The Berlin Wall did prevent the majority of East Germans from emigrating to the West, but it did not prevent them all. During the history of the Berlin Wall, it is estimated that about 5,000 people made it safely across.
Some successful attempts were simple, like throwing a rope over the Wall and climbing up. Others were brash like ramming a truck or bus into the Wall and making a run for it. Still others were suicidal, like jumping from the not-yet-boarded-up, upper-story windows of apartment buildings that bordered the Wall.
As the Wall became stronger and larger, the escape attempts became more planned and more complex. Some people dug tunnels from the basements of buildings in East Berlin, under the Berlin Wall, and into West Berlin. Another group saved scraps of cloth and built a hot air balloon and flew over the Wall.
Unfortunately, not all escape attempts were successful. Since the East German guards were allowed to shoot anyone nearing the eastern side of the Berlin Wall without warning, there was always a chance of death in any and all escape plots. It is estimated that somewhere between 100 and 200 East Germans died while attempting to cross the Berlin Wall.
One of the most infamous cases of a failed attempt occurred on August 17, 1962. In the early afternoon, two 18-year-old young men ran toward the Wall with the intention on scaling it. The first of the young men to reach the Wall successfully scaled it. The second one, Peter Fechter, was not so lucky. As he was about to scale the wall, a border guard opened fire. Peter continued to climb the Wall, but ran out of energy just as he reached the top. He then tumbled back onto the East German side of the Wall. To the shock of the world, Peter was just left there. The East German guards did not shoot him again nor did they go to his aid. Peter shouted in agony for nearly an hour. Once he had bled to death, East German guards carried off his body. He became the 50th person to die at the Berlin Wall and a symbol of the struggle for freedom.