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.