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Number of deaths per year at the Berlin Wall 1961-1989

Between 1961 and 1989, at least 136 people died as a direct result of the border controls or preventative measures along the Berlin Wall in Germany. This includes people who were killed while attempting escape (in most cases they were shot dead), as well as those who suffered fatal accidents, or committed suicide after failed attempts at escape. Roughly two-thirds of all deaths took place in the first decade of the wall's existence, although new security measures were implemented as time progressed, to deter potential escapees from attempting to leave the country.

Turning points

The first large drop in the number of deaths took place in 1967, when the barbed wire fence was modernized and replaced with concrete structures and improved technologies. The second significant drop was in the mid 1970s, when further improvements were made to border security such as electronic alarms and intensified guarding, as well as the impact of the Helsinki Accords, which relieved tensions along the border and improved the application process for those seeking legal migration. The wall fell in November 1989, when a German politician falsely announced that all border restrictions would be lifted with immediate effect; this caused a large group to gather at the wall, and the commanding guards eventually gave into their demands and let them through. Over the next few days, Germans from all over the country would flock to Berlin to help dismantle the wall, uniting in a symbolic act to destroying the most prevalent symbol of German division in the Cold War.

Deaths by natural causes

Throughout the wall's existence, over 250 people (mostly elderly) died of natural causes while travelling legally between East and West Germany. From the existing records, it is not clear whether they died while on the other side of the border, while crossing, or while returning. As it is impossible to know whether these deaths were directly linked to stress caused by the travelling process, or were simply coincidental, they have not been included with the other figures shown in the graph.

Annual number of deaths at the Berlin Wall as a direct result of the East German border control between 1961 and 1989

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Release date

July 2011



Survey time period

1961 to 1989

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Statistics on "Treaty of Versailles June 28, 1919"

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