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Posts tagged ‘Berlin Wall’

Pavement marker Niederkirchnerstrasse, between Martin-Gropius Bau & Topographie des Terrors, Berlin, Germany - 2. Okt. 2009

The Berlin Wall, 1961-1989

Some view East Germany (GDR/DDR) with great fondness, if it’s a comparison made between today with the “good old days.” I’m not interested in the “Ostalgie” (nostalgia for the former east). I’m interested in learning how a system in place does a gradual creep, takes over a country and her people. Before they realize what’s happening, their own government has locked them inside the borders to prevent them from leaving; get caught trying to escape near the border, and you’ll be shot for your trouble.

“No intention to build a wall …”

On 15 June 1961, when asked at a press conference if a wall would be erected between west and east Berlin, Walter Ulbricht, leader of the GDR’s only recognized political party, the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands), answered:

“Die Bauarbeiter unserer Hauptstadt beschäftigen sich hauptsächlich mit Wohnungsbau, und ihre Arbeitskraft wird dafür voll eingesetzt. Niemand hat die Absicht, eine Mauer zu errichten.”

“Construction workers in our capital city are fully engaged in residential construction, and the labour force is deployed for that purpose. No one has any intention of putting up a wall.”

(Chronik der Mauer | YouTube )

Privately, Ulbricht had already been pushing hard to build a wall to stop the increasing number of people leaving East Germany for the West. Building a wall would also strengthen the (buffer) position of East Germany within the developing Soviet satellite-empire.

Two months later at midnight on August 13, work began quietly on a wall, and orders were given for additional troops to guard and “protect” the border. Berliners awoke at daybreak to a divided city.

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Erna-Berger-Strasse, Berlin, Germany,

My Berlin: a lonely watchtower stands in Mitte

I’m sure I would’ve immersed myself in European history and languages, had I not studied physics or astronomy. After two years of working in Germany, I developed a deep interest for language and her people. Even after having left the country in 2003, I’ve been fortunate to return once or twice each year.

I had read about one of the few remaining DDR-Wachtürme (East German Watchtowers) in Berlin. On a December afternoon, light snowfall in the German capital city seemed to slow both human and mechanized activity. I wandered slowly into Berlin Mitte to check out the location of an old East German watchtower that’s been listed as a historical monument since 2001.

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