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50th anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall

August 13, 2011 - BERLIN

Officially denoted as the Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart in the East, and as the Wall of Shame in the West - the concrete-and-wire barrier built in 1961 was the Cold War symbol par excellence - the Iron Curtain that separated families, communities and even political ideologies. In 1979, the Wall was the subject of a bizarre law suit. Today, the wall continues to have an impact culturally - even though little of the original barrier is left. To mark the Wall's 50th anniversary, an exhibition will open in Berlin's Federal Foreign Office, to be opened by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. Its construction eventually included guard towers, anti-vehicle trenches and death traps. From day one it facilitated the cruelest of divisions - mothers from children, workers from jobs and families from their communities. But this was what it was meant to do - stop the free movement of people.

Officially denoted as the "Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart" in the East, and as the "Wall of Shame" in the West -; the concrete-and-wire barrier built in 1961 was the Cold War symbol par excellence - the "Iron Curtain" that separated families, communities and even political ideologies. In 1979, the Wall was the subject of a bizarre law suit. Today, the wall continues to have an impact culturally -; even though little of the original barrier is left. To mark the Wall's 50th anniversary, an exhibition will open in Berlin's Federal Foreign Office, to be opened by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. Its construction eventually included guard towers, anti-vehicle trenches and death traps. From day one it facilitated the cruelest of divisions - mothers from children, workers from jobs and families from their communities. But this was what it was meant to do -; stop the free movement of people. Before its construction, over three and a half million Germans had moved from East to West. But between 1961 and 1989, only 5,000 made the crossing successfully - with two hundred paying the ultimate price for attempting to defect. Chris Gueffroy was the last person to die in the attempt on 6 February 1989. Huge sections have been sent all over the world as symbolic gifts to countries where walls continue to divide peoples -; such as in Israel, Iraq and even the United States. Eija-Riitta Berliner-Mauer, whose surname means Berlin Wall in German, &lsquowed' the concrete structure in 1979 after being diagnosed with a condition called Objectum-Sexuality. She claims to have fallen in love with the structure when she first saw it on television when she was seven -; and was devastated by its destruction and wanted to make Berlin apologisz for its destruction. STORY BY NEWSAHEAD CORRESPONDENT LAWRENCE SMALLMAN

Good neighbours make fences (Economist 2 Oct 2008)

The battle to prevent a 'new Berlin wall' on the Israel/Lebanon border (Guardian 17 Nov 2010)

Woman 'married' to Berlin Wall for 29 years (Telegraph 27 May 2008)

Date written/update: 2011-08-13