Josephine Huetlin writes: The president of the United States is determined to build a massive barrier along the Mexican frontier. But it’s now clear his Great Wall will have a lot of not-so-great gaps in it. Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly announced last week that no, despite President Trump’s campaign promise of an impenetrable border wall, “it is unlikely that we will build a wall from sea to shining sea.” This week a prosecutor labeled the immigration plan laid out by Attorney General Jeff Sessions as “fucking horrifying.”
Here in Germany we’ve been watching all this with a mixture of amusement and disgust. After all, we know a few things about walls from the days when Europe was divided by the Iron Curtain, which cut our country and our capital in half.
There used to be a section of particularly thick and grey concrete slabs next to the Brandenburg Gate in the heart of this city, and until one night in 1989 they jutted out of the ground like a giant middle finger, as if deliberately intending to freak the living daylights out of any East Berliner who just so happened to be passing by the city center.
We all know the pictures of overjoyed people dancing on top in this section of wall on the 9th of November, 1989.
Axel Klausmeier, who directs the Berlin Wall Foundation, still has a special sense of rage toward the “martial construct,” as he calls it. “It was a conscious show of force to signal the core task of the East German border troops: no one is coming through.”
So, why didn’t the East German government just put up a fence or barbed wire here, as it did in so much of the countryside outside Berlin and along the border between East and West Germany in order to prevent people from fleeing its socialist utopia? (Even back then, fences were frequently judged a more practical barrier, because they allowed guards to see who was coming at them.)
“Everyone understands a wall,” Klausmeier replies. [Continue reading…]