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More than 1,100 people died trying to escape the former East Germany, according to new research by a prominent victims group presented Tuesday ahead of the 44th anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall.
The "August 13 Working Group", named for the day the Communist state closed the border in 1961 to halt a mass exodus to the West, unveiled fresh findings about those shot by border guards or otherwise killed trying to flee. The organization's director, Alexandra Hildebrandt, said 70
previously unrecorded deaths had been uncovered in the past year, bringing the new total to 1,135. Nearly 16 years after the Berlin Wall tumbled, German historians say the true number of border victims may never be known. Berlin prosecutors put the official total at 270 while the official Central Investigating Group for Government and Unification Crime cites 421 cases in which armed East German border guards are believed to have killed people trying to breach the wall. The figure cited by the Working Group, which is based next to the former US-controlled Checkpoint Charlie border crossing at a Berlin Wall museum, includes deaths between the end of World War II in 1945 when the Soviets claimed control of East Germany and the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989. The organization includes on its list East German border guards who were shot by people attempting to escape, killed by fellow soldiers, or who had committed suicide in response to orders to shoot their compatriots.