Germany remembers Berlin Wall and those who died trying to flee

It was early on a Sunday morning in August when, without warning, the Berlin Wall went up, dividing Berlin and the world for 28 years.

Yesterday, another Sunday in August, the German capital and its residents remembered the hated structure erected by East Germany on August 13th, 1961, to stop its citizens fleeing to the west.

At least 139 people lost their lives trying to flee until the wall was toppled in a joyful night in 1989.

“Remembering the victims of the wall, division and state repression is and remains an elementary part of our state commemorative culture,” said Monika Grütters, federal culture minister.

The longest surviving stretch of the structure, the so-called East Side Gallery, is today less death strip than tourist mile, painted with post-1989 murals.

The other side, along the River Spree, is now home to barge hotels and fast-food restaurants. In an adjacent souvenir shop, visitors with €2 to spare can take a picture holding an MPi 41, the East German machine-gun used to shoot people fleeing to West Berlin.

“I feel weird smiling, I don’t know what’s appropriate,” laughed an American tourist as his friend takes a snap.

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