Berlin, Living Behind A Wall

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“Nobody has the intention of building a wall.” GDR head of state Walter Ulbricht, East Berlin, June 15th 1961

For me, for everyone I suppose, some places can have a real impact when we visit them. The Berlin Wall was one such place. History hangs in the air, so thick you can almost touch it, almost feel it, almost smell it. Other places that I have visited that have had similar impact for me are Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland and Clairière de l’Armistice at Compiegne in Northern France.

Today I walked along a section of the wall, I ran my fingers across its harsh, hostile, concrete surface, I read the conflicting messages of anger and hope that it been scrawled across it, I was stunned by just how grotesquely ugly it was, I remembered all of the things that frightened me about the wall when I was a young boy.

Today as tourists we have our picture taken against a souvenir section of the wall, we smiled for the camera, fifty years ago people died trying to get across it and escape to the west, they didn’t smile.  I thought about that as we had this picture taken.

Berlin Wall 04

The Berlin Wall divided the city from 1961 to 1989.  In the German Democratic Republic it was an offence to leave the country without permission. The border guards were duty bound at all time “to arrest or eliminate border violators. The border regime was based on barriers and border guards at regular intervals and above all on the permitted use of firearms. The border guards who successfully stopped escapes were rewarded with a decoration and a bonus.

Berlin Wall 01The Wall explained

This extract is taken from one of the information boards…

Between the construction and removal of the wall, in twenty-eight years approximately forty-thousand East Germans managed to escape to the west. Several hundred were shot dead by border guards or suffered fatal accidents whilst trying to do so.

At least one hundred and forty people died whist trying to cross the Berlin Wall. One hundred and one were either gunned down, had an accident or committed suicide. Thirty one people from both sides of the wall who were simply curious and had no intention of crossing were also shot dead. Two hundred and fifty one died whilst being controlled at the border crossings and untold numbers died from grief and despair as an indirect consequence of the wall and the impact that it had on their lives.

I couldn’t help wondering what I would have done.  I almost certainly wouldn’t have been brave enough to try and escape so I guess that that like thousands of others I would have accepted life under a secretive and brutal totalitarian regime.  Most likely I would have shot my mouth off and found myself in prison.

Perhaps Donald Trump should visit the site and see for himself the dreadful consequences of building a wall to separate people.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

46 responses to “Berlin, Living Behind A Wall

  1. My aunt was one of the ones who did make it out, along with her husband. Her brother and his wife, having two small children, never attempted it and thus I didn’t meet them until I was 30 years old. Stupid things, walls…

    Liked by 3 people

  2. The wall was a consolation to what should have been done if listen to Gen Patton.;;;!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I saw the fence in another part if Germany in the early 80s, terrifying . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Before I reached the end of your timely post I was thinking your last paragraph

    Liked by 2 people

  5. In some places (and at certain points in time) history does, indeed, hang in the air…the Berlin Wall when I saw it in ‘93, the Clairière de l’Armistice, and Spinalonga in the 1980s are some I have felt acutely. None of these would be the same now, as time and tourism have destroyed that liminal link…..

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I first visited Berlin when the wall was still up. It was a chilling experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Not the happiest of times or places.

    As for trump, goes around throwing salutes right left and centre, but couldn’t serve his country in the military as he had a poor foot, bloody gutless coward.

    I was pleased to note all the men at the State Banquet at Buck House the other day, all the men in their smart clothes wearing the medals they earned serving their countries,

    All the English princes wore theirs,all earned !

    and that ill dressed buffoon with his chest. bare of medals; I wonder why he hasn’t given himself a big heap; perhaps next time, if there is a next time!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I take it then that you don’t like Donald Trump!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I knew a fellow in the Army who had lost a leg in Vietnam and he still wore his uniform and did a day’s work. I wrote story about him a few years back.

      Like

      • Why would he wear his uniform unless looking for something?
        I worked with ( actually he was working under my guidance at Essndon) the ex-Regimental Sargent Major of the Royal Australian Regiment, he had served in Korea with that Regiment, a very modest man. We referred to him as King Bee, apparently that is what he was known as in that war. He called me Hawkeye, a nic that I accepted with pride,
        Something I don’t normally do. I’m not very nice to people he give me nicknames as a rule.

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      • Because he was on duty and the Sergeant Major would have put him on a charge.

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      • So he was STILL in the army, the way it came across was that he was no longer serving

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      • I was attempting to support your comment re a certain world leader who couldn’t join the army because he had a sore foot. But my bloke lost his leg and still agreed to serve on.

        Liked by 2 people

  8. I remember this period well. I didn’t quite understand the “wall business” as a teenager but I did understand the nasty Marxist Trotskyite Communist regime who were keeping people “in” as opposed to keeping people “out”. This was about conquest, subjugation, empire in such a way that has influenced the politics and culture of Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and others to this day. The equivalent is Trump building a wall, as others have said, but ….. to keep Americans “in”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think GDR, like all of the Eastern Bloc was Marxist-Leninist which was incompatible with Trotskyism. Most Trotskyites had been murdered/removed by Stalin in the Great Purges of 1937-8.
      As I understand it the Wall was the method by which the GDR prevented the loss of brains and labour to the west. Nasty but for them essential.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. and lest we forget, there’s the israel security ‘fence’…
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli_West_Bank_barrier
    At a total length of 708 kilometres (440 mi) upon completion,twenty-five ft high, having three fences, pyramid-shaped stacks of barbed wire on the two outer fences, a lighter-weight fence with intrusion detection equipment in the middle, an anti-vehicle ditch, patrol roads on both sides, and a smooth strip of sand for “intrusion tracking”. The barrier contains an on-average 60-metre (200 ft) wide exclusion area…

    https://electronicintifada.net/content/it-fence-it-wall-no-its-separation-barrier/4715

    The Wall around Qalqiliya. A twenty-five foot high concrete cage cuts residents off from their agricultural land, necessary for their survival, and prevents you from traveling even 5 minutes out of the City. A single gate, open at the whims of the occupying army, controls 100,000 residents.

    Israel’s Separation Barrier, dubbed the “Apartheid Wall” or “Berlin Wall” by Palestinians, has increasingly attracted international media attention, largely due to the hard-to-ignore scale of the project.
    The most obvious historical parallel to the barrier is the Berlin Wall, which was 96 miles long (155 kilometers). Israel’s barrier, still under construction, is expected to reach at least 403 miles in length (650 kilometers). The average height of the Berlin Wall was 11.8 feet (3.6 metres), compared with the maximum* current height of Israel’s Wall — 25 feet (8 metres).
    Israel’s barrier is four times as long and in places twice as high as the Berlin Wall.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for adding this information.

      Like

    • Every time Trump talks about a wall, I think of the walls around the Palestinians, and the security check points. And every time, I think of the Berlin Wall, the terror of it, the joy of its destruction. If that wretched man doesn’t care about those things already (I was only a teenager when the Berlin Wall came down), he never will. Give up on his reform – it’s impossible. The only hope is to get him out of office.

      Like

  10. Andrew, General Eisenhower ordered that the Allies were not to cross the Elbe. He sent a message to Stail telling him that. Then two Russian generals had a race to see who would get there first. Churchill was furious and said that everything that could be done should be done just so that the Allies would get there first. Probably one of the worst decisions Eisenhower made. (Then they made him President) General Patton would almost certainly got there.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. We really feared the communists in that era.. There in Berlin they had a constant reminder..

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Chilling. And yet It seemed such a fixture and then the end came so swiftly. All things pass – as I try to remember when I look at the current political situation.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. What a very interesting post. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the comments, and your final one made me smile!

    Like

  14. Are you glad you experienced it before 1989? Or was it just so awful you would prefer not to have the memories? I had a chance to travel there with my high school German Club in 1986, but couldn’t afford it. I am sorry that I now do not have the opportunity to compare before and after.

    Like

  15. Wow, what a beautifully written and insightful post. I am visiting Berlin in two weeks, and I am going to visit the Berlin Wall. I enjoyed reading this educational summary, written very respectfully about those who died.

    Like

  16. Pingback: Age of Innocence – 1961, The Berlin Wall and Emma Peel | Age of Innocence

  17. Pingback: Cyprus, Crossing The Green Line in Nicosia | Have Bag, Will Travel

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