Half of Germans unaware of when Berlin Wall built: survey

Wed Aug 13, 2014 10:45am EDT
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By Helen Cahill

BERLIN (Reuters) - Exactly 53 years after East Germany's Communist authorities started to build the Berlin Wall, half of all Germans do not know the exact date when the city was divided, said a survey released this week.

Shortly after midnight on Aug. 13, 1961, East German troops began erecting a barbed-wire barrier to prevent skilled workers from fleeing to West Germany. The fence evolved into an imposing concrete wall that came to symbolize the Cold War.

When asked what happened on this date, some 50 percent of Germans said they did not know, according to the survey of 1,013 people carried out by the Federal Foundation for the Study of Communist Dictatorship in East Germany.

Only 32 percent of those aged between 14 and 29 knew the significance of the date, said the poll.

"It's important to tell young people that this country was split and that great difficulties were brought on many families," said Anna Kaminsky, who carried out the survey.

The Wall finally came down in 1989 as the Communist East crumbled, but not before at least 169 people had been killed trying to escape to the more prosperous West.

After it fell, Berlin authorities were anxious to remove all trace of the hated barrier, leaving only a few remnants by the time Germany reunited in 1990.

Of the 302 East German guard towers policing the "death strip", a no-man's land between the inner and outer segments of the Wall, only three remained standing.   Continued...

A woman walks along the former Berlin Wall border fortification at the memorial site in Bernauer Strasse in Berlin in this November 9, 2013 file picture.  REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz/Files