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German Ambassador to Russia About Breaking Through a Iron Curtain

It is tough to imagine Rüdiger von Fritsch, a distinguished envoy in his seventh decade, ever carrying been a hitchhiker. But that is accurately where his trail to diplomacy started — on a year-long tour around the globe taken true after graduating from high school.

After roving by Greece, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, the future historian and ambassador to Poland and Russia went all the way down to Australia. “There we warranted some money, spent some time in New Zealand and worked my approach behind to Europe on a load ship,” von Fritsch recalls.

Many things vacant him during the journey, yet the most engaging partial was perplexing to “understand how people saw his country” and “explaining to them since we do things the way we do.” Those dual things shaped the core of his after tactful work, he says.

One other clear memory from his adolescence was apropos proficient with a then-obscure book called “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,” a novel by the eminent Soviet anarchist Alexander Solzhenitsyn. “I was given it when we was 15 or so, and I was deeply impressed,” he says. “It was the first domestic book that we read. Ever since, the oppression of freedom and the multiplication of East and West have been really most on my mind.”

Decades later, von Fritsch has found himself representing Germany in Russia.

“In the past 25 years Russia and Germany have built a very solid, good relationship. We work together in many fields — economy, trade, culture, science — and we need to continue building as many bridges as probable with any other,” Rüdiger von Fritsch says.

The Smuggler

Von Fritsch started his career in the revolutionary world, with an initial tactful posting in Warsaw, Poland in 1986. “I was deeply meddlesome in socialist countries and actually asked to be sent to one of them,” he says.

The fascination with the world behind the Iron Curtain was fueled by his tighten connectors to East Germany. Part of his family lived there, he spent a vacation there once and felt means to compare life in a revolutionary nation to life in the West.

Life in East Germany positively wasn’t easy. Restrictions on travel, countenance and money took a great fee on East German citizens, including the ambassador’s cousin. “My cousin wanted to study law, yet he refused to join the ruling party’s girl movement, that meant that he couldn’t investigate law,” von Fritsch says. When the future envoy was usually 19, he perceived a letter that his cousin had somehow managed to smuggle out. The message of the minute was elementary enough: “Get me out of here.”

That is how the young von Fritsch and his hermit became concerned in a tip operation of audacious proportions. After 9 months of preparation and plotting, a plan that would concede their kin to reunite with the family in the West was ready.

Then, it was unfit to cross the border between the two Germanies directly. The demarcation line bursting East from West was fortified with cave fields, trap wires and automatic sharpened machines that killed anyone who attempted to cross illegally. So the brothers came adult with a cover story that would concede them to bring their cousin to the West around Bulgaria and Turkey. “We simulated that the cousin and his friends were hitchhikers from West Germany, roving to Bulgaria and Turkey. The plan was to meet them in Bulgaria with feign West German passports and accompany them to West Germany by Turkey,” von Fritsch says.

With his possess hands, the future diplomat crafted all the necessary visa and transit stamps, regulating several rubber stamps and ink. The first try finished in failure, when a change of the tone of the visa stamp ink meant they couldn’t use the forged passports they had brought with them. “However, that disaster saved us: We schooled afterwards that limit guards used fluorescent ink in their stamps,” he says. “So we went behind and got new passports, new rubber stamps and started looking for fluorescent ink.”

On the second attempt, the operation was successful and his cousin and friends safely done it to West Germany. The family resolved never to talk about this dangerous adventure. “Even yet we had the best intentions, my hermit and I disregarded West German laws. We feign passports,” von Fritsch says. “Already behind then, we couldn’t order out that we competence wish to enter open service.”

When he went open about the story in 2009, his colleagues reacted differently. “Our former conduct of personnel told me that he wouldn’t have hired me had he famous about it,” von Fritsch says with a laugh. “While the then-Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher pronounced that he would have promoted me to working in his bureau immediately — since they always need artistic people there.”

The ambassador’s seductiveness in the revolutionary universe never faded. Indeed, he began to work ever some-more to prevent the tyranny he had seen in socialist countries. “It hurt me and fascinated me at the same time. Yes, the repressions hurt me. Yet we was also vacant by the fact that this Leninist appurtenance managed to constantly conceal people though them clearly being means to change anything,” von Fritsch says.

“Thankfully, they were proven wrong there: You can’t annoy leisure forever.”

When usually 19 years old, Rüdiger von Fritsch and his hermit crafted feign visas and transport stamps to allow his cousin and friends to reunite with family in West Germany.

The Diplomat

Von Fritsch came to Russia following 4 years as envoy to Poland, and three years in the German Intelligence Service, where he worked as a diplomatic advisor. It was Mar 2014 — right after the Crimea cast and on the eve of the troops dispute sparking in eastern Ukraine. It was a difficult time, he admits, for the German domestic mind-set. “Germany has schooled from its possess history. It understands how capricious politics can lead to terrible pang and injustice in a vast partial of Europe,” von Fritsch says. “After World War II, we done a decision to never review to arbitrary politics again — usually rules, regulations, treaties, and trying to stick to them to the biggest border possible. So for us, Crimea was a very serious breach.”

Several aspects of local domestic existence sojourn of “deep concern” to the ambassador. The media — “not as giveaway and competitive as one would wish them to be” — the crackdown on political opposition, the various restrictions that don’t concede people to express their opinion freely, and the winning purpose of state promotion that encourages people to attack those who remonstrate are all discouraging facilities of the new Russia. Speaking out on this isn’t interfering in internal affairs, says the ambassador: “It’s simply referring to the pledges we done to each other in the Helsinki agreements.”

Von Fritsch recently found himself in the center of a charge during an event orderly by the famous Russian tellurian rights NGO — Memorial. “When we arrived, there was a group of people who were throwing paint and eggs at participants. They seemed to understand that we was the ambassador, since we was usually yelled at and insulted,” von Fritsch says. “These people were not indispensably deliberately orderly by someone, yet they clearly seemed to feel speedy to behave this way.”

Despite the tension, von Fritsch sees his purpose as envoy to find as many fields of cooperation as probable and keep this team-work alive. “In the past 25 years Russia and Germany have built a very solid, good relationship. We work together in many fields — economy, trade, culture, science — and we need to continue building as many bridges as probable with any other,” von Fritsch says.

The Historian

In the meantime, the ambassador and his family suffer life in Moscow, that is an “exciting and wonderful place” for von Fritsch and his wife, both historians by education. They live in a palace in the really heart of Moscow that has been the residence of German ambassadors for 60 years, and they suffer the vicinity to historical sites.

“We like to stroll around the neighborhood and discover the historical tools of the Arbat. So many of the good poets lived there — be it Alexander Pushkin or Mikhail Lermontov, Anton Chekhov or Marina Tsvetaeva, and they all left traces,” von Fritsch says. “And many had really tighten ties with Germany. Tsvetaeva was friends with German producer Rainer Maria Rilke, for example. So for us it’s really engaging to explore informative and historical connectors between the dual countries.”

In his girl the ambassador started to learn Russian overdue to family roots. “My relatives — those from my mother’s family — spoke smashing Russian, and when we was a school kid, we motionless to learn it in my giveaway time,” he says.

“My teacher, Miss Gendel, had emigrated from Russia after the 1917 Oct revolution. She was a descendant of German composer Handel’s family, who at some indicate had changed to the Russian Empire,” he says.

“You see how all is connected?”

Article source: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/article/571180.html