Postcard from... Berlin


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The Independent Online


In one corner of the now  multi-ethnic Neukölln district, the air is forever thick with  the pungent whiff of freshly roasted coffee beans.

The odour emanates from a Jacobs Kaffee processing factory. Twenty-five years ago East Berliners Chris Gueffroy and Christian Gaudian used that self-same coffee smell issuing from what was then West Berlin’s coffee plant to guide them to a point at  the Berlin Wall from where  they had planned to escape  to the West.

The date was 5 February, 1989. Gueffroy was only 20. He worked as a waiter at East Berlin’s Schönefeld airport where he acquired a yen to see the world. The generous hard currency tips he was given by western passengers meant he was earning as much as an  East German surgeon. He wanted to see San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge.

But when he threw his rope and grappling hook over the Wall that night, he failed to notice that he had set off  a trip-wire alarm.

Gueffroy and Gaudian were blinded by the searchlights of East Germany’s border guards. They ran across no man’s land towards the second section of wall, which was the last barrier before West Berlin.

Twenty-two shots rang out. Gaudian was wounded in the leg, but Gueffroy was hit in  the heart and died instantly.

He was the last person to be killed at the Berlin Wall. Nine months later it fell. These days the Jacobs Kaffee factory is on the route to Schönefeld airport, but it’s hard not to think of the Berlin Wall when you smell it.