Sister Recalls Death of 'Darling of the Family' on Berlin Wall Anniversary
Aug. 13, 1991
BERLIN (AP) _ Shot trying to cross the barrier he helped build, Peter Fechter lay by the Berlin Wall and cried for help. People on the West German side pleaded with East Germans to save him, but Fechter bled for nearly an hour before being dragged away lifeless.
''He was the only son, the darling of the family,'' his sister Gisela Geue sadly remembered Tuesday, the 30th anniversary of the building of the Iron Curtain's most notorious section.
Mrs. Geue publicly recalled her brother's death for the first time, speaking with a few reporters after a ceremony marking the wall's construction. Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and Berlin Mayor Eberhard Diepgen invoked Fechter's memory in front of a simple cross, smothered in wreaths, near where he was shot.
The family was hounded by East German secret police - the hated Stasi - until the wall finally fell in 1989.
''They didn't even stop at the cemetery. There sat the Stasi, and took the flowers away,'' Gisela Geue said.
Fechter was only 18 when he was killed on Aug. 17, 1962, and he remains the most famous of the roughly 200 people who died trying to flee East Germamy, including about 80 in Berlin.
The widely reported shooting stunned the West with its brutality and left a sense of helplessness about the police state only a few yards away.
Fechter's family still feels a bitterness echoed by many former East Germans who suffered under the stern political repression of a Stalinist regime.
Chancellor Helmut Kohl's Cabinet was to act Wednesday on a bill to compensate political prisoners in former East Germany, including people who tried to flee. The bill would offer $260 for each month spent in prison. About 180,000 people would be eligible to receive a total of $872 million.
Measures to compensate relatives of victims - such as Fechter's family - are envisioned, but no details have emerged.
Mrs. Geue talked to reporters about a block from where Checkpoint Charlie stood as one of the main Allied crossing points to East Berlin. The path of the wall is now a paved street, Zimmer Street, as it used to be.
The creation of the Cold War divide began on Aug. 13, 1961, when soldiers with bayonets were posted. Later, barbed wire went up, and slowly the concrete edifice that Peter Fechter helped build went up along the 100-mile route encircling West Berlin.
With tears in her eyes, Mrs. Geue said, ''Now anyone can go through, and our brother, our Peter, he was shot only because he wanted to go from Germany to Germany, and then these inhuman people did not help him.''
Mrs. Geue (pronouced GOI-ah) said her parents were dragged out of their apartment on that day in 1962 to identify their son. Agents of the Ministry of State Security, known as Stasi in German, searched the apartment for evidence of young Peter's ''political crimes'' but found nothing, she said.
''After that, for the whole week up to the burial we were practically besieged and watched,'' she said.
She said the family was watched ''practically until November 1989'' when the wall fell under the weight of a popular revolution in East Germany.
Her parents never received better jobs, and became ''miserable mental cases,'' Mrs. Geue said.
Her father could not bear the loss of his son and died in 1968. Her mother died last February. ''She did not really understand the opening of the wall,'' Mrs. Geue said.
Mrs. Geue said she went six years without work, and she and her husband never received the usual vacation trips through their unions.
Asked her views on compensating families such as hers, Mrs. Geue said the successor of the Communist Party, called the Party for Democratic Socialism, should have its assets seized - gradually taking place already - and the money be given to the victims and their relatives.