Thursday, August 11, 2011

Who Built The Wall?

The anniversary of the Berlin Wall comes closer, and the city is buzzing. On Saturday, there'll be a ceremony at Bernauer Street in Mitte; the Wall Memorial has been enlarged. The Wall used to cut the street in an eastern and a western part; people died trying to cross Bernauer Street. Now a row of steel rods are depicting where the Wall has been, as well as a "window for the victims".

Due to the anniversary people are also debating who put up the Wall in the first place. An American author, Hope Harrison, has a new book out claiming that Germans built the Wall, i.e. Walter Ulbricht, who was running Eastern Germany at that time, and not the Russians, who were occupying the Eastern part of Germany (and Europa)  since World War II. Historians usually blame Nikita Chruschtschow, the Soviet General Secretary, who also sealed the border between Western and Eastern Europe.

While Harrison might be technically true, Ulbricht was a puppet dictator put in place by the occupying Soviets to begin with, so accusing Germans is a bit sneaky. Generally speaking, all four Allies didn't have a problem with the Wall—Margaret Thatcher wanted it to stay in place after 1989. And Kennedy's adviser William Fulbright came up with the idea to build a wall in 1961 to quell the unrest in Central Europe, although, at that point, it was already in the works

Speaking of new books, not only is "The Berlin Wall Today" out; it is now available at Barnes and Noble, and there is also a German version (a French one will follow). Check it out!

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