LOT Polish Airlines Flight 165 hijacking

  (Redirected from LOT Flight 165 hijacking trial)

LOT Polish Airlines Flight 165 hijacking was the hijacking of a LOT Polish Airlines that occurred on 30 August 1978.[1] The hijackers from East Germany (GDR) were seeking political asylum in West Germany (FRG). The plane landed safely, and the primary hijacker was tried and convicted by a West German jury in the specially convened United States Court for Berlin and sentenced to time served, the nine months he had already served during pretrial detention.

LOT Polish Airlines Flight 165 hijacking
Hijacked LOT Tupolev Tu-134 at Tempelhof Manteufel.jpg
The hijacked Tu-134 at Tempelhof on 30 August 1978
Date30 August 1978
SiteHijacker forced the aircraft to land at U.S. Air Force base at Tempelhof Airport in West Berlin
Aircraft typeTupolev Tu-134
OperatorLOT Polish Airlines
Flight originGdańsk Airport
DestinationSchönefeld Airport


The GDR citizens Hans Detlef Alexander Tiede (aka Detlev Tiede) and his friend Ingrid Ruske and her 12-year-old daughter had travelled to Poland to meet with Ruske's West German boyfriend Horst Fischer, who had planned to bring forged West German papers to enable their escape by ferry to West German Travemünde.[2] However, Fischer did not turn up, and after four days of waiting for him Ruske and Tiede – not having any information as to his whereabouts – concluded that Fischer must have been arrested when travelling through East Germany.[2] Their conclusion was right, as Fischer had indeed been arrested and would later be sentenced to eight years of jail in East Germany for preparing their Republikflucht ("desertion from the Republic"), a crime under GDR law.

Ruske and Tiede then concluded that they were trapped and that prison awaited them if they returned to East Germany.[2] So they developed a plan to hijack a plane headed for East Berlin's Schönefeld Airport and force a landing at the U.S. Air Force base at Tempelhof Airport in West Berlin.[2] They bought a toy starting pistol at a Polish flea market, and then booked three tickets on LOT Polish Airlines Flight 165 from Gdańsk, Poland, to East Berlin.[3]


On 30 August 1978, Tiede and Ruske hijacked a Polish LOT Tupolev Tu-134 airliner with 62 passengers making Flight 165 from Gdańsk to East Berlin. Tiede, armed with the toy starting pistol, took a flight attendant hostage and succeeded in forcing the aircraft to land at Tempelhof Airport in West Berlin.[4]

Of the 62 passengers, there were 50 GDR citizens, 10 Polish citizens, a man from Munich and a woman from West Berlin. The passengers were given the opportunity to remain in West Berlin or to return to East Berlin. Not only did Tiede, Ruske and her daughter claim sanctuary in West Berlin, but so did another seven East Germans:[4] a radiology assistant from Erfurt, a couple with two children and a couple from Leipzig, although the radiology assistant returned to East Germany the next day.[5] The remaining passengers were interviewed and taken to East Berlin on a bus.[5]


The West German Federal Government was very reluctant to prosecute Tiede and Ruske because of the West German policy of supporting the right of East Germans to flee oppression in the GDR. But the United States government had just spent years, finally successfully, persuading the East German government to sign a hijacking treaty. Consequently, the case was prosecuted in the never-before-convened United States Court for Berlin.[4][6]

Over the prosecutor's objections, US federal judge Herbert Jay Stern ruled that the defendants were entitled to be tried by a jury, a procedure abolished in Germany by the Emminger Reform of 1924.[2][4] The case against Tiede's co-defendant Ingrid Ruske was dismissed because she had not been notified of her Miranda rights before signing a confession. Tiede was acquitted on three charges, including hijacking and possession of a firearm, but convicted of taking a hostage. The jury found Tiede guilty of hostage-taking, but not guilty of acts against the safety of civil aviation, deprivation of liberty and battery.[2] The minimum sentence for hostage-taking was three years.[2] However, Stern sentenced Tiede to time served during pretrial detention, about nine months.[4] Stern accounted for Tiede's emergency situation and plight to face imprisonment in East Germany for attempted Republikflucht.[2]


Two years after his arrest Fischer was released after the West German federal government had paid a ransom to East Germany. Ruske and Fischer married after his release in West Germany.

In popular cultureEdit

The 1984 book which Judge Stern wrote about the event, Judgment in Berlin, was made into a movie of the same name in 1988. Martin Sheen depicted him.[7]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ (in German)"Lars-Broder Keil, "Aus der Flucht wird eine politische Affäre" (trl. The escape turns into a political affair". Berliner Morgenpost. 31 August 2008. Retrieved 25 July 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h (in German)"Joachim Nawrocki, "Berlin: "Wollen Sie solche Richter?"" (trl.: Berlin: "Is this the kind of judges you want?") 11". Die Zeit. 6 January 1979. Retrieved 25 July 2009.
  3. ^ (in German) – Matthias Göpfert, LexiTV – Wissen für alle (trl. LexiTV – Knowledge for all), first transmitted in April 2001, retransmitted in "Entführungen" (trl. kidnappings) by Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk-Fernsehen on 23 September 2008, 14:30h.
  4. ^ a b c d e "US Judge: Berlin Plane Hijack Trial Had Parallels to Guantanamo". Deutsche Welle. 30 August 2008. Retrieved 25 July 2009.
  5. ^ a b "Hijacked to Capitalism: Unwitting East German Defectors Revisit Decision to Stay or Go". Der Spiegel. 20 May 2010. Retrieved 19 April 2014.
  6. ^ "UNITED STATES, as the United States Element, Allied Kommandatura, Berlin, v. HANS DETLEF ALEXANDER TIEDE and INGRID RUSKE, Defendants". United States High Commissioner for Germany. 14 March 1979. Archived from the original on 13 January 2011. Retrieved 25 July 2009. This is a criminal proceeding arising out of the alleged diversion ... of a Polish aircraft by the defendants from its scheduled landing in East Berlin to a forced landing in West Berlin. United States authorities exercised jurisdiction over this matter and convened this Court
  7. ^ Judgment in Berlin at IMDb

Further readingEdit

  • Antje Rávic Strubel. Tupolew 134 (in German) (31 July 2004 ed.). Munich: C.H. Beck. pp. 317. ISBN 3-406-52183-5.<
  • Stern, Herbert Jay, Judgment in Berlin, New York: Universe Books, 1984.

External linksEdit