29th Anniversary of Berlin Wall Marked in Joint German Ceremony
WEST BERLIN (AP) _ Flowers were laid beside a cross honoring a teen-ager who was slain trying to escape to freedom as Germans from East and West on Monday marked the 29th anniversary of the Berlin Wall.
The ceremony, the first joint memorial of the Aug. 13, 1961, construction of the Berlin Wall, included a prediction by a local politician that the scar left by the crumbling barrier will never end.
East German Defense Minister Rainer Eppelmann demanded criminal probes of those responsible for the shoot-to-kill orders at the wall under the former Communist regime.
Eppelmann said the now-ousted Communist officials must be brought to justice ″in a fair way.″
Communist border soldiers killed 80 East Germans making dashes for freedom at the wall, while hundreds of others were caught and imprisoned for trying.
Germans are engaged in an emotional debate over whether the soldiers themselves should be brought to trial.
″The open wound is closing,″ said prominent West Berlin city councilor Erich Paetzold at the ceremony. ″But a scar will last forever.″
He spoke beside a rough-hewn cross erected in memory of 18-year-old East Berlin worker Peter Fechter, who was shot and bled to death while trying to escape in 1962.
His death has come to symbolize the bitter separation that followed the collapse of Nazi Germany after World War II.
East Germany’s Communists suddenly started erecting the wall, stunning the world 29 years ago, to halt the flow of refugees to the West.
Paetzold said a part of the wall will be preserved ″so that we don’t forget what happened here, so that no one forgets what happened here.″
Despite Paetzold’s promise, it may be difficult to find a suitable memorial site.
Many of the most famous stretches of the wall have been torn down since last fall’s reforms swept East Germany and other countries in Eastern Europe. Other sections have been hacked away by entrepreneurs and souvenir-hunters.
East German and West German newspapers were filled with recollections of the wall Monday.
They included a picture of the wall’s mastermind, Erich Honecker, shown talking to East German troops the month after the wall was built.
Honecker ruled East Germany for 18 years before his ouster last October.
Honecker, 77, is under investigation for possible murder charges stemming from the deaths of those who tried to flee to the West.
On Nov. 9, Honecker’s desperate successors opened the wall in hopes of halting another exodus that already numbered 200,000.
East Berlin’s democratically elected mayor, Tino Schwierzina, reminded the 300 listeners at Monday’s ceremony that the Berlin Wall caused widespread suffering.
″The situation in the German Democratic Republic makes this increasingly clear,″ Schwierzina said. ″We who are living behind the almost disappeared wall need quick and effective help.″
Schwierzina said the nation’s economy was in ″catastrophic″ condition.
East German demands for money from Bonn have led to tensions between the two countries as they head into the last stretch before unification, scheduled for December at latest.
The representatives of the two halves of Berlin spoke at a cross set up in honor of Fechter after his Aug. 17, 1962 death.
Fechter bled for nearly an hour before his body was hauled away.
″Here where Peter Fechter died, we can feel how much suffering the wall caused,″ said the East Berlin mayor.
A weathered photograph of the young man lying in agony is tacked to the cross’ dark wood. More than a dozen large flower arrangements were placed by the cross.
Although the wall has disappeared there, windows on the Eastern side still have the bars that kept people from jumping to freedom from nearby buildings.
In years past, the Communist East Germans marked the wall’s anniversary with bombastic military parades that drew the wrath of the Western Allies.
More than 2.5 million East Germans fled to the West from 1949 until the wall went up.
Communist border soldiers killed more than 200 people attempting to flee from East Berlin or other parts of East Germany to the West.