Ralph Kabisch

Berlin, Berlin
* 1942

Democracy, freedom and peace are the most valuable goods we are now able to enjoy day after day. Yet they are also highly vulnerable and must therefore be actively lived and protected in order to prevent dictatorships in the future.

Biografie auf Deutsch
  • politische Haft
  • Flucht/Fluchthilfe

Biographical information

1942 Born in Görlitz
1945 Family flees to Osnabrück
1947 Relocation to Düren and later Cologne
1961 Abitur in Cologne
1961- Studies in construction and transportation at the Technical University of Berlin in pursuit of a degree as civil engineer
June-October 1964 Participation in the construction of so-called 'Tunnel 57' from Bernauer Strasse 97 to Strelitzer Strasse 55 in Berlin
1965-1966 Assistance in escape operations at the Liesenstrasse cemetery and via the transit routes to West Germany
1967 Escape operations via the CSSR and Bulgaria to Austria and West Germany
19 November 1967 Arrest in the CSSR, six months of pre-trial custody in Prague
27 March 1968 Indictment in Prague
24-26 April 1968 Main trial at Prague's District Court 1
9 May 1968 release from prison and return to West Berlin in the context of a general amnesty issued by the new Czechoslovakian president
1969 Marriage, completion of studies
1970-1972 traineeship at the German railways (Deutsche Bundesbahn), qualification as construction assessor
1972- Civil engineer in leading positions at the Deutsche Bundesbahn in Hamburg, Krefeld and Frankfurt am Main as well as at the Deutsche Eisenbahn-Consulting GmbH (DE-Consult); supervision and management of major projects, including in Asia and North Africa
1980-1986 Office director of DE-Consult in Taipei, Taiwan; responsible for planning and constructing the lowering of the Taipei railway and the new construction of the central train station
1990-2001 relocation from Frankfurt am Main to Berlin; position as chief executive of European Transport Consulting Ltd., subsequent retirement
2002-2004 Operations and Training Manager for Siemens Bangkok Ltd. in the context of a project to construct and assemble a metro line and launch its operation in Bangkok


Ralph Kabisch came to Berlin to begin his studies in October 1961, shortly after the city's partition. 'The air was on fire' in West Berlin at the time, and those among the students who wanted to help their friends and family escape from the GDR quickly found one another. In 1964, 22-year-old Kabisch joined the group around Wolfgang Fuchs - one of the most well-known escape agents - in order to fetch his cousin who lived in Görlitz. They worked on 'Tunnel 57' together with roughly 25 other students, digging one metre per day, lying flat in the narrow shaft with only a shovel in their hands. After six months of digging, 57 people were able to escape through the tunnel, yet Kabisch's cousin was not among them, as she had to perform 'harvest service' in Bernau near Berlin. Escape agents transported many GDR refugees to the West via Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria, hiding their human freight in a converted dashboard. During one of these escape operations, Kabisch realised he was being watched and followed and aborted the plan, driving to Prague instead where he acted as an interested tourist. On his return to Austria on 19 November he was arrested and - in the wake of the Prague Spring - received a surprisingly mild verdict. He was released through a general amnesty issued by the new Czechoslovakian prime minister and returned to his parents in West Germany and later Berlin on 9 May 1968. His cousin was caught when she attempted to flee via Bulgaria, extradited to the GDR and jailed, and eventually had her freedom purchased by the West German government. Ralph Kabisch ended his activity as an escape agent and began his professional career after completing his studies, which would take him to various countries around the world to direct tunnel projects for railways and metro lines.

Interview in Englisch über den "Tunnel 57"

"Tunnel under the Berlin Wall", BBC

"The Man Who Helped Dig a Secret Tunnel Under the Berlin Wall", Slates Design Blog

Zeitzeugengespräche zum Nachhören

"Fluchthelfer mit unterschiedlichen Erfahrungen" - Ralph Kabisch und Hubert Hohlbein geben im Zeitzeugencafé der Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer Auskunft über die Fluchthilfe für DDR-Bürger.

"Flucht und Fluchthilfe in Deutschland: Grenzen überwinden - auch in der Erinnerungskultur? - Anlässlich des 54. Jahrestags des Mauerbaus berichtete Ralph Kabisch bei einer Veranstaltung der Bundesstiftung Aufarbeitung von seinen Engagement als Fluchthelfer für DDR-Bürger. Die Podiumsgäste diskutierten über die Unterschiede und Gemeinsamkeiten von Flucht und Fluchthilfe in der DDR und heute. In der Veranstaltungsnachlese finden Sie eine Tonaufzeichnung, Fotos und einen Bericht.


Ralph Kabisch in Interviews zur Ausstellung "Vom Risiko der Freiheit. Fluchthilfe für DDR-Bürger" in der Erinnerungsstätte Notaufnahmelager Marienfelde (bis 26.10.2015): "Der schwierige Weg in den Westen", taz vom 21.08.2014, "Vom Risiko der Freiheit", SWR2 am 22.08.2014.

"Mauer, Fluchttunnel und Vermessung": Ralph Kabisch und Joachim Neumann im Interview mit der Zeitung "Forum. Zeitschrift des Bundes der öffentlich bestellten Vermessungsingenieure e.V."

"Unter der Mauer hindurch in die Freiheit - Der Tunnel 57", jugenopposition.de

"Codewort Tokio": Durch einen 145 Meter langen Tunnel unter der Mauer brachte Fluchthelfer Wolfgang Fuchs 57 Menschen in den Westen, Die Welt, 16.06.2001.

"Flucht im Handschuhfach eines Cadillacs": Fluchten in umgebauten Autos, durch die Kanalisation und Tunnel, Die Welt, 2.10.2011.

"Ich habe nicht zurück geschaut", Veranstaltung zur Erinnerung an den Fall der Mauer 1989, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, Auslandsbüro Washington.