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HORST EINSIEDEL

Horst Einsiedel
Horst Einsiedel, born on February 8, 1940 in Berlin-Pankow, acquired a high school degree after he completed his metalwork apprenticeship at the “worker and farmer faculty.” He studied mechanical engineering at the Technical University in Dresden and, after receiving his engineering degree, he moved with his wife and daughter to Berlin-Weissensee in 1967.[1] He worked for various East Berlin companies. His last place of work was at the state-owned productivity improvement firm in Heinersdorf.[2]

The special conditions under which East German engineers worked could be frustrating to someone with ambitions. Horst Einsiedel refused to become a member of the Communist Party and this meant he had no chance of being promoted. The “party membership” requirement often meant that his supervisors -- all members of the party -- were unable to hold a candle to his professional competence. He spoke about this with his wife and about the possibility of fleeing to West Berlin where his sister had moved in 1951 and his mother in 1969. But his wife felt it was too risky to flee with their daughter, who had been born in 1966. Later his wife understood his decision to flee alone as a way to avoid causing his family any unnecessary danger. She testified to the police as a witness in 1992 that he was probably planning to bring them over to the West at a later time.[3]

Horst Einsiedel said goodbye to his wife in the early morning of March 15, 1973, claiming that he was going to find an emergency dentist to treat his severe toothache. He drove with his Trabant to the Pankow Cemetery where he often went to visit his father’s grave. The last fence of the cemetery was only 30 meters away from the first house on West Berlin territory. The house towered above the Wall and the border grounds here were clearly visible through the interior security fence. Horst Einsiedel had planned his escape well in advance and knew exactly what he was doing in the dark of this early March morning.[4] Using a hacksaw and a bolt cutter, he divided a chain that secured two ladders to a tool shed. He used the first ladder to climb over the interior fence and the folding ladder to get over the signal fence, but in doing so he triggered an alarm. When he leaned the folding ladder against the concrete wall and climbed to the top he was only meters and seconds away from reaching his goal. But the two guards in the watchtower 200 meters away had already noticed him and opened fire at the fugitive. Horst Einsiedel was hit in the neck and chest and fell from the ladder. He died moments later from his bullet wounds.

That very day, as the West German federal government and the West Berlin Senate were protesting the shots fired at the Berlin sector border,[5] the border guards involved in the incident were being awarded the “Medal for Exemplary Service at the Border” and granted financial bonuses.[6] In early 1999 the Berlin district court found them guilty of manslaughter in the case of Horst Einsiedel and sentenced them to a year and three months probation.[7] Their commander was also tried as an accessory because, at the beginning of their shift, he had instructed them to prevent “border violations” under all circumstances, if necessary using their firearms, and to “arrest or exterminate the border violators.” But the Berlin district court dismissed the case in 2002 due to the defendant’s permanent inability to stand trial.[8]

Horst Einsiedel’s wife started getting nervous when her husband had not returned home by 8 a.m. She called the emergency dental service and learned that he had never been there. The next day she noticed that a number of her husband’s personal documents were missing. At that moment she suddenly realized what had happened.[9]

Meanwhile the East German secret police had gathered “ideas for a legend concerning the death of the border agitator of 15.3.1973” that would prevent the “western publication organs from inciting further hate campaigns.”[10] The Stasi staff practiced their creative writing skills in a number of “top secret” variations that were then presented to the Stasi chief, Minister Mielke. They invented stories to explain the mysterious disappearance of the engineer Horst Einsiedel.[11] A number of individuals knew what had really happened – 42 people in all – including the border guards, doctors, secretaries, forensic medical experts and policemen. They were listed and categorized according to their degree of reliability. The Stasi ordered all of them to keep quiet about the incident, with success.[12]

Einsiedel’s wife, not yet aware that she was a widow, was repeatedly questioned by the Stasi at the Berlin Alexanderplatz police headquarters about the whereabouts of her husband. They even asked her to provide photos of her husband to facilitate the search for him. The Stasi cynically referred to this as a “masked measure” of the East German police.[13] Finally, they came to the conclusion that she did not indeed know of her husband’s plan to escape. At the end of March 1973 she was informed by the East German secret police that her husband’s car was found unlocked in a forest and that he probably had been the victim of a violent crime. From a fake “file of evidence,” they showed her a photo of the undamaged car surrounded by small pine trees. The car that was returned to her bore no signs of a violent crime.[14]

His wife’s apartment in East Berlin was tapped before Horst Einsiedel’s mother paid a visit from West Berlin.[15] The Stasi wanted to know how the two women were reacting to the measures the Stasi had taken to fabricate the truth.

At the end of May 1973, more than three months after Horst Einsiedel was killed, his wife was informed by the East German secret police that her husband had drowned and that his body was discovered near Potsdam in front of a fence obstacle in the Havel river.[16] The record of death stated the cause of death as “drowning.”[17] The Stasi also discouraged her from identifying the corpse, which it claimed was strongly decomposed. Naturally, the widow did not know that the body had already been cremated in Baumschulenweg Crematorium as an “operative safeguarding” measure.[18] All she was given was a false death certificate marking the death date as March 17.[19]

Preliminary proceedings were opened in 1996 against the staff of the East German secret police and a doctor who had engaged in concealing the circumstances of Horst Einsiedel’s death and had engaged in false certification, a crime in the eyes of the Berlin public prosecutor. But given West Germany’s lenient penal law that was applied in these cases, the perpetrators had only a commuted sentence to fear. The case was consequently dismissed in August 1997, as the offense fell under the statute of limitations.[20]

Under Stasi surveillance, the urn containing Horst Einsiedel’s ashes was buried in his father’s grave on July 5, 1973[21] -- at the very site where Horst Einsiedel had begun his escape.

[Martin Ahrends/Udo Baron]

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[1] See “Protokoll der Zeugenvernehmung der Witwe von Horst Einsiedel durch die Berliner Polizei, 1.7.1992,” in: StA Berlin, Az. 27 Js 170/91, Bd. 1, Bl. 32/33; see also “Bericht der VfS Gross-Berlin/Abt. IX, 15.3.1973,” in: BStU, MfS, AS 754/70, Bd. 17, Nr. 1, Bl. 33.
[2] See “Protokoll der Zeugenvernehmung der Witwe von Horst Einsiedel durch die Berliner Polizei, 1.7.1992,” in: StA Berlin, Az. 27 Js 170/91, Bd. 1, Bl. 32.
[3] Ibid., Bl. 33.
[4] On establishment of facts concerning circumstances of events, see: “Urteil des Landgerichts Berlin vom 5.2.1999,” in: StA Berlin, Az. 27 Js 170/91, Bd. 4, Bl. 58–61.
[5] See Der Tagesspiegel, 16.3.1973.
[6] See “Urteil des Landgerichts Berlin vom 5.2.1999,” in: StA Berlin, Az. 27 Js 170/91, Bd. 4, Bl. 62.
[7] See ibid., Bl. 48–49.
[8] See “Beschluss des Landgerichts Berlin vom 27.6.2002,” in: StA Berlin, Az. 27 Js 7/99, Bd. 4, Bl. 79a/79b.
[9] See “Protokoll der Zeugenvernehmung der Witwe von Horst Einsiedel durch die Berliner Polizei, 1.7.1992,” in: StA Berlin, Az. 27 Js 170/91, Bd. 1, Bl. 34–35.
[10] “Vorschlag der VfS Gross-Berlin/Abt. IX zur Legendierung des Todes des Grenzverletzers vom 15.3.1973, 16.3.1973,” in: BStU, MfS, AS 754/70, Bd. 17, Nr. 1, Bl. 42.
[11] See “Bericht des MfS/HA IX/9 über Massnahmen zur Legendierung des Todes des Grenzprovokateurs vom 15.3.1973, 20.3.1973,” in: BStU, MfS, AS 754/70, Bd. 17, Nr. 1, Bl. 56–58, as well as the proceding “suggestions” and “plan of action” for creating a legend,” in: Ibid., Bl. 41–43 and 47–49.
[12] See “Aufstellung der Mitwisser [durch die VfS Gross-Berlin/Abt. IX], 17.3.1973,” in: BStU, MfS, AS 754/70, Bd. 17, Nr. 1, Bl. 27–30.
[13] See “Massnahmeplan der VfS Gross-Berlin/Abt. IX zum Vorschlag über die Legendierung des Todes des Grenzverletzers vom 15.3.1973, 17.3.1973,” in: BStU, MfS, AS 754/70, Bd. 17, Nr. 1, Bl. 47.
[14] See “Protokoll der Zeugenvernehmung der Witwe von Horst Einsiedel durch die Berliner Polizei, 21.9.1992,” in: StA Berlin, Az. 27 Js 170/91, Bd. 1, Bl. 70–71.
[15] “Bericht des MfS/HA IX/9 über Massnahmen zur Legendierung des Todes des Grenzprovokateurs vom 15.3.1973, 20.3.1973,” in: BStU, MfS, AS 754/70, Bd. 17, Nr. 1, Bl. 57.
[16] See “Protokoll der Zeugenvernehmung der Witwe von Horst Einsiedel durch die Berliner Polizei, 1.7.1992,” in: StA Berlin, Az. 27 Js 170/91, Bd. 1, Bl. 36.
[17] “Totenschein für Einsiedel, Horst, 31.5.1973,” in: BStU, MfS, AS 754/70, Bd. 17, Nr. 1, Bl. 140.
[18] See “Bericht des MfS/HA IX/9 über Massnahmen zur Legendierung des Todes des Grenzprovokateurs vom 15.3.1973, 20.3.1973,” in: BStU, MfS, AS 754/70, Bd. 17, Nr. 1, Bl. 58; “Protokoll der Zeugenvernehmung der Witwe von Horst Einsiedel durch die Berliner Polizei, 1.7.1992,” in: StA Berlin, Az. 27 Js 170/91, Bd. 1, Bl. 36–37.
[19] See “Sterbeurkunde für Horst Einsiedel vom 1.6.1973,” in: BStU, MfS, AS 754/70, Bd. 17, Nr. 1, Bl. 143.
[20] See “Verfügung der Staatsanwaltschaft II bei dem Landgericht Berlin, 13.8.1997,” in: StA Berlin, Az. 29 Js 223/96, Bl. 209–210.
[21] See “Vermerk [der VfS Gross-Berlin/Abt. IX], 5.7.1973,” in: BStU, MfS, AS 754/70, Bd. 17, Nr. 1, Bl. 151.