Initially, I was going to write an article just about our walks in Berlin, but in the end it somehow happened that all of it basically turned out only about one very touching and deeply impressed me personally. This is the famous Berlin Wall. Writing «famous», but the most ashamed, because, imagine, before coming to Berlin, I just knew from the lessons of history that it was erected after the Second World War and divided Berlin into two parts, but why, when, who and why ... I was never particularly interested ... But I'll start in order.
Where to stay in Berlin
Once in Berlin, we, to our shame, realized that we didn't really know what to see, except for the Reichstag and the monument to the Russian soldier, which, by the way, we never got to. Somehow they didn't even think about the Berlin Wall. But, spinning around the city with a map, suddenly at some point we found that we were not far from Checkpoint Charlie, stopped, read the description in our mini-guidebook and, to put it mildly, we were hooked.
Later, when we tried to explain to ourselves why it touched us so much, we found a simple explanation for this - this is not only them, this is our common history! The Berlin Wall is, in fact, a symbol of the then political regime, it is a living personification «iron curtain». In official documents, however, they often talk about «cold war».
Having seriously become interested in this topic, I found many stories and photos on this topic, I dare to summarize here what shocked me the most, and post some photos of that time, from whose authors I apologize in advance.
But first I will explain a little: in 1948 Berlin was divided into two parts, one of which, the eastern one, was the capital of the GDR, and the second, the western one, was the American, French and British sectors of occupation. At first, the border could be crossed freely, which the inhabitants of East Berlin happily did every day, going to West Berlin to work, to the store, to friends and relatives. But this did not quite have a favorable effect on the economy of the GDR. There were other, no less weighty, in the opinion of the GDR government, political and economic reasons for which it was decided to enclose West Berlin with an impassable wall. As a result, over the night of August 13, 1961, the entire border with West Berlin was closed, and by August 15, it was completely surrounded by barbed wire, in the place of which the construction of the Berlin Wall began rather quickly. At first it was stone, and later turned into a whole complex complex of reinforced concrete walls, ditches, metal mesh, watchtowers, etc..
Since the border was closed overnight, you can imagine how many people instantly lost their jobs, some friends, some relatives, some apartment ... And all at once - freedom. Many could not put up with this and almost immediately began to flee from East Berlin to West. It was not so difficult at first, but as the Berlin Wall complex grew and became stronger, the methods of escape became more and more inventive and cunning..
You can read a lot about escape attempts on the Internet, I will not tell you about everything. I will only briefly describe those that were the most successful, original and memorable. Forgive me, I will write without names and dates. Several times, immediately after the construction of the Berlin Wall, they broke through it, ramming it with trucks. At the checkpoints, at high speed, they drove under the barriers in sports cars that were too low to touch the barrier; they swam across rivers and lakes, because this was the most unprotected section of the fence.
The border between West and East Berlin often passed right through the houses, and it turned out that the entrance was on the eastern territory, and the windows looked out to the West. When the construction of the Berlin Wall had just begun, many residents of the house boldly jumped out of the windows onto the street, where they were often caught by Western firefighters or simply happy city dwellers. But all these windows were walled up very soon. I wonder if the tenants were resettled, or they still lived without daylight?
Tunnels were very popular, dozens of them were dug, and this was the most populous way of escape (20-50 people fled at a time). Later, especially enterprising Western businessmen even began to make money from this, placing ads in newspapers. «We will help with family problems».
There were also very original shoots: for example, two families made a homemade balloon and flew over the Berlin Wall on it, the brothers crossed to West Berlin, stretching a cable between the houses and descending along it on a roulette.
When, a few years later, Westerners were allowed to enter the territory of East Berlin with special permits to see their relatives, sophisticated ways of transporting people in cars were invented. Sometimes very small cars were used, specially modified so that people could hide under the hood or in the trunk. The border guards did not even know that there might be a man instead of a motor. Many people hid in suitcases, sometimes they were put in two, there were slits between them, so the person fit completely, he did not have to fold.
Almost immediately, a decree was issued to shoot at all people who tried to escape. One of the most famous victims of this inhuman decree was a young man named Peter Fechter, who, while trying to escape, was wounded in the stomach and left to bleed by the wall until he died. Unofficial numbers of arrests for escape (3221 people), deaths (from 160 to 938 people) and injuries (from 120 to 260 people) while trying to overcome the Berlin Wall are horrifying.!
When I read all these stories about escapes from East Berlin, I had a question to which I could not find an answer anywhere, but where did all the escapes live in West Berlin? After all, he, too, was not rubber, but according to unconfirmed reports, one way or another, 5043 people managed to escape successfully.
Near Checkpoint Charlie there is a museum dedicated to the history of the Berlin Wall. In it, Rainer Hildebrandt, the founder of the museum, collected many of the tools that the East Berliners used to escape to West Berlin. Unfortunately, we did not get to the museum itself, but even postcards with the image of the Berlin Wall and photo sketches from everyday life of that time, sold in a nearby souvenir shop, aroused unusually strong emotions. And I was very touched by the request left on the Chekpoit Charlie itself, an appeal to our president.
And life, meanwhile, went on as usual, the people of West Berlin had free access to the wall, could walk along it and use it for their needs. Many artists painted the western side of the Berlin Wall with graffiti, some of these images have become famous all over the world, such as, «The kiss of Honecker and Brezhnev».
People often came to the wall to look at their loved ones at least from a distance, wave a handkerchief to them, show children, grandchildren, brothers-sisters. It's terrible, families, loved ones, relatives, loved ones, separated by concrete and someone's complete indifference. After all, even if it was so necessary for the economy and / or politics, then it could have been provided so that people would not suffer so much, to give the opportunity to reunite at least to relatives ...
The fall of the Berlin Wall happened on November 9, 1989. The reason for this significant event was the fact that one of the countries of the socialist camp, Hungary, opened the borders with Austria, and about 15 thousand citizens of the GDR left the country to get to West Germany. The remaining East German residents took to the streets with demonstrations and demands that their civil rights be respected. And on November 9, the head of the GDR announced that it would be possible to leave the country with a special visa. However, the people did not wait for this, millions of citizens simply poured out onto the street and headed for the Berlin Wall. The border guards were unable to contain such a crowd, and the borders were open. On the other side of the wall, West German residents greeted their compatriots. An atmosphere of joy and happiness reigned from the reunion.
There is an opinion that when the general jubilation passed, the inhabitants of different Germany began to feel a huge ideological gap between themselves. It is said to be felt to this day, and East Berliners are still different from West Berliners. But we haven’t had a chance to check it yet. Nowadays, sometimes no, no, but there is a rumor that some Germans are convinced that life under the Berlin Wall was better than it is now. Although, maybe this is what those who generally think that earlier the sun was brighter, and the grass is greener, and life is better.
In any case, there was such a terrible phenomenon in history, and its remnants are still preserved in Berlin. And when you walk down the street and under your feet you see the marks where the Berlin Wall used to pass, when you can touch its fragments, and you understand how much pain, excitement and fear this structure has brought, you begin to feel your involvement in this story..