2 The Berlin Ghetto The erection of a wall in Berlin was a big surprise to all. Still on June 15,1961 the communist East German leader, Walter Ulbricht, declared in apress conference: "Niemand hat die Absicht, eine Mauer zu errichten!" (Noone has the intention of erecting a wall!).But two months later, after manyphone calls to Nikita Khrushchev, on Saturday, the12th of August 1961, theleaders of the GDR attended a garden party at a government guesthouse inDoelnsee, in a wooded area to the north of East Berlin, at which timeUlbricht signed the order to close the border and erect a wall. The records of these talks between Ulbricht and Khrushchev indicate that the constructionof the Berlin Wall was an idea that came from the Soviet leader.
At midnight, the Police and units of the East German Army began to closethe border and by Sunday morning, 13 August 1961, the border with WestBerlin was closed. At first there were only barbed wire entanglements andfences, but then over a longer period a barrage of reinforced concrete walls was extended to 156 kilometers (97 miles), encircling West Berlin anddividing the city on a length of 43 kilometers (27 miles). Turrets of the armedguards, minefields, complicated system of barriers and chain fences, irongates separating railways and roads divided East Berlin from West Berlin forthe next 28 years to come. With the passing of time, the Berlin Wall wasprotected by self-shooting devices, strong search-lights and ultra-redsensors. But still people tried to force it by ingenuous tricks or just bravery.But many of the escapees lost their life when they acted on a natural andvery human instinct "a quest of liberty." During the 28 years of the Wall'sexistence, over 5,000 attempts to escape were noted, and the confirmeddeath toll of the victims reached 136.One of the victims was Peter Fechter, 18, wounded by guards at an attemptto escape and bled to death without being helped on no-man's land. In ashort story about that boy, its author pretended Peter wrote his own memoir:"If you come to Berlin, you can see the spot where I died. I was only eighteen years old when, on the 17th of August 1962, I tried to cross the Berlin Wallinto West Germany, with my friend Helmut Kulbeik. He made it into theWest and survived, whereas I was shot in the stomach and lay dying in thesand in the death strip, shouting Hilfe! Hilfe! until I had no breath left toshout with. Hundreds of people stood in the West by the wall, shouting"Murderers!" at the guards who had shot me, although I was not yet dead.Had one of them come to help me, perhaps I would have survived, and there would have been no murder. Instead I slowly bled screaming to death whilethey shouted. Neither my screams or their shouts did anything to save me(...) In life, I was a brick-layer. I built walls. But on that day in 1962, nothing would have made me happier than to tear down the wall that tore me andmy country apart.
For the first time I visited East and West Berlin in summer of 1960. Then,after 1961, I came back many times looking at the infamous Wall thatreminded me of the high walls surrounding the Warsaw Ghetto during theSecond World War (in fact, I only could look at the pictures of these walls