Monday, November 9, 2009

The Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall was erected on August 13, 1961. I was a senior in high school in Ohio. The Berlin Wall fell November 9, 1989. Jack and I were living and working in Virginia and we could hardly believe that the wall had fallen. It was something that we never thought we would witness during our lifetimes. When the wall fell it brought back many memories of a 1974 Memorial Day Weekend trip to Berlin. We had flown with a group of Army Audit friends from the Frankfurt am Main Airport to the airport in West Berlin. We toured West Berlin and marveled at how it had recovered from World War II. Then we went by bus to East Berlin to visit some attractions and a museum. In the photo above is Jim Blakeslee taking a photo of his fiancee Joyce Mattricianno. They were the witnesses to our wedding in April of 1974 and they were busy planning their wedding in Philadelphia for September of 1974.

In spite of the happy looks in the photo above everyone on this bus tour to East Berlin was extremely nervous. Notice all the windows and skylights on this bus. It was easy for the East Berlin border guards to monitor our behavior with all these windows. And I do remember an East Berlin Guard jumping on top of one of the buses near our bus with gun drawn. Scary. We were told by both the bus operator and the tour guide to remain seated at all times and to not talk to the East Berlin border guards who would enter our bus and search it and ourselves. We might be forced to leave the bus and not go to East Berlin if for any reason the guards thought we were not who we were or if they thought we were planning some type of uprising in East Berlin. What I remember most is the long amount of time it took to reenter West Berlin after touring East Berlin. Apparently East Germans who were desperate for freedom would try to sneak across the border holding on the undersides of cars and buses heading to West Berlin. So coming and going through Checkpoint Charlie was a scary scene with East Berlin guards sliding long mirrors on handles under buses to make sure that no escapee was clinging to a bus to gain freedom. I remember asking someone on our bus what the guards would do if they found someone under our bus. They said they might haul them off to a prison or just shoot them dead on the spot. Well, at that point our holiday trip to Berlin did not seem like such a grand holiday but more like a surreal moment experiencing what it would be like to live in a walled city under communism.

The Berlin Wall consisted of many small walls constructed to go around the sides of existing buildings and yards so some of the wall was made of mortar, bricks and concrete and some was extremely tall wire fences with barb wire on the top. Notice the cannon facing out to the street. And notice how drab all the building on the eastern side of the wall look.

Here we are standing by a war memorial statue. The newlyweds: Jack and Joann Shipley. Jack had in his hand his movie camera.

This photo is of one of West Berlin's main thoroughfares: the Kurfurstendamm. In the background is the Kaiser Wilhelm Church that was almost totally destroyed in 1943 during the bombing raids of World War II. The Germans have purposely not rebuilt this church to remind everyone of the horrors of World War II.
This is the famous Brandenburg Gate that was the symbol of Germany. During the time of the Berlin Wall it stood in East Berlin.
This is a communist statue to Lenin in East Berlin. I wonder if it is still there.

This photo shows how existing buildings and monuments were walled up along their sides to create the Berlin Wall. On this 20'th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall I suggest that you go to this site to learn more about the Berlin Wall:
And to learn how both West Berlin and East Berlin looks today click here: http://www.pbase.combmcmorrow/berlinmain
Remember that if we don't remember, history will repeat itself.


Denise said...

What a wonderful post Joann and quite a experience you had there and one I am glad you shared. So interesting.

June said...

Great post, Joann!