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Published by DAVID M .DASTYCH

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Published by: DAVID M .DASTYCH on Nov 10, 2009
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The Night Berlin Wall Tumbled
By David Dastych Canada Free Press 9/11/09Nov 9, 2009 - 4:55:03 PM
Motto: "A stone from thebroken Berlin wallWhispered last night;Don't look at me with such hatredMy wounds are the mark of history."
(From an anonymous poem "Berlin Wall")Warsaw, Poland: That night, November 9/10, 1989, I slept in a Communistprison unaware of what had happened in Berlin. It was my third year in aspecial prison ward at Barczewo Penitentiary, near Olsztyn in North-EasternPoland. In 1989, and especially after the historic parliamentary elections of  June 4 marking the regime change in our country, prisoners called the"enemies of the state" were treated more liberally. We had access tonewspapers and a TV set, to religious services and we could meet each otherand talk. Compared to a strict regime I had to endure in the Warsaw Central Jail, at its special ward for political convicts where we were deprived of anynews media and completely isolated for many months of the investigation,this prison really merited its popular nickname: "Barczewo Hilton."On June12, 1987 when President Ronald Reagan made his famous speech atthe Brandenburger Gate in West Berlin, I was kept in confinement for thethird consecutive month with no access to any news, Polish or foreign.Ronald Reagan was the U.S. President then and on that day he appealed to anew, elected in 1985, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev:"General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity forthe Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come hereto this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" And then he added a few prophetic words: "As I looked out a momentago from the Reichstag, that embodiment of German unity, I noticed wordscrudely spray-painted upon the wall, perhaps by a young Berliner: "This wall will fall. Beliefs become reality." Yes, across Europe, this wall will fall. For itcannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth. The wall cannot withstandfreedom."
 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
 3and watch films about the Warsaw Ghetto but its view stayed on in mymemory forever).Poking the WallMy several visits to East Berlin before 1989 could have ended badly. In thefirst and second half of the 1960s, after coming back from the United States,I got in touch with some young East Germans (I was also in my 20s then) who carefully planned an escape to the West. During some visits to EastBerlin, we "inspected" the frontier installations. One night, near the passageto West Berlin at Heinestrasse, I stepped on something that caused alarm inthe area. Guards were rushing to the place of the intrusion, but we managedto escape by a fast car waiting with a running engine near by. On anotheroccasion, traveling on a city surface train (S-Ban), I tried to stop the train ata place where there was still no wall but some barbed fences. The emergencybrake in the wagon did not stop the train but it signaled "danger" to theguards. We couldn't stay on the train until the next stop, so we jumped outof it when it slowed down, and escaped -- unfortunately back to the Easternside. After "poking the wall" several times, we were discouraged to try tocross the frontier in Berlin, and my German friends had to wait for freedomuntil 1989, when they were allowed to leave the FRG Embassy in Warsawand traveled by a special GDR-train to West Germany, after an agreementreached with the East German government. I also had to wait, but untilthe year 1990, when -- after being freed from prison --I made my first trip tothe West after 19 years, exactly to the (already united) Berlin.Yet, in the past years many Berliners and other East Germans got out safelyby using all kinds of tricks and various vehicles. I remember a story about a young West German, who came to East Berlin to "ex-filtrate" his Easterngirlfriend. He used a low sports car, got his girl in to lay on the floor andsped up under bars at the Heinestrasse checkpoint busting his car's rooftopbut reaching the West side without any injury. This and some more escapesby cars caused the frontier guards to adopt concrete-enforced zig-zaggingthroughways at the checkpoints. But the ingenuity of the freedom-lovingescapees was always a step forward from the frontier guards' engineeringimprovements. People dug long tunnels or used undiscovered cellar passagesand sewers, some constructed hot-air balloons to fly over the wall, and Thomas Krueger, a sports pilot, flew a Czech-made Zlin light aircraft to theRAF Gatow airfield in West Berlin. I don' t remember the name of asportsman, who jumped over a lower section of the Wall in a pole vault. Stillanother man, an engineer and experienced swimmer, swam over the seafrontier to the shore of the Federal Republic from a beach in East Germany.One even bolder attempt to cross over the GDR-FRG land frontier was madeby an operator of a bulldozer, using its thick steel shovel as a bullet-proof shield.But only a small number of the escapes were successful. The last escapee tobe shot while trying to flee to West Berlin across the Berlin Wall on February6, 1989, was Chris Gueffroy. But the last to die was Winfried Freudenberg,

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