An East German Mother Passes Her Baby to Freedom Across the Berlin Wall

Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
Jan. 22 2013 11:15 AM

An East German Mother Passes Her Baby to Freedom Across the Berlin Wall

The Vault is Slate's new history blog. Like us on Facebook; follow us on Twitter @slatevault; find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

Stories of families separated by the Berlin Wall abound. This image, dated August 1961, captures the very first moment of one such separation.

The original caption to this photograph, kept in the National Archives’ records of the U.S. Information Agency, explains that the father in this little family had been traveling in West Berlin when the first fences of barbed wire between West and East went up. (The wall was built in phases. The East German government began with barbed wire and sentries; over the next few weeks, they reinforced the perimeter with concrete blocks, sentry towers, and minefields.)


The mother and father met at the impromptu fence, and a guard (who may be the figure to the mother’s left) looked the other way while they discussed their situation. When they were sure that the guard wasn’t watching, the mother passed the son to his father.

The caption contains no identifying information that we could use to track this couple, so we don’t know what happened with their story—a fact that somehow makes the image all the more moving.

Do you know the identity of the family in the photograph? If you do, please email us at


Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Subprime Loans Are Back

And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

  News & Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
Dear Prudence
Sept. 23 2014 6:00 AM Naked and Afraid Prudie offers advice on whether a young boy should sleep in the same room with his nude grandfather.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
Sept. 23 2014 7:14 AM Fighting the Sophomore Slump, Five Novels at a Time Announcing the Slate/Whiting Second Novel List.
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 23 2014 7:00 AM I Stand with Emma Watson
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.