The photographs were taken when I worked in East Berlin as an interpreter (April 1985 - August 1987) and again when I visited the area as a tourist for a day trip in 1988. West Berlin used to be referred to as an inland island. Its borders were 155 kilometers in length and consisted of 106 kilometers of concrete wall and 66.5 kilometers of barbed-wire entanglements. The work included in this exhibition shows a section of the 43.1 kilometers of "The Wall" (height 3.6 meters) which divided East and West Berlin. Construction of "The Wall" began on August 13, 1961 and until its destruction twenty-eight years later in November 1989, seventy-nine people lost their lives trying to cross it from the East or trying to help those who were (some sources put this figure as high as ninety-five or even one hundred and two), and of these, sixty were shot by the East German border guards.
"The Wall" consisted of two walls and between the eastern and western walls there was a space of forty to one hundred meters which was known as Niemandsland (no-man's land) or Todeszone (the death zone). There were watch towers situated at three hundred-meter intervals containing armed guards. The reason for this spacing was said to be due to fact that the accurate range of a machine gun is approximately one hundred and fifty meters.
Khrushchev ordered the East German government to construct "The Wall" in June 1961, immediately after failing to come to an agreement with President Kennedy at a meeting held in Vienna to discuss the future of Berlin. The ex-president of East Germany, Erich Honecker (President from 1971 to 1989) who is now living in exile in Chile was in charge of the construction of "The Wall" and for long it was symbolic of that tragedy of the cold war, the iron curtain.
Taking a hint from Kennedy's 1963 speech in Berlin where he coined the famous phrase, "lch bin ein Berliner", (I am a Berliner), President Reagan gave a speech in 1987 from a specially constructed podium by the Brandenburg Gate which allowed him to be seen and heard from the East and urged Secretary Gorbachev to destroy "The Wall". That day I heard the speech, standing among members of the Stasi (East German Secret Police) at the junction of Unter den Linden and Paris Square. That day, nobody could have imagined that two years later "The Wall" would be destroyed and almost simultaneously Eastern Europe, as defined by the Warsaw Pact and Comecon (Council for Mutual Economic Assistance), would cease to exist.