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The Berlin Wall 1961 – 1989: Personal Reflections

Sunday August 13th 1961

Aged 17 and on an exchange visit to Hamburg prior to returning to school for my A Level year, I was awoken early on Sunday 13th August 1961 by Herr Kansdorf, the father of my exchange partner Gerhardt, stating incredulously time and time again, “Berlin abgesperrt, Berlin abgesperrt….” (Berlin barricaded). He had been listening to his local radio station which conveyed the news that in the preceding night, East German frontier guards, in an attempt to stem the flow of would-be migrants to the West had erected barbed wire and concrete barricades. My thoughts went immediately to another family I had met two years previously in another part of Germany. There I had met a member of the family from Magdeburg (formerly in the “Ostzone”), allowed briefly in to the West on compassionate grounds to visit his ailing elderly mother and who had been planning for the day when the whole family might  be re-united in the West. What would happen to that family now?