Thursday's Child: The Berlin Wall

Thursday, November 13, 2014
Last weekend marked the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. One of the most moving elements of our trip to Berlin this summer was seeing the places where the Wall used to stand - because most of it, of course, has been removed. A few sections remain throughout the city, as testament to the 28 difficult years when the city was divided in half.

Following the Second World War, Berlin had originally been divided in four. One of those zones was assigned to each of the triumphant war powers: Britain, USA, France, and Russia. In the post-war years, millions of eastern Europeans escaped to the west through Berlin. By 1961, Soviet authorities decided to stop that flow by erecting a wall around their zone.

On the night of August 12, 1961, barriers and fences were built around East Berlin. In the morning, inhabitants of both sides of the city woke up to a new world, in which movement to the other side was prohibited.

It's sometimes easier to make sense of a tragic situation by reading about individual cases. Hundreds of children were cut off from their parents for political or medical reasons, and sometimes it was many years until they were reunited.


There were a number of checkpoints that permitted movement between the two sides. The most famous was checkpoint Charlie, which separated the American and Russian sectors. Typically, it was difficult and time-consuming for westerners to cross to the east, and the process required visas and special payments to secure approval. Of course, residents of East Berlin were prevented from travelling to the west in all but the most extreme circumstances.

Many easterners attempted to escape to the west and, despite the security, thousands were successful. One young man rebuilt his car so it was low enough to pass under the wall, then hid his girlfriend from East Berlin on the floor of the passenger side (and her mother in the trunk). Other creative refugees found their ways to the west via tightrope or hot air balloon.


Most of the wall has been destroyed. In areas where it has come down, it's still commemorated by plaques that lie along its path.


However, in a few spots the wall still stands. The top photo shows a section of the wall that looks much like it did at the time (save the hole punched through it). The photo above depicts the beginning of a mile-long section of wall called the East Side Gallery. It's been allowed to stand, and has been decorated to become the world's longest open-air mural collection.


16 comments:

Catherine said...

Dear Beth, I remember this as if it were yesterday. Catherine

Velva said...

We have good friends that were originally from East Germany. Back in 2001, we had an opportunity to travel there. One of the highlghts was to locate the remains of the wall that ran through the city. The locals were not keen on sharing what remains were left as it was a past that they wanted to put behind them. We finally located a section of the wall behind a bus stop in a neighborhood. Amazing. The journey was incredible,

Beth said...

What an incredible experience, Velva. I'm sure it's terribly hard for Berliners to look back on such a difficult past.

Cheri Savory Spoon said...

What an informative post Beth, so much sadness is associated with those walls. Great pictures!

Mary @ The World Is A Book said...

I learned quite a bit from this post, Beth. Now, I feel the need to look up the creative ways people used to cross the wall. I'm glad they've decided to keep a part of it as an pen-air mural. I would love to visit Berlin one of these days and see remnants of the wall.

Corinne Vail said...

Beth, I find the Berlin Wall and it's sordid history extremely fascinating. I try to visit a part of it each time I'm in the city.

Angie Schneider said...

An unbelievable historical event...last week there was a huge celebration here..I was quite impressed.

Barbara said...

Thanks for this timely post, Beth. I've always wanted to see that in person. Maybe someday.....

Pam said...

What a cool experience it was to see this in person!

lisa is cooking said...

How great to be there in the anniversary year. Thanks for sharing more details about the history of the wall.

lisa h. said...

Awesome... to be able to be there.
Hope I could make my way there too and take it all in, reflecting on historical event

Katerina said...

Trying to separate people is so had and cruel. I can only imagine the many tragic stories in front and behind this wall!

Claudia said...

I remember growing up with so many "human-interest" stories regarding the separation of families. So much sadness. Such a glorious day when the wall came down.

kirstenlopresti said...

How wonderful to be able to see this in person! Great pics!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Seeing the Berlin Wall is really moving! We've only been to Berlin once (wonderful city!), and then only for a short time, but I'm really glad we got to see part of the wall that still remained.

Joanne said...

Such a momentous thing to see, even in it's broken down state.

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