The 300 watchtowers, the twenty-two bunkers, the guns, the border guards, the dogs, the death strip, Checkpoint Charlie-they are all gone. Only 420 feet of the Berlin Wall remain mainly in the Bernauer Strasse in the city's Wedding district as a tourist attraction. It was once known as the "death strip," the Bernauer Strasse is where East Germans made dramatic leaps to freedom from upper story windows and where the largest number died attempting to escape. .
Erected in 1961, the wall stood for twenty eight years before crumbling in the face of mass protests in November 1989. That is how the story of the wall ends. But it began in stealth and secrecy 40 years ago. In the early mornigh hours of August 13, 1961, the top secret top-secret operationwas carried out by the military and police, under the direction of the future head of the German Democratic Republic, Erich Honecker. It was made to stop theflight of GDR citizens, espically skilled workers, to West Berlin.
Berliners called the Wall "das Unding"-the Monstrosity. Before it was raised at least 588 people died fleeing the GDR including 25 border guards. And on the anniversary of its erection, Berliners remember. They remember how their world became. They remember the fury and the helplessness of suddenly feeling caged in their grey little nation. .
As the sun peeded over the horizon on a beautigul Sunday morning, most East Berliners sleep, unaware that construction of a wall has begun. But a few thousand border crossers, who work on the other side of the wall. Mostly hotel and restaurant employees, their jobs are made profitabel by uneven exchange rates. Each day they make the trip to West Berlin. But this morning is different. People scream to each other "the border is closed!" No subway cars are runing westward. The communist party has found a way to secure its future-by walling its people in. East Berliners waken to a nightmare. For almost a decade, East Germany's 600 mile border has been sealed by barbed wire and twelve foot high electric fence.