The day Berlin became a separated city….
August 13th 1961, East German troops close the border between East and West Berlin and the city becomes truly divided, escape to the West becomes life threateningly risky. Overnight the East Germans erected barbed wire fences, trains and road traffic between the two zones were stopped with immediate effect. It was a hammer blow for innocent families already struggling with the effects of the separation.
Until then the flood of refugees escaping to the West could be counted in the thousands, the East German government were desperate to stem the flow and placate the Soviet regime who were growing increasingly hostile towards the Allied powers and their vision of Berlin.
‘Barbed Wire Sunday’ as it came to be known drew huge crowds of angry demonstrators on the West side, attempts to kick down the wire fences were met by bayoneted soldiers, roads were made impassable and four days later on the 17th of August 1961 the wire fences began being replaced by concrete blocks. As the wall went up so they placed minefields and chain fences, the area which would become infamously known as ‘no man’s land’ was cleared to allow East German troops a clear line of fire at any residents trying to flee to the other side.
It is a crucial date to remember, fifty six years on there is a generation of people who will not fully appreciate what this wall meant or even care. But the ramifications, though not often publicised continue. The hurt caused by the betrayal of friends and family members on their so-called loved ones will stay until the end. I recently read a quote regarding North Korea in which an insider said ‘they know that they are probably being lied to but they have no idea what the truth is either’. This wall created the vacuum in which the truth was buried under concrete and an entire peoples were systematically brainwashed into believing an ideal which was only ever that, an ideal. It is near impossible to imagine a scenario in which, upon waking tomorrow, your home town or city has been cut into two and you have no communication with that other half. Fifty six years on it’s still happening in Korea.