Monday, November 09, 2009
It was later established that more that 254 people died there -- the number may have been more than a thousand. I recall a movie I've discussed before here: The Lives of Others. If you can rent it tonight, it would make a good tribute.
August marks the anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall that for 28 years thereafter, divided the city of Berlin and closed off the only remaining escape hatch for people in the communist East who wanted freedom in the West. It was a shocking surprise when it happened because no warning was given before East German soldiers and police first stretched barbed wire and then began planting the infamous wall, guard towers, dog runs, and landmines behind it.
By one estimate, a total of 254 people died at the wall during those 28 years�shot by police, ensnared by the barbed wire, mauled by dogs, or blown to bits by land mines as the �Workers� Paradise� sought to keep them imprisoned in a statist hell....
We believers in freedom and free markets are often attacked by socialists as obsessed with self-interest. They like to remind us of every shortcoming or every problem that hasn�t yet been solved, no matter the degree to which freedom has already worked to solve it. But we don�t believe in shooting people because they don�t conform, and that is ultimately what socialism is all about. We don�t plan other people�s lives because we�re too busy at the full-time job of reforming and improving our own. We believe in persuasion, not coercion. We solve problems at penpoint, not gunpoint. Unlike the socialists of the old East, or homespun statists like Sen. Edward Kennedy, we�re never so smugly self-righteous in our beliefs that we�re ready at the drop of a hat to dragoon the rest of society into our schemes.
All this is why so many of us get a rush every time we think of Ronald Reagan standing in front of the Brandenburg Gate in 1987 and boldly declaring, �Mr. Gorbachev, TEAR DOWN THIS WALL!� This is why we were brought to tears in the heady days of fall 1989 when thousands of Berliners scaled the wall with their hammers, picks, and fists and pummeled into the dustbin of history that terrible wall and the Marxist vision that fostered it. That was a �Kodak moment� if ever there was one! For today�s young people who have no concept of what it was like for millions to live under socialism behind walls and barbed wire, or who have no appreciation for the blood, sweat, tears, and treasure spent by millions here and abroad to combat it, this anniversary is an opportunity to learn a little history.
Not A Sheep provides a list of the 254.
UPDATE: Anthony Daniels on the role of intellectuals in supporting this monstrosity: "They thought that if nothing great could be built without sacrifice, then so great a sacrifice must be building something great."
UPDATE 2: Pete Boettke -- in a very useful history of the Wall that deserves your reading -- reminds us of the story of Hans Ulrich Lenzlinger, who helped smuggle many out of East Germany:
There also emerged a smuggling business that ran ads in West German newspapers. One such company, Aramco, with headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, gave out press releases referring to their �most modern technical methods.� The company�s prices were not that unreasonable: $10,000 to $12,000 per person, with �quantity discounts� for families, payable into a numbered account in a Swiss bank. If an escape attempt failed, the company refunded most of the money to the person financially sponsoring the breakout.They eventually got the Stasi assassin that killed Lenzlinger. (Mitch, that last link will be delicious for you.)
The East German government issued �wanted� posters on the East Berlin side of Checkpoint Charlie, offering 500,000 German marks for the director of Aramco, Hans Ulrich Lenzlinger. The �wanted� posters negatively referred to him as a �trader in people.� In February 1979, someone collected the bounty on Lenzlinger�s head, after he was shot repeatedly in the chest and killed at his home in Zurich.
LAST UPDATE: Courtesy Fausta, a story from a blogger in Cuba, where the wall is still intact:
We cried in each others arms in the middle of the sidewalk, thinking about Teo, for God�s sake how am I going to explain all these bruises. How am I going to tell him that we live in a country where this can happen, how will I look at him and tell him that his mother, for writing a blog and putting her opinions in kilobytes, has been beaten up on a public street. How to describe the despotic faces of those who forced us into that car, their enjoyment that I could see as they beat us, their lifting my skirt as they dragged me half naked to the car.Maybe 254 squared would be better for Cuba.