Berlin Wall anniversary

‘People were crying as they built it around us’: The day the wall went up

In the west it was known as ‘the wall of shame’, built for just one purpose: to keep East Germans in. On the 30th anniversary of its fall, Mick O’Hare returns to 1961 and hears stories from both sides of the border

Wednesday 06 November 2019 18:46
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The image of East German border guard Conrad Schumann fleeing to West Germany made international front pages
The image of East German border guard Conrad Schumann fleeing to West Germany made international front pages
T

he crowd of Berliners that had gathered to watch were looking confused, some were starting to get angry. Concrete blocks and barbed wire were being placed across the streets as armed soldiers looked grimly on.

It was 15 August 1961, the third day after East Germany had begun building the Berlin Wall. Some of those about to be encircled in what would become West Berlin had begun to shout to people on the eastern side telling them to escape while they could.

Conrad Schumann heard them. The 19-year-old was on the front line, a border guard building a border that was getting higher with every passing hour. So on the spur of the moment, he took a punt, reckoning that by the time his colleagues had seen what was happening and raised their rifles he’d be over the wire and on the other side. Schumann ran…

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