Germany marks 46th anniversary of Berlin Wall
13 August 2007, Berlin (dpa) - Germans on Monday marked the 46th anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall, which divided the city for 28 years and became one of the most visible symbols of the Cold War.
13 August 2007
Berlin (dpa) - Germans on Monday marked the 46th anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall, which divided the city for 28 years and became one of the most visible symbols of the Cold War.
Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit was among those who took part in a wreath-laying ceremony for the 133 people who are officially known to have been killed trying to flee across the Wall before it was toppled on November 9, 1989.
The anniversary coincided with the discovery of a document showing that communist East German border guards were ordered to shoot to kill anyone trying to escape to West Germany, including women and children.
The seven-page order, dated October 1, 1973, was found in the regional archive office in the eastern city of Magdeburg. It shows the Ministry for State Security, known as the Stasi, told guards to use their firearms to stop anyone trying to flee across the border.
Wowereit said the document illustrated "the implacability, arbitrariness and lack of respect for human dignity shown by the East German regime."
The East German leadership had always denied the existence of shoot to kill orders. "There was no such order to kill," former East German head of state Egon Krenz told the newspaper Bild on Monday.
Ronald Pofalla, secretary general of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, called the document "an object lesson to all those who would like to see the inhumanity of the (East German) regime disappear into the pigeonholes of history."
Marianne Birthler, head of the government office which found the document, said she would look into whether it warranted the start of legal proceedings against those responsible for issuing the order.
Birthler's organization has come under criticism for claiming that the document was the first written proof that shoot to kill orders existed, when in fact an almost identical document was published in a scientific journal a decade ago.
Government spokesman Thomas Steg said recent developments had shown the political and historical appraisal of the East German regime needed to carry on and that the government would continue to fund such research.
The firing orders were issued to a special Stasi unit that served in the Magdeburg region and whose role was to put a stop to escape attempts by East German border guards, sometimes with their families.
"Do not hesitate to make use of your weapons, even if women and children are involved in attempts to breach the border, something which the traitors have often taken advantage of," according to a section of the document.
The initial fence thrown up in Berlin on August 13, 1961 was quickly fortified into a prison-style concrete barrier with watchtowers and tripwires that prevented millions of East Germans from leaving for the western part of Germany.
Throughout the 28 years it existed, the West protested at the Wall and acclaimed as heroes the few people who managed to cross it -or in some cases early on, to escape in tunnels beneath it.
While the Wall was the best-known part of the Iron Curtain that divided Europe between communism in the east and democratic rule in the west, a communist-built fortified border of 1,378 kilometres also ran north-south through the whole of Germany.
Official figures snow 133 people were killed at the Wall, but the total number of East Germans who died trying to flee across the inner-German border was between 270 to 780, according to the Centre for Contemporary Historical Research in Potsdam.
More than 2,800 East German soldiers are believed to have crossed the border into the West.
The Wall has vanished, but a few sections of it have been re- erected around the city as monuments. These act act as a magnate for tourists 17 years after German unifcation.
Subject: German news