Harry Santos was born in 1955 in Leipzig. In 1977/78, he came into contact with civil-rights activists and therefore was at risk of governmental retaliation in East Germany. After trying to leave the country legally, he decided to escape.
In 1982, he was arrested by the Ministry of State Security (MfS) due to “preparation of illegal border-crossing.” He was condemned to one year in prison and police supervision thereafter. He was detained in several prisons including Berlin-Hohenschönhausen and Karl-Marx-Stadt (today named Chemnitz). These experiences are traumatic for him to this day.