Flight for Freedom: The Wetzel Family’s Daring Escape from East Germany

By  Kristen Fulton 

Illustrated by Torben Kuhlmann

Suppose you live in South Paris and you are ruled by a communist government.  You are not allowed to watch cartoons, wear blue jeans and you have to wait in long lines for a banana just once a year.

Your friends and family live in Norway and are governed by a democracy. They have many freedoms.

An inner wall and a tall outer wall of cement blocks and steel barbed wire separate the two towns. You are not allowed to visit your family and friends.

You might consider climbing over the walls or digging under it. In either case, if you were noticed by the many police (Stasi) and dogs who guarded it, you would be attacked by them and suffer a severe consequence.

There were such walls to divide East Germany from West Germany on the continent of Europe after World War II and the Cold War. “Flight for Freedom” is based on a real family , the Wetzels, who attempted to escape communist East Germany by going over the wall in a secretly made, handmade hot air balloon in September of 1979.

The voice of 6-year-old Peter, son of Petra and Gunter Wetzel,  tells his family’s story of their attempt to escape in this beautifully illustrated, historical fiction Maine Chickadee Award Nominee Book for 2021-2022.

What steps did they have to take?

How could they possibly make a massive, cloth balloon when cloth was rationed?

When did they find time to make it and not be seen as all houses had to have their lights out at 9 p.m.?

What happened when they were spotted by the Stasi?

Was their attempt to escape successful?

To learn more about the Wetzels and the Berlin Wall, make sure to read the Author’s Notes. 

An amazing follow-up Junior Fiction book about 12 year old Greta’s attempt to dig a tunnel under the Berlin Wall to get to the East is ” A Night Divided” by Jennifer A. Nielsen.

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