Little Bits of History

But Not the Last

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 22, 2015
Ida Siekmann*

Ida Siekmann*

August 22, 1961: Ida Siekmann dies. She was born in Gorken, now part of Poland but then in West Prussia, in 1902. She moved to Berlin and worked there as a nurse. She lived at Bernauer Straße  48 in the center of Berlin, widowed at some prior time. Her sister also lived in Berlin, just a few blocks away on Lortzingstraße. She and her sister visited often, until August 1961. After World War II, Berlin was divided into four Allied sectors. While the street and sidewalk of Ida’s street was in the French sector, the frontage of the buildings on the southern side lay in the Soviet sector. They were part of East Berlin. Up until August 13, traffic between the two sectors was unregulated. But on that day, the Berlin Wall was built and Ida was no longer free to move.

On the day the Wall was erected, fifty households from the street fled to the West. Ida was not among them. With people fleeing, something needed to be done and on August 18, East German troops were ordered to brick up the entrances and windows on the ground floor on the southern side of the street. Members of the Combat Groups of the Working Class and police controlled everyone in the buildings. They monitored anyone entering the houses, even the residents who were often checked on as they walked the hallways of the tenements. Even so, many still fled. The West Berlin fire department was poised on the streets below and would hold “jumping sheets” to catch those willing to jump from higher windows.

On August 21, the entrances and widows of Bernauer Straße 48 were barred. Early in the morning on this date, Ida decided to leave. She lived on the fourth floor. She threw some blankets and some of her possessions out of the window of her apartment and then jumped. She did not give the firemen time to open the jumping sheet and she fell on the sidewalk, severely injured. She was taken to Lazarus Hospital, but died on the way. She was the first casualty of the Berlin Wall. She was buried on August 29 and in September, a memorial was erected at Bernauer Straße 48. Many have visited the site as homage to all the victims of the Wall. The houses on Bernauer Straße were torn down in 1963 and replaced by a concrete wall.

The Wall remained in place for decades, cutting off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and East Berlin. The barrier eventually included guard towers placed along the wall and there was a wide area, dubbed the “death strip” that contained many defenses. The purpose of the wall, according to the Soviets, was to protect their people from building their own socialist state in East Germany. In practice, it was to prevent emigration and defection. It’s official name was the Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart while it was called the Wall of Shame by West Berlin mayor Willy Brandt. The 96.3 mile barrier was finally opened in 1989 and its demolition began in 1990 and was completed in 1992.

A society that does not recognise that each individual has values of his own which he is entitled to follow can have no respect for the dignity of the individual and cannot really know freedom. – Friedrich Hayek

Freedom, remember, is not the same as liberty. – Katherine Anne Porter

Every tyrant who has lived has believed in freedom – for himself. – Elbert Hubbard

Tyranny is always better organised than freedom. – Charles Peguy

Also on this day: “Excuse My Dust” – In 1893, Dorothy Parker was born.
The Temperature at which Paper Burns – In 1920, Ray Bradbury was born.
America’s Cup – In 1851, the first America’s Cup race was run.
Monsters – In 565, St. Columba turned away the Loch Ness Monster.
First American in Space – In 1963, Joe Walker piloted an X-15 rocket into space.

* “Idasiekmannbz” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia –


One Response

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  1. Bob Brewer said, on October 23, 2015 at 11:18 am

    Thank you for helping me to remember this lady.

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