The Death of Peter Fechter

Commissioned by the ICA (2007), this was a re-enactment of the death of Peter Fechter; an 18 year old citizen of the DDR, shot and fatally wounded attempting to escape over the Berlin Wall on August 17th, 1962.

After being fired upon and hit in the back and abdomen, Peter fell back in to the no-man’s land on the DDR side of the wall and lay calling for help for 50 minutes whilst he slowly bled to death. Neither the DDR nor GI guards stepped in to help him, despite pleas from a large group of West Berliner’s who gathered having heard the shots.

This project was a straight re-enactment of the final hour of Peter’s life, staged at a secret location in London. Two coaches full of audience were bussed in from the ICA with no knowledge of where they were going. Integral to the performance was the use of live-firing AK-47 machine guns by the DDR guards (firing blank ammunition), providing a very real and physical experience for the audience. Planted among the audience were performers who took the role of the West Berliner’s once the performance was under way, blurring the line between audience, performer and performance.

Photographer, Lydia Polzer, having heard about the project asked if she could photograph the recreation of the Berlin Wall. She also took the photographic documentation of the performance. The video documentation (3 min clip below) was directed by Steven Shiel.

In a nod to the thousands of pieces of the original Berlin Wall that have been sold to tourists since 1989, rock from this recreated wall was kept and turned in to a fridge magnet edition, commemorating the performance.