Berlin Wall, Berlin
After the second world war, defeated Germany was divided up into 4 parts: an American, British, French and Soviet occupation zone. Berlin was also divided into 4 sectors. In 1948, the Soviet authorities tried to annex the whole city and started a blockade of the US, British and French sectors. The plans failed due to the Berlin Airlift, and in May 1949 the blockade was lifted. That same year, the Soviet part of Germany became the German Democratic Republic (GDR) with East Berlin as its capital. The other zones became the Federal Republic of Germany with the capital Bonn. The western part of Berlin became a separate enclave surrounded by East Germany. Until 1961, East Germans could move freely between the Western and Eastern parts of Berlin. But many East Berliner were attracted by the more prosperous West, and by 1961 up to 20,000 East Germans a month flocked to West Berlin. On August 12, 1961 the East German authorities decided to close the border around the Western sectors of Berlin in order to prevent people from fleeing. Officially, it was an antifascist protection barrier to defend the East against Western aggression. The next day, early morning August 13, West Berlin was surrounded by barbed wire. Traffic at the border was halted and the underground and S-bahn connecting the different sides of the city were put out of operation. Over time, the barbed wire was replaced by a 3.6m high wall. Along the Wall's east side ran a 'death zone', an area controlled by guards. A total of 293 watch towers and 57 bunkers were built along the 155km long border. The guards were given the order to shoot at escapees. As a result 192 people were killed in an attempt to cross the border. .. Finally on November 9, 1989, travel restrictions were lifted. Shortly after, border gates opened and people flooded into West Berlin.
When you walk between Checkpoint Charlie and Martin-Gropius-Bau along the “Topographie des Terrors” you will notice that the former Wall that separated East and West Berlin has got a kind of new wall – a massive metal fence. This separates the Wall from souvenir hunters who have broken big chunks out of the historic concrete slabs, leaving gaping holes. Before this piece of history would have been totally destroyed and carried into all parts of the world, this protection measure was put in order.
The most-liked parts of the Wall were the parts with graffiti. The western side of the Wall was said to be the world’s longest gallery. Many artists painted their works onto the four metre high concrete slabs.
You see some great examples of Wall art some metres further in front of the world’s largest helium balloon, and a souvenir shop.
(On photo 2 you can see a gaping hole in the Wall, damaged by souvenir hunters.)
Some guides tell you this museum is not as popular as some of the others like Checkpoint Charlie because it is not as central; do not be fooled. The museum which is free, documents the history of the wall with photographs and films. It is extremely moving as you watch the film and the desperate attempts of escape. There is a tower attached to the museum where you can look down on the wall and no mans land. You can walk by the wall and touch it. There is information across the road on a piece of waste land regarding the competition held to create an extension to the museum in a new building. The winning entry should be completed in the next few years.
This year it's the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, still a miracle for me. There are many extra exhibitions throughout the city, a large photo exhibition on Alexanderplatz for example.
We walked to the memorial at the Bernauer Strasse, an extremely interesting and very touching exhibition. It is right at the spot where the wall used to be. Now there is a lot of information and pictures and it was very emotional for me to see the huge change which has happened in the last 20 years.
http://www.berliner-mauer-dokumentationszentrum.de/index_en.php is the link to the general page, the one I put further down takes you to the Bernauer Strasse.
The picture in black and white shows what the Bernauer Strasse had looked like when the wall was still standing, the red dot is the spot of the memorial museum.
The Wall was torn down with great vigour in 1989 and 1990, and now there is very little of it remaining. And during the intervening years parts of the path of the wall - which ran through what is now very hot property in Berlin's city centre - have been built on. Nevertheless there are lots of traces still visible, especially if you know what you're looking for.
This was one of the most notorious stretches of the Wall. Originally, there was a line of apartment blocks on the eastern side of Bernauer Strasse, but after the wall went up these buildings were used as conduits for escape, so the East German authorities had them dismantled and replaced with a lethal "death zone" of guard towers and machine gun emplacements.
If you are fortunate, you'll visit this section of the Wall on a gray and dismal day in November. (I did.) I hadn't planned upon the weather, but it was certainly appropriate for the milieu.
Aug 1961 - Oct 1989.
In between years the city was divided - East and West Berliners were cut off from their jobs, friends, and family overnight (unless they were of retirement age when they were able to travel freely.)
There now are a few remaining sections left as a kind of memorial. But only a very few, ie around 40 meters or so. If you look in the road on 17 Juni Strasse around the Brandenburg gate you will see a line of red brick embedded in the tarmac - this red line represents where the wall stood for 28 years.
During the four years I lived in Berlin in the early 70's, I was frequently taken on school trips and family trips to see The Wall - and will always remember the sad little memorials placed alongside it, for the East Berliners who had been shot whilst attempting to escape.
Check the website for an indepth history.
Berlin – a City I always will remember as THE divided city in Europe and
witness/ result of the second world war tragedy.
I once visited Berlin when I was a student ( so a long time ago) and never will forget the Wall – separating East and West - keeping the western Germans out of the “Democratic” Republic, and keeping the eastern Germans far away from Liberty.
But – now that I revisited Berlin and maybe strange to say – you will find hardly
a piece of stone from this previous divider. Except on touristic places – but even there .. i have my serious doubts if it is a real touristic trap or not
Maybe it is better this way ...
The Berlin Wall divided East and West Berlin for 28 years with construction starting on the 13th August 1961. It was put in place to stop the drain of people from east to west. There were 4 different phases of the wall starting with a barbed fence in 1961. The wall was improved upon over the years with the fourth phase beginning in 1975 and being the most difficult to scale. It was12 feet tall and 4 feet wide and was topped with smooth piping that gave no grip. It was rumoured at the time that the design of the smooth piping came from East German pole vaulters who were aware it would make it much more difficult to climb over. Most of the wall has gone as it was destroyed following the ‘fall’ in 1989. There are 3 sections left but they only show the wall and not the rest of the apparatus that was in place to stop would be escapers. The sections are at Potsdamer Platz, a section along the River Spree near the Oberbaumbrucke and at Bernauer Strasse.
We ended up along this stretch of roadway close to the Topographie de Terror....along Wilhelmstrasse....in what was Eastern Berlin.....this section of the Wall is along the street that used to house the Headquarters of the Nazi Gestapo.....and today there is an open air exhibit amongst the remains of the building foundations.
Our guide from the Berlin Walks Tour company brought us here and explained the story of a great escape from the GDR....and how because there was no building along this side of the street that this escape was succesful.There was no building here because nobody wanted to build on the former location of the Headquarters of the Gestapo.
"At the request of the "Topography of Terror" Foundation, the 200 meters of the Wall which still stand on Niederkirchnerstrasse, marking the border between the districts of Mitte (East) and Kreuzberg (West), have been preserved, retaining all traces of the destruction that occurred during the transitional period, and placed under protection as a historical monument."
"This section of the Wall will thus be kept in its current condition, as a document both of the inhumanity of the border and of how it was overcome. It forms the northern edge of the "Topography of Terror" site and will be integrated into its overall design. In the mean time, it is protected by a temporary fence."
Ghost stations in the UK normally refer to railway stations that still exist but have been closed down. Ghost stations had a different meaning during the period the Berlin Wall was in existance. Various lines spanned both east and west Berlin. When the wall went up trains from the west could travel through the eastern section but would slow down at the heavily guarded stations. The stations were normally closed to those in the east to stop escapes. As the tunnels and trains could be used as a means of escape from the east to the west the tunnels were reduced in size at some points so that there was very like clearance in order to prevent persons clinging to the sides of the train. The stations were left in a time warp from 1961, which those riding the trains could see. The west Berlin authorities had to pay dearly to use the eastern side of the city with a large annual payment required. There is a photographic exhibition at the Nordbahnhof of ‘Border Stations and Ghost Stations in Divided Berlin’ which displays the history of the Ghost stations. The Nordbahnhof station was one of those ghost stations which was closed during the Berlin Wall era, though the line remained open. The exhibit is on the mezzanine floor which can view during normal station opening hours. I am sure that the station platform lighting must have special tubes because when you look out of the train windows it always looks dim, atmospheric and eerie.
Mauer Park is a preserved section of the Berlin wall with a museum and viewing platform across the street. Inside the museum you can see historical videos and read or buy books and pamphlets in just about any language. Me, I had enough of that in school, but it was interesting to see the park itself. The last time I'd been to Berlin sections of the wall still stood but had a very mundane character. This was a little different in that when they chose to make the park, they chose one of the most histoircal and best viewed sections. For instance, in the picture you will see the famous graveyard which was cut in two by the wall. You can also enter the park and see what the wall looked like from the eastern side, no graffiti or anything fun like that. The platform gives you an idea what the wall might have looked like from a sentry's point of view.
We passed along the kept site of the Berlin wall on Mulhenstrasse. It was constructed during one night on August, 13th, 1961 to prevent flights of east Germans to Western Germany. Till this moment about two hundred thousand people run away . The length of a wall was 161 kilometer. 45 kilometers divided east and western zones of Berlin. The wall was double. Nearby two hundred persons were lost, trying to get over through it to the Western Berlin. On November, 9th, 1989 the wall has fallen. After association of Germany in 1990 the wall was almost completely destroyed, except for that site by which we pass . In 1991 artists from 28 countries of the world ornamented it and transformed into a wall-gallery. Its fragments are interesting to former Soviet citizens with the kissing Brezhnev's and Honecker images, Gorbachev's and Saharov's portraits.
The East German authorities removed all buildings along the Bernauer Strasse stretch of the wall: apartment blocks, shops, and even a nineteenth century church, which was solemnly demolished in the middle of the 1980s. On the site of the church, which is smack dab In the middle of the "death zone," a contemporary "Chapel of Reconcilation" has been constructed - a simple but profound gesture of healing for the spiritual as well as physical wounds which the wall brought about.
The picture was taken from the observation tower at the Wall Documentation Center.
Not much of the Berlin Wall remains. A section of it can be seen on Zimmerstrasse near Potsdamer Platz. Checkpoint Charlie is quite close by also.
There is also an exhibition here called "Topographie des Terrors". It adds a little bit of interest because just looking at a wall can be a bit boring even if it's the Berlin Wall!