New study raises estimate of German border deaths

More than 1,300 people died at the border separating the two Germanies between 1945 and 1989, according to a new study published on the eve of the 47th anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall.

New study raises estimate of German border deaths
A memorial for those that died trying to cross the border. Photo: DPA

“This takes account of all deaths at the GDR (German Democratic Republic) border and we still haven’t finished” looking into the archives, according to Alexandra Hildebrandt from the August 13 Association, a private institute taking its name from the date the Berlin Wall was built – August 13, 1961.

“We’ve also included the surprisingly high number of suicides by border guards, along with the killing of Soviet citizens who tried to cross the East German border, and people who died while being checked at the border” from heart attacks for example, she said.

The association, which updates the figures yearly, put the total number of deaths at 1,303, up 58 on last year’s reported toll. The number of those killed while crossing from the Soviet-controlled eastern part of Germany to the West is the subject of much controversy in a country divided for decades years after the end of World War II.

Another estimate, released a few days ago by the Potsdam Centre for Contemporary Historical Research said “at least” 136 people had been killed trying to cross the Berlin Wall alone.

But many historians suggest that the overall figure of those killed while fleeing from East to West stands at between 600 and 700.