June, 17th 1953 in Halle (S.)
Timeline of filming and filmed events
The story of Albert Ammer's filming on June 17, 1953 is still outrageous and unbelievable today. He shot three professional 35mm film rolls with film assistant Jutta-Regina Lau. The Stasi arrests him and the GDR regime labels him an enemy of the state. This true and unique story is told in the novel"Albert's pictures remain" grippingly told.
With the events in Ukraine, Russia, Iran, China and Peru, for example, Albert Ammer's film footage has a dimension of relevance that goes far beyond 1953.
Below the pictures lead to my videos at the original filming locations and to selected recordings from June 17, 1953 in Halle (p.). There are further personal comments on the pictures from 1953 from Halle (S.).here.
Traffic junction Reileck, Halle (S.) about noon
Jutta-Regina Lau, Albert Ammer and DEFA studio janitor are on there way to get lunch for the DEFA crew as they come across thousands of demonstrators on the city streets. People are on their way to the city centre.
DEFA film studio, Kohlschütterstreet, Halle (S.) about 12:30pm
The film team Ammer/ Lau decides to film the incredible events in the city of Halle. The film assistant Lau prepares two black-and-white 35mm film cassettes for the shoot. The DEFA janitor joins the camera team.
Prison Red Ox, Am Kirchtor, Halle (S.) about 1pm
On a rack body truck the three film maker reach the infamous prison. In front of the massive walls and on the street hundreds of protestors are gathered. Factory workers on strike, students and relatives from imprisoned inmates demonstrate loudly. Chants demand to free the political prisoners.
Albert starts filming from the back of the truck. Dramatic events unfold in front of his camera. The communist security forces react with brutal force. A water canon is used from the prison inside against protesters. Fearless teenagers throw stones. Even children fight against the water being sprayed against the peaceful demonstrators.
Shortly later, as the truck with the film teams heads towards the city centre, shots are being fired from the prison inside. One student is murdered by gunshot.
Streets towards the city center of Halle (S.), approx. 1:45 p.m.
From the back of the truck, Ammer and Lau film citizens cheering on the side of the road. Many people wave happily to the camera team. Film images of cheering women emerge. The truck is only moving slowly. The streets are filled with cheerful people walking towards market square. Chants ring out. There are calls for the government to be overthrown.
Marktplatz Halle (S.) from around 2:00 p.m
Public life comes to a standstill. The gathered people block tram trains. Albert directs the truck between the Handel Monument (right side in front) and market church (right in the back).
Ammer/Lau film the arrival of a large demonstration, led by the later strike leader Weber. Leaning on his crutches, he leads a procession of strikers into the market square. The demonstration marches directly towards the film crew.
To get an even better view, Ammer and Lau climb onto the roof of the truck. The filming team is visible to everyone on the market square. Albert films with his 35mm camera on his shoulder, Jutta-Regina Lau acts right next to the film camera. She is wearing a white dress. At that moment, a Stasi employee or sympathizer took a photo of the film crew. That photo will be presented as evidence in the later show trial.
Albert Ammer wants to showcase filmmaking even better. The demonstrators chant the chants, but walk past the film crew rather carelessly. In the next film shot, Jutta-Regina waves to the demonstrators. Both film the “famous still” with the laughing strike leader Herbert Gohlke, who happily waves at the camera. Albert shoots dozens of women cheerfully waving at the camera. The staff of a hospital joined the protest march. Many people happily cheer on the rotating drum. There is a happy interaction between demonstrators and the film team. Young people standing by cheer and applaud the film crew. The second film reel is twisted.
Defa film base, Kohl Schütterstrasse, Halle (S.)
Jutta-Regina Lau organizes a third roll of film material in the Defa camp.
Women's prison on Kleine Steinstrasse, Halle (S.) from around 3:30 p.m
Albert films the mass of relatives in front of the gate of the women's prison. A poster has been put up right next to the closed gate. It reads, alluding to the hated GDR top politician Walter Ulbricht: “The beard is gone.”
There is a commotion from the prison. A demonstrator with a head injury is led out. The demonstrator is injured but can walk himself. He is wearing a head bandage. Albert is filming.
The film crew is looking for an elevated location. You can find this in the residential building opposite. A little later, young people storm out of the prison gate and present the film camera with a captured and dismantled carbine.
The street is crowded. A striking number of women and young men are protesting again.
The prison gate opens. Security officers dressed in suits open the gate. Young women, perhaps only twenty years old, rush into freedom.
Ammer and Lau film the GDR's only successful and peaceful prison liberation. They are indescribable moments of happiness and surprise. For the liberated women as well as for the longingly waiting relatives.
The preserved still images document how very young, but also very old and weakened inmates find unexpected freedom. Some of the freed women look at the camera, perhaps again at the young film assistant.
A middle-aged woman is visibly weakened by her imprisonment and is supported on the way out of prison by a woman of about the same age. When the weakened woman steps onto the street, she faints. Bystanders rush to help.
Some of the freed inmates wear convict clothing. Two very old ladies in convict clothing also saved some belongings. In front of Albert's camera they smile directly into the camera.
According to Stasi documents, around 245 inmates were freed from the women's prison.
Shortly afterwards, Soviet military personnel and armed soldiers took up positions in front of the gate. The beginning of the end of freedom in Halle and the GDR. Albert films the Soviet soldiers.
Heavy weapons of war rattle into the city center of Halle (p.). Albert's last film shoots in the GDR: Three Soviet tanks.
Defa film base approx. 4:30 or 5:00 p.m.
Ammer, Lau and the caretaker put the film equipment into the cupboards provided, as they do after every day of filming. Albert would never see his colleagues at Defa again.
Early morning of June 18th 1953
Three communist state police members arrest Albert Ammer at his rented appartment in Halle (S.). Directly they take him inside the Red Ox prison. Albert Ammer disappears in a prison cell in the prison basement.
June to August 1953
East German security forces conduct comprehensive investigations against Albert Ammer. His film material is being used to identify demonstrators and participants in the uprising. At least parts of the film material are being cut into pieces. What happens to the original film negatives is unknown.
A propaganda trial against Albert Ammer is orchestrated by East German police and court. Based on contrived charges and by enforcing draconic communist jurisdiction Albert Ammer is sentenced to three years in prison. On top of that he is punished with occupational ban, collection of all assets, seizure of his film camera and equipment and loss of all civic rights in the GDR. Albert Ammer will spend even more than the three years in East German jails.
End of June 1956
Albert Ammer leaves the infamous GDR state prison of Waldheim. As a sentenced outlaw, he is unable to find work. In September 1953 he decides to flee to Western Germany with his wife. His communist security forces file will receive again in 1986 the classification "top-secret".
Sometime in the years 2001 or 2002
Blow-up pictures manufactured by communist security forces in 1953 from Albert Ammers film material are discoverd in "Stasi" files. Jutta-Regina Ammer, the film assistant from June 17th 1953, who Albert married later in West-Germany, receives information from a civil rights activist on the newly discovered pictures from June 17th in Halle.
Based on communist security force files and eye-witness accounts the blow-up pictures are beyond doubt credited to Albert Ammer's and Jutta-Regina Lau's filming.
From that time, I banded with my mother, Jutta-Regina Lau (Ammer) to show those pictures to the public. We began to tell the story of those picture publically.
Just before the 70th anniversary of the uprising in East-Germany, I publish my novel about the live of Albert Ammer, entitled "Alberts Bilder bleiben". Adventurous stories needed to be told... Video clips at the original film location from Ammer and Lau are also published.
Please dive into fascinating history and discover forbidden pictures of our past!
Click here for novel "Alberts Bilder bleiben".