Frank-Walter Steinmeier giving his commemorative speech on the construction of the Berlin Wall
Photo: JOHN MACDOUGALL / AFP
“August 13, 1961 was a fateful day for us Germans and for the world”: Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier castigated the construction of the Berlin Wall 60 years ago as “a testament to a hopeless failure”.
»The wall was the obvious sign of an injustice state that was neither sovereign nor legitimate in the eyes of its own citizens.
Basically the beginning of the end - which was, however, still too long in coming, «said Steinmeier at a commemorative event for the 60th anniversary in Berlin.
August 13, 1961 was a day "that destroyed dreams and hopes, that separated children from parents, grandchildren from grandparents, and painfully and painfully intervened in the lives of innumerable individuals," said the Federal President.
140 dead in attempts to escape in Berlin alone
The bulwark was around 155 kilometers long and enclosed the western part of Berlin. The wall ran 45 kilometers through today's capital. Only after more than 28 years did the division come to an end with the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989. In Berlin alone, according to scientific research, at least 140 people died as a result of the GDR border regime after the Wall was built. According to the federal government, at least 260 fatalities were to be mourned at the inner-German border.
In his speech, Steinmeier also recalled the well-known sentence "Nobody has the intention to erect a wall" by Walter Ulbricht, then GDR state and SED party leader in June 1961. This was "one of the most brazen lies in German history «. The regime in East Berlin had long had the clear intention of stopping the flight of so many people from the GDR at its most sensitive point, namely in Berlin.
This lie continued in the GDR's designation of the wall as an "anti-fascist protective wall".
“Who ever believed this propaganda lie?
The wall was not built to prevent a movement of conquest from west to east, but was built by a state that had to lock up its own citizens in its country in order to be able to function for a while. ”The Berlin Wall was in reality it was an admission "that not even its own citizens really recognized this state."
Steinmeier warns: "Freedom and democracy are never given by nature"
Steinmeier called for people not to stop at looking back when remembering the Wall.
It is a constant challenge.
»Freedom and democracy are never given by nature, never achieved once and for all.
Freedom and democracy must be fought for, but then also protected, defended and preserved.
Freedom and democracy need decisive commitment and passion. «That starts with participation in democratic elections.
"Remember everyone when a new Bundestag is elected soon," said Steinmeier.
fek / dpa