The Historical Site Today
After the Wall fell, the area around the watchtower at Kieler Eck underwent major changes, in particular following the construction of the Europacity quarter with its many offices and flats. Apart from the tower, very little is left to remind us of the situation that had existed between 1961 and 1989: there are no structural remains of the border installations between Sandkrug Bridge and the southern end of the Invaliden Cemetery. Long sections of the patrol road and a larger piece of the inner wall, however, still exist on the grounds of the Invaliden Cemetery. Construction of the government quarter that began after 1989 has also led to major changes in the area between the former border crossing at Invalidenstrasse along the Humboldthafen to the Marschall Bridge. The embankment was redesigned and the S-Bahn and long-distance railway lines were added. The Invaliden Park was built from 1992-1998 as an impressive city square between Scharnhorststrasse and Schwarzer Weg. The “Sinking Wall,” designed as a walk-in sculpture, forms the centerpiece of the park and serves as a reminder of the Berlin Wall that had stood nearby.
Jürgen Litfin and His Efforts to Keep the Memory Alive
Günter Litfin’s younger brother, Jürgen Litfin (1940-2018), had lived in East Berlin with his wife Brigitte and daughter Marion. His application to leave the country was rejected in 1976. The ten months he spent in prison in 1980 “for aiding and abetting an attempted escape from the Republic” took a toll on his health. The West German government paid DM 95,897 to the GDR for his release from prison. In 1981 he moved with his family to West Berlin where he witnessed the fall of the Wall. The tragic circumstances of his brother’s death never left him. Keeping alive the memory of his brother Günter became his life focus. He first got involved in a campaign to name the street where the Litfin family had lived in Weißensee after his brother. The street was renamed Günter-Litfin-Strasse in 2000. In 2001, he oversaw the restoration and new installation of the memorial stone that had been erected in memory of his brother at the Sandkrug Bridge near Humboldthafen in 1962. In 2003, he renovated the former border guard tower at Kieler Eck and opened a memorial with a small exhibition on the inside.
Creation of a Memorial and Exhibition by Jürgen Litfin
In 2001, Jürgen Litfin learned by chance about the border tower at Kieler Eck. After visiting it for the first time, he developed the idea of creating a memorial for his brother there. He wanted to preserve the tower and open it to the public. It is thanks to his efforts that amidst all the new building construction in the area, the watchtower could be preserved and registered as a protected landmark in 2003. He founded an association that same year and with his own money and the support of his friends, was able to make a number of improvements in and around the tower. He created an exhibition inside the tower titled “From Günter Litfin to Chris Gueffroy” which, with the exception of minor repair work carried out in 2021, remains unchanged today. The exhibition presents documents about the border system, his brother’s death, the Berlin Wall victims and his own efforts to preserve the memory of Günter. The memorial opened on August 24, 2003, the anniversary of Günter Litfin’s death.
Incorporation of the Memorial into the Berlin Wall Foundation
Jürgen Litfin contacted Dr. Axel Klausmeier, the newly appointed director of the Berlin Wall Foundation, in 2009, and asked if he would take over the memorial site, including the exhibition, at a later date and work to preserve the tower. The contract of use, which was signed in 2003, was concluded between the Günter Litfin Association, the owners of the land (Bayerischer Städtebau München and Markt- und Kühlhallen Aktiengesellschaft in Munich) and the owners of the buildings on the land. According to this agreement, in an elaborate procedure, both the property owners and everyone in the homeowners’ association had to agree in writing to having the Berlin Wall Foundation replace the Günter Litfin Association in the contract and assume its responsibilities. From then on, the Berlin Wall Foundation became a contractual partner with the owners. In 2017, the Günter Litfin Memorial and the exhibition became an official part of the Berlin Wall Foundation.
In 1962 a memorial stone was dedicated on the west side of the Sandkrug Bridge. In 2015 the stone was officially moved to the site where Günter Litfin was shot.