Saturday, August 13, 2011
On August 13, 1961, soldiers from Soviet Union controlling East Germany, close the border to West Berlin with barbed wire. Two days later, East German troops begin fortifying the divide with concrete slabs. Construction of the infamous Berlin Wall—one of the most iconic symbols of the Cold War—takes place just two months after East Germany’s communist leader Walter Ulbricht says, "No one intends to build a wall" to try to stop the exodus, totaling over 3 million by 1961, of East Germans over to the democratic West. By the end of construction, the wall is 96 miles and 12 feet high. It lasts 28 years. On November 9, 1989, the border is opened, the majority of the wall is destroyed and Germany is reunited. Over the wall’s lifespan, over 600 people die attempting to escape across the inner-German border or the Berlin Wall
On August 13, 2011, Germany commemorates 50 years since the construction of the ominous Berlin Wall with many events across the city. One exhibit presented by German artist Simon Menner entitled "Pictures from the Secret Stasi Archives," uses photographic evidence to expose the sinister espionage conducted by the Stasi—the secret police of communist East Germany—in its efforts to spy on West Germans between 1961 and 1989. Commenting on the photographs Menner said, "These were used during courses on how to dress up and blend into society … They seem pretty absurd now, but it was meant seriously—this is evil stuff." As a result of the intrusive state surveillance systems used by the Nazis and later the communist Stasi, Germany has some of the strictest privacy laws in the world. Other commemorative events include a ceremony at the Berlin Wall Memorial on Bernauer Strasse, where one of the few intact sections of the wall still stands, to be attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Christian Wulff.