How the Berlin Wall dissolved itself in the Air

Rajvinder Singh | November 11, 2014 10:27 PM
Rajvinder Singh

By Rajvinder Singh 

When on the evening of 9th November 2014 a 15 kilometres long emblematic wall created by white balloons and lights right through the reunited city of Berlin was made to dissolve symbolically by releasing the balloons in the air by a battery of people, it marked the exact moment when 25 years ago the agitating GDR-Masses had finally forced the Communist leadership to announce the travel relaxations that prompted the opening of the gates of the 155 kilometres long and 3.2 to 4.5 metres high Berlin Wall that had divides the city of Berlin and surrounded its western part then called West-Berlin.

Sure, the physical wall has come down, but the mental wall is still intact, though not visible, yet observable in so many little things and situations. 




9th November is branded a fateful day in the German history. A number of events of far reaching consequences, positive as well as negative, are connected with it:

The leader of the first attempted popular German Revolution, Robert Blum, a left leaning Liberal, democratic politician, a member of the first ever Frankfurt Parliament, also known as the Frankfurt National Assembly of 1848, which was popularly elected to establish a Federal German State for the first time, was executed on 9th November.

On 9th November 1918 the German Emperor, Wilhelm II, after an utterly failed misadventure of the First World War, was forced to abdicate thereby clearing the way for democracy, a short-lived second democratic sojourn called the Weimar Republic.

9th November 1923 also marks the day Hitler first attempted to grab power in Bavaria by force, but was stopped by the police which opened fire on the demonstration of the Nazi Party killing 16 Ultra-Nationalists. Four police persons also died in the action. In 1933, Hitler ultimately achieved a popular electoral victory and established his dictatorship called ‘The Third Reich’.

On the night of 9th November 1938, the Nazi Party publically burned down Synagogues and properties of the German Jews. About 400 of them died in the first day of this pogrom, which also saw the arrest of about 30,000 Jews next morning who were then deported to the concentration camps where most of them died. The systematic extinction that began on this day ultimately killed more than 7 Million Jews by Hitler.

In 1989 it was for the first time that 9th November ultimately got connected to a real revolution with a positive and lasting outcome. It reunited a country that had become a victim of its own ideological stance to which, later on, Communism too was added. Consequently, not only the divided Germany became reunited, but it also triggered a wave of emerging democracies in many East European countries.

Last week’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall reminds us yet again how pernicious for common people the ideological divide leading to the cold war had been under which the world for most of the 20th century has largely suffered. But fortunately, this event also reassures our faith in the peaceful exercise of peoples’ power whose silent revolution has transformed the fallacious ‘democratic’ systems post 1989 into real ones.

Many people who have not seen it in person do not realize that in fact there had been two different walls or borders: One a 850 kms long national boundary, a combination of fence and wall between the ensuing West-German and East-German states, and the other, more visible, the Berlin wall proper that had divided the city into West-Berlin and East-Berlin, and stood some 200 kilometres inside East-Germany. This monstrous edifice measuring 155 kms long and 3.2 to 4.5 meters high ring which had characterised the divided image of the city and visibly surrounded West-Berlin as an ‘island of freedom’, which Tom Wolfe had described as “obviously one of the historical epicentres of the twentieth century, this fantastic, medieval wall built in the mid-twentieth century dividing a city, a whole country in two, literally dividing brothers and sisters from brothers and sisters on the other side,” had challenged the humanity day in day out. In all its menacing, repressive glory the wall had rendered here a boy stuck in East-Berlin with his mother and sister, while his father ended up in the West, there a mother separated from her daughter longing to see her. It cleaved the city just as it had divided families.

After the end of the WW II in May 1945, Germany was divided into four allied occupation zones. Its capital Berlin, which was located deep in the Soviet zone, was also divided into four zones. After the Allied powers in their post-war treaty talks failed to agree on the future status of Germany, the three western powers decided in 1948 to unite their occupation zones into one autonomous state called Federal Republic of Germany. Annoyed the USSR blocked all land routes to West-Berlin hoping the western powers would abandon West-Berlin. But instead of that the USA and UK launched a massive airlift of food supplies and fuel into the city lasting for months and forcing the Soviets to end the blockade in May 1949.

By 1961 the cold war propaganda of the West supported by Marshal Plan investments on the one hand and the life under communist regime on the other caused widespread dissatisfaction among East-Germans. It resulted in mass exodus at an average of some 2000 East-Germans professionals, skilled workers and intellectuals daily into West-Berlin, amounting to 2.5 million people leaving GDR. This loss exerted a devastating effect on the East-German economy. On the night of 12th August the authorities reacted with immediate closing off access points between East and West Berlin, laying down more than 30 miles of barbed wire through the heart of the city. Western threats of trade sanctions failed to have any impact on the Eastern resolve. It was on 15th August 1961, when people in India were celebrating their Independence, the people in East-Berlin were being robbed of their freedom, as the barbed wire was now being replaced by a concrete Wall up to 15 feet high, officially to “protect the East-German citizens from the pernicious influence of decadent capitalist culture”. The walls were guarded with watch towers, machine gun emplacements, and mines. About 5000 East-Germans managed to escape across through a number of creative means, but thousands were captured while trying to flee, and 191 were shot or killed by accidents.

Although the East-German state was called the German Democratic Republic, it was neither/nor, and had alienated its citizens. 'Democracy' can only be complete if a proper discourse with the Demos is held at intervals, with a legitimate, sincere and accurate account of socio-political manifesto and intent. But the GDR appeared to have been an experimental state, whose microcosm we can visualize as best represented by an academic institute, where the academic research projects would stand for the socialist project that the GDR state truly embodied. But as a sovereign political entity as state, it lacked the dynamics of emotional and social relationships among people, whose dominant pragmatic lore can again be seen represented in or compared to a sterile institutional dynamics.

A sense of patriotism though cannot prevail among people if they are to remain confined within walls. They wouldn’t be allowed to travel outside the East bloc countries, fearing they might 'turn their backs on their country and never return back, that they would commit ‘Republikflucht‘, a concept used as parallel and equivalent to an imbecilic term commonly known in the armed forces as ‘desertion’. That level of state cowardice was staggering.

In the meantime Mr Gorbachev becoming the head of state in 1988 had realised the appalling state of Soviet economy and was passionately convinced of the need of widespread reforms. That involved the relaxation of rigid policies pertaining to the people and their work culture and life. But this was perceived in Germany as a prospective chance towards reunification, or at least towards travel relaxations. In the summer of 1989 many East-German tourists in Hungry occupied German and Austrian embassies and pressed for permission to go to these countries. Soon mass demonstration also began to be held in the GDR itself, which lasted for weeks. Erich Honecker had to resign, perhaps under pressure from the Big Brother in Moscow.

Ultimately, on the night of 9th November 1989 as the demonstration achieved their peak in East-Berlin and in Leipzig, the check points to the West were thrown open. Soon after people began to tear down the Wall!

Sure, the physical wall has come down, but the mental wall is still intact, though not visible, yet observable in so many little things and situations. And yes, the Wall in West-Jordanland, between Israel and Palestine came up long after the one in Berlin came down. As if the world was seen deprived of the one and the Israelis went ahead to erect it. Crazy World!

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