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  The Wall in texts

M. de GUÉNYVEAU, head of the political Division of the French military government in Berlin, on 14th August 1961, Documents diplomatiques français, Paris, Imprimerie Nationale, 1998, n° 71.

" The situation appears to be calm just now in both sectors of Berlin. The only demonstration – and it could have turned nasty – has been the one that was held yesterday evening at the Brandenburg Gate, where several thousand westerners stood together opposite the sector border until midnight (...)

Thirteen crossing points are still open. As for the rest, we are getting news from various places that thick walls of masonry are beginning to go up and ditches are being dug. The S. Bahn lines linking West Berlin to the zone (such as those at Potsdam or Oranienburg) stop at the zone border, where a certain length of the rails has been removed (...) Many stations have been closed in the eastern sector.

Altogther, 3 700 refugees turned up at Marienfelde between Saturday noon and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Brandt said last night that another 800 had arrived at the reception centre during the day between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

However our security service indicates that only about fifty persons of those who registered got through after the borders were closed. This figure should probably be multiplied by two or three, to take into account people who went straight to their friends or relatives in West Berlin (...) ".

Erich HONECKER, Aus meinem Leben, pp. 202-203 :

" For twelve years, the East German border with West Berlin - and more or less with West Germany – had been open. To be precise, it was a border between the entire community of socialist countries opening onto the capitalist world. The dangers of this became ever more apparent as the situation in and around West Berlin might at any time be exploited to provoke tension and dangerous international conflict.

Being located in the middle of East Germany, West Berlin had a border with our republic 164 kilometres [102 mi.] in length, including 45 kilometres [28 mi.] with the East German capital. Until August 1961, this border was neither protected nor controllable. It passed through streets, houses, allotments and waterways. Up to half a million people crossed it every day. But West Berlin was not just any territory inside East Germany ; it was, to quote the phrase used by its political leaders, the "cheapest of atom bombs", the "stake in the flesh of the East", the "city on the front" : the Cold War front. 80 espionage and terrorist organizations no less were active there. From there, monetary speculation was organized on a huge scale in order to undermine the East German economy. Centres were set up to attract East German labourers to West Berlin which could be described as the hub of the ongoing trafficking in human beings, for which unscrupulous managers were collecting substantial bonuses. In the middle of 1961, certain aggressive circles in West Germany and among their Allies in other NATO countries felt that the time was ripe to stir up new trouble in East Germany. They wanted to come "to the help" of the agitators by organizing a Bundeswehr operation disguised as "interGerman policing action". "

Speech made by Willy BRANDT in front of Schöneberg City Hall on 10th November 1989

"This is a beautiful day after a long journey. But it is only a stage. We have not yet reached our goal. We still have a long way to go.

The ties that unite Berliners, and Germans in general, are being demonstrated in a deeply moving way. They are being demonstrated at the most moving place of all, where once separated families are now being unexpectedly reunited, with tears in their eyes.

(...) As Mayor during the difficult years from 1957 to 1966, and so at the time of the building of the Wall and the years that followed, and as one who in West Germany and in its name contributed significantly towards reducing tension in Europe and in setting up what it was reasonably possible to obtain in terms of human contact and concrete relations, this evening I extend my most cordial greetings to men and women from every part of Berlin and to my fellow countrymen from both parts of Germany, and I will add this: Now, many things are going to depend on the ability of us Germans on either side of the Wall to rise to the occasion in this historic situation.

(...) I have always been profoundly convinced that this division by concrete, barbed wire and this "corridor of death" were flying in the face of history. And again this summer, without quite knowing what the autumn had in store for us, I wrote: "Berlin will live and the Wall will come down".

(...) I would even have no objection if a fraction of this abominable edifice were preserved as a reminder of the horrors of history (...) Those who are lucky enough to be young today and future generations will sometimes have difficulty in understanding the historical context in which we find ourselves.

(..) At the time, in August 1961, not content in our anger to demand the removal of the Wall, we came round to the idea that Berlin had to go on living in spite of the Wall. It should not be forgotten how with the help of Federal Germany we rebuilt the city. Those who followed us have added their own substantial contribution to the reconstruction work.

But here in Berlin, in addition to the city's own problems, the building of houses and economic and cultural recovery, we had a further mission to fulfill – we had to ensure that in Berlin and through the existence of Berlin, the road remained open to a united Germany.

(...) And I repeat, nothing will ever be the same again. This is true both for us in the west, who will be judged not only on our past declarations, but also on what we are ready and able to do today and tomorrow, in spiritual and material terms. And I hope that our drawers are not empty with regard to things spiritual and that the coffers are not too empty. And I hope that we shall find the time in our schedules to carry out what we now need to accomplish. We must beware of appearing to sermonize. Our desire for solidarity, for closer ties and for renewal is going to be tested. We must draw closer together, keep a cool head and do our best to defend our German interests whilst keeping our obligations towards our continent of Europe.

Pascale HUGHES, " 1st May 1990, the reunion march ", Libération, 2 May 1990.

" A compulsory chore under the old régime, for the first time in forty-four years, the Labour Day march was something less than impeccably conducted. And it was still a joke ; "The 1st of May, remember one woman who had worked for a Berlin Kombinat, it was the only demo we ever had in East Germany. You were dragged out by force. Piled into coaches. And we filed past to music, mechanically."

On this 1st May 1990, it was a new look demo. For the first time since 1946, the unions of East and West joined forces and it was a united Berlin that stood at the foot of the Reichstag. From East and West, 60 000, for once without papers, had crossed over what is left of the separation between the two sectors of the city to celebrate this big family reunion (...)

Unter den Linden had not seen such excitement since the days following the opening of the Wall. Along the broad street down which the valiant workers of the German Democratic Republic were marching to the rhythm of old German songs of the workers’ struggle, the West had yesterday set up its symbols ; pancake stalls, Mickey Mouse hats, Marlboro parasols, Coca-Cola, banana régimes and disco sound (...) East Berliners had come for a taste of the slogan posted in Republic Square : "Come together. Taste the West". Oblivious to it all, guards in boots and verdigris uniforms were changing the guard at the memorial to the victims of Fascism and militarism, goosestepping to the tune of some disco crooner (...)

On the Western side, every dropout and alternative hippie in Berlin marched down a feverish Kreuzberg. The police feared, like every other year, street riots and looting by gangs of skinheads. But with the opening of the Wall and the security arrangements at the crossing points, there was no trouble. "



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