BERLIN (NewsNation Now) — Germany on Friday commemorated 60 years since the day East German authorities started building the Berlin Wall, where at least 140 people were killed over three decades trying to flee to the west.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier called its construction from Aug. 13, 1961, onward the “beginning of the end” for the communist regime, which claimed at the time that the wall was designed to protect the country from fascism.
People began attempting to cross the Wall to escape almost immediately after it was constructed. Three alone were killed by the end of August in 1961.
The Berlin Wall stretched for 96 miles, encircling West Berlin until 1989, when East German authorities reluctantly agreed following mass protests to open crossings. Within a year, East and West Germany were reunited.
Steinmeier called on Germans not to let the memories of that period fade and urged them to actively participate in democracy, including by voting in the country’s national election next month.
World leaders also reacted online to the anniversary about the historic symbolism of the wall’s rise and fall.
The Secretary General of the United Nations posted a photo of him walking alongside a section of the wall calling for an end to “artificial divisions” that “continue to be built in too many places.”
Germany’s ambassador to the United States exclaimed on Twitter, “democracy prevails.”
Flags are at half-mast across Germany in tribute to the lives lost during the wall’s existence.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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