Windows of Remembrance

  • © Polizeihistorische Sammlung Berlin
Jörgen Schmidtchen |2:04 min

Jörgen Schmidtchen – shot on duty

On the night leading into April 18, 1962, Private Jörgen Schmidtchen had been assigned guard duty with soldier R. in Potsdam-Babelsberg. They were posted at “Gleisdreieck”, which was situated on the inoperative S-Bahn grounds at the border to “Kohlhasenbrück”, a West Berlin housing settlement. They had both been informed that a search was underway for two members of the East German army. The men had disappeared from an officers’ school and were known to be armed.

When the guard leader Schmidtchen and his junior guard R. heard a noise, they did not make any connection to this warning. They left the former railway gate-house and came upon two men in uniform. Evidently Schmidtchen had assumed that the two men were on duty patrol. Guard R. later reported that he had approached them unsuspectingly and spoken to them. Then, suddenly, shots were fired. Later it was determined that the bullets had come from the weapon of the 19-year-cadet Peter Böhme. Böhme had been planning to flee to West Berlin with his comrade, Wolfgang G. It is presumed that Jörgen Schmidtchen died immediately. The soldier R. returned fire and a shoot-out ensued during which Peter Böhme was also fatally wounded. Wolfgang G. however, remained uninjured and was able to make it safely to West Berlin. The next day he was quoted in the press as saying: “It was horrible. But we had no other choice. It was us or them.”

In his investigation report the commander of the 2nd border brigade to which Schmidtchen had belonged concluded that Schmidtchen had acted imprudently. But not a single critical word was spoken publicly about him by the military leadership. He was posthumously promoted to sergeant and his parents received a one-time payment of 500 Euros. East Germany even had streets and schools named after Jörgen Schmidtchen.