In the 1980’s, I used to visit my brother in Leipzig, East Germany and we’d frequently have to cross the border from East to West Berlin via Check-point Charlie, an Allied post famous for witnessing numerous attempts to escape from East Berlin. That drive from East to West was always surreal. On the East side would be grey, lifeless buildings and high walls topped with chicken wire. The East Side of the Berlin Wall was austere, the only markings were what I imagined were bullet holes. I’m not sure if they really were, but news frequently filtered out about people being shot trying to get over the wall- so I saw bullet holes everywhere.
From to August 13, 1961 to November 9, 1989 The Berlin Wall cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin. The official purpose of this Berlin Wall was to keep Western “fascists” from entering East Germany. This ended when the head of the East German Communist Party announced freedom of movement for all citizens across the wall.
My brother told me about how he once attempted to smuggle a mix-tape of all his favourite songs across the border, on his way back home. (No You-Tube back then!) Well, he got caught, ended up in big trouble, but luckily they let him go- only because he was a Diplomat’s son, and a foreign student. He recounted the ordeal as being particularly horrific.
On one of our trips, he captured an image of myself and my nephew on the West side of the wall. This wall, in contrast to its opposing side was a splash of colour; graffiti everywhere. And yes, you could take pictures here. It was ‘verboten’ on the East side. This pic was taken in the summer of 1989, a few months before restrictions were lifted.
Me- June 1989 (On the West Berlin Side of The Wall)
November 1989- Freedom
I returned to Berlin this summer (2017) and was amazed at the change in infrastucture. Check-point Charlie was now a tourist hub. Thankfully, large parts of the wall were still intact; a painful, but necessary reminder of a dark part of history.
Pics of the Wall as it is today