On this day in 1961 construction of the Berlin Wall began. Germany had been divided up by British, French, Soviet, and American occupying forces. The city of Berlin lay completely within Soviet territory, but it was divided. Soviet forces controlled the eastern part of the city and the country, and they were increasingly concerned about locking it down against the democratic West. The border was porous after the war, and millions of East Germans emigrated west in search of greater opportunities. By 1961, they were leaving at a rate of a thousand per day.
In the early hours of the morning, East German soldiers quietly began laying down barbed wire that was eventually replaced by a six-foot block wall, which the East German authorities called an “Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart.” Nine years later, the wall was raised to 10 feet, but people still tried to escape. Finally, in 1989, with the end of the Cold War, East and West Berlin residents gathered on either side of the wall and began chipping away at it, knocking off blocks with sledgehammers and climbing back and forth over it. The wall was formally dismantled, and Germany reunified, in 1990.
They only stand a while
contrived to separate
built of stone and concrete . . . still
none last forever.
In the meantime
they are unimaginary
casting pain and want
stood twenty-eight long years
more than one hundred lost their lives
one side to the other.
fractured remains have become souvenirs
people buy chunks of it in shops
at Checkpoint Charlie
where a section has been left to stand
a grim memorial – tourist attraction
clothed in spray-paint artwork over time
passers-by names and comments.
These remaining sections have been whitewashed
re-grafittied by professionals
fine-artists born on either side
in celebration of its fall
their concrete canvases
fenced off with hog wire
to keep amateurs away
Brilliant images evoke remembrance of a wall that was
beyond the reach of common sight and unencumbered
by the weight of mass
the walls of class, and race
between the rich and poor
some built around ourselves
Some who dare, protest
attempt a crossing
as most wait impatiently for them to fall
knowing their inbred failure:
reason for existence
and high maintenance