Landmark day for Berliners
Germany, for the first time, threw the full weight of state approval behind an official ceremony yesterday to mark the 50th anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall.
The commemoration was attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Christian Wulff, the country's president.
On August 13, 1961, the wall was built in haste across the heart of the divided city, instantly becoming the starkest symbol of the Iron Curtain between the west and the Communist east.
Officially called the Antifaschistischer Schutzwall, or Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart, the wall was built to stop the tide of 3.5 million East Germans who had defected to the west.
Between 1961 and 1989, up to 1,200 people were killed trying to escape over the 140km concrete and barbed wire barrier with its 116 heavily armed watchtowers and dog patrols.
But while Berliners have been happy to celebrate the fall of the wall, they have mostly wanted to forget about its construction. From the moment the Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989, Berliners not only rejoiced, but also quickly tried to remove every trace of their so-called Schandmauer, or Wall of Shame.
"It was like, grab a hammer and knock it down. Get rid of this, just tear it down," remembered Martin Hirsch, a teenager in 1989.