World reflects on 60 years since the building of Berlin Wall


TO GO WITH AFP STORY by Audrey KAUFFMANN and PACKAGE “Germany-east-History-20years” FILES – West Berliners crowd in front of the Berlin Wall early 11 November 1989 as they watch East German border guards demolishing a section of the wall in order to open a new crossing point between East and West Berlin, near the Potsdamer Square. Two days before, Gunter Schabowski, the East Berlin Communist party boss, declared that starting from midnight, East Germans would be free to leave the country, without permission, at any point along the border, including the crossing-points through the Wall in Berlin. The Berlin concrete wall was built by the East German government in August 1961 to seal off East Berlin from the part of the city occupied by the three main Western powers to prevent mass illegal immigration to the West. According to the “August 13 Association” which specialises in the history of the Berlin Wall, at least 938 people – 255 in Berlin alone – died, shot by East German border guards, attempting to flee to West Berlin or West Germany. AFP PHOTO / GERARD MALIE (Photo credit should read GERARD MALIE/AFP via Getty Images)

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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