Killing of Peter Fechter

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Memorial to Peter Fechter
Berlin Wall memorial for Peter Fechter

Peter Fechter (14 January 1944 - 17 August 1962) is one of the best known victims of the Berlin Wall. Fechter was a bricklayer. Aged 18, he tried to cross the wall into the West, near Checkpoint Charlie, to live with his sister. He did this with his friend and colleague, Helmut Kulbeik. Both started to climb the wall at around 14:15. Kubelik was successful, and could escape. Fechter was hit by several gunshots, one of which pierced his lung, and fell back down, to what was called the Death strip. He was unable to move, and started to cry for help. Crowds started to gather on both sides of the wall; on the east side, they were dispersed by police.

Police gathered on the west side threw medical kits to him; despite the crowd asking them, they would not do more. The DDR border guards did not do anything either; neither did the United States personnel on duty at the Checkpoint.

Fechter bled to death after about an hour. After reunification, two border police were found guilty of manslaughter. They were convicted and given suspended prison terms of 20 and 21 months respectively. Both had told the court they fired shots at Fechter, but did not want to kill him. The court also ruled that Fechter was killed by the shots, and not by the absence of aid. The evidence could not show who of three gunman (one had already died) was responsible for the bullet that killed Fechter.