It was in 1961 starting this week that the East German government suddenly, although not without warning, divided the city of Berlin effectively walling off the West German portion that belonged to the Four Powers.
As per usual – Wikipedia has a good summary here. ZDF’s program placed the known death count from attempted escapes at 119 but acknowledged that there was not a completely accurate count. A far cry from the 3.5M+ that had bailed from East to West in the preceding decades.
I remember visiting both West and East Berlin in the early 1980s; the stark difference in the look and feel of the two societies. Unlike most Americans, I was not there to buy feather beds. Rather, George and I bought kids books by the dozens from presses which are no longer in existence. The rules for US military were strict – we could only go across at Checkpoint Charlie. I had to be in uniform, but rank, insignia and name had to be removed. Money changing was strictly regulated although I knew people who went around the currency regulations all the time.
After 1983, it was six years till I again traveled to Berlin. By duty train – an experience that ended with the end of the Cold War – a four-six hour journey could take 12 hours or more.
I have several pieces of the wall in my cupboard; small, simple looking bits of cement and stones. They don’t seem like much of anything, collected in a basket on my last trip, a friend and I walking along one of the crumbling areas and gathering up hand size and smaller pieces for everyone we knew wanted them.
They are still there, in a container waiting for me. A relic of the history I experienced first hand watching people stream into West Berlin in Nov 1989. I should mount them/shadow box them/secure them in some way before they are inadvertently tossed by a well meaning person helping in clean-up who might not recognize my memories in the plain, unpainted shards.