We got the job bricking the ornate Intelligence building. The unusual thing about that job was that the exterior brick was about as plain as could be, but there was interior bricking was very ornate. Of course, we celebrated at Zum Kellar. We must have been talking too loudly about our success, because the man who had offered to help me escape was there and came over to our table. Of course, he and two or three other men could have been surreptitiously listening to our conversations, and the conversations of others. The brigade and I had discussed the possibility that he might be a Western spy. I had never seen a spy, and I wouldn’t know what one looked like if he slapped me across the face.
I learned later that a person shouldn’t be able recognize a spy just by his looks alone. That celebratory evening, the Western spy joined us along with two ordinary Germans, who we learned later were spies also. Anyway, he joined us, and he congratulated on our new job. I don’t remember how it occurred, but later, somehow, the talk got around to escaping to the West.
The guy from the West leaned forward into our group conspiratorially. Gosh, I keep calling the guy. He told us at one point that his name wasn’t important and shouldn’t be known by a lot of people. Then, when I pressed him and asked, “Yeah, but when we we’re talking to you, what should we call you. I mean we can’t keep saying, “Hey you!”
He said, “Why not? Hugh is a perfectly good name!”
That was this meeting. At another meeting, he told us to call him Bill. But now, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Anyway, he leaned forward, and we all leaned forward to hear what he had to say.
He spoke barely above a whisper. Other patrons of Zum Kellar were at other tables. Talking. Some were even talking to friends, who I assumed were in the same business as Hugh. We leaned forward to be able to hear him better.
He said, “I can get you out of East Germany one at a time, but due to limitations beyond my control, I can’t take out but one at a time. I can get you a regular identity card, a certification in your profession, and maybe even a job in your profession. But I can only do one at a time!”
I looked at the brigade, one at a time. I could see they were troubled by the limitation. I was sure that they felt as I did that if that was the only way it could be done, then I wanted to be first, but how could I do that to my friends, my work brigade. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair. I looked at Hugh and said, “Hugh, I think I can speak for all of us. We can’t do it that way: for one of us to go first and leave the others behind. It’s not good or fair to the others.” I didn’t even mention what would happen to the work crew when the East German authorities found out one of us had escaped. They would think the whole brigade knew about the escape beforehand and didn’t tell anyone. That would be a beating for everyone remaining and a one-way trip to Siberia!
I saw the others nodding their heads.
He threw his hands up in the air. He shook his head in dismay, “I just can’t do it!”
I said, “That’s okay, we’re the stars on this construction project. So far we’re doing okay!”
He nodded, “So I have heard!”
We didn’t hear from again for two weeks. When he did return, he came back with another person. They m...