German officials in Berlin on Sunday commemorated the 62nd anniversary of the construction of the Berlin Wall. Construction on the Berlin Wall first began on August 13, 1961.
Communist East Germany, formally known as the German Democratic Republic (GDR), erected the 155-kilometer-long (96-mile) barrier in order to keep its citizens from fleeing into West Berlin. The GDR’s border guard monitored the wall and would shoot those trying to escape.
Berlin’s Giffey: ‘Freedom cannot be taken for granted’
At the Chapel of Reconciliation in Berlin, the city’s State Senator for Economy, Energy and Enterprise Franziska Giffey attended a memorial service along with other German officials. Giffey and the others then laid wreaths at the wall memorial at the city’s Bernauer Strasse.
“Even after so many years it’s important to keep raising awareness that democracy and freedom cannot taken for granted,” Giffey posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. She noted that people died in pursuit for freedom for a reunified Germany and free Berlin.
The Berlin Wall Foundation estimates that at least 140 people died trying cross the wall from East to West Berlin.
One of those the victims being remembered Sunday is Peter Fechter.
The 18-year-old had attempted to flee over the wall in 1962 but was shot right in front of it. The severely injured Fechter shouted out for help, but the East German border police did not assist him.
West German police saw Fechter, but could not help him because they feared they would put themselves in danger. Fechter stopped screaming 50 minutes later after being shot, with East German media later announcing his death.
An event in memory of Fechter is anticipated at Zimmerstrasse, where he died. Zimmerstrasse is close to the famous Checkpoint Charlie.
Memorial events were also expected in nearby Brandenburg.
Thuringia premier: ‘The wall tore apart families and friendships’
In addition to the death it caused, the Berlin Wall seperated German families and friends.
“The wall tore apart families and friendships, it uprooted people and led to an incredible amount of suffering,” Thuringia Premier Bodo Ramelow said Sunday. The state of Thuringia was formerly a part of the GDR.
Ramelow said he was keeping in mind those “whose striving for freedom led to being spied on, persecution and exclusion or imprisonment.”
On November 9, 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall ultimately led to German reunification, with the event also symbolizing the end of the Cold War.
wd/jcg (epd, dpa)
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