Flight To The East

G.I.s in the German Democratic Republic

In the years after World War II more than 200 NATO soldiers deserted from West Germany to the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), among them more than 70 American G.I.s, including a handful of Black soldiers.  Some were dedicated communists, some were in trouble, others didn't want to participate in the Korean or Vietnam Wars.  With the Black soldiers, love often played a role, because they could not live with their white girlfriends in the USA.  Every NATO soldier who deserted was welcomed in the GDR as a symbol of the victory of progress over the capitalistic West.  Deserters were first of all debriefed by the Stasi (East Germany's secret police) in Bautzen, next they were given an apartment there or nearby, and then a job. 

We follow the stories of four G.I. deserters in the German Democratic Republic. 

-  Stephen Wechsler from New York grew up in a communist-leaning family.  He fled via Graz (Austria) to the GDR.  There he changed his name to Victor Grossman, studied journalism in Leipzig, and became the GDR expert on the USA.

-  The Black soldier James W. Pulley became a well-known pop star in the GDR.  James gave the entertainment industry an exotic touch - he performed Harry Belafonte's songs or musicals and frequently appeared together with Dagmar Frederic.  Never did he exhibit any nostalgia for the USA. "There I would have been just another Black singer among many, in the GDR I was the only one," as he liked to comment.

-  The Black G.I. Jack Hillie fled with his girlfriend Charlotte to the GDR where they married.  Charlotte Hillie was permitted to cross the border between East and West Germany.  The USA wanted her to convince Jack to return to the West, the Stasi wanted to know what she knew about American soldiers.  Both sides paid well for her services.  Jack appeared on stage at propaganda events and later in DEFA feature films.

- Raymond Hutto, also a Black G.I., fled to East Germany in 1953 with his pregnant girlfriend Sieghilt.  "People don't like it, when a colored person marries a white.  I should have left her in Berlin," he wrote in his biography.  His daughter Mira is now 34 years old and wants to study film.  She is in the process of researching her father's story for a feature film.  Mira is the red thread throughout this film.  We accompany her as she researches in the Stasi archives, when she visits her half-brother Norman in Bautzen or meets with book author Peter Köpf, who wrote a book on the deserters, to learn more about her father.

The film will throw light on a little known aspect of German-American relations and raises an intriguing question:  In the 1950s, for a number of American soldiers, which was the land of freedom - the USA or East Germany?

First broadcast

see www.ardmediathek.de

Produced by

BehringFilm & KlotzMedia, Freiburg

A film by

Sigrid Faltin



Running time

45 min.


Writer/Director: Sigrid Faltin

Cinematographer: Ingo Behring

Editor: Mark Klotz

Music composer: Andreas Radzuweit

Producer: Regina Weise

Commissioning Editor: Alexander Roth

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