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Berlin Remembers Its Wall

Monday marks the 40th anniversary of the construction of the Berlin Wall which divided East and West Germany for over 27 years. The day is being marked by memorial services throughout the city.

Amid protests over the ex-communist Party of Democratic Socialism's refusal to apologize for the building of the Berlin Wall, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder laid a wreath at a monument to all the wall's victims before heading off on a two-week trip to the country's eastern states.

Politicians of all the major parties have used the occasion to highlight continuing discrepancies between East and West Germany. Recent jobless figures show unemployment in the West at 7.3%, while figures from the East are nearly double that, at 17.3 %. The future of the welfare system is a subject of national debate and the issue will loom large when the state of Berlin holds municipal elections in October.

Reflection on the legacy of the Wall has created an opportunity for German politicians to go on the offensive about the possibility of coalition building in the state of Berlin. Two left wing parties -- the Social Democrats and the Party of Democratic Socialism – are considering a political union. Over the weekend, opposition party leader Angela Merkel of the Christian Democrats referred to the alliance as "the wrong road". However, some sort of partnership may prove difficult to avoid, pending the out come of the October election.

The Wall, which appeared almost overnight on August 13, 1961, ran along the border between East and West Berlin. Construction began after the East German government realized it could not effectively control the flow of their citizens into the West. Seventy-seven people were shot by East German Guards while trying to escape.

Most of the wall was torn down immediately after the peaceful East German revolution 12 years ago. The longest portion of the wall still intact is a 130-meter stretch known as the East Side gallery.

Sarah Katt,'s Coordinating Producer, is working in Berlin on the Arthur F. Burns Fellowship of the International Center for Journalists.

By Sarah Katt.
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