Why is this of interest to me? Because I went through the Berlin Wall twice in 1971, during the apex of the Cold War. And I went back in 2016 hoping to revisit that strange, frightening, and sobering experience. It was a big disappointment, since the Wall is gone, and boutique stores line the street that once housed the STASI and their considerable weaponry.
Germany, post WW2, was divided into four zones. The Soviets held the eastern side, and the U.S., France, and England held the western half. Furthermore, Berlin was also split among the Allies in a similar manner. By August of 1961, the Soviet bloc and East Germany’s Communist bloc were weary of so many residents leaving the eastern sector. So, on August 13, 1961, Berliners woke up to a city divided by a wall of barbed wire, later reinforced with concrete.
Eventually, it was replaced with a thick wall of concrete, lined with a “Death Strip”, a wide stretch of sand, guarded around the clock by East German soldiers. They were assisted by attack dogs, and trip wire machine guns. Of course, the East Germans proclaimed the wall was designed to keep “fascists” from getting into East Berlin.
This newly discovered section appears to be made from the remains of bombed out buildings from WW2. The gaps between the buildings were filled in and the cellars blown up so residents could not tunnel out. When the Communists arrived later, they reinforced the wall. Much like remaining sections of the wall, graffiti seems to be the primary focus. When the wall came tumbling down, this section was forgotten.
Pieces of the old Wall can be found here in the U.S. Two of them are at 1) the Main Street Station Hotel and Casino in downtown Vegas, in the men’s room, and 2) the Newseum in Washington, DC.
My trip through the wall remains one of the most memorable experiences of my life. How would you feel if one of your travel companions, a cute, hippie girl was strip-searched? And machine guns followed your every step across Checkpoint Charlie?