Minute of silence for Berlin Wall anniversary

Berlin on Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall with a memorial service and a minute of silence in memory of those who died trying to cross it to flee to the West.

The Wall was born in the early hours of Sunday August 13, 1961, a day chosen by East German authorities as that most likely to catch people by surprise as they enjoyed a summer day off.

In a secret operation code-named "Rose", tens of thousands of East German soldiers and factory militiamen were called out to cut off the Soviet-occupied eastern sector from the western part of the city, occupied by US, British and French forces since the end of World War II.

The Wall, known in the East as the "anti-fascist protection wall", was set up to stop the exodus of East Germans who found it easy to cross into West Berlin and then fly on to the West rather than attempt to cross the inter-German border farther afield.

In 1961, more than 2.5 million of East Germany's 19 million inhabitants had already voted with their feet by going West and, with up to 3,000 leaving every day, communist authorities feared the mass flight would bleed the state dry.

Soldiers blocked off the streets, cut off rail links, and began building a wall of barbed wire and cemented paving stones which over the years, in Berlin, grew in height and complexity over 155 kilometres (96 miles).

Today much of the Wall had disappeared with only small portions, totalling about three kilometres, remaining.

"There is the accusation that too much of the Wall was torn down," Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit acknowledged last week.

"Tourists may see it that way. But back then we were just so happy that the Wall was gone and we couldn't wait for those excavators to come and do away with it, this thing that created such misery in this city, that divided families, that claimed so many victims and caused such suffering," he said.

"But perhaps more should have been left to really show the horror of the division," he added.

Sections of Wall still standing are now being restored and listed for historical preservation.

Concrete slabs along Bernauer Strasse, the site of dramatic escape attempts and now of the site of the main Wall memorial, will be repaired by year's end, according to memorial project director Guenter Schlusche.

"Most of the damage was done by the Wall woodpeckers between 1989 and 1991," Schlusche told AFP, using Berlin slang for the souvenir-hunters who chipped away at the Wall after the border opened on November 9, 1989.

German President Christian Wulff, Chancellor Angela Merkel, who grew up in the East, and Wowereit will attend a nationally televised service on Saturday morning at a chapel built where the Wall stood for 28 years.

And a number of groups, including one set up to commemorate "the victims of communist tyranny", have called for a minute of silence throughout the city at noon to remember those who died at the Wall.

Berlin's public transportation service said buses and trains would also stop to honour victims while electronic messages at stations would tell passengers the reason why.

At least 136 people are known to have died at the Wall. Historians suggest that the overall figure of those killed while fleeing from East to West stands at between 600 and 700.

For days, German newspapers and television channels have been marking the upcoming anniversary with interviews of people who tried to cross the Wall and programmes and documentaries about its history.

A number of exhibitions are also being staged, including one at the Friedrichstrasse station, the only point of crossing by subway during the division of the city.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - Franchised Main Dealer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

    Recruitment Genius: Group Sales Manager - Field Based

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Guru Careers: Email Marketing Specialist

    £26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Email Marketing Specialist is needed to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
    World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

    Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

    The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
    Why the league system no longer measures up

    League system no longer measures up

    Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
    Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

    Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

    Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
    Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness