, ,


   EXTRA                                                                       NEW        YORK                                                   LATE CITY EDITION   

                                                                    METROPOLITAN               DISPATCH                                                                 

                                                          WEDNESDAY,           SEPTEMBER   17,          1958                                                            


                            East  German  Defects  In  Holland 

                            Tunnel; Later Visits Mayor Wagner

                            State Department To Decide Fate


                                         By Hank Dulgarian

                       From the Metropolitan Dispatch Bureau

   NEW YORK, Sept. 17—–Gunthar  Rheinhardt, 33, of  Sangerhausen,

East Germany, here in the United States as part of a goodwill exchange

between  the two nations, declared his  intention  to defect  to the  West

yesterday  morning as  traffic  jammed in  the Holland Tunnel, the result

of a minor vehicular  accident. The international  incident  occurred  four

vehicals behind  the traffic accident at approximately 10:00a.m. Eastern

standard time near the halfway point between New York State and New

Jersey under the Hudson River.

Mr. Rheinhardt, a pianist, along with two unnamed East German musi-

cians, an unnamed East German security officer, and their host, Bernard

Bellinger, interim Executive Assistant to New York City mayor Robert F.

Wagner, Jr., were passengers in a private limousine traveling westward,

from Manhattan to Newark, to attend the opening of the ‘Berlin Club’, a

cultural exchange center, where Mr. Rheinhardt and his fellow musicians

were to perform; conversely, a trio of American musicians, representing

the U.S. in the program, were sent to Leipzig, East Germany to complete

the adversaries’ détente.

As the car the five men were traveling in braked for the accident, Mr.

Rheinhardt stated in English, “I want to defect. I want asylum.” Then, as

the vehicle came to a stop, Mr. Rheinhardt opened the back door nearest

him and stepped out, standing against the tunnel wall, arms folded. At that

moment the East German security officer stepped out and attempted to

wrestle Mr. Rheinhardt back into the limousine, but was intervened by Mr.

Bellinger who, with assistance from the limousine driver, reminded the East

German security officer that the situation was then a matter of international

concern, to be handled by the U.S. State Department.

As traffic resumed, Mr. Bellinger reassured Mr. Rheinhardt that he was,

“now in American hands until the matter could be addressed officially, and

according to protocol.” Then all four men returned to the limousine, where

upon it continued on to daylight on the New Jersey side, and then turned

around heading back into Manhatten, directly to City Hall. Mr. Bellinger

then escorted Mr. Rheinhardt to the mayor’s office, while the limousine de-

livered the East German security officer, and the two other East German

musicians, to the Soviet Mission to the United Nations, located on the

Upper East Side.

Mr. Rheinhardt was received by the mayor and his staff with open arms,

and was treated in accordance with international law, until the State De-

partment could take over the case. According to Mr. Bellinger, Mr. Rhein-

hardt seemed satisfied with his choice to defect, and was observed as

being relaxed, and relieved as he answered questions. Mr. Bellinger also

noted that Mr. Rheinhardt was overjoyed with the reception,  thanking

everyone there repeatedly.

It is not as of yet known by this reporter how well the East German

security officer or the two other East German musicians were received

and treated by the Soviets upon their return to communist control.

Later when asked why he defected, Mr. Rheinhardt told a senior State

Department official, “I want to play jazz music the way it was meant to

be played—the American way.”

                                                     by John Patrick Seekamp,     2012