In Memory of Dieter Beilig, born on 5 September 1941 in Berlin-Kreuzberg, shot dead there on 2 October 1971

Who was Dieter Beilig?

Little is known about Dieter Beilig. His father was killed in action in Russia in 1943; he had no brothers or sisters. Misery was widespread during the post-war period. In 1956 his mother married a widower who also brought his daughter into the 1½ -room flat in Berlin Kreuzberg. Conflicts were unavoidable. During the same year, Dieter was released from the seventh grade in primary school. The sickly boy, who showed great interest in history and social studies, began work as a baker’s apprentice. Due to tensions in the parental flat, he was sent to the Berlin-Schlachtensee Youth Home; this institution had a very poor reputation due to its housing of youthful criminals, as later became clear. He wanted to get out of this closed complex and gave up his apprenticeship after just four months; alcohol consumption was involved. Finally he was able to return to his mother but found no other apprenticeship, doing freelance work for various companies. He was happy when his family obtained a garden. He loved animals and plants and enjoyed working there.

When the Berlin Wall was built on 13 August 1961, he was strongly committed to protest actions from the very outset. For the first time, he seemed to find camaraderie by joining groups of active opponents of German division. He became publicly known when he began setting up crosses in memory of the dead victims of the Berlin Wall. Newspapers reported on his activities. He put up protest posters, organised demonstrations and carried out bomb attacks against the Wall. He was sentenced by the Youth Court of Lay Assessors to three weeks youth arrest for illegal possession of explosives.
He organised a demonstration march of several thousand people on the first anniversary of the construction of the Wall and, two days later, spoke with the ruling Mayor Willy Brandt at a protest rally. More demonstrations followed.
In 1963 he founded the “Peter Fechter Memorial Movement,” because “no one killed on the Wall should be forgotten.” He also became an active member of the “Association of Victims of Stalinism.”

Dieter Beilig was arrested at a protest action by GDR border guards in December 1964 and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for “agitation and terror in opposition to the State” by the East Berlin Municipal Court of Greater Berlin on 11 December 1964. In the files of the Ministry of State Security (MfS) there are letters to his mother, aunt and uncle that were confiscated because they were not permitted. He wrote a letter to the General State Attorney on 8 June 1966 due to the severe prison conditions. He charged that he was innocently imprisoned. He was agitated over the killings on the Wall. “I walked through West Berlin with a cross on 13 August 1962 and set it up at the location where Peter Fechter had been murdered.” And then he went on to say, “I am a worker, despise any kind of totalitarian dictatorship, whether under Hitler or now. I love freedom and the dignity of man.” He requested better prison conditions and more to eat. Since he was not allowed to work, he was now receiving “food supply for the unemployed and this is so minimal that I always have to eat dry bread and go to bed hungry. … If there is not enough food here in Brandenburg, then I would have my mother send me a packet every week. Then I’d have enough to eat. …In the 1950s one could have understood that, but today, 21 years after the war.” The letter concludes with the declaration, “… If necessary, I shall sacrifice my life and possessions to peace and understanding amongst the people of the world. Dieter Beilig, founder of the memorial creators and of non-violent resistance in Berlin.” This letter was also confiscated. In 1966, the penalty had apparently been transformed into a four-year suspended sentence through mediation from the West. He was released in September 1970. In 1966 the sentence was transformed into a four-year suspended sentence which was settled in 1970. The confinement was suspended. He was released in the West on 14 September 1966 through mediation from the West. His resistance against the regime was not broken, however, but confirmed due to his experiences in prison.

In the meantime, the political situation had changed fundamentally. The division of Germany was to be overcome through negotiations and agreements rather than protests. As a result of Willy Brandt’s policy of détente, the GDR in 1969 did not relate to the law of nations, but had been recognised relating to constitutional law as one of the two German states in the sense of a common nation. A first official meeting took place in 1970 in Erfurt between Brandt and Willi Stoph, Chairman of the Ministry Council of the GDR. On 3 September 1971, the quadripartite agreement concerning Berlin was signed in the Allied Surveillance Council Building, regulating the fundamental principles concerning the legal status of the divided city, the relationship of Berlin (West) to the then Federal Republic of Germany as well as access to Berlin (West).
Whilst an improvement in contacts between people in the East and West stood in the foreground for the West, a solidification of the statehood of the GDR was the aim of the East.

What happened on 2 October 1971?

In the handwritten Arrest Protocol No. 66 of the same day, in which 9:15AM is named as the time of internment, it says, “The person climbed onto the border wall on Friedensallee, ran on it up to the middle of the square in front of the Brandenburg Gate, jumped off it there and started off in the direction of Pariser Platz. The arrest took place at the Visitors’ Pedestal. The person was taken to the south wing of the Brandenburg gate and hastily searched there. Then he was led to the reference point in the building of the Academy of the Arts. Almost in front of the building, the person broke loose and fled in the direction of Otto-Grotewohl-Strasse (now renamed Wilhelmstrasse). The arrest took place anew in front of the border to the rear. He was then brought to the reference point and thoroughly searched. No weapons or tools were found, other personal objects were confiscated. The person was then … into an adjoining room -” The next page of the protocol has not been preserved.

In the typed Completion of the Present Report of the Day, it says that West Berlin police had tried to prevent Dieter Beilig from climbing onto the Wall. “B. fled whilst being led to the base of the Border Troops’ Regiment. It was possible to arrest him at the level of the interior fence anew without using guns, directly on Otto-Grotewohl-Strasse. B. was warned that guns would be used should he attempt another flight… B. asked for a glass of water; his request was denied. Immediately afterwards, B. jumped up from the chair, ripped open the window and wanted to flee again. The platoon commander assigned to guard him, Ltn. Triebel, GR-35, shot B. in the hip with a sub-machine gun. B. fell from the windowsill that he had already climbed. After initial assistance, B. was taken to the VP Hospital (VP: People’s Police) with a special signal. His death was confirmed at the VP Hospital. The shot had hit B. from the back behind the left shoulder blade. The shot came out on the front side, above the area of the heart. The projectile struck into the window masonry of the Border Troops’ base.”

In the third preserved document describing the culprit’s actions, the Draft – Annexe to the Arrest Protocol, it says,
“… He could be apprehended and subdued again in front of the rear border. He was warned and it was announced that the gun would be used should he attempt to flee again. After leading him to the service room of the company, a thorough search took place, in which all documents and personal objects were taken away. These were: 1. temporary personal identification (West Berlin), 2. 47 cigarettes of the brand Roth-Händle, 3. sunglasses, 4. 1 seal-ring, yellow, 5. 1 ring with a stone, yellow, 6. wristwatch, yellow, 7. armband, yellow, 8. a small chain with a heart pendant, yellow, 9. two ballpoint pens, 10. 1 visiting card of the “Bild” tabloid journalists X. and X., Bureau 1 Berlin 61 X- Street (name indications are blackened in the documents of the Authorised Federal Representative for the Documents of the State Security Service of the former German Democratic Republic, BStU), 11. various photographs, 12. 12.60 DM, 13. key case with 3 keys, 14. 1 lighter, 15. 1 comb. When B. was to be brought into another room, he insulted the two members of the Border Troops who were guarding him as “tramps” and “pigs.” He did not obey the command to calm himself down and follow orders. When he entered the other room, he pushed one of the guards to the floor with his fists and tried to tear the loaded machine gun away from him. The second guard then fired a shot from his machine gun, injuring the border provoker and thus preventing B. from using a gun… Berlin, 2.10. 1971, Commander of Unity.” A handwritten completion says, “B. continued to say, ‘How could I have been so stupid as to have done that twice. I’d like to know why you chose me to do that.’”

Finally, on the same day, through the Administration of State Security, Greater Berlin, Department IX, a report of several pages was made, completing the information already given, for which the files concerning Dieter Beilig already submitted were invoked. In this “Information on Border Provocation in Berlin-Centre,” made in 5 copies and sent to the “Comrade Minister” (Erich Mielke), his representative, the Director of Administration and the Director of the Main Department IX and of Department IX, the case was described as follows: Dieter Beilig came from the West to the square in front of the Brandenburg Gate on that morning, today the Square of the 18th of March, climbed onto the outer barricade wall, ran about 30 metres along the wall and “provoked with various loudly called watchwords of agitation such as ‘Our people must be united, German unity, both nations united, Germany can only be free when it is united’ and similar utterances. After more West police wanted to bring Beilig down from the border wall, he jumped from the wall in the direction of the GDR and forced his way into the territory of the German Democratic Republic…” It goes on to say, “…With the alleged aim of removing a guard, Beilig requested a glass of water. He was told to calm down. After about one minute, Beilig suddenly jumped up from his chair and traversed the room diagonally to the window. The attempt by the guard next to the door to restrain Beilig was of no avail. Beilig ignored the guard’s repeated command to stand still. Beilig ripped open the curtain on the window, opened the window and climbed into the window opening so as to jump out and flee. Both guards loaded their weapons and the officer shot his weapon in the direction of Beilig from a distance of about 2 metres. Beilig fell back into the room due to the injury suffered. After initial medical attention to Beilig performed by the NVA border, he was transported to the Hospital of the German People Police in Berlin by an ambulance, which had meanwhile been called, of the 35th Border Regiment with a flag of the Red Cross mounted on it. It at the hospital was established that Beilig had meanwhile died during transport at approximately 10:05 AM due to the shot through the thorax…”

How and why was the crime covered up?

In the report just quoted from, it goes on to say, “The provocation at the border wall undertaken by Beilig, his arrest and removal to the reference point of the National People’s Army border, could be observed by three West Berlin police officers on a pedestal on West Berlin territory, one civilian and approximately 100 persons who were at the border on the territory of the GDR, Unter den Linden. No information was known concerning statements of a delegation of 39 citizens of the CSSR in the lecture rooms of Brandenburg Gate relating to Beilig’s provocation and arrest…” At the end of the report, it said, “With the aim of exposing this border provocation as a serious attack against the further détente of the political situation aimed towards by the government of the GDR in negotiations with representatives of the FRG and the West Berlin Senate, the following measures have been planned: 1. Comprehensive operational information on and investigation of the character and aim of this border provocation and those who ordered it, especially to the press photographers… and of the connection between Beilig and other enemy departments, organisations, Western publication authorities as well as to extremist circles in the FRG and West Berlin. 2. Since the provocation, arrest, first attempt at escape following arrest and the transport of Beilig to the Hospital of the German People’s Police was observed by several persons on West Berlin and GDR territory, it has been proven as a cover that Beilig “violently attacked” (handwritten completion) a member of the Border Troops, whereby ‘the use of the firearm’ (handwritten completion) was necessary. 3. To have recorded a shifting of the ‘time of death’ (handwritten completion), corresponding to the possibilities resulting from the further investigations…”

To the officials, the simple self-defence thesis appeared insufficient, however. Two days later, on 4 October 1971 at noon, Comrade Major Wolf, HA IX/9 demanded the following by telephone, according to a written telephone note:    
“1. Prepare a clean arrest report as already discussed on 2 October. 2. Prepare along with that, as an annexe, a detailed report on all circumstances of the arrest, including the statement in which the resistance of B. is contained – as already discussed on 2 October. 3. Select a commander to sign and seal these documents, but don’t talk to him yet. 4. Start all investigations to inform both reporters, collect all materials for this and especially create such facts so that they will be interested in sensations. 5. Put B.s fingerprints on the part of the sub-machine gun that B. wanted to grasp after his arrest. Then put the weapon back together and have it inspected so as to ensure proofs for the documentary. 6. The Western press wrote that B. called ‘Willy.’ Find out if that can be denied by repeatedly interrogating the guards. If possible, find proofs to the contrary. Talk to X, X and X (named blackened in the documents) about this again. 7. Make all preparations for the creation of a file that can be handed over, but don’t talk about it with any other persons. Introduce measures to prove the connection between B. and the reporters and their cooperation. 9. At present, nothing is being undertaken, from our side; everything is taking place internally through Volpert, no offensive measures at present. 10. Let measures take their course normally, and under our coverage, at the Institute of Forensic Medicine – don’t talk to X himself yet. – These measures were discussed by Gen. Wolf with comrades Heinitz and Fister; the extent to which the ideas of those further up were contained in them was not known to him.

There exist two documents of the Administration of State Security, Greater Berlin, Department IX, dating 8 October 1971. In the one addressed to the Ministry of State Security, Main Department VII/1, the employees of the People’s Police Hospital are named who knew about the admission of Dieter Beilig – two physicians, a nurse and two secretaries. In the other, one, addressed to the Operative-Technical Sector, Department 32/TU, an investigation is ordered having to do with fingerprints on the machine pistol and demanding a report. There exists a file notice by the expert for dactyloscopy, Lieutenant Berndt, which states: “The papillary results 1, 2, and 3 found on the machine pistol K No. C 6265 are illustrations which resulted from a common act of grasping. The position of the traces on the machine pistol leads one to conclude that the casing cover of the machine pistol was grasped from above by the right hand.” Finally, a note made by the Administration of State Security, Greater Berlin, Department IX to the Ministry for State Security HAVII of 22 October 1971 states: “We request that you have the attached report by the technical investigation office of the MfS revised at the Criminal Institute of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, so that it will have the character of an official document of this Institute.”

So as to be prepared for possible investigations from the West, all main departments of the Ministry for State Security (MfS) in charge were occupied with covering up the killing during the hours and days following the crime, and creating a legend of self-defence. The victim had to be made into a culprit; the border provocation was to be exposed as a serious attack.

How did people in the West react to the events?

The concern over investigations in the West was ultimately unfounded. There was only very slight interest in what happened on 2 October 1971 on the Wall at the Brandenburg Gate. Despite the fact that Dieter Beilig was well known, the events were not linked to him. The press hardly reported on it. The man was “apparently in drunken condition,” according to the brief notice in the “Morgenpost” and in the “Die Welt” he was designated as an “obviously mentally confused, approximately 25-year-old West Berliner.”
Nor are investigations made by the police known; they had observed the proceedings at least until Dieter Beilig’s imprisonment. He was considered missing for decades.
His name appeared neither in the statistics of Berlin Wall victims recorded by the West Berlin police nor in the Central Registration Office in Salzgitter, since the death was not officially established. For a long time, his name neither appeared in the statistics of Berlin Wall victims kept by the West Berlin police nor in the Central Records Office in Salzgitter, since the death was not officially established. The Consortium 13 August only noted that he must have been shot dead by the GDR border patrol whilst on the run.

Hope for an improvement in the situation through political negotiations and a pragmatic approach meanwhile followed the years of resistance against the division of the city after the construction of the Berlin Wall. Provocations against the Wall were no longer considered opportune.

Documents concerning the course of events were only to be found in the State Security Archive after German Reunification. Investigations undertaken by the Berlin Public Prosecutor’s Office revealed that the culprit had already died by the early 1990s. In 1999, the “office culprits” were also acquitted and the files closed.
Cremation was mentioned in the files. The mortal remains of the deceased man were not handed over to his relatives. No grave exists.

The case first became public through the investigations pursued by Petra Uhlmann/Academy of the Arts, who occupied herself with the history of the Academy building on Pariser Platz in preparation for the move into the newly constructed building in the year 2000.
The Academy of the Arts regards it as its duty to commemorate Dieter Beilig in the Academy building.

Photo from the makeshift Berlin (West) identification card, 1966 (photo: BSTU)

At a demonstration, around 1961 (photo: BSTU)

Entrance to the rooms of the East German border troops, around 1993 (photo: Reuss)

View into the border casualty cell, around 1993 (photo: Reuss)

Former room of the border troops, around 1995 (photo: Werner Durth)

During the renovation, 2000 (photo: Riki Kalbe)