Socialism of the Berlin Wall
60 years ago this month, in the early hours of August 13, construction crews, Volkspolizei (“People’s Police”), and members of the Volksarmee (“National People’s Army”), began cordoning off parts of East Berlin, as well as the 69-mile-long border separating West Berlin from East Germany. Entire houses and apartment buildings situated along the border with West Berlin were plastered with concrete and boarded up with bricks. Their residents were forced onto the streets.
Unbeknownst to many, a literal iron curtain descended upon the German Democratic Republic, the official name of the East German state. The Berlin Wall sprung forth into existence.
As the brainchild of East Germany’s Stalinist leader, Walter Ulbricht, the Wall accompanied the already fortified Inner German border, the 866-mile-long demarcation line separating the GDR from the Federal Republic of German (FRG), or “West Germany.” Both were designed to halt the flow of East German refugees to the West.
For years, Ulbricht implemented one failed socialist policy after the next: collectivization, the nationalization of private industry, 5-year economic plans and workers’ quotas.
By Summer 1961,1,000 East Germans were emigrating to the West daily. Between the GDR’s founding in 1949 to 1961, over three million East Germans fled to the West. The resulting brain drain had dire consequences on the East’s already faltering planned economy, not at all representing Communism’s supposed attractive image as a “workers’ paradise.”
Given the dire situation, Ulbricht was able to finally convince his Soviet overlords to proceed with Operation Rose, the codename for the construction of the Berlin Wall.
As Dr. Murray Bessette, former director of Academic Programs at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, argued on Frank Gaffney’s Secure Freedom Radio, Marxism, by its very nature, will always lead to totalitarianism. Everyone in a socialist society needs to be on the same page. Ulbricht furthered his socialist agenda in front of a captive audience.
For the next 28 years the Wall stood and evolved, becoming a menacing death trap. The notorious Schießbefehl, or order-to-shoot policy along the GDR’s borders claimed hundreds of lives. Although officially denied by border guards and senior officials within the Ministry for State Security (Stasi), and Socialist Unity Party (SED), the ruling political party in the GDR, a seven-page document unearthed in 2007 confirmed these atrocities.
The order, which was issued to a special Stasi unit situated along the Inner German border tasked with targeting would-be border guard escapees, stated, “Do not hesitate to use your firearm, not even when the border is breached in the company of women and children, which is a tactic the traitors have often used.” However, this was not the only proof that these operations were commonplace.
As Freidrich Kempe references in his book, “Berlin 1961: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth,” Ulbricht and his goons issued police units tasked with securing vital border crossings in East Berlin the morning of August 13, “two five-bullet clips of blanks…They would have instructions to shoot the blanks as a warning should East Berliners or West Berliners rush them in a rage. Should the blanks fail…police would have a further three clips of live ammunition in reserve.”
It is estimated that well over 100,000 East Germans tried to escape to the West through the Berlin Wall and Inner German border between 1961 to 1989. For the nearly three decades that it stood, the Berlin Wall claimed the lives of around 140 individuals. Deaths along the Inner German border over the same period are estimated, conservatively, to be around 327, according to a study published in 2017 by the Freie Universität Berlin. Although it’s still unknown till this day, around 5,600 East Germans tried to escape to the Scandinavian countries and West Germany via the Baltic Sea throughout the Cold War, of whom, 174 were lost at sea.
East German Socialism: So good you are, quite literally, dying if you stay.
The collapse of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9, 1989, traditionally takes center stage when commemorating the triumph of liberty over communism in the East. However, the inception of this menacing engineering marvel should always be remembered. The Wall serves as a constant reminder of the calamities brought by Socialism to the peoples of the imprisoned world.