|The Story of the
Section 1 Germany and Berlin at the End of WWII
Section 2 In the Beginning Was the Lie
Section 3 The Cruel Border
Section 4 Checkpoint Charlie
Section 6 The Wall
Section 7 Breakthrough -- Part Two
Section 8 The Wall between Concrete, Art and the Exchange of Agents
Section 9 The Brandenburg Gate
Section 10 The Final Breakthrough
"What you do here is done for free men everywhere throughout the world."
Richard Nixon, February 27, 1969
Breakthrough - Part One
As the border fortifications were being built, many people from the GDR availed themselves of the last chance to flee to the West before the "iron curtain" came down for good. Moving episodes took place, especially on Bernauer Strasse, where parents threw their young children out of windows on the eastern side into the life nets of the fire brigades standing ready on the western side. East German border guards hurrying to the sites tried to intercept old people trying to jump from the windows. Even the border guards themselves sometimes took advantage of lapses of attention to escape the watch of their colleagues, as Conrad Schumann did by leaping over the barbed wire and fleeing to the west.
The escape attempts did not always end happily. Many a person jumping from a window missed the life nets of the fire brigades, and the East German border guards had orders to use their weapons if necessary to prevent escape. In West Berlin seventy-nine fatalities related to escape attempts have so far been recorded. No one can say how high the number of unreported cases was. In addition, there were many injured. Not a few persons were arrested and incarcerated even before they could make their attempt. West Germany was later able to "buy" some of these political prisoners out of jail.
An especially tragic case occurred on August 17, 1962, when an escape attempt was made by two young men who had been assigned by the GDR to work on the wall inside the border strip near Checkpoint Charlie. One of the two reached West Berlin territory unscathed, but his companion, Peter Fechter, was shot by border guards and left to bleed to death in full view of the helpless West Berlin onlookers nearby. In memory of Fechter and the other victims ot the wall, the people of West Berlin put up crosses at various places along the border.