Friday 13th August 2021
Commemoration of 60 years of building the wall
Steinmeier recalls the day that “destroyed dreams”
On August 13, 1961, the division of Germany was sealed: the SED regime erected a wall. A “fateful day for us Germans and for the world,” says Federal President Steinmeier six decades later. He warns: The democracy that has been won must be protected.
Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier described the construction of the Berlin Wall 60 years ago as “a testament to a hopeless failure” and remembered the victims of decades of division. “The wall was the obvious sign of an injustice state that was neither sovereign nor legitimate in the eyes of its own citizens. Basically the beginning of the end – which was, however, still too long in coming,” said Steinmeier at the central commemoration in Berlin .
“August 13, 1961 was a fateful day for us Germans and for the world – and a day that destroyed dreams and hopes, separated children from parents, grandchildren from grandparents, and painfully and painfully intervened in the lives of innumerable individuals”, Steinmeier continued. “When we remember the construction of the Wall today, we also remember the dead and injured and those arrested – everyone who risked their lives for the sake of freedom.”
The Federal President called for us not to stop at looking back. The memory of the wall and division is a permanent challenge. “Freedom and democracy are never given by nature and never achieved once and for all. Freedom and democracy must be fought for, but then also protected, defended and maintained.” That starts with participation in democratic elections, “Elections that the wall and what it stood for, for so long, denied so many. Remember everyone when a new Bundestag is soon elected.”
On August 13, 1961, the construction of the Berlin Wall, which sealed the division of Germany, began. The bulwark was around 155 kilometers long and enclosed the western part of Berlin. The wall ran 45 kilometers across the city. Only after more than 28 years did the division come to an end with the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989. In Berlin alone, according to scientific research, at least 140 people died as a result of the GDR border regime after the Wall was built. According to the federal government, at least 260 fatalities were to be mourned at the inner-German border.
“Building of an almost insurmountable monstrosity”
Steinmeier recalled the sentence “Nobody has any intention of building a wall” by Walter Ulbricht, head of the GDR state and SED party at the time, in June 1961. This was “one of the boldest lies in German history”. “The wall was not built to prevent a movement of conquest from west to east, but was built by a state that had to lock up its own citizens in its country in order to be able to function at all for a while.”
Berlin’s Governing Mayor Michael Müller also referred to it. “Nowhere else has the inhuman character of the SED dictatorship been more evident than at the wall,” said the SPD politician at the memorial hour. “Up until the 1980s, the GDR leadership perfected the inner-Berlin border into a structure of almost insurmountable monstrosity.” Nevertheless, many people tried to overcome the wall, many would have paid for it with their lives.
Müller described the wall as a brutal barrier that separated the free from the unfree world. “Berlin remained a torn city for more than 28 years.” Today Berlin has grown together again. “The fact that the reunification of Berlin was so wonderful at the interface between East and West is a great triumph over decades of division,” said Müller. But this is also a great triumph for those East Germans who courageously demonstrated on the street for their freedom in 1989 and brought the wall down.
Memory in more than 300 places
SPD Chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz also praised the GDR citizens’ achievement in overcoming the division of Germany. “That was brought about by the citizens – they tore down the wall,” he said at a memorial event in Potsdam. “It was the citizens of eastern Germany who made it possible for us to come together as a country.”
CDU General Secretary Paul Ziemiak said: “The wall was cemented in human contempt. It is still the most visible symbol of the injustice of the SED dictatorship, for the regime of the old SED old men, the falsified elections, the lack of freedom, the persecution, the harassment . And also for the economic misery of the planned economy. ” The memory of this injustice must be kept alive and remain an integral part of the culture of remembrance.
Since today posters in more than 300 places in Berlin commemorate the building of the Wall. They showed well-known and less well-known historical motifs, on which the importance of the construction of the wall in all its tragedy becomes clear, said Kulturprojekte GmbH. It is about barbed wire, torn families, escape, protest, the military and the victims of the GDR border regime.