Germany marks 50 years since Berlin Wall

 

Klaus-Michael Keussler: "We thought this could not last longer than weeks" - Archive video courtesy British Pathe

Germany is marking 50 years since the building of the Berlin Wall when the communist East closed its border, dividing the city for 28 years.

Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit told a ceremony on Bernauer Street: "The Wall is history but we must not forget it."

President Christian Wulff said Germany had been securely established as a reunified country.

The city observed a minute's silence at noon (10:00 GMT) in memory of those who died trying to escape.

Start Quote

Many still bear the psychological scars”

End Quote Stephen Evans BBC News, Berlin

Soldiers from the East began construction on the morning of 13 August 1961.

  • Initially a barbed wire fence, it became a wall which spread for nearly 160km (100 miles)
  • More than 300 watchtowers were erected to spot escapees
  • Minefields were laid in some sectors

The BBC's Stephen Evans in Berlin says the East German authorities portrayed the Wall as a barrier to keep the fascist West out - what came to be known as the Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart.

But he says the accepted view now is that it was to keep East German potential migrants in.

'Saddest day'
German leaders attend the Berlin Wall commemoration, 13 August Germany's leaders attended the Berlin Wall commemoration

Addressing the ceremony on Bernauer Street, famously divided by the Wall and now site of a memorial, Mayor Wowereit said the capital was remembering the "saddest day in its recent history".

"It is our common responsibility to keep alive the memories and pass them on to the next generation, to maintain freedom and democracy and to do everything so that such injustices may never happen again," he said.

At a ceremony at a former crossing-point, President Wulff said the wall had been "an expression of fear" of those who created it.

"The world situation, of which this wall was a symbol, seemed irreversible to many people," he said.

"But this was not the case. In the end, freedom is unconquerable. No wall can survive the will for freedom in the long term. The violence of just a few has no hold over the drive for freedom of many."

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who also attended the event, was herself raised in the East.

The number of people who died trying to cross the Wall is disputed - at least 136 are known to have been killed but victims' groups say the true number is more than 700.

Find Out More

  • BBC History explains why the Berlin Wall went up, and why it came down - in excerpts from BBC television documentaries

The first victim was thought to be Guenter Litfin on 24 August 1961 and the last Chris Gueffroy on 6 February 1989.

A list of names of the victims was read out overnight.

Although the Wall came down in 1989, it remains for some a symbol of continuing economic division between the richer west and poorer east.

Invisible barrier

Brigitta Heinrich, a schoolteacher by profession, grew up in Klein-Glienicke, which was unusual in that it was an East German enclave on the territory of West Berlin.

Start Quote

I cannot name a single West German with whom I socialise now - really, I can't”

End Quote Brigitta Heinrich Former East German teacher

Speaking to Russian news agency Ria-Novosti, she said one of her own pupils had escaped across the Wall in the early days, using a ladder.

The schoolboy's parents were forced to move out of Klein-Glienicke as a result, and the mother was sacked from her job in a company, she said.

Recalling the hardships and broken illusions of the communist state, Ms Heinrich, who still lives in the East, also talked of the difficulty of readjusting to a unified country.

She said she had made friends with other Europeans such as Italians and Finns since the fall of the Wall but some West Germans, especially in regions further away from Berlin, seemed indifferent to people from the former East, as if an invisible barrier remained.

"I cannot name a single West German with whom I socialise now - really, I can't," she said.

Few parts of the Wall remain, though city authorities have laid down an 8km (five-mile)row of cobblestones to mark its path.

Tourists often struggle to find original sections.

 

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  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 38.

    28" you forgot the role of the people of East-Central Europe, not least the East Germans"

    No I didn't. They were among the hundreds of millions of slaves of the Soviet empire. They did what they were told or they were killed. Shot outright or sent to the Gulag to die. You ought to read the Gulag Archipelago sometime. It will teach you what a true tyranny is about.

  • Comment number 37.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 36.

    It sounds harsh, but the tearing down of the wall and the fall of the Soviet Union has impacted the West big time. With floods of illegal immigrants now widespread wide across Europe working illegally, you should wonder why its in a mess as it is now.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 35.

    29"As for the birth of the USA, why did escaped slaves mostly fight on the British side, if it was simply about freedom?"

    They were uneducated, confused.The British institution of slavery imposed on the the colonies to create a cotton economy didn't allow for educating them.By keeping them ignorant it prevented them from knowing who their real enemies were, those who brought them there and why

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 34.

    @youngblood
    "soviet tyranny? you make it sound as the the "west" is a fair and just place to live..."

    How can you possibly compare the West with a regime which condoned the bugging ordinary citizens, ran detention camps that abused human rights and shot people in the streets?
    Oh, yes, I see what you mean..... Um,, yes, sorry!

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 33.

    "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"
    On June 12, 1987, President Reagan spoke to the people of West Berlin at the Brandenburg Gate, near the Berlin wall. His words were heard on the Eastern (Communist) side of the wall and are considered by many to mark the beginning of the end of the Cold War and the fall of communism. On Nov. 9-11, 1989, the people of a free Berlin tore down that wall.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 32.

    To marie and Papa Demos - I can only assume you have not been to Germany where memorials to the victims of the Nazi regime abound in almost every town of any size; indeed one in Berlin is the size of a city block. Hardly the actions of a society that you think is covering up or forgetting the most shameful part of its history.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 31.

    @28

    soviet tyranny? you make it sound as the the "west" is a fair and just place to live...

  • Comment number 30.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 29.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 28.

    Marcus Aurelius II, I heard Reagan give a speech in Cambridge in 1990 in which he claimed all the credit, but he, like, you forgot the role of the people of East-Central Europe, not least the East Germans, in ending the Soviet tyranny, almost entirely peacefully. Much more impressive and beneficial than the Armageddon which you were advocating, but which the USA carefully avoided.

  • Comment number 27.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 26.

    @11 and 17, only few of us Germans like to 'conveniently forget', most are quite aware what has been done 1933-45 (how could we forget when we're - rightly - reminded wherever we go...). But yes, I have to admit that the emotional connection to events that happened during my mother's lifetime is bigger compared to the events that started when my grandmother wasn't even a teenager.

  • Comment number 25.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 24.

    The Berlin Wall was what can happen when the victors of a war fight over the spoils, dividing them, as they divided Berlin. That contributing to another war, the Cold War, which continued for more than 40 years. In many ways the wall was a symbol of what it existentially means to be civilized and human, in the world we live in. There are many Berlin Walls, but not made of stone, steel and cement.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 23.

    @marie "Germans likes to conveniently forget this chapter in its history"

    I am a Brit living in Germany and I can assure you Germans have not forgotten this particular chapter in their history. I think you are missing the point of this article. The Berlin Wall was evil no matter where it was built & should never have been allowed. The people stuck behind it were innocent & persecuted.

  • Comment number 22.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 21.

    One finds it prudent, at such a time, to recall the great haste with which German reunification was sought (being ultimately concluded a mere four days before what would have been the 41st anniversary of the GDR's founding). While reunification was immensely popular, and undertaken with the best possible will, its relentless pursuit resulted in divisions which are, sadly, still present today.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 20.

    Those Europeans who complained about America going to war in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Vietnam are the same ones who complain that the US didn't enter WWII in Europe soon enough. They feel they were the only ones worth saving, Hitler the only threat to the US worth fighting. How fortunate for us they have nothing to say about how the US government and people run their affairs.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 19.

    @14.2squirrels
    the problem is that that day is not only remembered for the wall and the revolution in 1918, but also for Hitler's Putsch 1923, and the beginning of the Slaughter of "Novemberprogrome" (the slaughter of many jews) in 1938.

    @17marie
    so you see Germany hasnt forgotten its past. And Germany has to support Isreal cause of the countries history.

 

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