Accessibility links

Breaking News

Berlin Prosecutes DDR Guards for 34 Year Old Death

Munich, July 12 (RFE/RL) -- One of the most tragic events on the Berlin Wall occurred in 1962 when an 18-year-old boy shot by border guards lay on the ground for 50 minutes screaming for help before he was picked up by border guards. He was taken to a police hospital, but died soon after arrival.

Now, 34 years later, Germany's authorities are prosecuting two former border guards, who allegedly shot down the boy, Peter Fechter.

The prosecutors department in Berlin confirmed today to RFE/RL that it has launched proceedings against two men indentified only as the 60-year-old Rolf F. and the 54-year-old Erich S. They are accused of the joint manslaughter of Peter Fechter, and the attempted manslaughter of the young man who escaped with him but reached the West unharmed.

A spokesman for the Berlin prosecutor said the date for the trial had not yet been set.

Peter Fechter's agony on a hot summer's afternoon on August 18, 1962 was watched by scores of western soldiers, people from west Berlin and journalists. None dared cross the border line to help him for fear of beiung shot themselves.

A photograph of the border guards who eventually picked him up after 50 minutes went around the world, and appears in most picture anthologies of the Berlin Wall.

Last year German writer, Heribert Schwan, suggested that Fechter's agonising death was a result of East Germany's bureaucratic regulations. Schwan, who investigated the affair for a television program, said no East German officer was present to order that Fechter be picked up, and no one else would take responsibility.

Schwan's researches were responsible for the identification of the two men now being prosecuted.