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Ingolf Diederichs was born on April 13, 1964 in Wismar. After finishing school, he first trained to become a repair mechanic before studying trade school pedagogy at the Technical University of Dresden.[1]

Early in the evening of January 13, 1989, Ingolf Diederichs used a wooden folding ladder that he had made from the slats of a crib to climb from an S-Bahn train traveling from Pankow towards Schönhauser Allee. This was a unique S-Bahn line that allowed East German citizens to come very close to the West. As the train approached Bornholmer Strasse, passengers were a mere twenty meters from West Berlin, making the West seem very much “within reach.” To counter this feeling, the Berlin Wall there was 5.4 meters high -- higher than elsewhere. Trains sped through this part of their journey.

At about 6:30 p.m. Ingolf Diederichs jumped from a moving train at a point very close to the Bornholmer Strasse border crossing.[2] When he fell, he got caught on the train and was dragged with it. His head was seriously injured and caused his immediate death. An S-Bahn driver noticed the mangled body hanging between the long-distance tracks and the S-Bahn tracks as he passed over Böse Bridge. The East German secret police and border troops blocked off the route between Pankow and Schönhauser Allee in order to remove the body and secure evidence.[3]

It is not known what led the 24-year-old to risk such a dangerous undertaking. The East German secret police created what they called a “legend” to make the escape attempt appear to have been a mere accident. Ingolf Diederichs’ relatives were only told that he died after falling out of a moving train.[4]

To determine whether someone else was responsible for the fugitive’s death, the Berlin public prosecutor’s office opened a preliminary investigation in late August 1994. The case was closed again the following month for lack of evidence indicating any external influence.[5]

[Martin Ahrends/Udo Baron]

[1] See “Information der BVfS Berlin/Abt. IX, 14.1.1989,” in: BStU, MfS, Sekr. Neiber Nr. 576, Bl. 130–132.
[2] See “Lagebericht des Diensthabenden des MfS/HA I/Grenzkommando Mitte/Abt. Abwehr-Aufklärung, 13.1.1989,” in: BStU, MfS, HA I Nr. 6061, Bl. 20.
[3] See “Rapport Nr. 13/89 des MfS/Zentraler Operativstab vom 13./14.1.1989,” in: BStU, MfS, HA VII Nr. 5162, Bl. 69.
[4] “Information der BVfS Berlin/Abt. IX, 14.1.1989,” in: BStU, MfS, Sekr. Neiber Nr. 576, Bl. 131.
[5] See “Verfügung der Staatsanwaltschaft II bei dem Landgericht Berlin, 5.10.1994,” in: StA Berlin, Az. 27 AR 759/94, Bl. 11–12.