Actually, tomorrow will mark that twentieth anniversary: two decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall, bringing an end to the DDR along with reunification of Germany. Few good things came out of that partitioned city, though the film industry profited through films like Funeral In Berlin, the second in the Harry Palmer series. The need not to know too much about Berlin’s geography is demonstrated when a coffin is moved across the border: the actual spot, the Glienicke Bridge, is on the border between Berlin and Potsdam – it’s nowhere near the former East Berlin.
The wall, despite East German propaganda telling that it was to keep spies out of the East, was clearly built to keep East Berliners – and other East Germans – from fleeing to the West. But it also gave reassurance to the US, UK and French forces who between them controlled West Berlin, because it meant that the Eastern Bloc powers had given up the idea of taking West Berlin for themselves.
And so, from the early 60s until late 1989, anyone caught making an escape attempt from the East was shot, and even if alive after the shooting, the escapee would be left long enough that they would bleed to death. It was a symbol of the cruelty of the totalitarian state in the East, and allowed those who peddled the idea of “monolithic Communism” to prevail.
There were also more bizarre aspects of partition: it was possible to drive from West Germany to West Berlin, by using motorway “corridors”. One condition of this access was that occupants of vehicles using the “corridors” were not permitted to look other than straight ahead: gazing over the fence at the DDR was banned.
Tuesday, 10 November 2009
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