Berlin: The Wall

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Rooms with a View. But most were frustrated by Ulbricht's meticulous Communist planning. Even as the open street crossings were being barricaded, other squads raced to lock the gates of the S-bahn (elevated) and of the ten major U-bahn (subway) stations that serviced trains traveling into West Berlin. Guards were posted in the pitch-dark U-bahn tunnels to halt the more imaginative sneakers. After a helmeted Vopo guard at the new barrier leaped across the barbed wire and escaped to the West, East German officers began keeping their enlisted men several yards from the wire to prevent more defections. Toughest task of all was sealing the frontier where the line slices down the center of residential streets and even cuts through the middle of houses. Solution: Tommy gunners sauntering along the middle of the streets, locked doors and bricked-in windows for any home that had a room with the wrong view.

Berlin—both East and West—responded to the new Communist crisis with electric excitement and ill-subdued resentment. The barricades meant that thousands of families, split between the halves of the city, could not see their relatives. Fifty thousand East Berliners who regularly commuted to West Berlin were now cut off from their jobs by official decree. At the city's two biggest squares where East once met West, bustling Potsdamer Platz and the soaring sandstone Brandenburg Gate, thousands of East and West Berliners gathered to gape and to jeer at the scowling Communist troops gripping submachine guns and standing shoulder to shoulder beside a solid phalanx of armored cars. When the crowd moved too close, there was the jab of a Communist bayonet or a sudden blast from the powerful Wasserkanonen (water cannons), the wheeled squirters of the East Berlin riot squad that can topple a man at 50 yds.

The Bobbing Beard. The danger was that the tense crowds on both sides of the barriers might merge and touch off the East German revolt that everyone feared. Already Moscow's famed Marshal Ivan Konev had moved two divisions of Russian troops into Berlin's outskirts, ready for the kind of action that the Soviets had employed to put down the abortive 1953 East German revolt. But the West Berliners were not intimidated. "Berlin bleibt frei, Berlin bleibt frei" (Berlin will remain free), chanted a crowd of 30,000 gathered a stone's throw from the Vopos on the Western side of the Brandenburg Gate. Near by, an East German cop who got too close to a West Berlin throng was grabbed, hauled over the line and savagely beaten. Realizing that things were nearing flash point, West Berlin police slowly forced their own people a half-mile away from the sector border. As they backed off. the West Berliners, in one final retort before they were out of earshot, cried "Hang Ulbricht! Hang Ulbricht!"

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