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4 - In the shadow of the Wall

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  Victims

In 28 years, the Wall claimed at least 239 victims, shot by guards, drowned in the waters of the Spree or one of the lakes, or killed jumping out of their houses. The border guards, often young brainwashed men doing their military service, felt that shooting down a fugitive was a patriotic action, one that earned them a rich reward in fact – a decoration, personal congratulations from the head of the Stasi, a substantial bonus and extra leave in a holiday village on the Baltic. After the Wall came down, some of these border guards were tried for murder.

The first victim was Rudolf Urban, who was killed on 19th August 1961 on jumping out of a window in the Bernauer Strasse. That same street was the scene of another tragedy on 4th October 1961 when young Bernd Lünser, under fire from the Vopos, leaped from the fourth storey of a building but mislanded and was killed.

A year after the Wall went up, on 17th August 1962, the death of young Peter Fechter was met with great agitation. After being badly wounded by border guards, he lay dying for nearly an hour at the foot of the Wall, during which time nobody came to help him.

The last fugitive to be shot was young Chris Gueffroy, killed on 6th February 1989, just two weeks before the firing order was withdrawn. But the Wall claimed one more victim three days later : Winfried Freudenberg who, flying a homemade balloon, crashed at Zehlendorf on 8th May 1989.

 

 Peter Fechter's grave
Peter Fechter's cross

The last fugitive to be shot
The last fugitive to be shot

 

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