34 years have passed since the day the Wall that divided Berlin into East and West was torn down. One year later, on October 3, 1990, Germany was officially united after four decades of division between the western part – Federal Germany and the eastern part – the People’s Republic.
It was built in 1961 by East German authorities and demolished by Berliners of both sides on November 9, 1989.
Read five things to remember about “wall of shame”.
1. When was it built?
It was a 2 meter wall, dividing Berlin into East and West. Westerners called it the “Wall of Shame.” It was built in 1961 by the East German authorities to contain the flight of its people to the West and was torn down by Berliners of both sides on November 9, 1989, when the regimes of so-called “existing socialism” began to crumble. It was the quintessential symbol of the “Cold War” between the “democratic” West and the “communist” East.
In total, around 5,000 people are believed to have escaped through the Berlin Wall during its existence, with around 10,000 more attempting to escape.
The 150 km long wall divides families and homes in half.
2. The numbers
Total perimeter – 155 km.
Electric fencing: 127.5 km
Surveillance posts: 302
Soldiers on alert: 11,000
55,000 mines placed inside the perimeter
3,000 dogs to assist in surveillance
3. The dead
During the 28 years of the Wall’s existence, at least 136 people have died trying to escape to the West. The first victim was 58-year-old nurse Ida Zickmann, who was killed on August 22, 1961, while trying to escape to West Berlin, where her sister lived. The last chronologically on the macabre list was the 33-year-old unemployed electrician Winfried Freudenberg, who managed to cross West Berlin with a homemade hot air balloon, but unfortunately it fell and crashed, resulting in his instant death (August 29, 1989).
4. The irony
A 19th century church was left inside the Wall, the temple of “Reconciliation”. The temple’s flock was mainly West Germans, and when the temple ended up on the atheistic east side, only the soldiers were left to visit. Thus, in 1985, the military leadership decided to demolish the religious monument using dynamite, as they judged that it obstructed the visibility of the adjacent outposts.
5. The fall
With the rise of Mikhail Gorbachev to the leadership of the Soviet Union in 1986 a wind of change began to blow through the countries of Eastern Europe. The policies of “perestroika” and “glasnost” also found scope in the countries of the Eastern bloc. With the opening of the borders of other socialist countries to the West, a new wave of East German citizens fled to West Germany through Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia.
The government of East Germany, surprised by the developments, decided to also open the country’s borders with the West on November 9, 1989. After this development, the Wall that separated Berlin for 28 years had no reason to exist and began to be demolished immediately, on the initiative of the Berliners.
One year later, on October 3, 1990, Germany was reunited.