Additionalinformation

DiedduringanEscapeAttempt

Wall Victims who Died in the Border Area of Mühlenstraße

The Berlin Wall was meant to prevent people from leaving the GDR. In spite of the high risk, many people still tried to escape. More than 2.8 million GDR citizens were able to flee the SED dictatorship between 1961 and 1989. At least 101 people never made it to West Berlin; they died while trying to escape.

Crime scene photo taken by the GDR border troops documenting the escape route of Anton Walzer in the Spree near the Oberbaum Bridge, 8 October 1962
Crime scene photo taken by the GDR border troops documenting the escape route of Anton Walzer in the Spree near the Oberbaum Bridge, 8 October 1962

At least seven men died trying to escape on Mühlenstraße between 1961 and 1972. They were able to reach the border river because the buildings and courtyards in the area shielded them and visibility at night was poor. On several occasions, people managed to enter the water unnoticed and reach the West Berlin side. But Anton Walzer, Werner Probst and Manfred Weylandt were discovered by GDR border guards; the guards used search lights to illuminate the water at night and safeguarded the border river from their posts on bridges, land and boats. All three men had almost reached the safety of the quay wall on the Kreuzberg side of the Spree when they were fatally shot by border guards. Udo Düllick dodged the bullets but appears to have died of hypothermia and exhaustion. Philipp Held and Hans-Joachim Zock also drowned in the river, but their escape attempts were not discovered until later, when their bodies were retrieved from the water. An unidentified person drowned before the eyes of West Berlin residents. GDR border guards had also noticed him, but his body was never found.

Memorial service for Udo Düllick on the West Berlin riverbank on 9 October 1961
Memorial service for Udo Düllick on the West Berlin riverbank on 9 October 1961

Almost no escape attempts and deaths are known to have occurred along Mühlenstraße after 1972. By 1977, all the apartment houses, warehouses and factory buildings along the street had been demolished. The 3.6-meter-high "Border Wall 75" made it impossible to enter the border area and gain access to the Spree. The cleared area was now easily visible to the GDR border troops. They illuminated the grounds and could quickly detect any movement against the backdrop of the white wall. Only one young man succeeded in escaping in 1978: he jumped from a boat into the water and swam to the West Berlin shore.

A border troops boat in the Spree along the Mühlenstraße embankment in 1980
A border troops boat in the Spree along the Mühlenstraße embankment in 1980

People who were not attempting to flee to West Berlin also died in the border area of Mühlenstraße. The death of Ulrich Krzemien is curious. He swam through the Teltow Canal and reached West Berlin in 1962. Three years later, he swam through the Spree back to East Berlin, but drowned shortly before reaching the quay wall. A GDR border guard reacted too late, and the body was not retrieved for many days. Heinz Müller from West Berlin was drunk when he stood on a viewing platform at the Schilling Bridge and fell into the border fortifications. A border guard shot him and he died from his injuries.

West Berlin Children who Became Victims of the GDR

Four children drowned on the West Berlin bank of the Spree River between 1972 and 1974. Cengaver Katrancı (age 8), Siegfried Kroboth (age 5), Giuseppe Savoca (age 6) and Çetin Mert (age 5) were playing near the water when they fell into the river and could not get out by themselves. Although relatives and West Berlin rescue workers arrived at the scene, they were not allowed to enter the river because it belonged to the GDR. Members of the GDR border troops who were on boats, the riverbank and the Oberbaum Bridge did not react at all or too late.

Andreas Senk (age 6) also drowned in the border waters. GDR border guards evidently did not see him fall into the Spree on the morning of 13 September 1966.

Eventually, in October 1975, the West Berlin Senate and the GDR government made changes that allowed for the rescue of West Berliners in border waters. Fences were erected in the embankment area and warning signs were put up in both German and Turkish. Rescue posts were also installed at the border waters between East and West Berlin so that GDR border guards could be informed of an accident and help could arrive faster.

"And then this conflict takes place. You have everything, you could help, but you are not allowed to help because it is not politically desired."


Klaus Abraham, a West Berlin fireman, on feeling helpless during rescue missions, 2021

Wall Victim

Udo Düllick (1936–1961)

Udo Düllick drowned in the Spree near the Oberbaum Bridge on 5 October 1961. He had come under fire while trying to escape.
https://www.chronik-der-mauer.de/todesopfer/171446/duellick-udo

Werner Probst (1936–1961)

Werner Probst was shot and killed on 14 October 1961 while trying to escape across the Spree at the sector border between Berlin-Friedrichshain and Berlin-Kreuzberg.
https://www.chronik-der-mauer.de/todesopfer/171440/probst-werner

Philipp Held (1942-1962)

The body of Philipp Held was retrieved from the Spree by GDR border police on 22 April 1962. All signs suggest that he drowned while trying to swim from the Osthafen grounds in Berlin-Friedrichshain to the opposite bank in West Berlin.
https://www.chronik-der-mauer.de/todesopfer/171415/held-philipp

Anton Walzer (1902–1962)

Anton Walzer died on 8 October 1962 after being shot in the back of his head while he was trying to escape across the Spree near the Oberbaum Bridge.
https://www.chronik-der-mauer.de/todesopfer/171431/walzer-anton

Ulrich Krzemien (1940-1965)

Ulrich Krzemien swam from the West Berlin side of the river in Kreuzberg to East Berlin on 25 March 1965. He presumably died from exhaustion.
https://www.chronik-der-mauer.de/todesopfer/171394/krzemien-ulrich

Unidentified Victim (19 January 1965)

A man, approximately 30 years old, drowned in the Spree during an escape when his strength failed him just shortly before he reached the other side of the river. His identity remains unknown.
https://www.chronik-der-mauer.de/todesopfer/171393/unbekannter-fluechtling

Hans-Joachim Zock (1940-1970)

Hans-Joachim Zock drowned while trying to flee across the Spree River from Berlin-Friedrichshain to Berlin-Kreuzberg between 14 and 17 November 1970.
https://www.chronik-der-mauer.de/todesopfer/171360/zock-hans-joachim

Heinz Müller (1943-1970)

The West Berliner Heinz Müller was shot and killed by GDR border soldiers near the Schilling Bridge on the sector border between Berlin-Kreuzberg and Berlin-Friedrichshain.
https://www.chronik-der-mauer.de/todesopfer/171357/mueller-heinz

Manfred Weylandt (1942-1972)

Manfred Weylandt was shot and killed on 14 February 1972 while trying to escape across the Spree at the sector border between Berlin-Friedrichshain and Berlin-Kreuzberg.
https://www.chronik-der-mauer.de/todesopfer/171346/weylandt-manfred

West Berlin Children

Andreas Senk (1960–1966)

On the morning of 13 September 1966, Andreas Senk (age 6) was pushed into the Spree River by a playmate and drowned.
https://www.chronik-der-mauer.de/todesopfer/171382/senk-andreas

Cengaver Katranci (1964–1972)

Cengaver Katranci (age 8) drowned in the Spree River on 30 October 1972, when he lost his balance and fell into the water while playing with friends at Gröbenufer in Kreuzberg.
https://www.chronik-der-mauer.de/todesopfer/171345/katranci-cengaver

Siegfried Kroboth (1968–1973)

On the morning of 14 May 1973, Siegfried Kroboth (age 5) was playing with a friend on the Kreuzberg riverbank near the war-damaged Brommy Bridge, when he fell into the water and drowned.
https://www.chronik-der-mauer.de/todesopfer/171342/kroboth-siegfried

Guiseppe Savoca (1968–1974)

On 15 June 1974, Guiseppe Savoca (age 6) drowned while playing with a friend on Gröbenufer in Berlin-Kreuzberg. He had been fishing with a stick in the water when he lost his balance and fell into the river.
https://www.chronik-der-mauer.de/todesopfer/171339/savoca-giuseppe

Cetin Mert (1970–1975)

Cetin Mert (age 5) drowned in the Spree River while playing on Gröbenufer on 11 May 1975. He was trying to get his ball out of the water when he fell into the river.
https://www.chronik-der-mauer.de/todesopfer/171336/mert-cetin

Additional information:

Die Podcast-Reihe „Grenzerfahrung“ von der Stiftung Berliner Mauer entstand 2021 anlässlich des 60. Jahrestags des Mauerbaus und wurde gefördert von der Bundesbeauftragten für Kultur und Medien. In der Folge „Alltag in Teilung“ wird darüber gesprochen, wie sich das Leben im geteilten Berlin entwickelt hat. Die hohe Betonmauer gehörte zum Alltag der Bewohnerinnen und Bewohner Berlins. Aber nicht alle Menschen wollten die Grenzabriegelung hinnehmen, sie versuchten, aus der DDR zu fliehen. Expertinnen und Experten geben Auskunft über das Grenzregime der DDR und berichten von den mindestens 101 Menschen, die bei einem Fluchtversuch ums Leben kamen oder inhaftiert wurden. https://www.stiftung-berliner-mauer.de/de/stiftung/podcast-grenzerfahrung

Overview of topics