Patrick Rotman’s gripping documentary, A wall in Berlin is followed by the program “talk to me about history”. A special evening not to be missed this Monday, November 13 from 8:30 p.m. on the Le Figaro TV Île-de-France channel.
How was the GDR, the so-called Democratic Republic of Germany, able to build, in August 1961, a wall cutting Berlin in two? How could a wall erected for the sole purpose of preventing East Germans from fleeing the dictatorship of Walter Ulbricht not provoke more than mere words of disapproval in the free world? Even if the famous “Ich bin ein Berliner », delivered by President John Kennedy in June 1963, made a lasting impression. Patrick Rotman’s documentary traces the history of the Wall of Shame, from the Potsdam Accords in 1945, which provided for the creation of four occupation zones in Berlin, to the fall of the Wall in November 1989, in popular jubilation.
“Ich bin ein Berliner”
“The world should never forget that hundreds of East Germans abandon their homes every day. (…) It is a permanent plebiscite, people vote with their feet against the regime, which does not give them the possibility of voting normally. » In 1960, these words from Willy Brandt, then mayor of West Berlin, clearly illustrate the situation which led Walter Ulbricht to order the Chinese Wall operation on August 13, 1961. A project launched by the dictator of the GDR in order to prevent his fellow citizens from escaping en me. In the 1950s, in fact, Berlin was the only place where the Iron Curtain could be crossed easily. So much so that nearly 3 million residents choose freedom during this period.
The trap closes
In this context, in June 1961, in Vienna, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev challenged John Kennedy by telling him to evacuate West Berlin. Faced with the firm refusal of the American president, the Wall was erected. In a few hours, the East Berliners became aware of the trap closing on them. Some flee by slipping between the palisades. Others kill themselves by jumping from buildings on Bernauer Stre, which are on the demarcation line. On August 15, border guard Conrad Schumann chose freedom, jumping over the barbed wire. A historic photo immortalizes his gesture. In the days that followed, 85 of his colleagues imitated him.
Nearly 600 escapees shot dead during their flight
Albrecht Rau, a teenager living in the East but going to school in the West, remembers: “We hoped that the Westerners would crush the Wall militarily. But we quickly understood that they were not going to risk a war over that…» Result: in 28 years, 5,075 people have crossed the Wall at the risk of their lives. Nearly 600 were shot dead while trying to escape. After the film, at 10:15 p.m., in “Talk to me about history”, Guillaume Perrault evokes with Thierry Wolton and Pierre Rigoulot this tragic symbol of the Cold War.