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The Berlin Wall on Mühlenstrasse: 1961-1989

Border strip at Mühlenstrasse. View to the south-east
Extract from a service map of the border troops from 1986, showing the course of the border as it stood in 1986.

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

The Early Border Fortifications  

The border fortifications at this site had special significance. When the Wall was built on August 13, 1961, the River Spree between Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg became part of the border strip. The entire width of the river here belonged to East Berlin. West Berlin territory began at the riverbank on the Kreuzberg side. Thus the East Side Gallery exists today on a section of former Hinterlandmauer, the inner wall that once faced East Berlin.
In addition to this topographical distinction, the border grounds here exhibited another unique feature: With Mühlenstrasse serving as a “protocol route” for high-ranking visitors to the GDR, the inner wall here was visible to all. It resembled the “Border Wall 75” that usually faced West Berlin. The 3.5-meter-high wall elements were meant to obstruct the view of the death strip.  
The historic relics on Mühlenstrasse give an impression of how increased security measures and ongoing expansion of the Berlin Wall made the border increasingly invincible. Building structures on the river embankment were gradually removed in the 1970s to provide GDR border soldiers with an unobstructed “view and clear line of fire.” The entire area was razed in 1977, leaving only the Mühlenspeicher, a large warehouse on the harbor grounds. The intact urban infrastructure here was completely destroyed by the GDR border fortifications. A section of the inner wall made of the characteristic cinder blocks from 1961 still exists here and is one of the few preserved examples of the first generation of the Wall.
It can be seen today at the “Stralauer Platz” entrance to the East Side Gallery. Other historic relics, such as an original lantern from the “front end security,” are found near the Mühlenspeicher warehouse.

A patrol boat in front of Mühlenspeicher. Photo by Edmund Kasperski

A patrol boat in front of Mühlenspeicher. Photo by Edmund Kasperski

Deaths

At least 10 people died in the border area along Mühlenstrasse between 1961 and 1989. They had tried to flee across the Spree to the riverbank on the West Berlin side and were shot and killed by GDR border soldiers or drowned as a result of hyperthermia or exhaustion. A 25-year-old and a 27-year-old who had not been trying to flee also died here.

Dramatic incidents also occurred on the Kreuzberg side of the river when children playing on the embankment fell into the river. They lost their balance or slipped and were unable to get out of the water. West Berlin emergency workers were not allowed to enter the Spree here and GDR border guards did not intervene. By 1975, five children had died at the Gröbenufer riverbank in Kreuzberg (now called May-Ayim-Ufer). To prevent further accidents, the Berlin Senate welded shut the access ways to the river embankment and erected a fence along the quay wall. In spring 1976, water emergency alarms were installed on the West Berlin side of the river.

East Berlin

Udo Düllick (1936-1961)

Langtext

Udo Düllick drowned in the Spree on October 5, 1961. He was fleeing near Oberbaum Bridge when he came under fire.

Read his full biography via the "Chronicle of the Berlin Wall" website here.

Werner Probst (1936-1961)

Langtext

Werner Probst was shot and killed on October 14, 1961 while trying to flee in the Spree at the sector border between Berlin-Friedrichshain and Berlin-Kreuzberg.

Read his full biography via the "Chronicle of the Berlin Wall" website here.

 

Anton Walzer (1902-1962)

Langtext

Anton Walzer died from a shot to the back of his head while he was fleeing in the Spree near Oberbaum Bridge on October 8, 1962.

Read his full biography via the "Chronicle of the Berlin Wall" website here.

 

Unknown victim (19.1.1965)

Langtext

A man, roughly 30 years old, drowned while trying to flee across the Spree. His strength failed him just shortly before he reached the riverbank. He has never been identified.

Read about the escape attempt via the "Chronicle of the Berlin Wall" website here.

 

Manfred Weylandt (1942-1972)

Langtext

Manfred Weylandt drowned after being shot in the back of the head while trying to flee across the Spree near Schilling Bridge on February 14, 1972.

Read his full biography via the "Chronicle of the Berlin Wall" website here.

 

West Berlin

Andreas Senk (1960-1966)

Langtext

Six-year-old Andreas Senk drowned on the morning of September 13, 1966 when a playmate of the same age pushed him into the Spree.

Read his full biography via the "Chronicle of the Berlin Wall" website here.

 

Cengaver Katrancı (1964-1972)

Langtext

Eight-year-old Cengaver Katranci drowned in the Spree on October 30, 1972. He was playing with friends at the Gröbenufer embankment in Kreuzberg when he lost his balance and fell into the water.

Read his full biography via the "Chronicle of the Berlin Wall" website here.

 

Siegfried Kroboth (1968-1973)

Langtext

On the morning of May 14, 1973, five-year-old Siegfried Kroboth was playing with a friend on the riverbank near the war-damaged Brommy Bridge in Kreuzberg when he fell into the water and drowned.

Read his full biography via the "Chronicle of the Berlin Wall" website here.

 

Guiseppe Savoca (1968-1974)

Langtext

Six-year-old Guiseppe Savoca drowned while playing with a friend on the Gröbenufer embankment in Berlin-Kreuzberg on June 15, 1974. He had been fishing with a stick when he lost his balance and fell into the water.

Read his full biography via the "Chronicle of the Berlin Wall" website here.

 

Çetin Mert (1970-1975)

Langtext

Cetin Mert drowned in the Spree while playing on the Gröbenufer embankment on May 11, 1975. He was trying to retrieve his ball from the water when he fell into the river.

Read his full biography via the "Chronicle of the Berlin Wall" website here.

The Berlin Wall

The East Side Gallery

More information about the history of the Berlin Wall and how the GDR border regime functioned

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