Bernauer Strasse: One of the Bloodiest Points at The Wall With AM-East Germany, Bjt
BERLIN (AP) _ The Bernauer Strasse, where East German workers smashed through the Berlin Wall to make a new crossing, was one of the most tragic stretches of the barrier, but also the scene of a spectacular escape to freedom.
On Aug. 22, 1961, nine days after the Communists began building the Berlin Wall, Ida Siekmann 59, died when she fell from the second floor of her house onto Bernauer Strasse while trying to jump to freedom.
On Oct. 4, 1961, student Bernd Luenser died after a scuffle with Communist guards on the roof of another building on the street. Luenser missed the blanket held by West Berliners and crashed to his death.
On Saturday, thousands of East Berliners poured through the wall on the Bernauer Strasse, and smiling Communist guards held the gate open.
Some who crossed were mindful of the tragic deaths on this spot.
″That is just terrible, terrible,″ said a 52-year-old East Berlin woman who had crossed for the first time since the wall went up. ″It just goes through and through you, right under the skin,″ she said with tears in her eyes.
While the section of wall along the Bernauer Strasse provided one of the most tragic chapters in the division of Berlin, it also was the scene of one of the most famous escapes in the history of the wall.
On Oct. 5, 1964, 23 men, 31 women and three children crawled to freedom through a tunnel 11 feet underground between a shed in Strelitzer Strasse in East Berlin and Bernauer Strasse 97, on the western side.
There was an exchange of gunfire when East German soldiers noticed some of the escapees, and one guard was killed. All 57 East Berliners made it safely through the tunnel.
The wall at this point was one of Berlin’s cruelest divisions, sundering two of the city’s most historic districts, Wedding and Prenzlauer Berg, placing the former in the West, the latter in the East.
The spirit of Berlin lives in both. Prenzlauer Berg is one of East Berlin’s most lively districts, site of the Gethesemane church that provided a rallying point for the pro-democracy movement that has engulfed East Germany.
Wedding, too, is famous for the earthy working class humor coursing from morning until night through its Eckkneipen, the corner bars that are dear to every real Berliner.
Dramatic pictures shot at Bernauer Strasse are part of all Berlin guide books: A woman dangling from a window as Communist officials try to pull her back, while a West Berliner holds on to her legs. Another woman jumping to the West and landing on a safety net held by West Berliners.
When the East Germans poured through on Saturday, one of the first things they saw was a line of wooden crosses that dot the Bernauer Strasse along the wall on the Western side. Ten people are known to have died there. A small stone monument lists their names.
Hans-Dieter Wesa died Aug. 23, 1961, one day after Ida Siekmann. Rudolf Urban, on Sept. 17, 1961. Olga Segler, four days later. Luenser, the next month. Dorit Schmiel on Feb. 19, 1962. Ernst Mund, on Sept. 4, 1962. Ottfried Reck, two months later. Two unidentified people also died, the last on Dec. 1, 1984.