The Berlin Wall – Then & Now
After WW2, Germany was “divided up” at the Potsdam conference into 4 zones, each of which was governed by one of Allied Powers, namely America, Russia, the UK and France.
The capital, Berlin, was wholly in the Russian zone but the city, too, was divided into 4 and each of the Allied Powers had a presence there. There was relatively free movement between the East & West of Berlin. People commuted to work from one side to the other, or visited relatives.
By 1961 some 2.5 million people had fled from East Germany to the West, often by the simple expedient of going to Berlin and then walking into one of the Western zones and asking for help. The outflow of people was damaging the economy of East Germany so, on the night of 12th – 13th August 1961, a wall was erected through Berlin. It was instantaneous. When the citizens of Berlin woke on the morning of the 13th, if they were in the East that is where they stayed. If they had only been visiting relatives in the East and had stayed overnight, then they stayed in the East, sometimes for decades. The wall divided families, separated friends & lovers, and ripped the heart from a city still recovering from war yet facing the prospect of another.
The early wall was neither pretty nor substantial, mainly barbed-wire reinforced by guns. It was re-built, refined, and strengthened over the years. To identify its weak spots, the wall was photographed by the East German guards along its whole length.
On the 9th November 1989, the checkpoints in the wall were opened, and the wall “came down” leading to Germany’s reunification on 3rd October 1990.
In 1995, fittingly enough in Potsdam, the photographs of the wall taken by the East German guards in the 1960’s were discovered in a military archive. They were digitally stitched together into panoramic views and exhibited in Berlin in 2011.
I was living in Berlin then, and visited the exhibition with my partner, Katharina, who is German. The photographs were captioned with the location and a map reference. Katharina recognised many of the place-names and, as I was allowed to photograph the exhibited pictures, we decided to visit the sites and take a photograph from the exact spot the East German guard had stood some 50 years previously.
We did not complete the project. We are currently on our “No Fixed Abode Tour” of Scandinavia and are overwintering in Lapland, but the next time we visit Berlin, well, the locations will still be there and we have the old photographs ……
Keywords:1960s photos from the East, 25th anniversary fall of the Wall, Berlin Wall, historic, present day photos from same location