On this day: Ida Siekmann becomes the first known victim of the Berlin Wall

On this day in 1961: Ida Siekmann becomes the first known victim of the Berlin Wall, fatally injured whilst attempting to flee from East Berlin.

In the early hours of August 22nd 1961, Ida Siekmann leapt from the window of her 4th floor apartment in East Berlin. Although the building itself was located in the Soviet sector of the city, the pavement below on Bernauer Strasse, by quirk of the city’s boundaries, lay in the West Berlin district of Wedding – and thus the French sector.

Following the construction of the initial stages of the Berlin Wall nine days earlier, desperate residents jumping from their apartment windows on the south side of Bernauer Strasse to the West side of the city became a common sight.

Berlin police report of Ida Siekmann's death
The Berlin police report of Ida Siekmann's death

Many were assisted by the West Berlin fire brigade. Some caught in a desperate tug-a-war with the East German border guards.

Not wanting to draw attention to herself, Ida Siekmann decided to forgo waiting for help, instead throwing bedsheets onto the ground below, hoping to cushion her fall. Misjudging her leap, she hit the pavement.

Badly injured from the fall, she died on her way to the nearby Lazarus hospital – one day before her 59th birthday.

The West Berlin fire brigade – not around to assist in her escape – removed her body from where she fell. The blood stain she had left behind was then covered in sand before being swept away.

Today, a memorial plaque marks the location of Ida Siekmann’s deadly leap to freedom. Although not murdered by the East German border guards whilst trying to escape, she is still classified as the first victim of the Berlin Wall – her death a result of the absurdity of its construction.

The first person killed by the East German government whilst trying to escape to the West was Günter Litfin – who tried and failed to escape on August 24th 1961. Two days after Siekmann’s attempt.


Our Related Tours

To learn more about the history of East German and life behind the Iron Curtain, have a look at our Republic Of Fear tours.

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