5 February 2018 – half-life of the Berlin Wall

Half-life is the time required for half of something to undergo a process. Today, on February 5, 2018, Berliners celebrate the halfway point between the Berlin-Wall-era and the post-Berlin-Wall-era. In other words, today the Berlin Wall will have been down for exactly the same number of days that it once stood, namely 10,315.

The Day the Berlin Wall went up

The Berlin Wall went up on 13 August 1961 and divided the city for the next 28 years. The purpose of the monstrosity was to stop the massive exodus of East Germans who were seeking a less controlled and more prosperous life in the West. Prior to the construction of the Wall, an estimated 3.5 million people had defected from East Germany.

The East German government called the barrier an “Anti-Fascist Protective Rampart”, necessary to protect East German citizens from western fascist elements who supposedly were intent on undermining East Germany’s efforts of building a utopian socialist state. The West German government called the barrier the “Wall of Shame.” During its 28-year existence, the Berlin Wall was continually fortified with guard towers, anti-vehicles trenches, beds of nails, dog runs, a death strip and shoot-to-kill orders.

Berlin Wall. Photo © J. Elke Ertle. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Berlin Wall. Photo © J. Elke Ertle. www.walled-in-berlin.com

The Day the Berlin Wall came down

The Berlin Wall stood until 9 November 1989 when it unexpectedly fell in the wake of a misunderstanding. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/the-day-the-berlin-wall-fell/ At an East Berlin press conference, Guenter Schabowski, an East German government official misread a new policy that was intended to allow select East Germans to visit the West with proper approval. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/schabowski-sparks-the-fall-of-the-wall/ Instead, Schabowski mistakenly announced that visits to the West would be permitted “immediately.” http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/brinkmann-or-ehrman-the-crucial-question/ Within minutes, masses of East Germans headed for the Berlin Wall crossings points. Without specific orders and quickly overwhelmed by the crowds, East German border guards opened the checkpoints. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/who-really-opened-the-berlin-wall/ Following that initial border opening on 9 November 1989, there was no going back. Within days, the Berlin Wall began to be dismantled for good.

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

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