The Berlin Wall A Photographic Memoir Berlin 1945
The Berlin Wall: A Photographic Memoir Berlin 1945 – 80% of the city’s buildings had been destroyed.
In 1945, Germany was divided into four zones, one for each occupying power. Similarly, Berlin was divided into four sectors. Occupied Germany 1945 This Tripartite Agreement [The original three powers, the USA, Russia and the UK, made room for liberated France] placed Berlin under the Aliied Control Committee. Germany did not rule Berlin, nor could German troops and airlines enter. Access by road and air was guaranteed. It was meant to be a temporary arrangement But the Soviets had no intention of relinquishing power and allowing Germany to reunite. They wanted to deny the Allies access to Berlin and, by assuming power over the Allied sectors, to drive the West completely out of their zone. They blockaded Berlin to try achieve this. The Berlin Airlift thwarted this attempt. West Berlin was to become a thorn in the flesh of the Soviet zone, since its citizens could emigrate by simply entering the Allied sectors and flying out to West Germany.
Checkpoint Charlie By 1949, the three western powers had formed the BDR [German Federal Republic], West Germany, out of their zones. The Soviet zone had become the DDR [German Democratic Republic], East Germany. The three western sectors had become West Berlin, the Soviet sector, East Berlin. The Two Germanys 1949 -1989 The temporary division of Germany and Berlin was to last forty years. No-one, perhaps not even Walter Ulbricht, could have foreseen the course that events were to take during that era, though he had surely already formulated plans by 1949. The DDR broke all the Tripartite provisions for Berlin; they made it their capital, stationed their troops there, and flew their own airline in and out of Schönefeld airport in their sector. Despite the different occupying forces, the city remained a single entity until 13 th August, 1961. After this, West Berlin, sealed off from the rest of the Soviet Zone, effectively became an island in the middle of East Germany.
The Stalinallee, a street of massive blocks of flats for workers, was a typically gigantic socialist project of its time. In this DDR propaganda photograph, citizens look down its massive perspective with hope for a bright and prosperous future. It was from this project that workers rose up against the hard-line Stalinist government of Walther Ulbricht after Stalin’s death in March 1953. They had high hopes for liberalisation in the DDR, but rebelled against raised work-norms [by 10%] and repression. Inset: One of the posters of the time, advertising the project. East Germany confidently expected to overtake the prosperity of the West within 10 years, and such projects were meant to exhibit the bright and promising future of socialism.
Violent scenes in the Alexanderplatz as Russian tanks roll in, to be fought by courageous workers’ armies with sticks and stones! The Soviet Union at one point thought they had lost their zone, but to their utter surprise, the West did nothing to intervene, and the DDR survived. But by this time the hollowness of the DDR government’s claim to popular support had become clear. 1953 proved that the SED owed its survival to the power of the occupying Soviet forces.
East Berliners flee Soviet tanks and troops. The Soviets fired into the crowds, and strafed the border zones to prevent escapes into West Berlin. While the Red Army was putting down the uprising, Ulbricht and the rest of the regime were cowering under the protection of the Soviets, who despised them for it. “RIAS [Radio in the American Sector] says that there is no leadership left in the DDR, ” said the Soviet comander contemptuously in their presence. “Well, that seems just about true. ” Bertholt Brecht, DDR author, who supported the suppression of the uprising, later came to regret it, and wrote the poem on the next slide:
The Solution After the uprising of 17 June The Secretary of the Writers Union Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee Stating that the people Had forfeited the confidence of the government And could win it back only with redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier In that case for the government To dissolve the people and elect another? Berthold Brecht
In the early days before the Wall, sector boundaries were marked only by signboards such as the on the right which says: “You are now entering the American sector. ” On the reverse side it says: “You are now leaving the American sector”. Just within the Russian sector, the East Germans have erected their own sign: “The end of the democratic [!] sector of Greater Berlin is one metre away. ” Considering the record of the Soviet Union compared with the USA, the sign is ironic, to say the least.
The Wall goes up The Barbed-wire Barrier
1 2 The massive, carefully-planned “Operation Rose” began at midnight on Sunday 12 th August, 1961. It was only at dawn on Monday 13 th, that its extent became apparent.  The first visible sign in the centre that the border had been sealed – barbed wire across the Potsdamer Platz, with armed sentries placed every 2 metres to stop East Germans escaping.  A Grenzer [border guard] looks on as the barrier is erected. Does he support it, or is he regretting it?
Uncertainty is also written on the faces of these two young sentries. What are they really thinking? Even amongst supporters of the DDR, the sheer finality of the division caused by the Wall must have evoked some very mixed feelings.
Monday 13 th August 1961: West Berliners look on as the first barrier is strengthened. The feelings of both NVA soldiers and onlookers seem to be profoundly mixed. Who is laughing and who is mocking?
A deeply symbolic photograph - the Pariser Platz and Brandenburg gate as seen through the rolls of barbed wire with which the East German government sealed off the border on 13 th August 1961. One of the main reasons for the success of “Operation Rose” was that, fearful of provoking a war, the Allied occupation forces prevented West Berliners from breaking down the barriers. Allied armoured cars were stationed just behind the photographer.
The tragedy of Bernauerstrasse. The houses were in East Berlin, but their front doors opened onto a street in West Berlin. These people are escaping to the West by climbing through the windows. They are already in West Berlin. The East German Government soon sealed off the doors and windows, first with barbed wire, later by bricking them up. The house fronts themselves eventually became part of the Wall.
Tuesday 15 th August 1961: Conrad Schumann jumps. He was followed by eighty-eight more sentries. He settled in West Germany and raised a family. After the Wall came down, he returned to his native Saxony to visit his estranged family, but was not made to feel welcome. He returned home and hanged himself.
A Hero of the Wall This is without doubt one of the most moving of all the Wall photographs. On Tuesday 14 th August, 1961, a 19 -year-old NVA* sentry opens up the barbed wire barrier letting through a child to rejoin its parents, from whom it has been cut off. The fear in the sentry’s face is palpable. He was arrested and shot for this act of heroic generosity – and he could have been in no doubt that this was the likely consequence of his actions. Sadly, history has not recorded his name. *Nationale Volksarmee, National People’s Army Another famous Wall character, right – 20 -year-old Private Hagen Koch. He mapped the Wall for the DDR on 15 th August, 1961. At Checkpoint Charlie, he straddled the border and painted the now infamous white line demarcating the division between East and West Berlin. He was issued with a new pair of boots for his trouble. After the fall of the Wall, ironically, it was Koch, by then middle-aged, who was appointed to auction off its sections!
The first fixed barbed-wire fence is erected. Only across the actual city centre were concrete walls built. The fenced barriers were nevertheless potentially lethal to the would-be border crosser.
Until the border was sealed, Berlin was functionally still one city, despite the division into sectors. In this photo, the confusion created by Monday 14 th August is apparent on the faces of the people. The man on the eastern side of the fence [left] is on his way to work in the West, and is starting to realise that he will never see his place of employment again. The woman on the western side [right] is questioning the East German sentries, and looks angry. The initial reaction of West Berliners was, in fact, anger; not only at the Communists for their division of the city, but also at the West for its acquiescence in the division.
The Wall goes up The Cinder-block Barrier
Within three days of sealing off the border with barbed wire, the East German government began to build the first Wall proper, of cinder blocks, topped by y-shaped brackets carrying barbed wire. Here, distressed West Berliners stand on ladders in a desperate attempt to see loved ones on the eastern side.
Turning 180º from the previous slide, this is what the West Berlin onlookers in the Bernauerstrasse saw happening. The motorcyle police are West-Berliners. The first, barbed-wire barrier still stands in front of the cinder-block Wall.
The cinder block Wall under construction. The DDR used a human barrier of sentries to prevent its citizens crossing over in the interim between the removal of the wire and the building of the Wall. In this and the next photograph, Westerners were able to do little more than stand impotently and watch.
The cinder-block Wall under construction. In the background, the y-brackets and barbed wire have already been mounted on the finished structure. In the foreground, building continues. This is one of the sections of Wall that divides a street in half [look carefully in the background], and cuts across another street, the Eisenstrasse [foreground].
This photograph captures perfectly the precarious situation of the Wall in earlier days. East German soldiers affix barbed wire to the hastily [and shoddily] built cinder-block wall, protected by NVA sentries on the Western side. These men are still on DDR territory, which extended beyond the Wall. Note how the West Berliners just stand, watching the process.