How it was: the Berlin Wall in eyewitness recollections

The Berlin Wall (1961-1989)

How it was: the Berlin Wall in eyewitness recollections

The wall, which became a symbol of the Cold War, ceased to exist 30 years ago

Sister Bridget Kaiser slowly walks along what is left of the Berlin Wall, opens the gate and enters from the former democratic West Berlin into the territory of the former communist GDR.

Such a simple move once required enormous efforts from those who tried to escape from the Soviet-controlled East Berlin, when the wall separated this part of the city from the free, western side..

Some attempts were carefully planned over several months, others were bold and spontaneous..

Many of them ended successfully. But Sister Bridget, as a deaconess of the Lutheran Order of Lazarus, saw with her own eyes the consequences faced by those for whom everything did not go so smoothly..

Right across the street from the wall, on Bernauerstrasse, her order had a clinic that provided first aid to victims when trying to get over a fence equipped with watchtowers and guarded by armed soldiers..

The sisters were also engaged in the burial of those who died in the pursuit of freedom..

“Families were divided, people could not move freely from one area to another, many people died trying to escape to the West,” she recalls. – It was a nightmare. “.

Germany will mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in November, and the country also wants to honor those who were arrested, injured or killed while trying to escape through the tunnels under the wall, climb over it or fly over it. According to the latest scientific studies, at least 140 people died while trying to escape..

The Berlin Wall in its first version was erected in 1961. East German leader Walter Ulbricht called it an “anti-fascist defensive wall” designed to ensure the security of his country. In fact, it was built to prevent the citizens of the GDR from fleeing to the West..

The wall stood for 28 years, until November 9, 1989. In her ominous presence, they saw the front line and symbol of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union..

The deaconesses of the Order of Lazarus were at the center of events: the wall divided their housing and clinic on Bernauerstrasse from the cemetery belonging to the order.

“We took care of everyone in our first aid station,” recalls 84-year-old sister Christa Hubner. “Dead or alive, cuts, fractures, whatever … We did everything to ensure that they received first aid, and checked if they needed hospitalization.”.

Many nuns worked as nurses in the hospital. From the windows overlooking the wall, they saw daring attempts to escape.

“I saw young people jumping from rooftops on the other side into the nets of West Berlin firemen. Others descended on ropes made of clothes and when they came to us, they had all blood on their hands, – recalls sister Christa. “Once I saw a hatch open on the street and two people emerged from it – they were running through the sewers.”.

“But there were those who were less fortunate,” she added. “We also took care of those who died”.

Cut off from the order’s own cemetery, the sisters had to look for another burial place..

“I’ve often prayed for God to remove this wall,” Sister Bridget says. “And when it finally happened, it was like a wish fulfillment, but at the same time it was beyond comprehension.”.

“It was a miracle,” she added..

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