Watchtower Berlin Wall at Kieler Strasse
At Kieler Strasse, near the Invalidenfriedhof, you can find one of the most interesting watchtowers of the Berlin Wall. Not only because it is one of the few remaining watchtowers. But mostly, because it is a small museum for the first victim of the Berlin Wall: Gunter Litfin. His brother Jurgen runs the watchtower and museum.
First victim of the Berlin Wall
Gunter Litfin was the first victim that was shot when he tried to flee to West Berlin by swimming in the Humboldthafen, near Invalidenfriedhof. The border policemen had orders to fire at fleeing fellow countrymen, but had not done so yet. The Berlin Wall was just erected the summer of 1961. Gunter Litfin had visited West Berlin where relatives lived, the day before the border closed. He had already prepared to live in West Berlin, but was just too late to move. He was so desperate to leave and work as a tailor in West Berlin, he decided to make a run for it on August 24, 1961.
He managed to cross the Charite grounds and dive into the Humboldthafen to swim to freedom. But he never made it. The policemen started shooting and Gunter Litfin was hit. He was dragged out of the water three hours later. His brother Jurgen only found out two days later Gunter was killed.
His brother Jurgen runs a small museum in the watchtower on the nearby Kieler Strasse to keep the memory of his brother alive.
It is small, so if you want to visit and are with more people, make an arrangement. The watchtower is only open from March till October.
Because in 1989 all Berliners were very happy to see this hated piece of concrete gone, it is not easy to find the Berlin Wall in the city. But we know the unknown spots, like Invalidenfriedhof where people fled the Berlin Wall by running over the military graveyard. We know where to find the watchtowers and where people dug tunnels under the Berlin Wall. But also where the most beautiful pieces are, like East Side Gallery and the Mauerpark.
Why was the Berlin Wall build? Answering this question is not so simple. Back in the days patriotic communist East Germans would say the Berlin Wall was a: “Anti-fascist wall, protecting East Germans against the fascists in West Germany.” In West Germany most people would say: “It’s a brutal wall that divides our country, put up by scary communists.”
The Brandenburger Tor at the end of Unter den Linden became the symbol of reunited Germany and Berlin after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Between 1961-1989 the Berlin Wall surrounded the Brandenburger Tor, as you can still see at graffiti on East Side Gallery in Friedrichshain. East Berlin was on one side – a couple of meters further was West Berlin.
The Berlin Wall at Invalidenfriedhof makes this cemetery a very tragic and spectacular place to be. The Berlin Wall ran straight through Invalidenfriedhof. Battles of life and death took place at this military cemetery. This makes the Invalidenfriedhof one of the most remarkable places in Berlin and place to be nr 1 in Mitte for Wall spotting.
The Berlin Wall at Bernauer Strasse had a huge impact on this area. Bernauer Strasse was right in the middle of the border. When the Berlin Wall was erected in 1961, the entrance of a few buildings was in the East. But if the inhabitants looked out of their windows, they saw West Berlin right beneath them.
The Berlin Wall was a hated piece of concrete in both West and East Berlin. It divided the city and created a large, ugly grey scar. In 1989 118 artists from 21 different countries painted this part of the Berlin Wall that was never touched by art before, because it lies so close to the river Spree. East Side Gallery is the largest part of remaining Berlin Wall.
The Mauerpark was a large piece of Noman’s land between Prenzlauer Berg and Wedding. The Berlin Wall ran straight through the park. Nowadays the park buzzes with life and creativity. At Sunday you can find vintage stuff at the fleemarket, or just chill and enjoy the weird performances at the Mauerpark.
Gropius Bau is a stunning museum with international art. But it is market by two wars. The facade has bullet holes from World War Two. And the museum was useless during the Cold War. The Berlin Wall ran straight through this area, making it noman’s land. Nowadays you can still spot the Berlin Wall near Gropius Bau.
The Berlin Wall was one of the most guarded pieces of concrete. Every piece of Berlin Wall had it’s own watchtower, where the guards or border policemen could sit to watch the environment for people who wanted to flee to West Berlin. After the Berlin Wall fell, nearly all the watchtowers were removed. But the one near Treptower Park still stands strong.
Potsdamer Platz used to be a buzzing square with lots of traffic before World War Two. But after the War it became a large stretch of noman’s land when the Berlin Wall was erected here. Now it’s Berlin’s pride and joy with modern architecture. And you can still find pieces of the Berlin Wall here.
When the Berlin Wall was erected in 1961, some people desperately wanted to leave East Berlin. They dug tunnels, created passport schemes, escaped through a stinking sewer, drifted over to the other side in a hot air balloon, hid in a car or simply drove through the Berlin Wall. Read about all the escapes at the Berlin Wall.
Sometimes the Berlin Wall is nothing more than a simple glittering brick on the ground to show where the Berlin Wall used to be. But before 1989 the Berlin Wall was a brutal reality, not everybody wanted to experience every day. Some wanted to leave, and dug tunnels or climbed the Berlin Wall. Some people weren’t so lucky. They died, escaping to the other side.