Berlin
A city divided by the Cold War · Berlin, Germany
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Construction of the wall

Available in: English | Deutsch

Manfred Matthies moved to West Berlin in early 1961 in order to study there. A few months later, he experienced the construction of the Wall in Berlin. In the first few days, the “Wall” was nothing more than a wire-fencing. In the beginning, residents from both sides would still cross this barrier and there were still conversations taking place between the local residents from both sides of the wall as well as with the guards who were ordered to keep watch over the wall. Everybody was excited about the developments and nobody quite understood what was happening. However, a few days later the guards were replaced by proper soldiers who were already much stricter and who “kept people at a distance.” The fencing was also increasingly turned into an actual wall. These developments escalated, eventually completely prohibiting contact between people from the East and West for a long time.

Manfred Matthies

Manfred Matthies

Manfred Matthies was born in 1941 in Magdeburg. In 1959, the nearly 18 -year-old Matthies fled with his mother and sister from Magdeburg to East Berlin and from there to West Berlin. It was only later that he learned that his mother had already been under the surveillance of the Stasi because of her contacts with the West. From West Berlin the family was sent to North Rhine- Westphalia, where Matthies worked for several years. In 1961, he went to study in West Berlin where he witnessed the construction of the Wall. Matthies and his brother then became members of a student group that assisted East-German fugitives to migrate across the border to the West. They made use of the complete repertoire of escape methods: forging passports, tunnel excavations, fleeing through sewers, transportation in converted cars, escaping by car across the Hungarian- Austrian or Yugoslavian border or in a sailboat from Poland via the Baltic Sea. By the end of December 1972, however, Matthies was arrested at a checkpoint while assisting a fugitive and sentenced to 13 years in prison. He was imprisoned in Bautzen II for a number of years and released early in 1976, after which Matthies decided to return to West Berlin. When the Wall finally came down in 1989 it was a complete surprise to him. The night the wall collapsed, he was at the Brandenburg Gate.

Berlin

Available in: English | Deutsch

After the Second World War, Berlin was divided into four sectors according to the London protocols. A division of the city into East and West Berlin had not originally been intended and was only the result of the confrontation of the powers that unfolded with the emergence of the Cold War. The division of Berlin was sealed by the foundation of the Federal Republic of Germany in West Germany and the German Democratic Republic, (GDR), in East Germany in 1949. The GDR proclaimed Berlin as its capital. Since 1949, West Berlin was de facto a part of the Federal Republic of Germany with a special legal status and East Berlin was de facto a part of East Germany. Since the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, East and West Berlin were completely separated. Transit was possible only for the citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany and West Berlin at certain designated checkpoints and until 1972 only in exceptional cases.

Berlin

On this place

Construction of the wall

Construction of the wall

Manfred Matthies
Helping fugitives to escape from the GDR

Helping fugitives to escape from the GDR

Manfred Matthies
Longing for freedom

Longing for freedom

Manfred Matthies
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