Berlin Neighborhood Remembers Wall's Construction

Originally published on August 22, 2011 12:26 pm
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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

This weekend, the world marks the anniversary of some not so ancient history. Fifty years ago, in 1961, communist East Germany built a wall to enforce the division between East and West Berlin. It was an effort to stop people from fleeing west. The wall went up in the middle of the night. People woke to find it there on August 13. Let's listen to some of the moments in the wall's history, from its sudden construction to its abrupt destruction in 1989.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

U: The attention of an anxious world is focused on East and West Germany and Berlin. A last great exodus of refugees...

U: Communist troops in force on every street corner.

U: East Berliners who have apartments facing the border take the long chance - from fourth and fifth floor windows they flee. This woman drops...

U: A young couple in East Berlin, separated from the bride's mother in the west, wave to the tearful woman. That is Berlin today.

INSKEEP: Today in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is ich bin ein Berliner.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

U: Today, tourist buses queue up to inspect the sights of Berlin. To have such a barrier right through the middle of a city is difficult for the visitors to take in.

INSKEEP: Mr. Gorbachev, tear this wall.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

U: Astonishing news from East Germany, where the East German authorities have said, in essence, that the Berlin Wall doesn't mean anything anymore.

U: In the middle of the checkpoint, the gates have been opened. The police are making no attempt to stop people as they go through and come back. I have never seen such elation.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

INSKEEP: In a moment, we'll hear from a man who lived for decades on the east side of that wall. First, we go to NPR's Bilal Qureshi.

BILAL QURESHI: This was a no-man's land. It was covered in barbed wire, constantly monitored by watch towers. Today, Bernauer Strasse is in one of the city's most chic neighborhoods.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHIMES)

U: (Foreign language spoken)

U: (Foreign language spoken)

QURESHI: Some people who live here say this is just another weekend in their neighborhood. But Stephanie Kespohl says coming here now with her 12-year-old daughter and her friend is a reminder of how Berlin has changed.

(SOUNDBITE OF WHISTLING)

MONTAGNE: Now everything is unified. And it's interesting for them also, because for them it's one Berlin.

QURESHI: This weekend, the city has invited Germans to come here to reflect on the wall.

MONTAGNE: (Foreign language spoken)

QURESHI: Bilal Qureshi, NPR News, Berlin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.