Berlin Wall

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I am not the one trying to speed things up. We are being driven. ~ Helmut Kohl
At 0.30 o'clock, tanks roll over the street Unter den Linden. Shortly after 1 o'clock the lights go out at the Brandenburg Gate. Armed GDR border police and members of the combat groups are positioning themselves at the demarcation border. Ghostly scenes take place: pavement is torn open in the spotlight of the military vehicles. Piles are rammed into the ground, barbed wire rolled out, tank barriers erected. ~ Banjo/mb
t’s not a very nice solution, but a wall is a hell of a lot better than a war. ~ John F. Kennedy
Every stone bears witness to the moral bankruptcy of the society it encloses. ~ Margaret Thatcher
Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this Wall. ~ Ronald Reagan

The Berlin Wall (German: Berliner Mauer) was a guarded concrete barrier that physically and ideologically divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989. The barrier included guard towers placed along large concrete walls, accompanied by a wide area (later known as the "death strip") that contained anti-vehicle trenches, beds of nails and other defenses. The Eastern Bloc portrayed the Wall as protecting its population from fascist elements conspiring to prevent the "will of the people" from building a socialist state in East Germany.

Quotes[edit]

Alphabetized by author
  • A reformation of relations between the Soviet people and the German people is not possible along the lines pursued by the authorities of the Soviet zone of Germany. The Germans in that zone have come to hate and despise those who violate them in so inhuman a manner. And they must be having similar feelings towards those who support that system. The closing of the border is an unprecedented admission of bankruptcy. It shows that the people who are compelled to live in that part of Germany can be prevented only by the use of physical force from leaving that paradise of workers and farmers.
  • At midnight on August 13, all troops involved in the construction of the Wall are alerted. The action begins, it is supported in the hinterland by the Soviet armed forces stationed in the GDR. At 0.30 o'clock, tanks roll over the street Unter den Linden. Shortly after 1 o'clock the lights go out at the Brandenburg Gate. Armed GDR border police and members of the combat groups are positioning themselves at the demarcation border. Ghostly scenes take place: pavement is torn open in the spotlight of the military vehicles. Piles are rammed into the ground, barbed wire rolled out, tank barriers erected.
    The "Melodies for the Night" are running on Berliner Rundfunk. At 1:11, they are interrupted. The news anchor reads out a special message: "The Governments of the Warsaw Pact States are addressing the People's Chamber and the government of the GDR with the proposal to introduce such an order on the West Berlin border, which reliably shunts the activity of rioting against the countries of the socialist camp and around the whole area of West Berlin a reliable watch is ensured. " This informs the citizens of the GDR about what has already been going on for 71 minutes: the building of the Wall.
  • Walls in the mind often stand longer than those built of concrete.
  • On the very same day the first brick of the Ram Shila foundation was being laid at Ayodhya, the Berliners were removing bricks from the Berlin Wall. While a temple was going up in Ayodhya, a communist temple was being demolished five thousand miles away in Europe. If this is not history, I do not know what is. (...) The post-Nehru era began at Ayodhya on November 9, and it will gather momentum in the years to come, just as the post-communist era in Europe and elsewhere.
    • Jay Dubashi (commenting on these two important events on the same day on November 9, 1989), From Shilanyas to Berlin Wall in The Road to Ayodhya (also [1]), quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2014). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism. New Delhi: Rupa. p.302-3
  • In the summer of 1989, neither Helmut Kohl nor I anticipated ... that everything would happen so fast. We didn’t expect the wall to come down in November. And by the way, we both admitted that later. I don’t claim to be a prophet. This happens in history: it accelerates its progress. It punishes those who are late. But it has an even harsher punishment for those who try to stand in its way. It would have been a big mistake to hold onto the Iron Curtain. That is why we didn’t put any pressure on the government of the GDR. When events started to develop at a speed that no one expected, the Soviet leadership unanimously – and I want to stress “unanimously” – decided not to interfere in the internal processes that were under way in the GDR, not to let our troops leave their garrisons under any circumstances. I am confident to this day that it was the right decision.
  • When they met in Vienna in the spring of 1961 Khrushchev bullied the young president: “It is up to the U.S. to decide whether there will be war or peace.” “If that’s true,” Kennedy responded, “it’s going to be a cold winter.” Then on August 3, 1961, the Berlin Wall suddenly went up—much to Kennedy’s relief. “Why would Khrushchev put up a wall if he really intended to seize West Berlin?” Kennedy wondered. “There wouldn’t be any need of a wall if he planned to occupy the whole city. This is his way out of his predicament. It’s not a very nice solution, but a wall is a hell of a lot better than a war.
  • Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us.
  • General Secretary Gorbachev’s policy of restructuring brings with it, for the first time since the end of World War II, a justifiable hope of overcoming the East-West conflict.
    • Helmut Kohl, Awake! magazine, September 22, 1990; in its article; Berlin—A Mirror of Our World?
  • I am not the one trying to speed things up. We are being driven.
    • Helmut Kohl
    • On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. The idea of German reunification, often discussed but considered unrealistic, once again became a subject of heated debate. Reunification now appeared inevitable, but scarcely anyone ventured to prophesy how soon it would come. German chancellor Helmut Kohl remarked those mentioned words when was accused of pushing unification plans too fast.
    • "The Dream of European Unity", Awake! magazine, (December 22, 1991).
  • We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this Wall!
    • Ronald Reagan
    • On June 12, 1987, just over two years before the astonishing events of 1989, U.S. President Ronald Reagan, speaking within sight of the Brandenburg Gate and with the Berlin Wall at his back, demanded those mentioned words.
    • Jehovah's Witnesses 1999 yearbook; Germany.
  • The Wall certainly ought not to be a permanent feature of the European landscape. I see no reason why the Soviet Union should think it is—it is to their advantage in any way to leave there that monument to communist failure.
  • The Wall was in the long run a propaganda catastrophe for the East. Every day it existed, it screamed aloud one simple, damning statement: in Berlin we Communists stood in direct competition with capitalism, and we lost. Khrushchev and his successors had to live with this permanent mute accusation until a Soviet leader came along who just couldn’t or wouldn’t do it any more.
  • Eventually, the buildings on the Bernauer Strasse, as elsewhere on the East Berlin/West Berlin border, were entirely demolished. No more dramatic escapes from windows. No more abseiling from the roof. No more desperate fugitives plummeting to their deaths on the cobbled street below. Nothing was to get in the way of the new, impregnable Wall. It would keep the state’s citizens trapped inside the GDR until... they resigned themselves to their fate and simply stopped resisting.
  • By 1989, shooting people on the border was unacceptable, and even the cosseted old men at Wandlitz knew it. None the less, the Wall still stood proud and ugly, with its sturdy blocks, its spikes and fences and alarms and watch-towers, seemingly permanent and impregnable. Its fate would not be determined in Berlin. Mostly it would be decided hundreds of miles away, by people who had decided that a Communism which needed to be enforced by guns and barbed wire was not a Communism worth having.
  • The West German revanchists and militarists are using the peace-loving position of the USSR and the member-states of the Warsaw Pact on the resolution of German question, so as to inflict harm on the German Democratic Republic through subversive activity and the illegal recruitment of citizens of the German Democratic Republic. For this, they primarily use the open border in Berlin. In the interests of the peaceful work and construction by the citizens of the German Democratic Republic and of the member-states of the Warsaw Pact, it is necessary to stop the illegal recruitment and other hostile measures. Therefore, we propose that the member-states of the Warsaw Pact agree, in the interests of the cessation of the subversive activity, to implement control along the borders of the German Democratic Republic, including the borders in Berlin, comparable to the control along the state borders of the Western powers.
  • Forget not the tyranny of this wall...nor the love of freedom that made it fall...
  • The Soviet Union could not exist without the image of the empire. The image of the empire could not exist without the image of force. The USSR ended the moment the first hammer pounded the Berlin Wall.

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