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  • Janik Salazar Kaiser

The Berlin Wall

73 years ago, after losing the Second World War, Germany was split between the 4 winners. France, England, and America went on to form an alliance excluding the Soviet Union. Between both sides there was a lot of espionage and mistrust.

The west was known for its freedom, liberty and democracy whilst the people in the east lived in a communist country, always being surveilled. Until that moment, the people could comfortably move from the east to the west. But that all changed one crucial night on the 13 of August, 1961, when without warning the east closed its borders and built the beginning of what was going to be one of the worst walls in history. Anyone staying the night in the east with friends for example that actually lived in the west was now stuck there and it would be very difficult for them to get out.

But why did the Soviet Union decide to close its borders? Because many people had started to figure out that living in the west had economic and political advantages and decided to move there. The east was losing workers and civilians quickly, so as a way to stop that, they built a border encasing their whole territory. This came as a shock to everyone as no one was expecting the east to take such drastic measures. Everyone inside the east was now stuck there and it would be very difficult to break out.

Nevertheless, some people tried it, the first being Corporal Conrad Schumann, a soldier who 2 days after the wall was built decided to flee. He jumped over a 3ft high barbed wire and just at that moment there was a photographer who took a picture that became famous. After him others tried to escape, for example by hot air balloon or through tunnels. Now this carried on for another 29 years.

The fall of the wall was partly an accident and partly driven by the people, who started to revolt. It was 5 days after half a million people protested in the streets. To calm the situation the leaders of East Germany decided to loosen some travel rules. These rules were going to be announced at a press conference but East German government spokesman, Günter Schabowski, who had no time to go through his cards before, read them in front of the whole press.

"Private travel outside the country can now be applied for without prerequisites", he said and then continued by saying that as far as he was aware, these rules were effective immediately.

The press was stunned. The news spread like wildfire, and soon everyone was gathered around the wall waiting for it to be opened. The confused guards, overwhelmed by the massive crowd, opened the wall and everyone was free.

I was in Berlin in the Easter holidays and found the wall one of the most exciting monuments I have ever visited. I learnt a lot about the extraordinary circumstances that the people of Berlin had to go through not too long ago.

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