Hildegard Trabant - - -
a forgotten Berlin Wall victim

Hildegard Trabant
her Ausweis photo -

the only known photo of her(© Chronik der Mauer)

Hildegard Trabant
the same photograph, colorized

The lady in this photograph is Hildegard Trabant (née Pohl). She was born on June 12, 1927, in Berlin, and raised there. Her life was seemingly a good one; she joined the Socialist Unity Party of the new German Democratic Republic in 1949, when both were founded. In 1954, she married an East German People's Police officer employed in the passport and registration division. They lived in Berlin O 34 (later 1020 Berlin) on Tilsiter Straße 64 -- which is today, Richard-Sorge-Straße 64, near Strausberger Platz; this area featured the very newest apartment complexes at the time, which would be an extreme luxury in post-war Berlin. Possibly facilitating their residence there, she was employed in a managerial capacity at a communal apartment management organization. Life was seemingly very good for Frau Trabant, and she seemingly had little reason to attempt to flee the new communist republic. Instead, at 37, she attempted to join the thousands that did just that, and joined at least 139 other victims of the Berlin Wall that was mortally wounded while attempting to escape.
Tilsiter Strasse and surrounding area, 1961
The conclusions and theories that I am presenting here are based on what little information that has been published about her at Chronik der Mauer and Wikipedia. 

Of the at least 139 Berlin Wall victims, Frau Trabant's saga moves me the most, because she was also in a domestic violence situation (something that I have experienced in my life). Which fully explains why she attempted to flee a seemingly excellent life on that Tuesday evening, August 18, 1964. She was shot at 6:50 PM, in almost broad daylight (sunset was 7:25 PM that day), with a 3/4 (81%) waxing gibbous moon almost overhead. The day had been warmer than those previous, 26 Celsius, but with the first rain, however slight, in several days (3 mm), and a falling barometric pressure (29.32) with 76% relative humidity, it was not exactly a beautiful and sunny day in Berlin. She was taken to the Krankenhaus der Volkspolizei (now the Bundeswehr Krankenhaus), 3 kilometers away, near the Invaliden Friedhof, where she died an hour later. The Stasi quietly handled her cremation, and subsequent burial on September 23, 1964, at the Frieden-Himmelfahrt Cemetery (now the Evangelischer Friedhof Nordend), north of Pankow, in Niederschönhausen. Her widower was not allowed to talk about the exact circumstances of her death.

"Murder" is the only way to describe Frau Trabant's death. She was deliberately shot in the back. Efforts were made to censor the name of the murderer, but if you compare the article and the attached map (Skizze) of the scene (the link to which is only available at the German version of Frau Trabant's Chronik der Mauer page), they missed one little detail.  It is probable that her murderer's name was Kurt Renner. 20 years old at the time, he would (as of this 2014 writing) be 70 today if he is still with us. I can't help but wonder; what kind of a man shoots an unarmed woman in the back from a distance as she is trying to run away? Did he think he was dove hunting? How I'd love to spit some Levi Garrett in that man's eyes! The Stasi goal was to keep this murder a secret; they did a good job. The murder of Frau Trabant went completely unnoticed until the applicable Stasi files from 1964 were given to the German Federal Judiciary in 1990. Ultimately, the murderer was convicted of manslaughter, and given a 21-month suspended sentence (such justice!).

Hamburger Abendblatt article, 17 Sept 1998. "For attempted
manslaughter, the Berlin district court sentenced a GDR border
guard to a suspended sentence of one year and three months. The
54-year-old confessed to having fired on an East German refugee
on 18 August 1964, who succumbed to her injuries."

I have been in contact with the cemetery "Friedhof Nordend". They have confirmed that Frau Trabant was buried in a "linear grave", meaning, a grave which expired after the lawful regulated 20 years of resting allowed under GDR law without becoming a family grave, meaning the family continues to maintain, or another family member is buried more recently there. This period of resting "expired" in 1984, and this particular section of the cemetery was rearranged. Her urn is still there, like all urns buried there, but it's now under another grave number, and under another name on the tombstone. Previously, her grave number was UH Him - 234a. The "new" grave number is UH Him - B102. This has been described to me as "Urnenhain Himmelfahrt", a beautiful urn grove, which Frau Trabant certainly deserved. During the GDR era, unlike with Ida Siekmann, it was not possible to remember Frau Trabant as a Maueropfer, because in the GDR, there were no victims of the Berlin Wall. This adds to why she is seemingly so conveniently forgotten in history; the Soviet-puppet GDR regime and its security forces wanted to literally bury her and all evidence of her, then wash their hands of her. This contrasts with Frau Siekmann's situation, which occurred on the FRG side of the Berlin Wall; her grave was always maintained, even after the "resting period" (which was 25 years), because her grave was considered to be of historical value. 

Frau Trabant's grave, photographed April 2014

Frau Trabant would be 88 this year if she were still alive. More moving, 2014 was the 50th anniversary of her seemingly forgotten murder.

Probable view, looking west, early in the escape attempt.
This is approximately where she would be shot while attempting 
to flee back eastward.  (© "Aus ander Sicht/The Other View")
Looking west when first discovered, prior to 
turning around and fleeing back east, to avoid
arrest.  (© "Aus ander Sicht/The Other View")
"Letzter Blick", looking south, while fleeing back east (left of the picture),
to avoid arrest. She was discovered on the unused S-Bahn tracks inside
of the "Black Triangle" in front of the flat surfaced building on the left.
An Aldi stands today, to the left (northeast) of this building. 
(© "Aus ander Sicht/The Other View")
Behmbrücke (previously Helmut-Just-Brücke) in the
mid 1980's, looking north from underneath where the 
Schwedter Steg now is. The bridge was dismantled between
the eastern (right) ramp, east of the bridge itself, which was
barracaded. Frau Trabant was carried to that eastern ramp,
ramp, east of the bridge itself, and subsequently loaded into
a Sankra, for her trip to the hospital (© lumabytes.de)

Behmbrücke (previously Helmut-Just-Brücke) in 1990,
looking west and over the barracade from the spot where 
Frau Trabant was carried to, and subsequently loaded into 
a Sankra, for her trip to the hospital (© lumabytes.de)

I would be curious to know several things: 

1) Does anyone know of a picture of Frau Trabant's grave when it was still marked as her grave? Or, was her grave ever marked? Because the Stasi buried her quickly and quietly, and because the Stasi prohibited her widower from speaking of the circumstances of her death, it is possible that her grave was never marked. 

2) Does Frau Trabant still have relatives that are known?

3) At the time of her death, one of the items in her immediate possession was a postcard from "Günter P", dated September 12, 1963 (almost one year prior). Who was Günter P? A relative, acquaintance, colleague, or "another man"?

4) Frau Trabant lived on on Tilsiter Straße 64 (today, Richard-Sorge-Straße 64). This was confirmed by the cemetery registry at the Friedhof Nordend in April 2014. Does anyone know what the name was of her husband, the Volkspolizist?

Frau Trabant's last residence, at 
Tilsiter Strasse 64 (today, Richard-Sorge-Strasse)

5) In Christopher Hilton’s book, “The Wall – the People’s Story” (Sutton Publishing Ltd, 2001, ISBN 978 0 7524 6698 9), page 216, Mr. Hilton states the following:

18 August 1964. Hildegard Trabant, 37, and Wernhard Mispelhorn, a 20-year old Berliner, make a joint attempt (to cross the Berlin Wall) at 6:53 in the evening. There are no further details.


What could possibly be the basis for this claim? Frau Trabant's and Herr Mispelhorn's Chronik der Mauer pages mention nothing of this. Further, contrasting these two people suggests that there was little possibility of them even knowing each other, let alone make an escape attempt together from East Berlin to West Berlin. A few comparisons:

18 (half Hildegard’s age)
loyal to the SED, housing commune manager
not loyal to the SED, partial to western music/dress
mature adult woman, full-time career, no children or obvious connection to children
teenager, from a family of mischievous children
Berlin-Buchholz (14 km apart)
Escape Route
Gleimviertel (map)
Feld Steg, Schönholz Garden Settlement (5 km apart) (map)
18 Aug 1964, 6:53 PM
18 Aug 1964, 12:15 AM (over 18 hours earlier)

6) Additional reading, "The GDR Border Troops' Report (about the escape attempt and the shooting). 


7) More additional reading, "Is this Hildegard Trabant in the movie?" 

8) More additional reading:  Tilsiter Straße Berlin 1959-1965; Hildegard Trabant's neighborhood.

9) More additional reading: The Search for Hildegard Trabant's Father, http://hildisvater.blogspot.com .
 10) Phone book anomaly. 

The 1960 and 1963 East Berlin telephone books do lot list a "Trabant" on Tilsiter Straße; only a "Heinz Trabant", 2 kilometers away, on Kniprodestraße (also in Friedrichshain, in adjacent NO18), and "Ludwig Trabant" 9 kilometers away, on Fontanestraße, in Oberschöneweide.

Frau Trabant was murdered in August 1964. Presumably before the 1965 telephone book was published. This is where it gets interesting.

Under "Trabant", just like in 1960 and  1963, Heinz and Ludwig are still there, same addresses. But unlike in 1960 and 1963, there is now, in 1965, a listing for "Hildegard Trabandt"! Slightly different spelling (with a 'd'). This listing is quite a distance away from Tilsiter Straße; 14 kilometers, on Pilgramer Straße, in Mahlsdorf, the very outskirts or suburbs of East Berlin. And this Hildegard would be in the phone book through 1975; with the 1979 printing, she seems to have disappeared.

Was this 1965 listing, shortly after the murder at the Gleimviertel in August 1964, a truly legitimate listing for a real person by the name of Hildegard Trabandt, not to be confused the the Maueropfer Hildegard Trabant, or, was this part of a Stasi lie?

Was there, and what was, the relationship, with Heinz and Ludwig?

1960 East Berlin Phone Book

1963 East Berlin Phone Book

1965 East Berlin Phone Book

1967 East Berlin Phone Book

1969 East Berlin Phone Book

1975 East Berlin Phone Book

1979 East Berlin Phone Book

Hildegard Trabant at "Find A Grave"