|The Story of the
Section 1 Germany and Berlin at the End of WWII
Section 2 In the Beginning Was the Lie
Section 4 Checkpoint Charlie
Section 5 Breakthrough -- Part One
Section 6 The Wall
Section 7 Breakthrough -- Part Two
Section 8 The Wall between Concrete, Art and the Exchange of Agents
Section 9 The Brandenburg Gate
Section 10 The Final Breakthrough
"The wall is the most obvious and vivid demonstration of the failures of the Communist system."
John F. Kennedy, June 26, 1963
The Cruel Border
No section of the Berlin wall was as present in the minds of people around the world than Bernauer Straße. The street runs along the line between the Berlin districts of Mitte and Wedding. Wedding belonged to the French sector; Mitte, to the former Soviet zone of occupation. After the borders were drawn, the buildings on one side of the street stood in East Berlin, whereas the sidewalk in front of them were on West Berlin territory. The windows and doors of these buildings were walled up to block the possibility of escape to the West. The upper floors were ultimately demolished and the facades of the former dwellings integrated into the border fortifications. In time, the facades disappeared, too, and were replaced by multilayered barricades with a wall to the west and a barbed-wire fence to the East. Between the two barriers lay the so-called death strip, replete with antitank obstacles, watch towers and floodlights. Despite the barbed wire and fencing, people initially tried to maintain communication across the barriers. Examples are the child being shown to his grandparents on the other side and the couple, just married, receiving flowers from their parents, who are still in the east sector.
Public protest was possible only on the western side. For the most part, it consisted of appeals to the feelings of national unity. "There is only one Germany," read the banners that appeared in the first hours after the border was sealed. It was a call raised again on the eastern side when people in the GDR began to demonstrate in the fall of 1989. As shown by another placard, the unity of Berlin was seen from the outset as part of a united Europe.
Early propaganda from the eastern side made use of a different language that made the character of the dictatorial communist regime more than plain: "Don't get cocky, Mr. Brandt," one message warned the then Governing Mayor of Berlin. "We're good shots."