On the 11th day, July 12, three men in civilian clothes entered Schmidt's cell. The leader was a tall, thick man with heavy-lidded eyes and an extraordinarily wide mouth, which gave him a striking resemblance to a toad. In a deep monotone, he recited: "On orders of the district attorney, a warrant for your arrest has been issued, and preliminary proceedings have been initiated against you on the grounds of the strong suspicion that you have made preparations for illegally crossing the border."
Schmidt had made no such preparations, but he knew it was pointless to protest. One of the men with the toad approached Schmidt and held up an "eight"—a set of large cast-iron handcuffs. "He nodded at me," Schmidt recalled, "and like an automaton I lifted my hands and held them out. He snapped the handcuffs shut about my wrists. Then they led me outside, put me in the back of a Stasi car and padlocked my handcuffs to a chain bolted to the seat. I had never felt so helpless.' "
They left the sun-splashed lake and drove into Berlin to a drab stone building that turned out to be a special Stasi prison for people awaiting trial. It was known as the UHA, short for Untersuchungshaftanstalt. The toad led Schmidt inside, removed the eight from his wrists and left. "Two warders took my watch, my belt, my money," Schmidt recalled. "Then they ordered me to undress and took my clothes, too. They made me spread my legs, bend over so they could look into my behind to make sure I hadn't hidden anything there. They gave me a blue sweat suit, socks, underwear, felt slippers. Then they took me into the prison. Barred doors banged shut behind me as we went along. No more sunlight, I thought, no more freedom."
They put him in a solitary cell and slammed the steel door. Moments later, a hatch opened at the bottom of the door, and someone slid in a plastic pot containing a lunch of cheap sausage and white margarine. Schmidt sampled it, gagged on the margarine, which was rancid, and pushed the pot back out the hatch. The cell was gloomy, with only a glass-block rectangle in the wall to let in light. There was a toilet, a washbasin and a bed made of planks. Schmidt lay down and slept hour after hour to escape his growing fear.
In the morning, a guard banged on the cell and shouted, "Recess! Get ready for recess!" Schmidt was excited, imagining that he would be able to mix with other prisoners. That was not to be. He found himself alone outside with two guards, who ordered him into a cubicle of cement blocks built along the prison-yard wall. It was one in a row of 11 cubicles, each 10 feet wide by 26 feet long by 14 feet high. The enclosures were open to the sky, although a lacing of barbed wire lay overhead and an armed sentry strode back and forth on a plank walkway. "I ran figure eights from corner to corner in the cubicle," Schmidt recalled. "I felt like a mole on a treadmill. But it was better than nothing. I did discover soon that cell No. 8 was the most desirable, because from it you could see the top of a birch tree. That was the only sign of nature in the UHA, and I always tried to get No. 8."
Three days after he arrived at the UHA, Schmidt was at last moved to a cell with another inmate. Schmidt strode quickly toward the man, his huge hand outstretched. The man cringed. "I was so big and muscular and tanned and he was so short and pale that he was alarmed," Schmidt said later. "But he got used to me quickly, and we became friends. His name was Bernd, a mere boy of 22, but he was an experienced auto thief. He taught me how to hot-wire a car. Bernd and I were together six weeks. The guards spied on us all the time through a small watch hole in the door. Even at night. Every 30 minutes at night, the light in the cell would go on and eyes would be watching at the hole. It strained your sanity, those sudden lights and those staring eyes."
Straining his sanity even more was the grinding interrogation he underwent every morning with—who else?—Repulsive Red. The questions were endlessly the same, until early in August a new subject arose. It seemed that a few days after Schmidt's arrest, the Stasis had searched both his family apartment and an unfinished summer house that he had in the suburbs. At the house, the secret police had found a flare pistol—a World War II relic that Schmidt had dug up as a boy 20 years earlier in the ruins of an old Nazi munitions plant near his grandparents' farm. He had oiled the gun, but it had never worked. Nevertheless, Repulsive Red grilled Schmidt about possessing an illegal weapon. Was he going to shoot his way across the Berlin Wall? Schmidt could only laugh.
Wiedemann turned up at the UHA too, but only once every couple of weeks. "The meals Wiedemann arranged for me—steak, asparagus, enormous bowls of ice cream—made his visits a high point, even though I knew he was trying to weaken my resolve with the food," Schmidt recalled. "But at least his questions were more philosophical than Repulsive Red's. He wondered how I planned to live without my sport. I told him I had no intention of living without my sport."
Schmidt had been allowed to write to his family soon after his arrival at the UHA. His first letter was dark and self-accusing, couched in the submissive language of a man near the breaking point. In fact, Schmidt knew that the Stasis would read his mail, and he had purposely assumed a guilt-ridden tone. "Dear Mutti, dear Daddy," he wrote. "You must not reproach yourselves, I alone am responsible for everything. I know now that I made many mistakes and I hope that I will be forgiven.... I still have to work on changing my attitude regarding many things. I want to prove what I can do in order to regain the confidence of the comrades whom I disappointed...."
He also mentioned that he needed a lawyer. His mother, Gretel, a smart, resourceful woman who was every bit as strong-willed as her son and her husband, went to the law firm of Wolfgang Vogel, the mysteriously well-connected East German attorney who had helped to engineer two of the Cold War's most dramatic exchanges—that of the American U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers for two Soviet spies in 1962, and that of the Soviet dissident Anatoli B. Shcharansky as part of a nine-person East-West swap in 1986. Vogel assigned Schmidt's case to a partner, Dieter Starkulla. He was obviously well-connected too. The first thing Starkulla did was arrange a meeting between Schmidt and his parents.