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On the evening of November 25, 1963, East German border soldiers found a critically injured young man on the grounds of the S-Bahn north of the Bornholmer Strasse station. It was Dietmar Schulz, age 24, who lived in the nearby East Berlin district of Pankow. He had been hit by a moving train while crossing the tracks in an attempt to reach the West Berlin district of Wedding on the other side. Unconscious and covered in blood, he was transported to the People’s Police Hospital where he died from his injuries a short time later.[1]

Evidently, Dietmar Schulz, who was born on October 21, 1939, had been harboring thoughts of escaping for a long time. He confided in a young West German that he met in an East Berlin bar in April 1963 that he was opposed to the Communist Party regime and planned to take off to the West someday. His fiancée was also aware that he wanted to escape from East Germany. She believed he feared being conscripted into the National People’s Army.[2] When Dietmar Schulz left the apartment they shared on November 25, 1963 at around 7 p.m., nothing indicated that he was planning to go through with his plan that evening.

His apartment on Gaillardstrasse in Pankow was only a few minutes away from the sector border that ran along the S-Bahn tracks between the Bornholmer Strasse and Wollankstrasse stations. The Bornholmer Strasse station had been closed down when the Wall was built and West Berlin S-Bahn trains were only permitted to pass through the “ghost station” without stopping. The East Berlin north-south line ran directly parallel to the west line on a new two-track route that was situated within the border area, a 100-meter-wide prohibited zone. This special zone had been created on order of the East German Defense Ministry in June 1963 with the official explanation that the measure would serve “to protect the state border between East Germany and West Berlin.” [3] In truth, however, it was designed to prevent escape attempts at an early stage by making it more difficult to reach the border barriers at the Wall.

Dietmar Schulz was not completely sober when he entered the railway grounds in the border area that November evening, but evidently nobody noticed him. Contradictory reports exist about how the young man was able to enter the prohibited zone and how the fatal accident occurred. One report from the East Berlin command stated that a male person jumped from a moving S-Bahn train south of Maximilianstrasse at 9:20 p.m. It concluded succinctly: “The person was delivered to the VP hospital with a fractured skull and remained there.”[4] But the transport police that was responsible for further investigations came to the conclusion that Dietmar Schulz had walked from his apartment to the railroad embankment where he was run over by an S-Bahn train under unknown circumstances. The Trapo report did not mention that it involved an escape attempt, and instead classified the incident as a “personal accident with fatal consequences.”[5]

The victim’s fiancée was mistrustful of the official information provided by the authorities and refused to believe that Dietmar Schulz had died in an accident. She was certain that he had been shot and killed. After the funeral, which took place on December 2, 1963 in East Berlin, she contacted the young West German whom her fiancé had met a half year earlier. He passed her information on to the West German authorities. In response the Central Registry Office in Salzgitter opened an investigation in April 1964 to determine whether an escape attempt by an East German, age 24, was thwarted by force of arms.[6] The Berlin public prosecutor’s office reopened the case after the East German archives were made accessible, but the theory that Dietmar Schulz had been shot by border soldiers could not be confirmed.[7]

[Christine Brecht]

[1] See “Verfügung der Staatsanwaltschaft bei dem Kammergericht Berlin (2 Js 132/91), 29.1.1992,” in: StA Berlin, Az. 2 Js 132/91, Bl. 163, and “Trapo-Rapport Nr. 330/63, 26.11.1963,” in: PHS, Bestand Trapo-Rapporte, n. pag.
[2] See “Niederschrift der Zeugenvernehmung eines Brieffreundes von Dietmar Schulz durch die Polizei in Karlsruhe, 9.4.1964,” in: Ibid., Bl. 28–31, and the conversation conducted by Christine Brecht with Ingo S., a penpal of Dietmar Schulz, 28.6.2007.
[3] See “’Verordnung über Massnahmen zum Schutz der Staatsgrenze zwischen der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik und Westberlin’ des DDR-Ministerrates, 21.6.1963,” and “’Anordnung über die Ordnung im Grenzgebiet an der Staatsgrenze der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik zu Westberlin’ von DDR-Verteidigungsminister Hoffmann, 21.6.1963,” in: Gesetzblatt der DDR, 1963, part. II, pp. 381–384.
[4] “Operative Tagesmeldung Nr. 329/63 der NVA/Stadtkommandantur Berlin/Operative Abteilung, 26.11.1963,” in: BArch, VA-07/6025, Bl. 339.
[5] “Trapo-Rapport Nr. 330/63, 26.11.1963,” in: PHS, Bestand Trapo-Rapporte, n. pag.
[6] See “Schreiben des Landeskriminalamts Baden-Württemberg an die Zentrale Erfassungsstelle der Landesjustizverwaltungen Salzgitter, 14.4.1964,” in: StA Berlin, Az. 2 Js 132/91, Bl. 27.
[7] See “Verfügung der Staatsanwaltschaft bei dem Kammergericht Berlin (2 Js 132/91), 29.1.1992,” in: Ibid., Bl. 163–164.