Apparatus Herz

Special Broadcasts on Travel Permit Issues

By Haug / Wetzel

To agree to disagree was the formula that allowed East Berliners to visit their relatives in the other part of the city for a couple of days in 1963/64. The RIAS set up a hotline.

Winter 1963-1964, 18 months after the building of the Berlin Wall. Ideological slanging matches, all contact cut, alienation. An experimental agreement was arrived at in Berlin: to agree to disagree. For 18 days residents of the Western side are allowed into the East. The system changes daily. A broadcaster accompanies the process, a telephone line is provided for the duration of the agreement to answer the questions of those wishing to cross the border. Everyone has to lodge an application, elevate their personal concern to a matter of state, queue up with the crowd. The stampede is daunting. Uncertainty grows. Hundreds of thousands queue up for applications, stamps and permits. The system changes daily and at the same time the countdown has started. Questions proliferate. What are the risks? Who will be allowed to change sides, what is the extent of government arbitrariness, what is personal fate worth in a contest of strength with world politics? Who dares change sides? How can I get a permit to cross? How do you organise an onslaught of 1.8 million people trying to lodge applications?

A radio broadcaster sets up a telephone help line. Herr Herz (Mr Heart) sits at phone no. 136 providing information on border issues, walking a tightrope between providing information and individual psychological support. Personal conversations are transmitted through the ether on both sides. The kitchen radio is incessantly overflowing with life stories and functions ‘bi-laterally‘. The other side listens and puts its own spin on events.

The radio play is based on live recordings of RIAS’ special broadcasts on Berlin’s travel permit agreement.

By: Helgard Haug, Daniel Wetzel
With: Peter Herz, Joachim Jauer, Ruprecht Kurzrock and listeners to their RIAS special broadcasts on travel permit issues, December 1963 - January 1964.
Production: DeutschlandRadio Berlin 2001,

Length: about 54 min.

World premiere broadcast: DeutschlandRadio Berlin, 10th of December 2001

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