Thursday, August 13, 2009

13 August 1961: Creation of the Berlin Wall

We have become so fixated on the "Fall of the Wall"—whose twentieth anniversary we mark in a few months— that most of us downplay or forget altogether its creation, whose anniversary is today. Not only do most of us have little knowledge of the Wall: I would bet that most Americans think it ran down the middle of a city on a border, as did the pre-1967 "Green Line" in Jerusalem, rather than surrounding an enclave well inside the boundaries of a sovereign state. The geography helps to account for a reaction at the time by Der Spiegel that would nowadays qualify as one of our "nasty Nazi analogies." The liberal magazine said of the erection of the barrier, "the Soviet zone was transformed into a concentration camp."

This week's Spiegel cites that line and reminds us of other forgotten facts: e.g. that Berliners gathered to protest—but mainly against the Western powers, whom they accused of timidity and betrayal. Although no one anticipated that the Wall would become the permanent and symbolic structure that we all know, and rather, saw it is part of a chain of acts of repression and harassment of the Western zone by Soviet and GDR forces, there was some sense that this episode might nonetheless be different, as the aforementioned quote suggests.

See Andrew Curry, "The Day the Wall Was Born"
The article included links to photos and related stories.

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