20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down

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Joined: 25 Apr 2006

PostPosted: Fri Nov 06, 2009 12:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

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Pitch Queen

Joined: 24 May 2007
Location: Sunshine State

PostPosted: Fri Nov 06, 2009 4:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow, I remember that day. It is hard to believe that it has been 20 years already. I remember calling my brother and having the "do we buy plane tickets" conversation. We really wanted to be there, but decided that it was for the Germans to celebrate, not us. We watched on TV with the rest of the world. I love being in Berlin. I will get back there...
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 06, 2009 3:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've never been to Berlin myself, but it must have been a brilliant time for those taking part - taking a pick axe to the symbol of your divided city has to be up there with almost anything else as being a fantastic memory.

Here's an interesting story about an American who defected to East Germany.

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Pitch Queen

Joined: 24 May 2007
Location: Sunshine State

PostPosted: Fri Nov 06, 2009 8:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I love it there. It is an awesome city. My only problem with it is when I was there in JUNE of 2006 it was 55 degrees and rainy. That might take some getting used to. All of this is based, of course, on me moving away from Florida and I doubt that will ever happen again. I think more likely is that I will spend long vacations there, but never actually move. Definately a city worth seeing.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 12, 2011 8:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Berlin Wall: 50 years since construction of the wall began

Fifty years ago, on August 13 1961, the wall was erected in haste across the heart of a divided Germany's former capital, instantly becoming the starkest Cold War symbol of the Iron Curtain between the free West and Communist, totalitarian East.

The sudden and speedy construction of the East-West barrier caught many Berliners by surprise, including those who were killed as they tried to circumvent the wall as it rose.

13 August 1961: A worker helps to construct a wall between the eastern and the western part of the city

People carry only a few belongings as they flee to the west after it became known East Berlin was being separated from West Berlin

13 August 1961: An East German couple is turned away from the border, blocked by East German soldiers and barbed wire, after trying to cross into West Berlin. To stem the flow of refugees to the West, East Germany closed the border to all citizens and residents, except those with a special police permit

13 August 1961: Two men only dressed with their swimming trunks are covered with blankets after they manged to flee across the high security border separating Berlin to the West by swimming across the river Spree

Workers set up a sign warning pedestrians they are leaving the American sector of Berlin

15 August 1961: East German workers assemble a wall of concrete blocks in the French sector of East Berlin

15 August 1961: Defecting East German soldier, Hans Conrad Schumann, leaps over a barbed wire barricade at the Bernauer Street sector into West Berlin. Schumann made his break for freedom to join his family which had fled earlier to West Berlin. Schumann, who was immortalised in this photograph as he leapt across the barbed wire fence that became the Berlin Wall, hanged himself from a tree on June 20, 1998 in his garden

18 August 1961: Construction workers extend the wall from Potsdamer Platz towards Lindenstrasse under the supervision of armed officers

22 August 1961: Two East German builders working on a huge 15 feet high wall put pieces of broken glass on the top to prevent East Berliners from escaping

26 August 1961: Two weeks after the East German government sealed off the Soviet-occupied sector, Berlin's former chief crossing point between East and West, the Brandenburg Gate, appears as no man's land, in this aerial view taken from the British sector of Berlin. Seen in the foreground is part of the city's park Tiergarten, divided by the avenue Strasse des 17 Juni. Behind Brandenburg Gate proceeds the famous boulevard Unter den Linden, with parts of a newly erected cement barrier on the left.

28 August 1961: East German police observe West Berlin from over the wall

28 August 1961: West Berliners peep over the stone and barbed wire barrier blocking off East Berlin and the German Democratic Republic from West Berlin

28 August 1961: West Berlin police look across the East-West border at the Brandenburg gate

8 September 1961: Dieter and Monika Marotz of Bernauerstrasse wave to relatives after their wedding. The newlyweds lived in the western sector of Berlin, while their relatives, living on the same street, were in the Eastern sector and were unable to attend the ceremony

10 September 1961: A woman is lowered from a window in Bernauer Strasse on a rope to escape into the western sector of Berlin

12 September 1961: West Berliners, with their backs to camera, watch East Berliners unload prefabricated concrete plates to reinforce the Berlin Wall at Wilhelm Street

1961: Soldiers build the Berlin Wall as instructed by the East German authorities, in order to strengthen the existing barriers dividing East and West Berlin

1 October 1961: Windows of a house located on the eastern side of the wall are bricked up after East Berlin citizens escaped to the west from the windows

October 1961: A car drives between US tanks and across the border of the American sector at Checkpoint Charlie, the only one in the Berlin Wall between East (Soviet sector) and West Berlin (American sector), used only by diplomats and foreigners

December 1961: Soldiers stand guard at the newly built Berlin Wall

A British soldier stands guard in West Berlin as the East Germans added further restrictions on the crossing of the East-West border

November 1961: Barbed wire on the west side of the Brandenburg gate, put up as a 'Safety measure' by the British

1962: West Berlin children play at 'constructing the Berlin wall' with toy guns and imitating East and West Berlin wall security guards

17 August 1962: Peter Fechter is carried away by East German border guards who shot him when he tried to flee to the west. Fechter was lying 50 minutes in no-man's land before he was taken to a hospital where he died shortly after arrival

9 February 1964: Sightseers climb onto a bus to look at the newly-built Berlin Wall

Heinz Meixner with his fiancee and her mother Frau Thurau, show how they arranged themselves in his Austin-Healey Sprite to drive through the Berlin Wall, Germany, circa 1965

20 September 1965: Stanislaus Gefroerer lays low in the back of a lorry after crossing the Berlin Wall by ladder, fearing that guards may have seen him escape

The Berlin Wall seen from Bernauauer Strasse in the French Sector

An aerial view of the wall and no-man's land in 1978

May 1988: An East Berlin border guard gives instructions during the removal of a part of the Berlin wall after East Berlin agreed to hand over a small portion of land to West Berlin

9 November 1989: A man hammers a section of the Berlin Wall near the Brandenburg Gate after the opening of the East German border was announced

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 28, 2011 4:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nervy Checkpoint Charlie stand-off remembered
28 Oct 11

Fifty years ago, on October 27, 1961, US and Soviet forces took the world to the brink of war at Berlin's Checkpoint Charlie. Hannah Cleaver takes the temperature of the legendary Cold War flashpoint today. With tanks facing off just feet apart to see which side would blink first, a row over East Germans checking the passports of American military personnel as they went into Soviet-occupied East Berlin nearly escalated out of control. After a terrifying 16 hours of eye-balling, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev told his soldiers to turn back their tanks, which they did one at a time. The US forces mirrored the gesture tit for tat, averting a potentially disastrous conflict in divided Berlin.

Blink while on Friedrichstrasse now and you’re likely to be hit by a bus full of tourists. The checkpoint crossing is alive with visitors, crowding round the temporary hoardings printed up with slices of history and black and white photos, paying a couple of euros to be photographed next to two actors dressed in historical military uniforms.

On Thursday – exactly 50 years after tanks took their positions on the street – that road was host to a group of German tourists on Segway scooters, swaying hesitantly as their guide told them the story. A group of sight-seer-carrying East German Trabant cars also rattled past, the smell from their two-stroke engines leaving perhaps the most ‘authentic’ thing of the moment.

The Haus am Checkpoint Charlie, a private depositary of Berlin Wall artefacts quietly dominates, but is now surrounded by commercial signs of which side won the Cold War – MacDonald’s is there, as is Starbucks and German chain bakery shops Kemps and Backfactory. The atmospheric Café Adler at the corner, reputedly a meeting place for spies, but also a haven for tourists wanting a taste of older Berlin with their coffee is also gone, replaced by a Cafe Einstein, the historical décor replaced by neon lighting.

“Most of the independent shops have gone; they were forced out by high rents,” Karin Radloff told The Local. She owns the Laden am Checkpoint which has been selling tobacco since 1905 and now also stocks newspapers and magazines from around the world. "There is a lot of history here, and I think we are portraying it well. We clubbed together, shops in the area, to build the checkpoint hut. I know that some people are less than positive about it, and the actors standing there, but I like it. At Brandenburg Gate there are people dressed up as polar bears and things. At least here it’s historical, it fits.”

A metal plaque is set into the wall covered in sandbags between the two men dressed as soldiers, commemorating the stand-off between the Soviets and Americans there. It briefly sketches out the moment the Soviets turned back. Clemens Pfaff, 70, remembers the feeling of the time. The pastor at Berlin’s English-speaking Roman Catholic Mission was showing a friend the site. “I was in England at the time actually, studying theology and preparing to go as a missionary to East Africa,” he told The Local.

“There was a very real feeling at the time that there could be another war," he said. "I remember the Cuba crisis afterwards very clearly. You had got used to the Cold War, and the nuclear weapons, but everyone was just hoping it would not come to war.” Those hoping perhaps more than anyone else included Heinz Schäfer, an East German border guard at the time. “We had pistols, the Americans were armed – if only one soldier had lost their nerve, I don’t know if we would be sitting here today,” he said. “It was hard, it was dangerous, but we survived it without bloodshed.”

Tyler Willson was in one of the American M-48 Patton tanks. Speaking from his home in Jacksonville, Florida, he told the Jacksonville.com news site the Cold War suddenly seemed awfully hot with Soviet T-54 tanks just about 100 metres away. “One dumb move and I don’t know if it would have been World War III but it wouldn’t have been good,” he said. He said he was thinking, “I’m a dead man if they pull the trigger first. And we weren’t going to pull the trigger first.”

John Jungkeit, an American soldier with the 102nd Army Security Agency at the time, told The Local via email, “With three real war alerts in one week, troops were issued live ammunition in the field for the first time since the end of WW2. The Berlin Battle Groups had just been issued the new M14 rifle and a new type of ammunition. All other American troops in Germany still used the M1 rifle with different ammo. My job was monitoring friendly electronic communications to find out what secrets were leaking out to the East. I heard a US M48 tank commander receive orders to load a round in his 90mm gun, and leave off safety while keeping his sights on a T54 around 100 yards away. All the tanks guns were loaded and ready to fire at the height of the alert.

“The crowds on the east side of Checkpoint Charlie were giving wreaths of flowers to the Soviet tankers and cheering them on. On the west, the lead M48 had a small vase with a flower sitting on his turret. A short distance away, out of sight of the check point, a 3/4 ton truck sat with its engine running, ammo crates broken open with mortar shells ready to fire in their freshly dug fox hole. The engine was idling for a fast get away. On the parade grounds where the Battle Groups were waiting for orders, troops sharpened their bayonets and prepared their weapons for battle. When the alert was cancelled, fist fights broke out amongst the troops because they were so keyed up to fight. A nervous soldier on either side could have started a war.”

In the event, nerves were held, no triggers were pulled, and Berlin lived to eventually pull down its Wall, shake off its division and turn it into history. “We love it, there is so much history here, we are working hard to understand everything here,” said Padmavathy Rajasekaran from Mumbai, on a holiday in Berlin with her family. “It all looks great, you can see where it was all happening back then, almost imagine it.”


I didn't know that things had been so tight at the time.
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