Berlin Wall anniversary passes, few notice

Aug. 13, 1961 is a date little-remembered by modern-day German residents.
By Ed Adamczyk  |  Aug. 15, 2014 at 4:20 PM
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BERLIN , Aug. 15 (UPI) -- The Berlin Wall rose 53 years ago this week, but few Germans under the age of 30 can pin down the date, a survey indicates.

On Aug. 13, 1961, a Sunday, Berlin residents awoke to find a 155-kilometer (96 mile) wall of concrete and barbed wire surrounding West Berlin, part of East German leader Walter Ulbricht's attempt to stop the flow of residents into the non-Communist enclave in his country.

A survey by the Berlin-based firm Infratest noted 19 percent of 1,013 people polled had any idea of the significance of the date. Residents of the former East Germany did their best at identifying the date; 69 percent knew it, compared to 45 percent of those living in the former West Germany.

Commemorations this week were few. Wreaths of flowers were laid at strategic spots along the route of the wall, and the deaths of 136 people who died attempting to scale the 12-feet high double wall were remembered. Shards of the wall became souvenirs after it was razed.

German newspapers commented on the lack of attention paid to this moment in the country's long and eventful history. Berlin's Tagesspiegel newspaper noted, "The memory of the GDR (German Democratic republic, or East Germany) is being peddled and also reduced to a footnote in our education newspaper. And so we are losing our past."

The day the wall fell, November 9, 1989, is a well-known landmark in German history. Its 25th anniversary is later this year.

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