The escape put a lot of pressure on the family left behind. Ingo’s parents lost their jobs. His youngest brother, Holger, was followed everywhere, but in March 1983, on the night of his 30th birthday, he made his move. He had one last drink and said an emotional goodbye to Egbert, the only person other than Ingo who knew of his plan.
For weeks, he and a friend had practised archery and made dry runs in the forest. Holger had spotted a street near Treptow Park where the death strip was narrow, with tall houses on either side. Now, he sneaked up to an attic and reached a small window in the roof.
With a powerful bow, he shot an arrow that flew 40 metres over the border and beyond the house opposite. It trailed a nylon line unravelling from a champagne bottle. With the nylon line, Ingo pulled a wire high across the border. Holger knotted his end around a chimney; Ingo tied his to the bumper of his car and drove a few metres to pull the rope taut. Now came the dangerous part: Holger had made a metal pulley enclosed in a frame with two hand holds attached and a strap to hold his wrist. He snapped it over the rope, gripped the handles and launched himself into space. With a soft whirring noise, he travelled high over the border and managed to reach the top-floor balcony of the house opposite. Now two brothers were in the West.
Ingo and Holger, who ran a pub in Cologne called Al Capone, racked their brains about how they could help their middle brother. Egbert was given a hard time by the Stasi. They even offered him a free ticket to the West, but he turned it down, knowing it was a test. “I like the GDR and I’m staying,” he said.
It was a picture of a baby helicopter in Playboy that caught Ingo’s eye. He went to see it at a fair in Hanover but it was only a prototype. By chance, however, he and Holger met two French pilots who told them about a tiny aircraft called the “ultralight.” They went to France to try one out. “This is it,” Ingo said. “Now we can pluck Egbert out of the East.”
The planes, with ten-metre wing-spans, lacked any protection for pilot and passengers – each one just a pair of seats side by side, with tiny wheels and a small engine. They could be taken apart and transported by trailer.
Preparations took four years. In May 1989 Ingo and Holger drove to Berlin and sent a coded message to Egbert: “Ulrike is doing well.” It was the signal for Egbert to be ready.