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Berlin remembers building of the Wall

The Local · 13 Aug 2011, 07:54

Published: 13 Aug 2011 07:54 GMT+02:00

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The sudden move by communist East Germany to close the border in 1961 shocked the world and ripped a hole through Berlin that gaped for more than 28 years until the Wall finally fell on November 9, 1989 in a bloodless uprising.

The commemorations began overnight at a chapel on the former death strip with a more than seven-hour-long reading about the lives of those killed seeking freedom.

President Christian Wulff, who will make the keynote speech, said the anniversary was an occasion for Germans to reflect on how far they have come since the darkest days of the Cold War.

"We have reason to be very pleased to live here and now," he told Saturday's issue of Die Welt newspaper.

"We can look with pride to East Germans' irrepressible desire for freedom and West Germans' solidarity with them."

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who grew up in the East, will join the tribute to the victims on Bernauer Strasse, a street cut in two by the Wall, the scene of agonized families brutally divided and daring escapes.

Freya Klier, a 77-year-old former East German dissident, will recount her experiences in the Stalinist state, which built the Wall to stop an exodus of its citizens to the West.

The anniversary will also see the inauguration of a new section of a memorial on Bernauer Strasse, where there is an original section of the Wall, a museum and photographs of Easterners shot trying to escape.

The new exhibition illustrates the impact of the city's division on people in the East as well as the West.

At midday, Berlin was to observe a minute of silence in memory of the victims, with buses and trains scheduled to stop as part of the tribute.

On the morning of August 13, 1961, East Berliners woke to find soldiers had blocked off the streets, cut off rail links and begun building a wall of barbed wire and cemented paving stones which over the years, in Berlin, grew in height and complexity over 155 kilometres (96 miles).

At least 136 would-be refugees are known to have died at the Wall. Historians suggest that the overall figure of those killed while fleeing from all of East Germany stands at between 600 and 700 although victims' groups say the number is higher still.

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Germans note that the division still lingers between the poorer east and the more prosperous west.

"There's still a big wall," Klaus Schroeder, a political scientist at Berlin's Free University, told news agency AFP.

"Most east Germans don't know which world they belong to. They don't see themselves as full members of a unified Germany."


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

18:04 August 13, 2011 by Sastry.M
I used to receive by post a copy of "German News Weekly" published by W.German Embassy in New Delhi,India. When the wall suddenly came up overnight the Berliners were aghast with such a sudden development. One extra supplement of the Weekly narrated a blow to a happy event and how life was torn apart.

A daughter's wedding was to take place on that fateful day of Aug-13'th-'61. The wall suddenly stood separating mother in east and 'bride' daughter in the west. The mother could not attend the happy occasion of daughter's marriage but both mother and daughter were allowed to see each other on opposite sides of the wall. Both were in sorrowful tears with the mother presenting a ring over the wall. The caption of the event was painfully described as-

" A mother's ring, for the world a breach of legality, for the bride a day of tears"

A political scientist may still feel the presence of Wall by way of 'conditioned' economic disparities between the east and west Germans but both together are not exonerated from their common guilt of past in spite of reunification over a score of years. Therefore Germans should rise up united with a fruitful spirit of unity to maintain national and European integration.
18:56 August 13, 2011 by Englishted
I bet many in Western Europe wish it was still there.

But that is not p.c. to say out loud.
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