Remembering the first casualty of the Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall is something I grew up talking about.

It's a little bit different for my sons.  In fact, our third son was born the year after the Wall came down in the fall of 1989.

Does anyone care anymore?  I do, and I remember the Wall as a battle between freedom and communism.  It was a battleground of the Cold War and the place where people were killed by the communists.

The construction of the Berlin Wall occurred this week in 1961, and the first casualty came in August 1962:

On August 17, 1962, two young men from East Berlin attempted to scramble to freedom across the wall. One was successful in climbing the last barbed wire fence and, though suffering numerous cuts, made it safely to West Berlin. While horrified West German guards watched, the second young man was shot by machine guns on the East Berlin side. He fell but managed to stand up again, reach the wall, and begin to climb over. More shots rang out. The young man was hit in the back, screamed, and fell backwards off of the wall.

For nearly an hour, he lay bleeding to death and crying for help. West German guards threw bandages to the man, and an angry crowd of West Berlin citizens screamed at the East German security men who seemed content to let the young man die. He finally did die, and East German guards scurried to where he lay and removed his body.

From 1961 to 1989, the Wall was an international symbol of tyranny and the yearning for freedom.  You had free people on the Western side and a repressive state on the Eastern one.  It was clear to most of us that this wall meant to keep people living in misery.

I don't expect future children to have the same passion about the Berlin Wall that my parents or I had. We are just hoping that they learn about the Berlin Wall, its meaning, the people who died attempting to cross into freedom and how bipartisan policies of containing communism brought down the wall.

We cannot forget those who were killed climbing this wall because they wanted to be free.

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