Daily Madness with the Wall

The Lazaraus Hospital was the center of Günter Malchow’s life: That was where he lived and where he saw the Wall every day.

Born in Berlin in December 1934, he began working as an orderly in the Lazarus Hospital in Berlin-Wedding in 1955. The hospital was situated in the French sector, right at the sector border on Bernauer Strasse.

Günter Malchow married in 1958 and over the following years the couple had four boys.

The life of the family was influenced by the activity in the hospital, but also by the construction of the Wall and its consequences. The dramatic events at the border on Bernauer Strasse took place very close to the hospital. The Malchow’s apartment looked directly onto the border fortifications that had been erected across the street on the grounds of the Sophien parish cemetery.

Through his work in the hospital Günter Malchow experienced regularly how the Berlin Wall affected people. As head orderly, he was responsible for caring for the injured fugitives from the East who were brought to the hospital almost every day.

He was there when Rudolf Urban and his wife were brought in on August 19, 1961 after they used a clothes line to slide down from their first floor apartment on Bernauer Strasse 1. Rudolph Urban died three weeks later from his injuries.

When Ernst Mundt was shot trying to flee across the Sophien parish cemetery on September 4, 1962, Günter Malchow was one of the first people to arrive at the site of the accident. But no one could help the fugitive because he had fallen off the cemetery wall onto the border grounds.

For a time in 1963 the Malchow family took in a 12 year old boy who had managed to jump from the roof of a bricked up border building and fall into the rescue net of the West Berlin fire department. The boy was not turned over to the East German authorities until it was certain that he would be returned to his parents and not sent to a youth work camp.

Günter Malchow worked at the Berlin Wall Memorial as a volunteer for many years. He passed away in 2009.

Maria Nooke

Günter Malchow

Günter Malchow, photo: private


Daily life on Bernauer Strasse after the Wall was built

Excerpt from an oral history interview from April 7, 1999, Berlin Wall Memorial (in German)