Photographs & narration by Magnum photographer Thomas Hoepker.
…they represent at least a try of what mankind could do but failed bitterly and brutally. In some aspects it was a dream which was shattered, people believed in socialism for a while and so many were disappointed.
Before the rise of the Berlin Wall in 1961, 3.5 million East Germans circumvented Eastern Bloc emigration restrictions, many by crossing over the border from East Berlin into West Berlin, from where they could then travel to West Germany and other Western European countries.List of deaths at the Berlin Wall – Wikipedia
Great 3D recreation of the wall (please ignore the annoying audio):
I did not know about this “classic” quote by the, then, head of the DDR. The quote is from 15 June 1961 at a press conference in East Berlin. The construction of the wall started less that a month after that:
“Niemand hat die Absicht, eine Mauer zu errichten.”Walter Ulbricht – First Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany
“Nobody has the intention of bulding a Wall”
East Berliners stormed the STASI headquarters to prevent files from bring destroyed.
According to Anna Funder, there was panic at Stasi Headquarters in Berlin-Lichtenberg:
Stasi officers were instructed to destroy files, starting with the most incriminating–those naming westerners who spied for them, and those that concerned deaths. They shredded the files until the shredders collapsed. Among other shortages in the East, there was a shredder shortage, so they had to send agents out under cover to West Berlin to buy more. In Building 8 alone, the citizens’ movement found over a hundred burnt out shredders.
According to William F. Buckley, Jr., “In the weeks after November 9, Stasi offices were stormed in various cities around East Germany. Stasi commissars in three of those cities committed suicide. But not one was lynched or executed.”Erich Mielke – Peaceful Revolution – Wikipedia
Erich Mielke’s famous live TV appearance in front of the Volkskammer on 13 November 1989: As his speech was broadcast live, Mielke began by using overly bombastic, flag-waving language, saying “We have, comrades, dear assembly members, an extraordinarily high amount of contact with all working people” (German: “Wir haben, Genossen, liebe Abgeordnete, einen außerordentlich hohen Kontakt zu allen werktätigen Menschen.”). To his shock, the Volkskammer responded with boos, whistles, and catcalls.
His face grief-stricken and pale, Mielke then tried to defuse the situation, “Yes, we have such contact, let me tell you-let me tell you why. I am not afraid to stand here and to give you an honest answer” (German: “Ja, wir haben den Kontakt, ihr werdet gleich hören – ihr werdet gleich hören, warum. Ich fürchte mich nicht, ohne Rededisposition hier Antwort zu stehen.”). Mielke continued, speaking of the “triumph” of the socialist economy, continuing all the while to address the members of the Volkskammer as “Comrades” (German: “Genossen”). In response, Volkskammer member Dietmar Czok of the CDU, rose from his seat and raised his hand. Volkskammer president Günther Maleuda interrupted Mielke, and allowed Czok to speak.
With his voice dripping with contempt, Czok told Mielke, “As a point of order, let me remind you that there are more people sitting in this House than just your Comrades!“. In response, many in the chamber burst into applause, cheers, and shouts of “We are not your Comrades!” (German: “Wir sind nicht deine Genossen!”)
Trying to appear magnanimous, Mielke responded, “This is a natural, Humanist question! This is just a question of formality.” (German: Das ist doch nur ‘ne natürliche, menschliche Frage! Das ist doch nur eine formale Frage!”), leading to further shouts of displeasure from the chamber. In a last ditch effort, Mielke “raised his arms like an evangelist,” and cried, “I love all – all Humanity! I really do! I set myself before you!” (German: “Ich liebe – Ich liebe doch alle – alle Menschen! Na liebe doch! Ich setze mich doch dafür ein!”).
Everyone in the room, including staunch SED members, burst out laughing. John Koehler later wrote, “Mielke was finished.”
Mielke’s address to the Volkskammer remains the most famous broadcast in the history of German television. Anna Funder has written, “When they think of Mielke, East Germans like to think of this.“Erich Mielke – Televised Humilliation – Wikipedia
Coda: Although I may not necessarily agree with their conclusions, these two videos provides A LOT of raw data, and an alternative viewpoint.