The Berlin Wall – August 13, 1961 to November 9, 1989

Categories: history, Personal, Politics
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Published on: July 29, 2009

I wrote in the past already two blog posts about the subject of the “Berlin Wall“, which accompanied videos that I created using moving and photographic images from those historic events.

See The Berlin Wall – History Lessons Learned and The Berlin Wall and the Walls Between Us

I created four versions of my “Berlin Wall” documentary already and also another short video that only depicts the events from 1989 that lead to the collapse of the East German regime. I am still not happy with the last version of it and still work on a version 5 of it. I gathered a lot more video material and found better quality sources for video images that I already used in the previous installments of my documentary.

Also See

berlin-divided-city-large

I also gathered some more historic facts and created a time-line for me to guide myself in my project. I came to the conclusion that it probably makes the most sense, if I split up the documentary into multiple segments, rather than creating one long video as I did for Version 4 (which is over 30 minutes in length).

I am still undecided, how I am going to present the facts from the time line below; written narration or voice overs where I record myself and talk about those facts. An audio narration is certainly better for the audience and makes it much easier to follow, but I am a bit worried about my own voice and my thick German accent :).

It will still take some time for me to move forward and actually present some new video material, so I am all open for input and suggestions, which you can post in the comment section of this blog post below.

Okay, here is the Time-Line

The Berlin Wall – August 13, 1961 to November 9, 1989

The Wall lasted 10,860 days

136 confirmed deaths (as of 1. August 2008. I posted a list with the names here.), this number is probably much higher, estimates go as high as over 200 and over 1,000 deaths on the entire border between East and West Germany . East German authorities were trying to cover up any incident as good as possible, which makes it impossible to ever be able to determine the actual number of deaths caused by the Wall and the inner German border.

  • 8 May, 1945: Capitulation of Germany and end of World War II in Europe. Germany is broken up into 4 zones, each governed by one of the victorious Allies: USSR, USA, GB and France. Berlin gets a special status and is also broken up into 4 zones.
  • 19 June, 1948: introduction of a new currency in only 3 of the 4 German sectors, the American, British and French occupied. The Soviets responded to this with the blockade of West Berlin and emergency changeover to a new currency for the soviet occupied sector on June 23, 1948.
  • 9 September, 1948: Ernst Reuter makes his famous speech where he appeals to the “People of the World” … “Look at this City!”
    “Ihr Völker der Welt. Schaut auf diese Stadt!”

  • 23 May, 1949: West Germany is founded in the West Sectors (US/GB/FR), „Bonn“ becomes temporary Capital, the „special status“ of Berlin remains. On October 7, 1949 the second German state is founded in the soviet occupied zone.
  • 17 June, 1953: Volksaufstand in Berlin, triggered by an increase in Quota for Workers by the government, but fueled by a general unhappiness with the situation in the Eastern part of Germany
  • 15 June, 1961: International Press-Conference in East-Berlin
    A journalist from the West German newspaper “Frankfurter Rundschau” asked the question, if the creation of a “Free East Berlin” means that a border will be erected at the Brandenburg Gate.
    The East German Head of State “Walter Ulbricht” responded to this question with the following…

    “I understand your question like that there are people in West Germany who wish that we mobilize the construction workers of the capital of the GDR to erect a wall, yes?
    I am not aware of such intention, but that the construction workers of the capital are mainly busy with the construction of homes and that the available man power is used entirely
    Nobody has the intention to build a wall.”

  • July 1961: 30.415 refugees moved to West Berlin, the largest number since 1953. The border between West and East Germany was already shut close and every attempt to cross it a deadly risk. The border between West and East Berlin with the only opening left for people to escape, East Germany was bleeding out, because the people who fled were mostly the young and skilled workers, which had catastrophic consequences for the East German economy.

Wall Being Erected

  • 13 August, 1961 0:00 AM local time: Launch of operation “Rose”, East German Army (NVA – Nationale Volksarmee), Standing/Militarized Police Force (Bereitschaftspolizei), Paramilitary Combat Troops (Kampfgruppen der Arbeiterklasse/Betriebskampftruppen) severed 12 City Train and Subway connections between East and West Berlin, by 1:05 am Brandenburg Gate was blocked, by 6:00 am 193 Main and Side Streets between West and East Berlin were cut off/blocked.
  • 22 August, 1961: the Wall claimed its 1st victim. Ida Siekmann died as a result of her injuries caused by her jump out of the window at Bornholmer Stasse
  • October 1961: 10 Tanks each, US & Russian, 18 hours stand-off at the Wall. Incident was caused because an American diplomat was forced by East German border guards to show papers, which was against his immunity status.
  • August 1962: Brick Wall 7 ½ Miles, 91.7 Miles Fences
  • 17 August, 1962: 18 years old bricklayer Peter Fechter bleeds to death after crying for help in the death strip near Checkpoint Charlie for over 1 hour, in front of West Berlin Police and allied forces who were unable to help him.
  • 1965: Brick Wall replaced by concrete Wall
  • 1975-80: reinforced concrete Wall made of 12ft tall/4ft wide prefabricated segments and top lined with smooth concrete pipe to make it harder to climb

grenzanlagen

  • 5 February, 1989: the last victim is being shot at the Wall, the 20 years old Chris Gueffroy
  • 2 May, 1989: Hungary begins to dismantle the 150 mile (240 km) barbed-wire fence along, its border with Austria. Hundreds of East Germans illegally cross the border to flee to West Germany.
  • 8 August, 1989: Hundreds of East Germans take refuge in West German diplomatic facilities in East Berlin, Prague, and Budapest.
  • 11 September, 1989: Hungary legalized travel over the border to Austria for GDR (East German) citizens heading for the FRG (West Germany).
  • 1 October, 1989: West German Foreign Minister Hans Dietrich Genscher announces to the 3,500 East German refugees (including 800 children) in the West German Embassy in Prague that they are permitted to leave to West Germany. More than 800 East Germans who camped at the West German Embassy in Warsaw were also permitted to leave. More than 30,000 East Germans had fled by then via the Hungarian-Austrian border already.
  • 4 October, 1989: East Germany allows refugees in the West German embassy in Prague to leave to West Germany via special trains driving across East Germany (implying that those refugees are being expelled from East Germany = legal immigrants, which exempts them from criminal prosecutions in absentia for violating an East German law that prohibits ”flight from the republic.”)
  • 4 November, 1989: largest single demonstration against the regime in Berlin, at least 500,000 people gathered illegally to protest
  • 9 November, 1989 afternoon: Politbüro member Günther Schakowsky announces new travel law in front of the international press :

    “…. and therefore we have made the decision today, to institute a regulation, which permits every resident of East Germany to depart the country through any border crossing of the GDR ….”

               Some members of the press asked

    “When?”, “From Now?”

                 Schabowsky responded:

    “This becomes active… to my knowledge… It’s now …immediately.”

    Mr. Schabowsky was mistaken. He also missed to mention that East Germans had to get a visa first, which was not to be denied to anybody who asked for it. This visa was to be issued by any police station starting on November 10, not to be valid before the next day, November 11. The visa was a simple stamp that could be issued into either the Passport or the East German ID (which was like a small passport and not just a simple ID card like West German or American IDs)

  • 9 November, 1989 – 10:30 PM local time: The pike fell at the border crossing “Bornholmer Strasse

The Wall Fell

  • 3 October, 1990: East and West Germany are re-united (4 days before the 41 birthday of East Germany, which was intended)

Putting things in a time-line helps to keep things ordered. Some of the mentioned facts might surprise you, because you did not know about the actual order of them (speaking of cause and effect). The historic facts speak for themselves and I hope that they debunk the myth that the separation of Germany was caused by the Russians as driving force in the process.

I won’t deny that they played their own part in it, but I tend to believe that the Russians tried more than any other ally to keep Germany together as a whole and that the drivers behind the separation can be found in West Germany, the United States, Great Britain and maybe also France.

All those events had to lead to the Berlin Wall and make sense in a morbid and cynical way. There is no moral justification for it to make it right though, but then it was the Cold War and none of the participating sides in this conflict can claim that their actions were always good and righteous. The conclusion has to be that War is always ugly, never good or right, even if it is a cold one. 

Cheers!

Carsten aka Roy/SAC

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  1. […] about and surrounding the Berlin Wall that separated a city and it’s people for over 28 years. I posted a timeline previously on July 29, 2009. This version has much more details and I also included a lot more images to […]

  2. […] The Berlin Wall – August 13, 1961 to November 9, 1989 (July 29, 2009) […]

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