Today marks 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Germans will celebrate the anniversary with public gatherings, exhibitions and memorials. German politicians will be joined by their foreign counterparts in the celebrations and acts of remembrance of the event.
The Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989. It was constructed from concrete and was manned by armed guards. The divide was not only a physical one but an ideological, splitting Berlin into East and West, between Soviet socialism and post-war West Germany.
The wall included an intra-wall area known as the ‘death strip‘. It was an area between walls up to 160 yards wide, that contained a multitude of watchtowers, anti-vehicle trenches, guard dog patrols, floodlights and trip-wire machine guns.
Defections: Successful efforts and fatal attempts
It’s estimated that around 5,000 people managed to successfully defect to the West during the years of the wall.
The number of deaths resulting from defection attempts has been questioned but is estimated at somewhere between 100 and 200 people.
In a letter dated October 1973 instructions from the East German government were found instructing guards to shoot defectors on sight:
“Do not hesitate to use your firearm, not even when the border is breached in the company of women and children, which is a tactic the traitors have often used.”
Notable politicians attending this year’s event
The commemoration of the fall of the wall will be lead by the German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier. He will be joined by the leaders of Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary in Berlin.
Angela Merkel is attending the celebration at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate.
“We want to ensure that no wall will separate people ever again. It proves that no wall is so high that we could not break it. The fall of the Wall shows there is no excuse not to fight for freedom.” – Angela Merkel