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Why was the Berlin Wall built?

A few months before the wall was built an increasing amount of people left East Germany every day by walking through the “Brandenburger Tor” as my ex-husband did as a teenager with his mother and brother carrying with them only a bag with their most important belongings. The East was losing not only the best brains, as another commenter says, but virtually everyone who anticipated the future to come and who was courageous enough to leave everything behind. They came from all over the country to Berlin, the trains were over crowded with people willing to leave the country.

In the time when the wall was built the difference between East and West was already so striking that a blockage was needed because otherwise there, soon, would have been a state with nobody living there – and that obviously was not acceptable to the regime. The country couldn’t offer anything attractive to their people which would inspire them to stay (see my answer to the difference between East and West Berlin.)

The wall was built in only a few days and the flow of people escaping increased tremendously in these last days – until they were trapped by the solid wall. At the beginning many people still could overcome it or swim through the river but very soon these possibilities were brutally controlled by guns and self-detonating bombs. Many people lost their lives when they tried to escape after the wall was built and the wall became the symbol of a totalitarian state which is ready to use utmost brutality against the people who want to be free.

In the same time all East Germany was surrounded by a strong fence and self-shooting facilities which would kill people when they tried to climb over the fence. An uncultivated open area near the fence called “the death strip” was created everywhere in order to see movement of whatever came near the border from the innumerable watch towers and people trying to escape were brutally killed. I lived about 10km from the border in my youth, in West Germany and we often went to the border to see the “progress”. At the beginning we still could wave to people over there, later they were translocated in houses further away from the border.

In order to fool people from inside the country who thought to be able to escape by climbing the fence at the border, all geographic maps available in East Germany were falsified: the streets and villages in the border regions were wrongly inserted into the map and only people who lived in the area of 10 km from the border-fence (I am not sure how many km, maybe more) were allowed to be or enter into this “special zone”.

It is hardly imaginable for people who are used to live in a Western democratic country that this was the reality, and even more difficult to feel into what suffering the regime caused to their people.