Sorrow shared is sorrow doubled

On 13 August 1961, Helga A. from Berlin-Pankow was separated from her husband for 29 years. Unlike his wife and their two children, Wolfgang A. lived in West Berlin. But despite the Wall going up, Helga A. stayed in the East – and you can find out what her everyday life looked like in the DDR Museum. From that moment on, the couple could only spend summer holidays together in Hungary or meet on public holidays – until the Wall fell.

After nearly thirty years, they finally moved back together again – in the west of the city. Most of all, the division of Berlin caused an abrupt and violent break in people’s relationships. family relationships, friendships and love affairs suddenly ended or became impossible. Although East Germany’s economy never really thrived at any time in its history, the country obstinately stuck to division and its “protective rampart”. In the post-war years, West Berlin soon enjoyed constitutionality and prosperity. In contrast, East Germany’s Stalin-style communist regime could only keep in power through a policy of State Security suppression – and with the help of over 170,000 “confidential informers”. Today, the Stasi’s inhumane work is explored at the Stasi Museum and the Hohenschönhausen Memorial, located in a former Stasi remand prison.

In 1963, US President John F. Kennedy visited Berlin – a city that years later opened The Kennedys Museum in his honour. When Kennedy said his famous sentence “Ich bin ein Berliner”, the city’s division was so much a fact that no one believed Germany and Berlin would ever be reunited in the 20th century. Willy Brandt’s policy of détente in the late 1960s slowly paved the way for a change. Ultimately, in 1989, East Germany’s socialist regime was toppled through mass peaceful protests by its own citizens.

Read more stories about the Berlin Wall in the brochure Berlin Wall by visitBerlin. Read more