Window of Remembrance

  • © Axel Springer AG
Ida Siekmann |2:07 min

Ida Siekmann – the first victim of the Berlin Wall

Ida Siekmann lived at Bernauer Straße 48 in Berlin-Mitte. Like all the buildings on the south side of the street, her apartment building was located in the East Berlin district of Mitte. The sidewalk in front of the building’s entrance, however, was already a part of the West Berlin district of Wedding.

When the East German leadership had the sector border completely sealed off on August 13, 1961, the 58-year-old woman found herself suddenly cut-off from the other side of the city. Many of the residents of the buildings located on the border made a spontaneous decision to flee. At first it was possible to leave through the front doors. But by August 18, these doors had been nailed shut or walled up. They were replaced by new doorways that led through back courtyards. In desperation, several residents jumped out of their windows or slid down ropes to escape to the West. West Berlin firemen on the sidewalk below held out rescue nets, trying to catch people and prevent them from being injured.

Ida Siekmann watched as the door to her building was barricaded shut on August 21, 1961. Early the next morning she threw her belongings out the window of her third-floor apartment. She jumped before the West Berlin firemen had a chance to catch her in their rescue net. Ida Siekmann was perhaps scared of being caught. She was badly injured when she hit the ground and died on the way to the nearby Lazarus Hospital – just one day before her 59th birthday.

The incident evoked a wave of outrage on the west side of the city. This was the first time someone had died at the Berlin Wall. Neighborhood residents and passersby were shocked. The press reported about it in detail. Following an official memorial service, a wreath was placed in front of the building at Bernauer Straße 48. It bore the inscription: “To the victim denied freedom.” A few days later a monument was erected at the site for Ida Siekmann.