BERLIN (Reuters) - Exactly 53 years after East Germany’s Communist authorities started to build the Berlin Wall, half of all Germans do not know the exact date when the city was divided, said a survey released this week.
Shortly after midnight on Aug. 13, 1961, East German troops began erecting a barbed-wire barrier to prevent skilled workers from fleeing to West Germany. The fence evolved into an imposing concrete wall that came to symbolize the Cold War.
When asked what happened on this date, some 50 percent of Germans said they did not know, according to the survey of 1,013 people carried out by the Federal Foundation for the Study of Communist Dictatorship in East Germany.
Only 32 percent of those aged between 14 and 29 knew the significance of the date, said the poll.
“It’s important to tell young people that this country was split and that great difficulties were brought on many families,” said Anna Kaminsky, who carried out the survey.
The Wall finally came down in 1989 as the Communist East crumbled, but not before at least 169 people had been killed trying to escape to the more prosperous West.
After it fell, Berlin authorities were anxious to remove all trace of the hated barrier, leaving only a few remnants by the time Germany reunited in 1990.
Of the 302 East German guard towers policing the “death strip”, a no-man’s land between the inner and outer segments of the Wall, only three remained standing.
At one stage, visiting tourists struggled to find any trace of the Wall, but there have been various reconstruction projects over the years, and an 800 meter (2,600 ft) section of the concrete barrier was rebuilt and restored on Bernauer Strasse.
Elsewhere part of the “death strip” has now been turned into a luxury living quarter, with only a metal strip crossing its courtyard as a reminder of the path the Wall once traced.
Reporting By Helen Cahill; Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Crispian Balmer