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PETER HAUPTMANN

Peter Hauptmann
Saturday, April 24, 1965: It was a warm evening in Potsdam-Babelsberg when Peter Hauptmann, who was born on March 20, 1939 in Gittersee near Dresden, met two seamen from the East German navy in the restaurant “Waldschlösschen.” Both men were captains and worked on a salvage tug as machine operators. Their brigade was competing for the title “socialist work collective.” The award required that they engage in cultural activities and this is why they were taking a weekend sightseeing trip to Berlin, the “capital of East Germany.” Since hotels in East Berlin were completely booked, the sailors had moved into a pension in Babelsberg.[1] After enjoying a number of different alcoholic beverages, the men began talking and when the restaurant closed they took a bottle of spirits with them and headed towards the local man’s home.

Peter Hauptmann lived with his wife and their four children on Stahnsdorfer Strasse, which was located within the border area. He had often had problems with the border soldiers because he resented having to show his ID every time he came and went. Sometimes the guards recognized him as a local resident and would greet him and wave him through, but when a young recruit was on duty, he was often required to show his ID before he could enter his own house or leave to go to work. Peter Hauptmann had been a police officer himself for many years and was later employed by the East German police force and by the customs office. That may explain why he did not like having his ID checked at his own doorstep. He was a policeman and did not like being treated as a potential “border violator.” Moreover, he did not always take the inexperienced border guards seriously. Serious conflicts occurred on occasion when he repeatedly refused to show his ID. Once he even threatened to hit a guard and was arrested and dismissed from duty. After that he changed jobs frequently before finding a position as a driller for a company in Teltow.[2]

On that fatal evening in April 1965, the fight with the border guards came to a head. When Peter Hauptmann was heading home with his guests, he encountered border guards who knew him. After a brief exchange they let them pass.[3] They had probably agreed that the guests should leave his house before the replacements arrived on duty, but they ended up leaving later. When he bid farewell to the men at 3 a.m.,Fur new guards had already begun their shift. The sailors’ IDs were checked and they were detained temporarily because they were not in possession of an “entry pass” into the border area. Peter Hauptmann watched this take place from his doorstep and became angry. He approached the border guards with the words: “Let these people go, I was the one who let them in. I am the one responsible.” All this achieved was that they now demanded to see his identity papers as well.[4] Although he possessed valid documents for the border area, he was temporarily detained for “smuggling unauthorized people into the border area.”[5]

This went too far for Peter Hauptmann, a former policeman. Deciding to put an end to this commotion, he turned around and headed towards his house. “Stop! Don’t move, or I will make use of my weapon!” the guard called after him.[6] This apparently caused Peter Hauptmann to boil over. He turned around, walked toward the guard and grabbed the barrel of his machine pistol. The guard warned him again. The ex-policeman used his other hand and a skirmish followed as they wrangled for the gun. Then the guard put an end to it: He later claimed to have first fired a warning shot and then aimed at the man standing just a few steps away. Two short shots. Then he let go. Peter Hauptmann swayed backwards and collapsed, fatally wounded. The guard fired the signal “Help. Urgent” and ordered the second man, who until then had been in charge of guarding the sailors, to administer first aid. Peter Hauptmann’s wife, startled by the shots, hurried outside and brought towels to help bandage her husband’s wound.

The ambulance was taking too long to arrive so the border guards laid the injured man on a stretcher and drove him with a military truck to the Drewitz Army Hospital. He was operated on that very night because he was in too critical a condition to be transported to a civilian hospital. When his condition had stabilized by April 28 he was transferred to the Berlin-Buch clinic. His right kidney had to be removed in another operation. But just days later his left kidney also stopped functioning and Peter Hauptmann died from his injuries early in the morning of May 3.[7] The Buch doctors told the victim’s wife that he had died because he had lost too much blood as a consequence of the delayed rescue measures.[8]

Two days later the widow pressed charges against the East German border troops for negligent homicide. Her father-in-law, a captain in the East German police, supported her efforts in this and also submitted a complaint to the Ministry of Interior.[9] But all their attempts to bring those responsible to justice were in vain.

In the summer of 1993 the Central Investigating Agency for Governmental and Party Crimes opened an investigation but it was dismissed in December 1996 because from the viewpoint of the Berlin public prosecutor’s office, the man who pulled the trigger had “acted in self-defense, justifying his actions.”[10] The widow, who never heard a single warning shot but did hear a series of repeated shots fired together, was never questioned for the investigation.[11] Nor were the neighbors who had been roused from their sleep by the arguments, shots and cries of pain and who had secretly witnessed the events from their balcony. They could have given testimony as to how long it had taken before the critically wounded man was “seized by his arms and legs,” thrown onto a truck and transported away.[12]

Peter Hauptmann’s father asserted in 1965 that there had been no urgent need for the guard to use his weapon. The border soldiers knew his son and had checked and confiscated his ID so that his “personal data had been established and Peter Hauptmann could not have avoided being held accountable.”[13] His wife was of the opinion that her husband had been shot from behind. She had found him lying face down. The doctor’s in the army infirmary confirmed her theory that he had been shot in the back.[14] According to the medical information, which the Stasi naturally kept secret, Peter Hauptmann was shot by six bullets: three in his upper arm, two that had grazed his lower arm and a deadly shot to his back.[15]

[Martin Ahrends/Udo Baron/Hans-Hermann Hertle]

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[1] See “Vernehmung eines Zeugen (des Kapitäns) durch das VPKA Potsdam, 24.4.1965,” in: BStU, Ast. Potsdam, AU 1474/65, Bd. 1, Bl. 44–47, here Bl. 45.
[2] See “Abschlussbericht der NVA/4. Grenzbrigade/Der Kommandeur über einen Verstoss gegen die Grenzordnung mit tätlichem Angriff auf den Grenzposten und Anwendung der Schusswaffe durch den Grenzposten, 24.4.1965,” in: BStU, Ast. Potsdam, AU 1474/65, Bd. 1, Bl. 22–29.
[3] See “Vernehmung eines Zeugen (des Kapitäns) durch das VPKA Potsdam, 24.4.1965,” in: BStU, Ast. Potsdam, AU 1474/65, Bd. 1, Bl. 46.
[4] See “NVA/2. GK/GR 48, Bericht des Postenführers [und Todesschützen, d. Verf.], 24.4.1965,” in: BStU, Ast. Potsdam, AU 10781/65, Bl. 50/51, here Bl. 50.
[5] Ibid., Bl. 50. The statement that Peter Hauptmann was in possession of valid border papers came from the guard leader who had checked his papers (see ibid.). In reports of the border troops, it was wrongly claimed that one reason for his arrest had been that he “did not possess a valid stamp for this quarter authorizing entry into the border grounds.” See “Abschlussbericht der NVA/4. Grenzbrigade/Der Kommandeur über einen Verstoss gegen die Grenzordnung mit tätlichem Angriff auf den Grenzposten und Anwendung der Schusswaffe durch den Grenzposten, 24.4.1965,” in: BStU, Ast. Potsdam, AU 1474/65, Bd. 1, Bl. 23/24.
[6] See “Abschlussbericht der NVA/4. Grenzbrigade/Der Kommandeur über einen Verstoss gegen die Grenzordnung mit tätlichem Angriff auf den Grenzposten und Anwendung der Schusswaffe durch den Grenzposten, 24.4.1965,” in: BStU, Ast. Potsdam, AU 1474/65, Bd. 1, Bl. 22–29, here Bl. 24.
[7] See “Schreiben der NVA/Lazarett Potsdam an den Militärstaatsanwalt beim Stab der 4. Grenzbrigade, 6.5.1965,” in: BStU, Ast. Potsdam, AU 1474/65, Bd. 1, Bl. 61/62, and “VfS Gross-Berlin/Abt. XX, Bericht, 7.5.1965,” in: BStU, Ast. Potsdam, AU 1474/65, Bd. 1, Bl. 63/64.
[8] See conversation conducted by Hans-Hermann Hertle and Lydia Dollmann with Peter Hauptmann’s wife at that time, 8.9.2008.
[9] See “Bericht der VfS Gross-Berlin/Abt. XX, 7.5.1965,” in: BStU, Ast. Potsdam, AU 1474/65, Bd. 1, Bl. 63/64.
[10] “Verfügung der Staatsanwaltschaft II bei dem Landgericht Berlin, 10.12.1996,” in: StA Berlin, Az. 27 Js 30/94, Bd.1, Bl. 245–248, here Bl. 247.
[11] See conversation conducted by Hans-Hermann Hertle and Lydia Dollmann with Peter Hauptmann’s wife at that time, 8.9.2008.
[12] See conversation conducted by Hans-Hermann Hertle with Peter Hauptmann’s neighbor at that time, 7.9.2008.
[13] “Bericht der VfS Gross-Berlin/Abt. XX, 7.5.1965,” in: BStU, Ast. Potsdam, AU 1474/65, Bd. 1, Bl. 63/64.
[14] See conversation conducted by Hans-Hermann Hertle and Lydia Dollmann with Peter Hauptmann’s wife at that time, 8.9.2008.
[15] See “Bericht der VfS Gross-Berlin/Abt. XX, 7.5.1965,” in: BStU, Ast. Potsdam, AU 1474/65, Bd. 1, Bl. 63. In contrast, a possibly manipulated “investigation report,” which was demanded by the Stasi following the charges of negligent homicide brought forth by the widow, written by a ‘major medical specialist‘ from the Drewitz Army Hospital stated: “The powder residue indicated that the bullets entered the front side of the body [...].” He noted explicitly, however, that his report was not to be used as an expert opinion in court. See “Schreiben der NVA/Lazarett Potsdam an den Militärstaatsanwalt beim Stab der 4. Grenzbrigade, 6.5.1965,” in: BStU, Ast. Potsdam, AU 1474/65, Bd. 1, Bl. 61/62, here Bl. 61.