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West Berliners Honor Memory of Peter Fechter

Aug. 17, 1963 - Thousands of West Berliners filed silently past a wooden cross on the western side of the Communist wall today. In small groups, they stopped and placed flowers. East Berliners watched from windows. This was West Berlin’s tribute to a victim of the cold war — Peter Fechter (pictured), the 18-year-old East Berlin bricklayer shot by East German border guards while trying to flee and left to die for more than an hour in a no man’s land between East and West. The killing happened one year ago today. The wooden cross stands only a few feet from where Fechter was shot in broad daylight. Wreaths and fresh flowers piled up around it during the day. The shooting of Fechter took place only a little more than 100 yards from the U.S. Army’s Checkpoint Charlie, the crossing point for the Allies. Standing on the wall just seconds before he could jump to freedom, machine gun bullets tore into his back. He fell backward and, for nearly an hour, lay bleeding at the wall, moaning in agony. Finally, the East German guards took him away. He died on the way to the hospital. Among the first to pay homage to him this morning were Maj. Gen. James H. Polk, U.S. commandant in Berlin, and Mayor Willy Brandt of West Berlin. The two men laid wreaths at the memorial. Brandt, in a television address, called Fechter’s death “one of the most brutal crimes” of the East German Communist regime.


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