Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Berlin Wall

Fifty-five years ago today the Berlin Wall was built.

The authorities in the GDR, which was the SED, claimed they were building the Wall to protect the citizens of the GDR from western capitalism.

The management class, who organised the building of the Berlin Wall are all dead.

Both West Berlin and East Berlin have changed beyond recognition.

The GDR government called it 'Berlin, Capital City of the GDR and they called the other side of the city Berlinwest.

Many in West Berlin called the other side of the Wall 'Die Ostzone', 'The eastern zone'.

It was all a funny old game, like all games. But a dangerous game too.

German Railways were not allowed use modern trains in transit to and from Berlin. No German Railway locomotives were allowed on GDR territory and all trains to and from Berlin West were powered by Deutsche Reichsbahn (DR) locos, many of them steam engines.

The Russians were opposed to the  Reichsbahn developing electric locomotives and it was only in the last years of the GDR that the Reichsbahn successfully built an electric loco. That locomotive is now extensively used across the German Rail network, particularly in and around Düsseldorf. It is generally acclaimed as a great workhorse and many drivers will say it was away ahead of its time. It was built in Henningsdorf near Berlin. Today Henningsdorf is in the State of Brandenburg.

It is ironic that the GDR continued to call their railway the Reichsbahn - Kingdom Railways. The authorities' line was that the GDR was the 'real Germany' so it made sense to call the railway 'Reichsbahn'. West Germany called its railway 'Deutsche Bundsebahn' DB. Today it is called Deutsche Bahn, still using the initials DB.

Until the fall of the Berlin Wall double-decker trains were operated exclusively by East German Railways. They are now in use right across the German rail network. It is one of the few things that the West took from the East. That and the little green man at traffic lights and the practice of turning right on red are all that's left of the GDR.

The million dollar question: who owns DB?

Lufthansa was not allowed fly to Berlin or in the airspace of the GDR.

Hungarian wine was great value in East Berlin and West Berlin offered an 'alternative scene' for young Germans who were tired of West Germany's brand of western capitalism.

West Berlin was a fun place to live.

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