European way of life

The Berlin Wall in 10 numbers

For the 28 years it stood, it was an open wound between the two Germanies, the two Berlins. Today, the German capital commemorates the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and organizes a lot of events to celebrate this decisive episode of the recent European history.

Vestiges du Mur de Berlin, Allemagne © Eurofluence

Ruins of the Berlin Wall © Eurofluence

Five years ago, in 2009, I followed  the official ceremonies which gathered together many heads of state in Berlin at the invitation of the German chancelor, Angela Merkel, on French TV. Remember the famous « Wir sind Brüder Brühe(r), wir sind Berliner », « We are broth, we are Berliner » of the failed Kennedy French president of that time, Nicolas Sarkozy or the Italian Silvio Berlusconi, who was fighting against somnolence.

De gauche à droite : Gordon Brown, Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel, Dmitri Medvedev, Horst Koehler, Klaus Wowereit et Hillary Clinton à la Porte de Brandebourg, le 9 novembre 2009, Berlin, Allemagne  © AFP, Michael Gottschalk

From left to right : Gordon Brown, Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel, Dmitri Medvedev, Horst Koehler, Klaus Wowereit and Hillary Clinton, Brandenburg Gate, November 9th, 2009, Berlin, Germany © AFP, Michael Gottschalk

But this year, Germans want something more intimate, and that’s the occasion for the whole Europe to wonder about this new history that was born on the ruins of the wall, not forgetting that it still remains some « Walls of shame » all around the world, from Belfast to the West Bank.

It’s hard to make an effective review of three decades of psychologic separation made stone. So, like in my post about the D-Day on June 6th, 1944, here is a non exhaustive list of 10 numbers to become aware of the tragic extent of this recent historical fact.

Les familles déchirées se font signe, de chaque côté du Mur, 1961 (domaine public)

Les familles déchirées se font signe, de chaque côté du Mur, 1961 (domaine public)

Indeed, the Wall of Berlin, from the August 12th, 1961 to the November 9th, 1989, it’s :

  • Around 167,8 kilometers of border between West-Berlin and the GDR : 45,1 kilometers between the two Berlin ; 63,8 kilometers in town, 32 kilometers in the woods, 22,5 kilometers in plaine, 37,95 kilometers along rivers, canals and lakes. The Wall of Berlin is not only in town.
  • Two walls, in fact, of 3,4 and 4,2 meters high,
  • 127,5 kilometers of electric fence,
  • 500 meters of border made of buildings with bricked up windows,
  • 8 frontier posts between the two Berlin,
  • 302 watchtowers,
  • 20 bunkers,
  • 14 000 guards and 600 dogs,
  • 40 tunnels dug to escape,
  • and 136 victims who were shot along the Berlin Wall, fugitives, guards or victims of the fate.

Walls separate and never protect: an history that we are now trying to understand in a Europe, when many of its borders have been abolished.

And you, what memory do you have of this event? What image do you get about it?

Chute du Mur de Berlin, en novembre 1989, Allemagne  © Alfred / SIPA, photo de http://www.20minutes.fr/debats/361589-souvenir-gardez-vous-chute-mur-berlin

Fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, Germany © Alfred / SIPA, photo from http://www.20minutes.fr/debats/361589-souvenir-gardez-vous-chute-mur-berlin

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