Walter Ulbricht (30 June 1893 – 1 August 1973) was a German communist politician. He played a leading role in the creation of the Weimar-era Communist Party of Germany (KPD) and later (spending the years of Nazi rule in exile in the Soviet Union) in the early development and establishment of East Germany (the German Democratic Republic). He was first secretary of the Socialist Unity Party and as such the actual leader of East Germany, from 1950 to 1971. From President Wilhelm Pieck’s death in 1960, he was also the East German head of state until his own death in 1973.
Chris Gueffroy. Chris Gueffroy moved with his mother to Berlin when he was five years old. When he was in the third grade, he was sent to the youth sports school SC Dynamo Berlin, based on his gymnastic talent. After he finished school he refused to pursue an officer’s career track in the National People’s Army and was consequently denied the right to study at the university, ending his dream of becoming an actor or a pilot. In September 1985 he began an apprenticeship in the Schönefeld airport restaurant near Berlin after which he worked in a number of different restaurants. As a waiter, his income was better than average, and he had a strong degree of freedom, but he was disgusted by the widespread corruption in the restaurant business.
His friend Christian Gaudian, whom he had met at gastronomy school, shared his feelings. At twenty, he found it increasingly unbearable to think that he would remain locked up with the knowledge that it would always be this way and that he would never have the freedom to decide for himself where he wanted to live. In mid-January 1989, upon learning that he was to be conscripted into the National Peoples Army the following May, he and Gaudian decided to leave East Germany.
Gueffroy and Gaudian based their decision to try to flee over the wall on mistaken beliefs that the Schiessbefehl, the standing order to shoot anyone who attempted to cross the wall, had been lifted (which it had not), and that the Swedish prime minister was to pay a state visit to East Berlin (he had already left when they attempted their escape). Their attempted escape from East Berlin to West Berlin, along the Britz district canal would take place on the night of February 5–6, 1989.
Climbing the last metal lattice fence, the two were discovered and came under fire from the border troops. Gueffroy was hit in the chest by two shots and died in the border strip. Gaudian, badly but not fatally injured, was arrested and was sentenced on May 24, 1989, to an imprisonment of three years by the Pankow district court for attempted illegal border-crossing of the first degree (“versuchten ungesetzlichen Grenzübertritts im schweren Fall”). In September 1989, Gaudian was freed on bail by the East German government and on October 17, 1989, he was transferred to West Berlin.
Chris Gueffroy is often erroneously named as the last person to die in the attempt to cross the wall, but he was in fact only the last to be killed through the use of weapons, and the second-last to die in an escape attempt. Winifried Freudenberg died in the crash of an improvised balloon aircraft by which he crossed the border into West Berlin on March 8, 1989.