19 February 1937|
|Died||24 August 1961
|Cause of death||Shot by a guard whilst attempting to leave East Berlin|
|Body discovered||Spandauer Schifffahrtskanal
|Resting place||Saint Hedwig Cemetery
|Monuments||Sandkrugbrücke, Invalidenstraße, Berlin|
|Residence||(East Berlin Residence) Heinersdorfer Straße 32, Weißensee, Berlin|
|Known for||First person to be shot whilst attempting to escape across the Berlin Wall|
|Political party||Christian Democratic Union|
Günter Litfin, whose twin brother Alois was murdered by a Nazi physician during the Second World War , was a tailor from the borough of Weißensee. Like his father Albert (a butcher), he was a member of the illegal local branch of the West German Christian Democrats. As a Grenzgänger (cross-border commuter, working on one side of the border and living on the other side), Litfin was working in West Berlin, near the Zoological Garden, and right before the border between East Berlin and West Berlin was closed, had found an apartment in West Berlin. Even on 12 August, one day before the first barbed wire fences were built, he had driven to Charlottenburg with his brother Jürgen, to furnish his new apartment. His intention to escape East Germany was abruptly halted the next morning, as road blocks had already been built. Therefore, around 4pm on 24 August, he undertook the escape attempt that would prove fatal to him.
Starting from Humboldthafen, a small harbour in the River Spree, his plan was to swim through a small canal branching off from the river westwards. However, upon crossing the railway bridge that constituted the border, he was discovered by officers of the transportation police, and was ordered to swim back. He lifted his hands from the water and was then fired upon and mortally wounded.
Litfin was buried at the St. Hedwig Cemetery, in Weißensee, on August 31, 1961. The presence of Stasi personnel ensured that the truth behind his death was not openly revealed. According to his brother Jürgen, "the funeral was a farce", since most at the mourning knew that his brother’s death was no accident.
In memory of Günter Litfin as well as all other victims of the Wall, a memorial was installed in 1992. Additionally, a street in his home district of Weißensee was named after him. One of the crosses at the White Crosses memorial site next to the Reichstag building is devoted to him.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent reunification of East and West Germany, the Berlin Regional Court found the border guard accused of shooting Litfin to be guilty of manslaughter, and sentenced him to 18 months prison, which was suspended.
In memory of Günter Litfin and the other Berlin Wall victims, a memorial was established in 1992 on the initiative of Jürgen Litfin (Günter Litfin's younger brother). It is located in the watchtower of the former "Kieler Eck" on the Berlin-Spandauer Schifffahrtskanal. In addition, on August 24, 2000, the Weißensee street formerly named Straße 209 was renamed Günter-Litfin-Straße.
East German border guards retrieving the body of Günter Litfin from the River Spree
The leftmost of the White Crosses is devoted to him
Günter-Litfin-Straße in Weißensee
Last East Berlin residence of Günter Litfin, Heinersdorfer Straße 32, Weißensee, front view
Last East Berlin residence of Günter Litfin, Heinersdorfer Straße 32, Weißensee, side view
Main gate at the St Hedwig's Cemetery, Smetanastraße 36-54, Weißensee, where Günter Litfin was buried in 1961
Memorial stone to Günter Litfin at the former guard tower, now the Günter Litfin Gedenkstätte, in Berlin
- Der Kommunismus ist ein Scheißhaufen ohne Ende! (Communism is a turd heap without end!), Focus Online, October 9, 2014 (in German)
- Short portrait of Günter Litfin at Chronik der Mauer
- Short portrait of Günter Litfin at Berlin Wall Memorial
- Zorniges Gedenken an den ersten Mauertoten (Angry remembrance of the first Berlin Wall victim), Rheinische Post, August 10, 2011, page A6.(in German)
- [[https://berlin.kauperts.de/Strassen/Guenter-Litfin-Strasse-13086-Berlin#Geschichte Kauperts, Straßenverzeichnis Berlin (Street directory Berlin), "Günter-Litfin-Straße"(in German)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Günter Litfin.|
- Jürgen Litfin: Tod durch fremde Hand. Das erste Maueropfer in Berlin und die Geschichte einer Familie. Verlag der Nation, Husum 2006, ISBN 978-3-373-00524-7.
- Mathias Mesenhöller: Die grausame Mauer. In: Geo, 08/2011, S. 73
- Christine Brecht: Günter Litfin, in: Die Todesopfer an der Berliner Mauer 1961–1989. Ein biographisches Handbuch. Links, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-86153-517-1, p. 37–39.