Thirty-three years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, we commemorate Ulrich Steinhauer.
We are well aware that this decision may be judged differently.
Although the appropriate way to commemorate Ulrich Steinhauer, who was doing standard military service in the East German border troops at the time of his death, as well as the other border guards killed in the line of duty is the subject of controversy, there is no doubt, however, that Ulrich Steinhauer was a victim of the Cold War.
Ulrich Steinhauer came from a large working-class family from Behrenshagen in the Ribnitz-Damgarten district. After attending elementary school in Behrenshagen and high school in Damgarten, he learned to become a carpenter. After completing his apprenticeship in 1973, Ulrich Steinhauer took up his trade in the intercompany facility (ZBE) for agriculture in Damgarten. In November 1979, he was called up for military service with Border Training Regiment 40 in Oranienburg for eighteen months. In May 1980, he was deployed in the 34th Border Regiment in Gross Glienicke in the north of Berlin. It is known from letters to his family and documents from the Ministry for State Security that Ulrich Steinhauer longed for the end of military service and explained to superiors in the border troops that he would only be willing to use a weapon in an extreme situation.
November 4, 1980 was a cold autumn day. Ulrich Steinhauer was assigned to serve duty as guard leader from 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Staaken-Schoenewalde border section, opposite the West Berlin district of Eiskeller in the Spandau district. On this day he was supposed to patrol the border with Egon B., who had just been assigned to the unit in Gross-Glienicke. Ulrich Steinhauer had no idea that his junior guard wanted to flee to the West and had therefore chosen this section of the border to carry out his plan.
Egon B. later testified that Ulrich Steinhauer was walking a few meters ahead of him when B., unnoticed by his guard leader, pulled a plug deactivating the acoustic border signaling system. Then he unlocked his gun and loaded it. Startled by the noise, Ulrich Steinhauer supposedly said to B., “Don’t fool around,” and removed his own machine gun from his shoulder. But instead of throwing his gun down, as Egon B. had ordered, Ulrich Steinhauer pointed it at him. Egon B. then fired five shots, which he later justified as warning shots. Ulrich Steinhauer collapsed with serious injuries, not from a shot from the front, but from a bullet that entered his back, piercing his heart.
He died before a doctor arrived.
In East Germany, Ulrich Steinhauer’s death was exploited for ideological purposes, despite his reserved attitude towards the border patrol and against the will of his relatives.
Wikipedia – https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulrich_Steinhauer
Stiftung Berliner Mauer – Victims at wall