Chris Gueffroy

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Chris Gueffroy
Chris Gueffroy, at the Window of Remembrance, Berlin Wall Memorial, Bernauer Straße
Born (1968-06-21)21 June 1968
Died 6 February 1989(1989-02-06) (aged 20)
Border Strip
Cause of death
Shot by a guard whilst attempting to leave East Berlin
Body discovered
Britz district canal
52°27′32″N 13°28′08″E / 52.458914°N 13.469°E / 52.458914; 13.469 (Site of Chris Gueffroy Fatality)
Monuments Chris Gueffroy memorial
Known for Last to be killed by use of firearms at the Berlin Wall

Chris Gueffroy (June 21, 1968, Pasewalk, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern – February 6, 1989) was the last person to be shot while trying to escape to West Berlin across the Berlin Wall. He is often erroneously named as the last person to die in the attempt to cross the wall, but he was in fact only the last to be killed through the use of weapons, and the second-last to die in an escape attempt. Winfried Freudenberg died in the crash of an improvised balloon aircraft by which he crossed the border into West Berlin on March 8, 1989.

Commemorative tablet to Chris Gueffroy. In the background is the partly destroyed Wall, near Reichstag. Winter 1989/90.

Together with his friend Christian Gaudian, Gueffroy attempted on the night of February 5–6, 1989, to escape from East Berlin to West Berlin, along the Britz district canal. The two believed that the Schießbefehl, the standing order to shoot anyone who attempted to cross the wall, had been lifted. Climbing the last metal lattice fence, the two were discovered and came under fire from the NVA border troops. Gueffroy was hit in the chest by two shots and died in the border strip. Gaudian, badly but not fatally injured, was arrested and was sentenced on May 24, 1989, to an imprisonment of three years by the Pankow district court for attempted illegal border-crossing of the first degree ("versuchten ungesetzlichen Grenzübertritts im schweren Fall").

In September 1989, Gaudian was freed on bail by the East German government and on October 17, 1989, he was transferred to West Berlin.

Monument erected in 2003 at the Britz district canal in Berlin's Treptow-Köpenick borough

The four border guards involved at first obtained an award (Leistungsabzeichen der Grenztruppen) from the chief of the Grenzkommandos Mitte border guards, Erich Wöllner, and a prize of 150 East German Marks each. However, after the reunification of East and West Germany, they were prosecuted by Berlin regional court. Two of them were released in January 1992. One got a suspended sentence. The latter, Ingo Heinrich, who was responsible for the mortal shot in the heart, was at first sentenced to three and a half years of jail. On appeal, the Bundesgerichtshof (High Court of Justice) in 1994 reduced the penalty to a suspended sentence of two years.

In 2000, two SED functionaries, Siegfried Lorenz and Hans-Joachim Böhme, were tried for the death of Gueffroy and two other young men, but acquitted as the judge could find no evidence that they might have been able to lift the shoot-to-kill order. The case was retried on 7 August 2004, and the two men were found guilty and given suspended sentences of 15 months each. The judge explained that the short sentences were due to the length of time since the events. This was the last case concerning deaths on the inner German border.

On June 21, 2003, which would have been his 35th birthday, a monument to Gueffroy was erected on the bank of the Britz district canal. The monument was designed by Berlin artist Karl Biedermann. One of the crosses at the White Crosses memorial site next to the Reichstag building is devoted to him.

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