The Killing Zone


During my time in West Berlin, I often visited the Peter Fechter Memorial, a chilling reminder of the callous treatment afforded East German citizens by their government. At least 136 people were killed or died at the Wall in connection with the East German border regime between 1961 and 1989. According to a German Web site memorializing the Wall:

It was early afternoon when shots were fired on Zimmerstrasse, where the Wall cut right through the neighborhood that had once been Berlin’s lively newspaper quarter. The West Berlin police received the first dispatches at 2:12 p.m. It soon became clear that the border guards’ shots were aimed at two teenagers who had tried to flee over the Wall between Charlottenstrasse and Markgrafenstrasse. One of them, the 18-year-old construction worker Helmut K., was able to make it through the hail of bullets to the West. But his friend Peter Fechter, also 18, was hit and remained on the ground right in front of the border wall. Many people on both sides of the barrier witnessed the tragedy that followed. The badly wounded young man was screaming loudly for help, but no reaction was taken for a long time on the East Berlin side. Standing on a ladder, West Berlin police officers asked him his name and threw bandages to him over the Wall. But they did not want to endanger themselves by climbing over the Wall to help him. Members of the American military police from the nearby Checkpoint Charlie also did not want to risk stepping on East Berlin territory because, given the ongoing conflict over responsibility for the divided city, they feared it might trigger a military conflict. “It’s not our problem,” one of them was quoted as saying. As a consequence, 50 long minutes passed before Peter Fechter’s screams eventually ceased. Finally East German border troops carried him away behind an artificially produced veil of fog. He was officially declared dead a short time later in the East Berlin People’s Police Hospital. His death was announced on East German radio that night.


 Fechter, where he lay for 50 minutes bleeding to death


 East German border guard finally carries Fechter away


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