Not many people know who was Chris Gueffroy but with all the Berlin Wall celebrations, we thought somebody should mention the last person to be shot and to die at the Berlin Wall. Chris Gueffroy was the last person to be shot and killed while trying to escape to West Berlin across the Berlin Wall between Treptow and Neukölln.
We found his memorial by accident a while ago when we were trying to find where the Landwehr Canal meets the Britz Canal. While we were looking for it, we found a memorial hidden between Treptow and Neukölln. In an area where you can only find factory and transport companies. There you can find Chris Gueffroy memorial. But, when he tried to cross the Berlin Wall, that area was completely different from what it is now, like most of Berlin.
But, who was Chris Gueffroy?
Chris Gueffroy was born in Pasewalk on June 21, 1968. He moved to Berlin when he was 5 years old with his mother and brother. While growing up, he attended the youth sports school SC Dynamo Berlin where he trained gymnastics. After school, he worked as a waiter at the hotel on the Berlin-Schönefeld Airport. There, he had discussions with his superiors about the political situation on the GDR and his desire to leave the country. In the end of 1988, he learned that he was drafted to serve at the National Peoples Army and he decided it was time to leave.
Chris Gueffroy got together with his friend Christian Gaudian and, on the night of february 5th 1989, they decided it was time to leave the GDR. They chose this day because they thought that the Schießbefehl, the standing order to shoot anyone who attempted to cross the wall, had been lifted. But it wasn’t. If they tried to go over the wall, they could be shot. And that was exactly what happened.
On the night of february 5th 1989, they went to the border between East and West Berlin. There, they manage to go through all the barriers until the last metal lattice fence where the two were discovered and came under fire from the NVA border troops. Chris Gueffroy was hit in the chest twice and died in the border strip.
Christian Gaudian was badly injured and ended up being arrested. In May 1989, he was condemned to three years of jail time for attempted illegal border-crossing of the first degree. In september 1989, he was released on bail and was transferred to West Berlin in october of the same year.
If he only knew that everything was about to change a few months later.
Today the area around where he died is a place where people go cycling on the Berlin Wall Trail. When we were there, it was a beautiful autumn sunday and it was filled with bikes and people walking. There were even boats on the canal. Something completely different from what it was when Chris Gueffroy tried to jump a wall to have more freedom.
A little over a month after Chris Gueffroy death, Winfried Freudenberg died in the crash of an improvised balloon aircraft by which he crossed the border into West Berlin on March 8, 1989. He was the last person to die crossing the Berlin Wall.
Chris Gueffroy was the last person to be killed by use of firearms at the Berlin Wall and his memorial can be visited next to the street that carries his name between Neukölln and Treptow. The memorial is easy to find and you can find easily following the smell of coffee from a nearby factory, you can see it on the pictures here.