Victims at the Berlin Wall
Between 1961 and 1989, at least 140 people were killed or died at the Wall in connection with the GDR border regime:
- 101 people who tried to flee through the border fortifications were shot, died by accident, or committed suicide.
- 30 people from the East and West who were not trying to flee and 1 Soviet soldier were shot or died by accident.
- Eight on-duty GDR border soldiers were killed by military deserters, comrades, a refugee, an escape helper or a West Berlin policeman
At least 251 travelers also died during or after passing through checkpoints at Berlin border crossings. Unknown numbers of people suffered and died from distress and despair that was caused by the Berlin Wall.
Before the Wall was built, between 1948 and 1961, 39 people lost their lives at the sector border between East and West Berlin
The biographies of all the Berlin Wall victims were published in a book as part of a research project of the Berlin Wall Foundation. They are also presented on the website Chronicle of the Berlin Wall.
In an effort to reconstruct the circumstances under which the people died, the project team examined the files of the border troops and the Ministry for State Security and also reviewed the investigation findings from the Border Guard Trials of the 1990s. The Berlin Wall Foundation contacted family members and friends of the victims in order to learn more than was revealed in official documents about the victims’ motives and the circumstances of their death.
The joint project conducted by the Center for Contemporary History Research and the Berlin Wall Memorial began in 2005. It aimed to determine the number and identity of the people who died at the Berlin Wall between 1961 and 1989 and to research and document their life stories and the circumstances of their death. A revised version was published in 2017.
Every year, the Berlin Wall Memorial on Bernauer Strasse hosts the central memorial events in memory of the Wall’s construction on August 13, 1961 and its fall on November 9, 1989. The events focus on commemorating the victims of division and remembering the courageous people who demonstrated for civil rights, freedom and democracy in the fall of 1989. Their protest led – against the backdrop of a beneficial constellation of political world events – to the Peaceful Revolution, which changed Germany, Europe and the world.
Prayer Services for the Victims of the Berlin Wall
During regular prayer services held in the Chapel of Reconciliation on the memorial grounds, we remember the 140 people who died at the Berlin Wall between 1961 and 1989. During each service, the biography of one victim is read out loud. The services are held every Tuesday to Friday from 12 to 12:15 pm. and are open to the public. Advance registration is not necessary. These services are organized in cooperation with the Evangelische Versöhnungsgemeinde.
On August 13, 2021, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s construction, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier gave a speech at Bernauer Strasse. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the keynote speaker on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Wall on November 9, 2019.
People also died at the inner-German border between West Germany and the GDR, but the exact number still remains unknown. Current research and sources suggest that at least 260 people died. A scientific study of the Free University of Berlin found 327 victims. This study and its system of categorization remain controversial however. The Berlin Wall Foundation estimates that some 650 people fell victim to the border regime. This figure includes the people who died in the Baltic Sea.
Links to more information on this subject:
Freie Universität Berlin: Die Todesopfer des DDR-Grenzregimes an der innerdeutschen Grenze 1949 – 1989 (in German)
Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung: Wer war Opfer des DDR-Grenzregimes? (in German)
Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung: Die Todesopfer des DDR-Grenzregimes, ihre Aufarbeitung und die Erinnerungskultur (in German)
Die Bundesregierung: Berliner Mauer und innerdeutsche Grenze (in German)