17 December 1917|
Frankfurt an der Oder
|Died||25 November 1965
Cause of death
|Shot by a guard whilst attempting to leave East Berlin|
|Border by Clara-Zetkin-Straße, known as Dorotheenstraße
|Monuments||White Crosses, Berlin|
|Known for||Being shot while escaping from East Berlin|
Heinz Sokolowski (17 Dec 1917 in Frankfurt an der Oder – 25 Nov 1965 in Berlin) was a casualty of the Cold War at the Berlin Wall. In addition to being a victim of the Wall, Sokolowski was also a political prisoner; East German border troops shot him at the wall between the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag during an escape attempt.
Sokolowski was born during the First World War in Frankfurt (Oder). Following primary school, he apprenticed as a tailor; he then attended a trade school, where he completed his education. He left trade school in order to become a journalist with the Frankfurt Oder Zeitung. He was drafted into the Wehrmacht, and fought in various places; he was also used as a war correspondent. He was captured in Russia and was won over to Communism in an Antifa working group.
When Sokolowski returned from captivity in 1946, he moved into the Soviet sector of Berlin, where he worked as a freelance journalist. In the following year, he married and moved with his wife and newborn daughter to Prenzlauer Berg. The marriage lasted until 1951. He worked for the Soviets until his arrest on 12 February 1953. A military tribunal found him guilty of espionage and sentenced him first to twenty years, then to ten, to be served in a labor camp in the Soviet Union. The Soviets handed him over to the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) in 1956; they held him prisoner until 13 February 1963. During this time, he fell ill with tuberculosis.
After Sokolowski's release from prison, he worked as an elevator operator in East Berlin. He applied to leave East Germany, but was not approved for emigration. He made contacts in West Berlin in 1964, bringing him to the attention of the Stasi. After his dismissal in May 1965, he began in earnest to plan his escape, which began at five o'clock in the morning on 25 November 1965.
That morning, he neared the border by Clara-Zetkin-Straße, which is known today as Dorotheenstraße. A border guard saw him and fired a warning shot, but Sokolowski failed to respond. Other guards opened fire on the refugee, who had by this time reached the last wall, topped with barbed wire. Sokolowski was shot in the abdomen and died of his injuries on the way to the hospital.
A three-meter-high cross was erected at the corner of Ebertstraße and Scheidemannstraße on 13 August 1966 in memory of Heinz Sokolowski. Inscribed upon this cross are his dates of birth and death and the legend "Nach 7 Jahren DDR-Haft erschossen auf der Flucht". Sokolowski is also remembered with a White Cross on the Reichstagufer.