30 years ago, the Berlin Wall fell, killing hundreds (archive photos and videos) Today.dir.bg
On August 13th, in 1961, Berlin struck a split. Not only is the country split into two parts - the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany, with the capital Bonn) and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany, with the capital Berlin). Just for the night of August 12th to August 13th, a barrier was erected in the emblematic city - a barbed wire that should stop citizens of the communist (ironically called) democratic part from going West. The locals wake up and realize that they are separated from relatives and friends.
To the dismay of the East Germans, the construction of a huge concrete wall began, which after a year was already 2 meters high and barbed wire above (3.6 m in total). The barrier is only 43 km long in Berlin (106 km in length). 66 km of barbed wire are stretched above it, 302 observation towers and numerous automatic firing systems are installed. Border troops sent to guard have 20 bunkers and 259 trained dogs. So the wall quickly became a sinister symbol of the Cold War.
And like in any war, there are casualties. Hundreds are trying to break the barrier in search of freedom. 239 of them were killed and 260 were injured. Another 3221 people were arrested near the wall. However, there are also lucky ones - 5043 manage to escape (of which 574 soldiers) through 70 tunnels dug into the ground.
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The first casualties fall the first year - more than 20 people were shot dead in an escape attempt. One of them remains emblematic. Exactly one year after the wall was erected - on August 17, 1962, East German border guards killed 18-year-old bricklayer Peter Fechter. The boy who runs the risk of going to his sister in the West is punched with many bullets - according to the archives, a total of 35 soldiers have fired at him. He is the only son of 4 children of a mechanical engineer and saleswoman. His escaped friend manages to jump over the wall and escape from the other side.
However, Peter is paralyzed with fear when the shooting begins. And that turns out to be fatal - he is badly injured and falls in blood. She starts crying for help. People on both sides of the wall hear his gunshots and shouts and cluster around. However, the authorities immediately send reinforcements and the assembled were pushed. The crowd started shouting, "Help him, help him," but West German police officers can only throw bandages and gauze at him because they are not allowed to enter East German territory. Only after three hours the young man was taken to a hospital where he died. The delay is most likely fatal.
However, while Peter begs to be helped, Bild newspaper photographer Wolfgang Bera hears shots from the east side of the wall and climbs. He sees the wounded boy under him and begins to film him. He then jumps and rushes to the Americans at the emblematic checkpoint between the two parts of Berlin - Checkpoint Charlie. He asks them to pull the boy out, but they do not help: "We have received a clear order:" Stay put. Don't do anything! ".
Both their inaction and the soullessness of the East Germans provoked protests that evening. Hundreds of people are gathering from the west to throw stones at eastern border guards and attack Americans with shouts: "Killers!"
However, the 12 photographs of the photographer immediately circumnavigate the world and show the true face of the communist regime. One of them becomes a symbol of the pursuit of freedom - it shows four East German border guards carrying the body of exhilarating Peter Fechter.
Shortly after the tragedy, his father died of heart problems and his mother became ill mentally. Despite all this, the family has been harassed for decades by STASI, with housing being searched regularly.
The last victim died more than 30 years later, shortly before the end of the division - in 1989, 20-year-old waiter Chris Geoffroy died of fatal misconduct. A well-known soldier tells him that the shooting order has been canceled. So the young man, who does not like his life in the GDR and has to enter the barracks, decides to go with his friend across the wall. On the evening of February 5, they were hiding in a small garden near the border. Later, they attempt to jump over a wall with a ladder, but the alarm goes off. Western witnesses later say they heard at least 10 shots and saw the man's body slump lifelessly. Chris dies after a few minutes and his friend comes to life with serious injuries and is taken to a prison hospital.
The government is trying to cover up the case. In a letter to Erich Honecker, the Minister of Homeland Security (STAS), Erich Milke, wrote that he had taken measures to "prevent damage to the GDR", including limiting to the mandatory minimum the statutory communications to relatives.
So the family, who lives not far away and ironically even hears the shots, learns about Chris's death in two days. Two weeks later, the relatives published an obituary in the Berliner Zeitung, in which, at the request of the authorities, it was reported that it was an accident.
"The vague wording of the tragic case, in which Chris closed his eyes forever, was repeated in the mourning word of the official. No more was heard about the cause of death. STAZI staff were at the cemetery long before the funeral. the mourning hall ".
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The revenge for the deaths of both Peter Fechter and Chris Geoffroy is late and insignificant. The two border guards who fired at the first, when they themselves were 26 and 20 years old, were only sentenced in 1997 and not effectively - sentenced to 20 months probation. The soldier who shot the second also received a sentence of only 3.5 years in prison.
However, the real delayed and unjust justice is the verdict against the main culprit for the killings - Egon Krenz. On August 25, 1997, the last communist leader in East Germany, who inherited his cruel Stalinist predecessor, Erich Honecher, was convicted of orders to fire on fugitives. However, he has only served a few years without repenting. The sentence is six and a half years in prison for the murders of four people trying to escape through the Berlin Wall. Krentz issued the orders even before he became the first head of the GDR, when he was a member of the Politburo and secretary of the central committee responsible for security.
He appealed, arguing that the legal framework of the newly created German state should not apply to events that had taken place in the former GDR. Krenz also insists that the prosecution of former GDR employees is a violation of a personal agreement given by West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev during their talks leading to the unification of Germany.
However, his sentence was upheld, albeit 10 years after the fall of the wall - in 1999. Only then did Krenz go to prison. While serving his sentence, he was released for a short time so that he could file a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, demanding that it be set aside as illegal. However, his request was denied in 2001.
However, Krentz was released from prison early - in December 2003, after serving less than 4 years. He remains on bail until his sentence has expired. After his release, he lives quietly in the city of Dirhagen with his wife.
"Every death at the border was a great loss. This is not a new sensation. We talked about it in the GDR too. In the course of the trial against me, I apologized to all GDR citizens who have suffered injustice. But, unfortunately, I cannot I think of no country in the world where injustice has been committed. To act as if there was justice in West Germany, and only injustice in the GDR, is illogical because it is contrary to reality. admit the reality. Some tried to defy the guideline but to no avail. It is clear that we have failed to evaluate the social processes in our country realistically enough and to draw the right lessons. "
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The turning point came in the fall of 1989, when East Germans rose against power. People can no longer tolerate the ban on traveling freely. Mass protests began in Leipzig, Dresden and East Berlin, where more than 1,000 protesters were arrested on 7 and 8 October during the celebrations for the 40th anniversary of the GDR.
Under pressure from citizens, on October 18, 77-year-old state and party leader Erich Honecker is forced to step down from all his posts. The official has declared that he has health problems. For his successor he proposed the younger and considered reformer Krenz. That evening, he announced in a statement on national television that it was a "turning point" for the GDR, promising to introduce more liberal travel conditions for East Germans.
However, people do not believe him. They can't forget how, just a few months ago, after the bloody suppression of student protests in Tiananmen Square, he went to China to thank communist leader Dan Xiaoping. That is why the many thousands of protests continue with the demand for Krenz's immediate resignation. He tries to alleviate discontent by removing some of the top party officials and launching "reforms". Prov is a law that allows citizens to finally be able to travel. Of course, the regime is not completely liberal - they still have to declare private trips to the West, but no longer have to state the reasons for leaving and have relatives there. An application to be submitted to the authorities is still required, only the approval period is kept to a minimum. In addition, there is a requirement that the stay abroad be 30 days. And this is semi-freedom and the East Germans, who have gathered the energy of the protest, do not accept it.
On November 9, the Central Committee met, after which it began to become a memorial press conference with the world media. On it, Berlin's Communist leader and Party secretary, Günter Shabowski, must announce the leadership's decisions. He does not know what they are. Shortly before 6pm, Krenz gives him a memo, but nevertheless, about an hour during the briefing, broadcast live on television and radio in the GDR, there is no particular news. Shortly before 7pm, however, an Italian journalist asked the question: "Wasn't it a mistake the bill for days ago?"
Initially, Shabowski responded routinely, but finally uttered the words: "... and we have made a decision that allows every citizen of the GDR to exit the country's border points."
First Reuters is spreading the sensational news. It is followed by the West German DPA, followed by the announcement of the official East German ADN agency, although it states that "private travel must be requested". At 7:30 pm, the ANSA directly announces that the Berlin Wall is falling. The date is November 9 - exactly 30 years ago. At 10.45pm, the guard soldiers still confused by the new order open the doors to West Berlin. However, the most eager ones start climbing to get beyond. Still others tear down the wall, breaking pieces, some of which are still preserved as a memory of the evil of communism.
And although power has been a democratic move for decades, East Germans have not forgiven it for its restricted freedom and killings. Less than a month later, under the pressure of citizens, Krentz is forced to resign, and the Politburo falls.