The Construction of the Berlin Wall

berlin wall

How are things going with you today? Probably not too different than usual, right? After all, it is just another Thursday.

Actually, it isn’t: August 13 marks the anniversary of an equally historic and tragic moment that changed the history of the world. Fifty-four years ago, the GDR regime started to erect the Wall of Shame.

The Berlin Wall and its elaborate fortification system were built OVERNIGHT to prevent East Berlin citizens to escape from the GDR. It was a wall around the island of West Berlin. Yes, an island. West Berlin belonged, well, to the West, but it was geographically located on East Germany. That made it just the perfect escape point from the GDR. You could just drive from, let’s say, Weimar and be in West Germany through West Berlin without having to cross any borders. So you can now understand why the GDR government wanted to put up this mega Wall around West Berlin.

This is crazy to even imagine, a government physically locking up its inhabitants. A government rather killing its own people than letting them go where they want to go. Many people lost their lives trying to cross the West Berlin border. The number of deaths is estimated as at least 138. And keep in mind that number only goes for deaths along the Berlin Wall, so inside the capital. In total, more than 600 people were killed while trying to cross the inner-German border.

The Wall separated one country, two opposing political systems, and millions of individuals and their families for 28 years causing misery on so many different levels – until one glorious evening in November 1989, when the it was overcame peacefully by the German people.

So today, on August 13, take a break for a walk on the Bernauer Strasse memorial site, or maybe at the East Side Gallery. Get a feel on what it felt to be separated. Think that if you today live in Prenzlauer Berg, you could not meet your friends in Kreuzberg.

photo credit: Roberta Caldas

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