Arts & Entertainment

60 years on, Berlin remembers the wall that should not have been

By Elena Garuz

Berlin, Aug 12 (EFE).- Germany marks on August 13 sixty years since the beginning of the construction of the Berlin Wall, which would become the symbol of the traumatic division of the country during the Cold War.

On August 13 1961, Berlin residents woke up to a city divided by barricades and barbed wire put up by the eastern side, only two months after the communist Germany head of state Walter Ulbricht said a wall would not be built.

Residents could hardly believe their eyes as construction workers rushed to erect the barrier which only five days later, on August 17, would mark the commencement of the hard division.

The wall, which with the years evolved and modernized, had the purpose of preventing defections from communist Germany, until it fell in 1989.

For over 28 years, it’s 156.4 kilometers of concrete was an explicit representation of the Iron Curtain that divided Germany and Europe during the Cold War.

At least 140 people died attempting to cross the wall, while 5,075 successfully made it to the other side.

Almost 44 kilometers of the wall barged across the middle of the city, with the other 112 km encircling West Berlin, blocking north, west, and south of the city.

Today, 60 years after it was built and almost 32 years since it fell, the historical significance of the so-called Wall of Shame continues to attract tourists every year.

The better known remains of the wall, still standing, are those in the East Side Gallery, which hosts some 1.3 kilometres of the wall tagged with famous graffiti murals such as the smooch between Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and head of East Germany Erich Honecker, depicted in the Fraternal Kiss mural by Dmitri Vrubel.

Some chunks of the wall go unnoticed by tourists and Berliners alike, such as the stretch still standing in the intersection of the Dolomitenstrasse and Maximilianstrasse streets in the Pankow district, although its 70 meters of length were cut down to 10 to make room for a new real estate project.

Every 13th of August, Berlin remembers those who died by the wall and its barbed wire, but also “the human suffering caused by the division of the city and the country with the separation of families, friends,” said the governing mayor of Berlin, social democrat Michael Müller.

The division and the harsh but hopeful reunification period make Berlin a unique historical figure, he said, arguing that the German capital is the “city of freedom.”

The central event of the 60th anniversary of the wall’s construction will take place Friday at the memorial and documentation centre of the Berlin Wall in the Bernauer Strasse, with the appearance of German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. EFE


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