Berlin Wall, Berlin, 15th September 2018

13th October 2018
Written by: Rob Slusar

After our day at the Zoo, we hit East Berlin for some more history.

I had always wanted to see the Berlin Wall, so it only made sense to visit the main points around it.

The History

Towards the end of WW2, the Allies and Soviets were attempting to agree on how Germany should be governed when hostilities ended. Eventually, when no agreement could be made, the country would be split. Berlin would be split into 4 sectors. The boundary between East and West was set along Bernauer Strasse.

In the initial years after the war, both sides developed at a similar rate, until the West’s freedoms created a thriving economy. In the formative years of this relationship, there was no physical barriers to movement. As a result, in the early 1950s, hundreds of thousands of people moved to the West to enjoy a life free of the Soviet oppression and a weak economy.

As more and more skilled people moved from East to West, the East’s economy began to slump, and the Soviets decided to take action to prevent people from leaving. On top of this, the relationship with the US during the Korean War (which caused the current split in Korea) continued to break down. The Soviets decided it was time to build a border.

The Wall

On the 13th August 1961, Soviet troops began rolling out barbed wire along the line of the border. For a short period, people were still able to move to the West and did so in droves. 3 days later, paramilitary militias began sealing doors and windows to create a physical border to the West. Barbed wire was replaced with brick walls and Armed militia were then positioned to control the population. The normal daily routine of crossing the border for work was now gone. Those who wanted to flee were forced to climb out of high windows (the ground floor ones being sealed) and avoid the border guards. In a lot of cases, these escape efforts were added by the Western police and forces. The biggest organised escape was from a group of civilians which totalled around 2,000 people on the 24th and 25th September.

To prevent the regular escapes, the border was continuously fortified. by 1965, the border defences had been expanded and included the demolition of homes and businesses, leaving only the facades as a physical barrier.

The concrete barriers that we now know as the Berlin Wall were only erected around 1980. Throughout all of its history, there were many escape attempts. Some escapees even resorted to tunnelling under.

The End Of Hostility

In the 28 years that followed the erection of the wall, the East and West developed independently. Hostilities began to easy throughout the 70’s and the 80’s, and through unilateral agreements, movement and trade between the two sides became easier. Escape attempts continued.

In the final years of the wall, the Eastern economy was struggling. Under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union began to dissolve and relinquish their control on its occupied areas. This would give each nation more independence to govern themselves. On the 9th November 1989, the wall was opened so people could move freely through Berlin once again. Although reunification of Germany did not happen until the following year, this date marked the day Germany began the next peaceful phase of its history.

The Pictures

As we walked around the Eastern part of Berlin, we took in a lot of the sections of the Wall. This included the Berlin Wall Memorial and the East Side Gallery. We did this under our own pace so I was able to spend a bit more time on the photos. Hopefully, they don’t look too touristy.

As with my historical Berlin report, I have tried to use photo’s that can tell the story of the wall.

Hope you enjoy.

Standing in the East side of Berlin. The poles represent the original line of the wall.

Looking through the poles.

Standing in the border strip. I may have been shot for standing here in the 60s.

This wall represented the boundary to the West. Many of the buildings which also formed a physical barrier have no gone, replaced by new modern structures.

As I mentioned, many structures were demolished to make way for the wall. The Reconciliation Church was located in the East of the city, although 90% of its members lived in the west. It was cut off when the wall was built, and by the 60s it was in the middle of the border strip. It was demolished in 1985. Only the foundations remain of this and many other buildings that were destroyed as part of the expansion of the wall.

On the Westside, looking over towards the Soviet-controlled watchtower in the border strip.

Imagine if this was your only view of the East of the city.

The memorial preserves a section of the wall. Here you can see. The far wall is the border with the West, then there is the border strip, essentially a kill zone. Closer is the Eastside wall. The border strip was effectively based on the East of the city. If anyone was caught in the middle, the West had no power to help.

As well as the walls, there may have been other barriers in the border strip.

The East side of the wall with the concrete sections which we have come to represent the wall in everyone’s mind.

Inside the border strip. The wall is currently a popular tourist attraction. Ironically, it was for Western tourists when it was built, with platforms built so people could look into East Berlin from the West.

East Side Gallery

Once we had completed our walk around the Berlin Wall Memorial, we jumped on the tram and headed to the East Side Gallery.

The East Side Gallery is an open-air gallery in Berlin. It consists of a series of murals on a section of the wall which stretches for more than 1300m. The project started in 1990 and currently has around 100 or so paintings by various artists.

Over the years some parts were moved, and others destroyed to make way for luxury apartments. Inevitably, the rest have been damaged by graffiti. Full restoration of the works began in 2009, with all but 8 artists returning to repair their work. The 8 refused to return because their original works had been destroyed by redevelopment.

Here are some of the works.

Left – Heavily damaged ” Seven Levels of Enlightenment” by Narenda Kumar Jain. Right – “Ode to Joy” by Fulvio Pinna.

“Fatherland” by Günther Schäfer.

“Pneumohumanoiden” by Jens-Helge Dahmen.

On the back of the wall, it is painted white. Presumably to draw graffiti away from the main art pieces.

“Worlds People, We Are The People” by Schamil Gimajev.

“The Wall Jumper” by Gebriel Heimler.

“Homage to the Young Generation” by Thierry Noir.

“Touch The Wall” by Christine Kühn.

“Sky and Viewfinder” by Peter Russell.

“Dancing For Freedom” by Jolly Kunjappu.

Not sure who this is by, but I call it “Get Human”.

The old and the new.

Final Thoughts

As we made our way back towards Alexanderplatz for dinner and well-deserved drinks, we stopped off at a quirky cafe. We then passed this modern building complete with artwork.

It just goes to show how from some 50 years of turmoil, Berlin has risen to be one of the most liberal and free-thinking cities in Europe. Yes, it is very modern, but behind the covers is some really interesting stuff.

This marks the end of my trip to Berlin, I will certainly go back at some point.

Once I got back, I prepped for a weekend at the Duxford Battle of Britain air show, so keep an eye out for those.

For those of you have made it to the end of this report, here’s a bonus picture or two. Thanks for looking.

Berlin TV Tower.

TV Tower at night.