The home country was a domestic passenger vessel in Berlin under the flag of the GDR , which by a heavy Shipwreck on 5 July 1951 in Alt-Treptow hit the headlines. It is the worst accident of the Berlin passenger shipping and the inland shipping of the GDR.
The owner and captain was Erich Weise. The motorboat was on 5 July 1951, 127 children as passengers from Prenzlauer Berg and caregivers of Alt-Treptow from a trip to Hessenwinkel (local situation of Rahnsdorf company). After a journey of 300 meters, the home country's gasoline engine exploded due to a carburetor defect in the port area and set the entire ship on fire. All the children sitting on the lower deck died. Despite the rescue trip of the passenger ship Elfriede under Captain Bernhard Langwaldt and the help of numerous volunteers, 28 children and 2 carers, according to West Berlin estimates, died in the accident.
The official investigation into the cause of the accident revealed that Erich Weise had replaced the ship's diesel engine with an old petrol engine without official approval. In a particularly serious case, Weise was sentenced to 15 years in prison by the Berlin-Mitte district court for deliberate transport risk.
According to Tristan Micke from Berlin-Treptow , who analyzed the accident for the Verkehrsgeschichtliche Blätter , Erich Weise drove on behalf of the state-owned German shipping and handling center, the DSU, whose role has never been clarified - the engine replacement may have been carried out on their own initiative. According to Micke's account, the number of victims mentioned from West Berlin appears realistic. A memorial stone erected on July 5, 2005 on the 54th anniversary of the catastrophe at Treptower Hafen shows the number of victims, which is based on the number of victims on a tombstone in the Friedrichsfelde Central Cemetery , but not all victims are buried in Friedrichsfelde been: Micke saw a communal grave in the cemetery in Roelckestrasse , which later no longer existed.
After Karin and Till Ludwig, the producers of the documentary Death on the Spree. After the accident on the MS “Heimatland” , Weise first tried to get a replacement diesel engine with the help of the DSU, but this failed. The petrol engine was then installed with the approval of the DSU. Representatives of the DSU inspected the conversion several times and convinced themselves that the work was progressing. After the engine had been replaced, Weise immediately received the driving order for the later unlucky trip for the next day. Thus, Weise objectively had no chance of having the prescribed technical inspection of the boat before the first voyage after the repair.
After Erich Weise was released from prison as part of an amnesty, he moved with his family to West Berlin and worked there again as a barge.
Representation in the media
During the Cold War, the accident was instrumentalized by the Eastern and Western media and presented very differently. The GDR emphasized that rescue measures by the riot police , the fire brigade and the water police had been initiated immediately . The Ost-Berliner Berliner Zeitung had claimed that ambulances had to take a detour because they were not allowed to drive through the American sector , and that West Berlin clinics had refused fire victims because they were "not insured by the West". The West-Berliner Zeitung Der Tagesspiegel, on the other hand, spread the version that as a rescue measure a boat of the People 's Police did not arrive until after half an hour , and that the People's Police did not take sufficient care of the children floating in the water. Furthermore, boats were sent by the West Berlin police, but the People's Police refused to help.
The GDR, which, according to Kurt Groggert, author of the Berliner Verkehrsblätter , did not fit such a catastrophe into the picture in view of the upcoming World Youth Festival in East Berlin, emphasized the role of rescuers: the then East Berlin Mayor Friedrich Ebert drew 34 lifesavers (jr.) on July 14, 1951 with certificates and gifts in kind. The most important rescuer, Captain Bernhard Langwaldt, on a subsequent ship, was arrested by the people's police at the scene of the accident and taken to the Rummelsburg prison in Berlin-Stralau in handcuffs . Langwaldt: "You [the people's police ] probably thought that I was the captain of the accident was. ”He was later released.
According to eyewitnesses from East Berlin interviewed by Karin and Till Ludwig in their film, the People's Police only half-heartedly took part in the rescue operations from their boats. Help offered from the West was indeed turned down; People's police boats even actively prevented rescuers from the west from approaching the site of the accident. The next West Berlin fire station was much closer than the next East Berlin station, which is why there were delays in rescue. But the West Berlin hospitals also refused to admit injured people who were not insured with a Western health insurance.
Honor of rescuers on July 14, 1951 in the New Town House by Friedrich Ebert
- Vacation trip to death. 50 years ago, the Oberspree in Treptow became the scene of the greatest catastrophe in Berlin's passenger shipping . In: Berliner Zeitung , July 5, 2001
- Karin and Till Ludwig: Death on the Spree. The accident on the MS “Heimatland”. D, 2007, 45 min.