Border Policy and Wall Victims

A wall against the people

The political rhetoric of the GDR claimed that the Berlin Wall was erected as a protection against a neo-fascist threat from the West. Its real purpose was to deny East Germans the freedom of movement and the choice of leaving the country. The border policy was rigorous. An order to fire obliged border guards, many of them military conscripts under the threat  of imprisonment or severe career disadvantages, to use fire against would-be refugees. This was communicated to them in a daily order as well.

  The first victims

In the weeks following the construction of the Wall, many try to escape by jumping out of windows or swimming through Berlin‘s river Spree. Some of these desperately daring attempts were fatal. Only days after the building of the Wall, on 24 August 1961, Günter Litfin (b. 1935) was the first victim of the border regime who was fatally shot. Litfin wanted to move to West Berlin and had already found a flat when the shooting at the Wall thwarted his plans.

  The Death of Peter Fechter

On 17 August 1962, 18 year old Peter Fechter was shot multiple times by East German border guards during an escape attempt near Checkpoint “Charlie”. Having fallen into the „death zone“, i.e. the border reinforcements behind the actual wall, Fechter was  bleeding to death under  the eyes of the guards, who denied him help. Fechter’s death brought home with unprecedented directness the barbarity of the shooting order in effect along the inner-German border.

  The full Wall construction at the end of the 70s

The cruelty of the border regime turned against those who had orders to reinforce it by any means. Eight GDR border guards are among the victims of the Berlin Wall. Some of them were shot by escape agents, others by their own comrades who had decided to take flight themselves. These incidents, like each and every other incident at the Wall, were exploited on both sides to manipulate opinions. It was not until years after German re-unification that the death of East German border guard Reinhold Huhn (1943-62), the best-known of these cases, was judged to have been a homicide.

  The Death of Chris Geoffroy

Chris Geoffroy, aged 20, was the last to pay with his life at the Berlin Wall for his desire for personal freedom. On 5 February 1989, ten shots were fired at him when he was trying to overcome the final barrier of the border system. The following day, his mother is interrogated for hours by the State Security Service before telling her that, despite intensive medical aid, her son had succumbed to the injuries received while carrying out an „assault on a military security zone“. Chris Geoffroy had been denied access to secondary education after refusing to pursue a career as officer in the National Peoples‘ Army.

  Wall casualties

 At least 136 people died at the Wall, most of them refugees who were shot, killed by mines or drowned in the river, some were border soldiers. 872 people died at the internal border between East and West Germany (including Berlin).

 Ida Siekmann – Günter Litfin – Roland Hoff – Rudolf Urban – Olga Segler – Bernd Lünser – Udo Düllick – Werner Probst – Lothar Lehmann – Dieter Wohlfahrt – Ingo Krüger – Georg Feldhahn – Dorit Schmiel – Heinz Jercha – Philipp Held – Klaus Brueske – Peter Böhme – Jörgen Schmidtchen – Horst Frank – Peter Göring – Lutz Haberlandt – Axel Hannemann – Erna Kelm – Wolfgang Glöde – Reinhold Huhn – Siegfried Noffke – Peter Fechter – Hans-Dieter Wesa – Ernst Mundt – Günter Seling – Anton Walzer – Horst Plischke – Ottfried Reck – Günter Wiedenhöft – Hans Räwel – Horst Kutscher – Peter Kreitlow – Wolf-Olaf Muszinski – Peter Mädler – Siegfried Widera – Klaus Schröter – Dietmar Schulz – Dieter Berger – Paul Schultz – Walter Hayn – Adolf Philipp – Walter Heike – Norbert Wolscht – Rainer Gneisner – Hildegard Trabant – Wernhard Mispelhorn – Egon Schultz – Hans-Joachim Wolf – Joachim Mehr – Christian Buttkus – Ulrich Krzemien – Hans-Peter Hauptmann – Hermann Döbler – Klaus Kratzel – Klaus Garten – Walter Kittel – Heinz Cyrius – Heinz Sokolowski – Erich Kühn – Heinz Schöneberger – Dieter Brandes – Willi Block – Lothar Schleusener – Jörg Hartmann – Willi Marzahn – Eberhard Schulze – Michael Kollender – Paul Stretz – Eduard Wroblewski – Heinz Schmidt – Andreas Senk – Karl-Heinz Kube – Max Willi Sahmland – Francisek Piesik – Elke Weckeiser – Herbert Mende – Bernd Lehmann – Dieter Weckeiser – Siegfried Krug – Horst Körner – Rolf Henniger – Johannes Lange – Klaus-Jürgen Kluge – Leo Lis – Heinz Müller – Willi Born – Friedhelm Ehrlich – Gerald Thiem – Helmut Kliem – Christian-Peter Friese – Rolf-Dieter Kabelitz – Wolfgang Hoffmann – Werner Kühl – Dieter Beilig – Horst Kullack – Manfred Weylandt – Klaus Schulze – Cengaver Katranci – Holgerr H. – Volker Frommann – Horst Einsiedel – Manfred Gertzki – Siegfried Krobot – Burkhard Niering – Johannes Sprenger – Giuseppe Savoca – Herbert Halli – Çetin Mert – Herbert Kiebler – Lothar Hennig – Dietmar Schwietzer – Henri Weise – Ulrich Steinhauer – Marinetta Jirkowski – Johannes Muschol – Hans-Jürgen Starrost – Thomas Taubmann – Lothar Fritz Freie – Silvio Proksch – Michael-Horst Schmidt – Rainer Liebeke – Manfred Mäder – René Groß – Michael Bittner – Lutz Schmidt – Ingolf Diederichs – Chris Gueffroy – Winfried Freudenberg

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