13 August 2011

Anniversary: The Berlin Wall

50 years ago today, the East German government (with some 'encouragement' from their Russian 'friends') started erecting the Berlin Wall, and physically dividing Germany along its post-WWII political fault lines.

There's an interesting site called the Berlin Wall Online that tells a great visual story of the evolution of the wall.

What are your recollections of the wall, if any? I was there several different times in the '80s and thinking "damn this thing is ugly."

Oh, and for a wargame tie-in, how about Berlin '85, the S&T classic?
And in 1994, Armor Magazine published an article based on recently-declassified Soviet war plans about "How the Soviets Planned to Take Berlin." You can read it in the PDF download of that issue here.

By: Brant


besilarius said...

Sometime around 1967, a high school buddy visited some family in West Berlin. He told this story.
One of the rules of the four powers which controlled the divided city was that the name of the East Germany, Deutches Demokratishe Republik (DDR), was not allowed in the environs of Berlin.
Opposite the French section, there was a rail yard with a big water tower. One morning, everyone awoke to find DDR emblazoned on it in huge letters.
Nothing, if not sticklers for propriety, the French command informed the East German civic administration and the Red Army commander, that this was an unauthorised act, a violation of the Four Party Compact, and if it were left up, then at 12 noon the following day, the tower would be destroyed.
At eleven AM, the French military force in West Berlin deployed opposite the railyard. All the tanks took aim at the tower, and their CO took out a stop watch.
For fifty minutes he took no notice of emissaries from the civic authorities or the Soviet commandant, but merely kept his eyes on the tower while holding the watch.
When things seemed to reach a point of no return, suddenly two very nervous railway men hurried over to the tower. They quickly ascended the ladder and opened up a large can of paint.
They painted out the first D, so that the railway tower showed "DR".
DR was the logo of the Deutsches Reichsbahn, German Railroads.
The French tanker regretfully shut his stopwatch, and his column went back to barracks.

Anonymous said...

I may have told this before here, but I was one of the last people to be REFUSED entry into East Berlin.

It was October 7, 1989, not quite a month before the Wall actually came down. October 7 is East Germany’s “Foundation Day”, the commemoration of the date of the founding of the country in 1949. National holiday, with big parades and so forth in Berlin.

My friends and I took the elevated train from West Berlin - you get on in the West and travel non-stop to Friedrichstrasse, a station about half a mile inside East Berlin, and go through the border there. We got out and the station platform was full of border guards, many more than the time I had gone over the year before - there were even police dogs. A big beefy guard and two others came up to us - he shoved out his hand and demanded:
We handed them over. He looked at them.
“Ja, sie sind Amerikaner, ich bin Kanadisch.” (I, the Canadian, was the only one who spoke German.)
He snapped them shut and poked them back at me.
“Keine Einreise!” (No entry!)
No point in arguing, so we stuck around for 15 minutes until the train went back to the West.

We found out later that no one was being allowed in from the West on that day, because Gorbachev (who was then the poster child for freedom and reform throughout the Warsaw Pact) was in town for the holiday, and big anti-government demonstrations were expected. This was reinforced by what had happened (but we didn't know about it in the West) a few days before in Leipzig: the city police had refused to put down anti-government demonstrations, so factory militia had to be trucked in from outside the city to break them up. This was the first visible breakdown in the authority of the East German government.

As it turned out, the East Berliners had a nice holiday with no riots, I’m sure Gorbachev enjoyed himself, and we went to the open-air flea market.

A few days later, I left Berlin. And not long after that, people began to travel through the Wall without hindrance. I had missed the Freight Train of History by a couple of weeks.

The End.