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Harry Santos
Zellengang im Neubau


Harry Santos

Harry Santos was born in Leipzig in 1955 and grew up in Thuringia from the age of eleven. Although he showed artistic talent at an early age, his father, a senior SED functionary, prevented him from training as a porcelain painter. Instead, he completed an apprenticeship in a state-owned haulage company and then spent eighteen months doing basic military service in the NVA.

In 1977, H. Santos moved to East Berlin, where he worked as an ambulance driver, among other things, and maintained close contacts with the dissident scene. In 1979, he decided to leave the GDR together with his partner at the time and applied to leave the country for West Germany. In order to speed things up, his partner was supposed to enter into a fictitious marriage with an American citizen. She was actually able to leave the GDR early, but his own imminent departure was cancelled. As a result, he felt compelled to make escape plans. Betrayed to the MfS by a friend, he was first observed and then arrested on 9 November 1982. He was sentenced to a one-year prison term with subsequent police supervision for ‘preparing and planning to illegally cross the border in a serious case’, which he served in the Berlin prisons Keibelstraße, Rummelsburg and Hohenschönhausen, as well as Neustrelitz and Karl-Marx-Stadt (Chemnitz).  

H. Santos was released early on 4 August 1983 as part of the Federal Republic of Germany's prisoner release programme and deported to the Federal Republic. After a short stay in the Gießen emergency reception centre, he arrived in West Berlin and now works as a lecturer at the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen memorial, author and visual artist. Since 2011, he has also been working as a contemporary witness at schools and educational institutions for the Coordinating Office of Contemporary Witnesses.

Further information

  • Harry Santos, Im schweren Fall. Ein Leben als Soldat, Dissident und Sträfling, Berlin 2024.

Website of Harry Santos