Skip to main content

Bernauer Strasse

Border Wall at Bernauer Strasse/Bergstrasse

Border Wall at Bernauer Strasse/Bergstrasse © Berlin Wall Foundation, Photo: Albrecht Roos

The Wall on Bernauer Strasse

Bernauer Strasse, a street on the border between the Berlin districts of Wedding and Mitte, was a focal point of German-German postwar history. The construction of the Wall and its consequences for the residents of the divided city were especially dramatic here. The history of this street shows how the Berlin Wall impacted the city, how it destroyed urban space and human lives, and separated family and friends. It documents the people who attempted to escape the dictatorship by fleeing to the West and the efforts of many to deny the state its claim to power by helping those who wanted to flee. The site also shows the principal function of the Wall within the SED power structure. It conveys how the border regime functioned in everyday life and reveals the deep discrepancy between the GDR population and its leadership.

  • The border strip

    Border fortifications on Ackerstrasse and the Sophienfriedhof cemetery and, in the background, the grounds of Nordbahnhof © Berlin Wall Foundation, photo: private

  • The border installation in front of an underground station

    Composite concrete wall in front of the Bernauer Strasse underground station © Berlin Wall Foundation, Photo: Private

  • The Church of Reconciliation on the Border Strip

    The newly erected border wall 75 on Bernauer Strasse with the Church of Reconciliation in the background © Archiv der Versöhnungsgemeinde

The Divided Street

On Bernauer Strasse the line of the border ran directly in front of the buildings on the East Berlin side of the street. After barriers were erected, many of the residents of these buildings on the border made the spontaneous decision to flee. Some slid down a rope from their apartment window or jumped into the rescue nets of the West Berlin fire brigade. People were badly injured and the first deaths caused by the border regime happened here as well. The buildings were evacuated a few weeks after the Wall was erected. The remaining residents were forced to resettle elsewhere and the windows and doors of the buildings were bricked up.

This is where the famous photo of border policeman Conrad Schumann jumping over the barbed wire was taken.

The public rebelled against the barriers with protests and resistance. The most famous and successful escape tunnels were dug here. Bernauer Strasse also drew attention when the Reconciliation Church that had stood inaccessible on the death strip was dynamited.

The divided Bernauer Strasse with a crowd of people

 Gathering of people in front of the Berlin Wall on Bernauer Strasse, Photo: Hartwig Gelse

The divided Bernauer Strasse with a crowd of people

 Gathering of people in front of the Berlin Wall on Bernauer Strasse, Photo: Hartwig Gelse

Detail from a service map of the border troops from 1986, showing the course of the border as it was in 1981

Detail from a service map of the border troops from 1986, showing the course of the border as it was in 1981 © Berlin Wall Foundation

The Fall of the Wall on Bernauer Strasse

At Bernauer Strasse people can also learn about how the division came to a peaceful end. On the night of November 10, 1989, the first segments were knocked out of the Wall between Bernauer Strasse and Eberswalder Strasse, making way for the creation of a new East-West crossing. Demolition of the border fortifications officially began at the corner of Bernauer Strasse and Ackerstrasse in June 1990. Today, the Berlin Wall Memorial is located at this historical site.

West Berliners waiting for the Wall to open at Bernauer Strasse/Eberswalder Strasse

West Berliners waiting for the Wall to open at Bernauer Strasse/Eberswalder Strasse, photo Jörg Bernhardt

Fatalities on Bernauer Strasse

Ten people died in the area around the Berlin Wall Memorial in connection with the border GDR regime. These deaths all occurred in the 1960s. Nine people suffered fatal injuries while trying to cross the border grounds: Four were shot by border guards and five died after jumping down from border houses on Bernauer Strasse. One border guard died during an exchange of fire between border guards and an escape agent.

Dieter Brandes (1946–1966)

Langtext

Dieter Brandes was shot several times while trying to flee on the grounds of Nordbahnhof station on June 9, 1965. He succumbed to his injuries on January 11, 1966.

Read his full biography here

Heinz Cyrus (1936–1965)

Langtext

Heinz Cyrus was being pursued by border guards when he jumped or fell from the 4th floor of the border house at Gartenstrasse 85 on November 10, 1965. He died from his injuries the following day.

Read his full biography here

Leo Lis (1924–1969)

Langtext

Leo Lis was shot and killed by border guards while attempting to escape near Nordbahnhof station on September 20, 1969.

Read his full biography here

Bernd Lünser (1939–1961)

Langtext

Following a scuffle with border guards, Bernd Lünser was fatally injured after jumping from the roof of the house at Bernauer Strasse 44.

Read his full biography here

Ernst Mundt (1921–1962)

Langtext

Ernst Mundt was fatally shot by border guards while attempting to escape across the Sophien parish cemetery on Bernauer Strasse on September 4, 1962.

Read his full biography here

Otfried Reck (1944–1962)

Langtext

After Otfried Reck aborted his escape attempt at the corner of Invalidenstrasse and Gartenstrasse on November 27, 1962, he shot by a border guard and died a few hours later.

Read his full biography here

Egon Schultz (1943–1964)

Langtext

When an escape tunnel was discovered in the courtyard of Strelitzer Strasse 55 on October 5, 1964, border guard Egon Schultz was fatally wounded in an exchange of fire between an escape agent and border guards.

Read his full biography here

Olga Segler (1881–1961)

Langtext

Olga Segler was severely injured when she tried to flee to West Berlin by jumping out of her apartment window at Bernauer Strasse 34 on September 25, 1961. She died the following day.

Read her full biography here

Ida Siekmann (1902–1961)

Langtext

Ida Siekmann died when she tried to flee to the West by jumping out of her apartment window at Bernauer Strasse 48 on August 22, 1961.

Read her full biography here

Rudolf Urban (1914–1961)

Langtext

Rudolf Urban sustained serious injuries when he slid down a rope from his apartment at Bernauer Strasse 1 on August 19, 1961. He died a month later in the hospital.

Read his full biography here

Back to top