center at Pritzier. The couple marries in Schwerin in April of 1961. Sender works as an electrical mechanic and his wife as a nursery school teacher. They have three children. The building of the Berlin Wall takes place in August 1961, and a homesick Sender begins filing multiple applications for leaving the GDR in 1963. After the GDR signs the Helsinki Accords in 1975, thereby pledging to respect human rights, he includes references to them in his applications.
He had no idea who he was getting involved with.
He expresses his disapproval of the SED dictatorship to the authorities in stronger and stronger terms, accusing it of robbing him of his civil liberties. When the Sender family receives a final and definitive rejection of their emigration applications, and with the unity of the family at stake, they decide to flee. On March 8th, 1977, the family attempts to reach Denmark by crossing the Baltic Sea in two collapsible boats. Heinz-Georg Sender and both daughters capsize und drown in the icy water. A Danish ferry rescues Ulla Sender and the son, Christoph.
FROM MODEL CITIZENS TO ENEMIES OF THE STATE
The Sender family is initially useful for GDR propaganda purposes as an excellent example of a successful relocation to “the better Germany.” Heinz-Georg Sender is a secret informer, (“Geheimer Informator,” an earlier term for “Inoffizieller Mitarbeiter,” unoffcial collaborator) for the Stasi. However, after his arrival in the GDR his relationship with the MfS wavers between outward conformity and increasing rejection. He carries out his duties as an informer for a few years, without much dedication. He reports on former Bundeswehr members and colleagues. Sender remains a mystery to the MfS employees; they characterize him as “shifty.” His wish for a job as an agent in West Germany is not granted. Sender openly criticizes the suppression of the Prague Spring in 1968 by Soviet troops and terminates his cooperation with the MfS in 1969. The tone of Sender’s emigration applications becomes more aggressive. In 1976 Ulla Sender loses her job as an educator “because of her attitude.” Shortly before the escape attempt, the authorities threaten to arrest Ulla und Heinz-Georg Sender and place their children in the care of the state.