A leap to freedom… and to a life of fear

Conrad Schumann

CONRAD SCHUMANN AND Peter Leibing were two young men at the right place and at the right time. The elite border guard and the news photographer, both nineteen years old, had come to Berlin because that was where the action was. For Trooper Schumann, this action was the construction of what the East German government was calling the “Anti-Fascist Defensive Wall,” which he had been sent to the divided capital to help secure. Leibing, by contrast, had left Hamburg for Berlin to take the photo of his life. The West German cub photographer had made enough photos of jumping horses to know that you only got one chance at a winning shot. So for more than an hour, Leibing stood watching the nervous young non-commissioned officer as he paced back and forth, his Kalashnikov slung over his shoulder, smoking one cigarette after another. “Come on over, come on over!” the West Berlin crowd on Bernauer Strasse chanted. “He’s going to jump!” one passerby remarked. And at four p.m. on August 15, 1961, Leibing got lucky. Schumann tossed aside his cigarette, then turned and ran for the coil of barbed wire that marked the boundary between East and West. He jumped, flinging away his gun as he flew, and Leibing clicked the shutter. A nearby newsreel cameraman captured the same scene on film. Leibing’s photo hit the West Berlin tabloids the next morning. The rest is Cold War history…



One Comment to “A leap to freedom… and to a life of fear”

  1. This is an incredible photograph and historical retelling. I was able to see a piece of the wall at my university… so epitomizes the suffrage for freedom.

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