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18-Year-Old Bricklayer Shot, Left to Die by East German Border Guards

Aug. 17, 1962 - East German border guards today shot Peter Fechter (pictured), an 18-year-old bricklayer, as he was fleeing to West Berlin and then allowed him to lie dying for an hour at the foot of the Communists’ wall dividing the city. A fellow refugee, Helmut Kulbeik, hurled himself over the barrier to safety. A crowd of West Berliners gathered at the wall shouting “Murderers!” at the East German guards. The guards then hurled tear-gas grenades at the crowd. The West Berlin police said the two fleeing men ran for the wall at 2:10 p.m. at a point 2 blocks east of the Friedrichstrasse crossing point. Mr. Kulbeik was seen leaping over the wall while machine-gun fire broke out from two points. He was cut by the barbed wire at the top of the six-foot barrier but was otherwise unhurt. The West Berlin police saw Mr. Fechter clinging to the wall. A shot struck him in the back, and he fell. Several times he cried out and then lay still. The East German guards watched from two concrete blockhouses with their guns directed toward the dying man. It was 3:40 p.m. before a group of guards hurried through the barbed wire and took the limp figure back into East Berlin. The East German Interior Ministry announced later that Mr. Fechter had died in a hospital.

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