BERLIN (Reuters) - At least 136 people were killed at the Berlin Wall between 1961 and 1989, researchers leading the first detailed study into victims’ deaths said Tuesday.
The findings are the result of a four-year project between the Berlin Wall Memorial and the Center of Historical Research in Potsdam.
Culture Minister Bernd Neumann said it was important for younger generations to remember the brutality of the past, especially this year in which Germans celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Wall, a key event in the collapse of communist rule in eastern Europe.
“It’s very important to explain what it was really like and to highlight the inhumane consequences,” Neumann told reporters.
“The project restores the victims’ dignity,” he said, adding that a recent tendency to trivialize the crimes of the former Communist regime in East Germany made such projects essential.
His ministry gave 280,000 euros ($397,000) to the project, which deals specifically with deaths at the Wall in Berlin.
There is no official figure for the number of people killed outside Berlin on the long border that divided Germany, but German media have estimated that toll at 1,347.
The Berlin Wall was erected almost exactly 48 years ago and divided the former and present German capital — and Europe — for nearly four decades during the Cold War.
The East German government did not make public details of people killed trying to escape.
“Our aim was to give the victims a face and link that face with a story,” said Maria Nooke from the Berlin Wall memorial.
Of the 136 victims whose biographies are published in the new compendium “The victims at the Wall 1961 - 1989,” most were young men aged between 16 and 30.
Nine children and eight women died, and the figure also includes several West Berliners and eight East German border guards.
A further 251 people died during regular border crossings, mainly from heart attacks, the researchers said.
Alongside the compendium, new interactive terminals at the memorial center enable visitors to see archive material including photos, maps of escape routes and audio clips of the victims’ family members.
“The project ... aimed to investigate those who were killed at the Berlin Wall and rescue their biographies from the official oblivion of the former East German government,” said Martin Sabrow from the Center of Historical research in Potsdam.
Families of victims were often told lies about the cause of death of their relatives.
Further information about the project and its research can be found at www.chronik-der-mauer.de.