Alexander Waning, a Duch citizen, loves aviation and has family ties in what was once the German Democratic Republic. This combination led to unpleasant results!

MiG-23M MiG-23UB In the 1970s I worked as a Royal Netherlands Air Force air traffic control officer at Ypenburg airbase. During that period, I married a woman, still my current wife, whose family lived in the German Democratic Republic. She was told by the Dutch Military Intelligence Service (Militaire Inlichtingen Dienst) that she could no longer visit her family after her marriage. I found this very unpleasant for her, so I submitted a request to be allowed to travel to the GDR for a family visit. This was permitted; however, I had to mention my job when applying for a visa to avoid arousing suspicion. The family lived in Merseburg and I knew that there was an airport there, but I did not know for what purpose. I soon found out when MiG-21 and -23s flew over my head (1).

MiG-21SMT Merseburg The family appeared to live next to the airbase. It was just impossible not to see the planes flying. Air traffic control blocked my car radio and the radar interfered with the TV reception when flying. The street lighting was also extinguished during night flying. And of course, taking pictures was not allowed... What a disaster. The visits went well for several years until our last trip, when we were arrested and taken to Berlin for questioning. They simply thought that we were spies. Suspicion had already begun before in 1976 and surveillance measures were taken during the next trips. Listening equipment had secretly been installed in the family's home and I was being watched round the clock. They had searched my car, they had shadowed me, observation posts were set up all over the place and there were days when up to 30 men were in action against me. I learned all these facts when I got access to my Stasi file, a pile of paper about 50cm thick... not to mention tapes, pictures and negatives that were lost. We also got cover names. We were "Fuchs" and "Elster", the family "Wolf" and "Adler", the children "Katz" and "Maus". I think that nobody has such an accurate account of his holidays! Everything we said from waking up to going to bed was written down. In one report (Tagesbericht), one can read that I complained about the fact that, when approaching Merseburg, I often had to stop for a military transport with tanks, cannons and troops. Well, the military activities were increased to arise my interest because they were trying to determine my target(s).

MiG-23M Plan That seems unreal, but it is written in black and white in an official record of one of several meetings from late 1977 entitled "Action plan for the operational processing of the OPK (2) "Tulip" where actions to be taken during my next visit planned for Easter 1978 were detailed. Because I also was interested in steam trains, I sometimes went to the railway station to watch the steam locomotives there. They thought that I was interested in the trains going to the airfield and barracks and one of the measures taken was also to increase their activities. More Soviet military units were located at a short distance from the airbase and my apartment. I was indeed squeezed between the airbase and a compound where a Pontoon Bridge Regiment (the 65.POMP - Pontonno-Mostovoy Polk / > photo at Merseburg open day in 1991), a sub-unit from an Artillery Brigade (probably the 7th Battery of the 390.GvAB - Gvardeyskaya Artilleriyskaya Brigada) and an Independant Anti-Aircraft Missile Battalion (OZRDN - Otdel'nie Zenitnie Raketnie Divisioni of the 163.ZRBR - Zenitno-Raketnaya Brigada) were based. The afore mentioned Stasi report stated: "Increased activity at the Rotthügel practice area [south of the airbase], artillery and tracked vehicle exits. Deployment of artillery and tracked vehicles. Stationing of the artillery on Rotthügel so that it can be seen from the ash dump area."

Mi-2 Mi-2 Also, as mentioned the same Stasi report, measures to be taken included: "Simulated activities on the abandoned property by setting up functional radar systems, tracked vehicles and trucks, with constant surveillance. Activities are to be developed in the rear part of the abandoned property so that they cannot be fully seen from the street." Of course I also viewed the airport, but from an East German car. I thought I was so unrecognizable. Many observation posts were set up by the Stasi. They included bogus military objects used to bait and observe me. One of them was a false airfield base gate building (KPP) built on purpose north of the airfield, next to the "abandoned property" mentioned above, from where they took pictures of me passing by with the car... A document states that we should have been arrested during the next-to-last trip, but this did not happen due to an administrative error. "He will come back anyway," they said. And then came the last trip in 1979. I noticed that often, one or two helicopters flew very low over our house on Otto Lilienthal street and down the street, and stopped further in a field visible from the balcony. I later learned that the Russians were instructed by the Stasi to confront me with helicopters as much as possible. Well, when a Mi-8 or a Mi-2 flies past you less than 30 meters away, try as a spotter to hold back and not to take a photo. And yes. What is in the documents? A picture taken from a Mi-8 of me taking a picture, including a report from the pilot. The latter mentioned special equipment in his report leaving one to think that the "Hip" probably was the TARK version. Read > Particular Hips.

Mi-8 flight report

To the Commander of the Merseburg Garrison
On July 11, 1979, from 9.20 to 9.55, I flew a scheduled training flight with the helicopter of Mi-8 type to try out the electronic, photo and television equipment installed in the helicopter for reconnaissance of the area. The altitude was about 40-50 m; the flight took place over Merseburg-West, the southern part of the airfield. During my flight over the houses in Merseburg-west, I noticed how at Otto-Lilienthal-Str. XX (corner house, across from Otto-Lilienthal-Strasse) an unknown person was found who had a camera in hand and was pointing it in the direction of my helicopter. I know this house well because I used to live on this street. I know that only GDR citizens live in this house. During the flight I watched the unknown person follow my helicopter flight with the photo camera. After the flight, I checked the reconnaissance material from my installed technology. When evaluating the films, I clearly noticed that an unknown male person was pointing his camera to my helicopter from the balcony. I know that GDR citizens know that it is forbidden to take photographs of military technology. I would also like to note that with my helicopter of the type Mi-8 at the altitude I have flown, changes in the special equipment are clearly visible without any auxiliary means. It is easy to see that, due to its design, it is a military helicopter. Should this technical change become known to the enemy, I am of the opinion that this circumstance will damage the Soviet Army. I therefore feel obliged to report this to you. To confirm my statement, I am handing over the images from my training flight on July 11, 1979.
Commander of the helicopter type Mi-8 XXXX 11.7.1979

MiG-29UB KPP They tried in every possible way to provide proof so that they could arrest me, like confronting me with a military agenda with photos and maps of the GDR in Russian with circled places dropped off in the apartment bloc entrance where I could find it, hoping I would of course look up these places. During my last trip, I damaged the suspension of my car due to a pothole in the road, which prevented me from traveling back to the Netherlands by car. After consultation with the ANWB (3) it was agreed that I could leave the car in the GDR. It would be picked up by them - it was impossible to repair an Opel in the GDR - and I would travel by train to go back home. In Oebisfelde, at the border control point, we were then taken off the train and immediately separated from each other. We were locked up in a cell at the station. A Stasi officer turned up after a few hours and he told me to come with him. There was a Mercedes with GDR registration plates waiting in front of the station and I had to sit between two agents on the rear seat. A car with my wife and two other cars followed us to Berlin at a very high speed. We were interrogated for a week in a large Stasi villa at Weiselpfad, 8 and then transferred to the Stasi prison (probably Bautzen). Since nothing could be proven and because of the good relationship between the GDR and the Netherlands, we were handed over to the Dutch military mission and exchanged for someone else. This happened at a border crossing on a bridge between East and West Berlin. When the borders opened, we naturally travelled straight to the then still GDR. And of course, secretly went to the airfield. Unfortunately, people were still suspicious so it is only after the GDR became history that I could go to the Soviet military airfields with confidence. Secret photography was still difficult at Merseburg and I soon got into trouble with the police. However, I was able to take a few pictures, but apparently, the back seat pilot in a MiG-29UB had seen me, because soon after the Russian military road police (VAI - Voyennaya Avtomobil'naya Inspektsiya) was with me but they did not make real problems and advised me to leave. However, when the German police arrived there were bigger problems; they wanted my camera. But after a long discussion they also left. Fortunately, there was no problem at many other airfields, and we were often welcomed with open arms. This resulted in beautiful photos as well as video recordings from which I could make a nice DVD. Enthusiasts from all over the world bought this DVD (see > Multimedia).

Alexander Waning

> Dutch television broadcast a series of programs devoted to the Cold War. Alex Waning told his story there in the third documentary released on December 10, 2021. You can watch his testimonial starting from 23'32" > Link.


(1) Merseburg was the home of the 6.GvIAD and the 85.GvIAP. The MiG-21SMT of the regiment started to be replaced by MiG-23M in 1976.
     Read also > Through the Fence at Merseburg....
(2) OPK stands for Operative Personenkontrolle or Operational identity check > Link.
(3) Algemene Nederlandsche Wielrijders-Bond or General Dutch Wheel Riders Bond.

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