the berlin wall

PI_GOLBE_BERLIN_AP_002Stefany Anne Golberg at The Smart Set:

In the beginning, the Wall was made of barbed wire and soldiers. On some streets, cinder blocks had been stacked. In the Neukölln borough, on Harzer Straße, the Wall was about neck-high. East and West Berliners could look at each other over the Wall but they were not allowed to touch. In a photograph taken on the first day, August 13, 1961, two mothers stand on either side of a coil of wire that reaches to their knees. The babies they hold stretch out to each other, inches of air between their fingers. There seems to be a magnetic repulsion preventing them from holding hands. In another picture from that day, a young man in a crowd stands across from two border guards; a chest-high stack of cement is separating them. The young man appears to be asking one guard a question — both lay their hands on the Wall. Their hands are almost touching. The second guard smiles and leans upon the Wall as if he were socializing at a pub.

We will build the Wall in summer, declared GDR leader Walter Ulbricht, a summer day will be best. A Sunday in summer, when Berliners will be on holiday, having picnics at the lake. We will begin quietly, at night, when Berliners are sleeping, and work mostly in the dark. We will tear up the roads to make them impassable, and seal the border crossings. Railway lines will be cut off and train stations will be turned into deserts. Never again will East Berliners be able to leave of their own accord. And when the people of Berlin arise in the morning, our work will be complete.

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