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The Berlin Wall: 50th Anniversary of Its Construction

12 Aug The Berlin Wall: 50th Anniversary of Its Construction

50 years ago this week, the 13th August 1961, the erection of the Berlin Wall began.  At the time of its construction around 3,000 citizens were leaving the German Democratic Republic (GDR) every day, most of them departing via Berlin. There was the distinct possibility that the Soviet Union would take control of the city to prevent any further exodus of its population and there was a very real fear of economic collapse.  Whereas the East German Communists considered the wall to be a possible barrier against the spread of Fascism,” the mayor of West Berlin described it as an ,˜outrageous injustice”. Overnight it became illegal to cross the border between East and West Germany. (History Today and BBC History Magazine)

Spiegel Online has created an excellent multi-media site to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the wall’s construction. See the extract below:

˜This week and next, we will provide a handful of reports, background stories and photos on the construction of the most important symbol of the Cold War between the West and the Soviet Bloc, the Berlin Wall.

The wall didn’t just divide Berlin, it also split an entire nation. Tens of thousands of people lived within close distance of the border area, with the security barrier, barbed wire and cement walls in sight. Many of these small towns and villages have changed dramatically during the two decades since German reunification. Bridges now cross rivers that were exclusion zones during GDR times. Trains now whiz through areas once patrolled by soldiers, and areas once blighted by a cement barrier blocking both freedom and a view have been opened to reveal panoramic vistas. Photographer Jurgen Ritter took hundreds of photos of cities, villages and natural reserves along the border zone while the border still existed, then returned after reunification. SPIEGEL ONLINE has collected the most striking images in an interactive feature.

And John F Kennedy’s very wise and astute words at the time?

A wall is a hell of a lot better than a war.

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