Who was Peter Fechter?
Peter Fechter was a young bricklayer from East Berlin. He had tried to flee from the GDR (German Democratic Republic) to the free West together with his friend Helmut Kulbeik by climbing over the Berlin Wall near Checkpoint Charlie.
TIME Magazine report:
One conscience-stricken U.S. second lieutenant could stand it no longer, picked up the "hot line" telephone to Major General Albert Watson II. the U.S. commandant in West Berlin. Back came the order: "Lieutenant, you have your orders. Stand fast. Do nothing." Not knowing the reason for the Americans' inaction, an agonized crowd swirled around the command post crying: "For God's sake, go get him." When a German reporter asked why the American troops did not rescue Fechter one G.I. replied, "This is not our problem."World War III was thus safely avoided and Peter Fechter bled to death within the hour. Today, 45 years ago. He was 18 years old.
Was justice done after the fall of the Berlin Wall?
In March 1997, two former East German border guards, Rolf Friedrich and Erich Schreiber, faced manslaughter charges for Fechter's death. They were both convicted, and sentenced to one year's imprisonment on probation.
The successor party of the SED, governing party of the East German dictatorship, can currently boast 8.4% in the German Bundestag (the federal parliament) and 6.1% in the European Parliament. In the federal states within the realm of the former GDR, they clock up a vote between 16.8% and 28.0%.
The official count of the Berlin public prosecutor knows of 270 deaths at the German-German border and the Berlin Wall. In 2005, the Senat, the Berlin city council, refused to elevate Peter Fechter's grave to the status of an Ehrengrab because such a status is confined to the circle of those "who deserve credit for services for Berlin and performed beyond Berlin's borders".
My older blog entry A Collective Psychogram may be interesting in this context as well.