Book

Death at the Berlin Wall

Pertti Ahonen

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780199546305
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191725036 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199546305.001.0001
Death at the Berlin Wall

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During its 28-year existence, the Berlin Wall was the foremost symbol of the Cold War division of Germany—and of Europe as a whole. But it was also a very concrete site of separation and suffering that claimed the lives of at least 136 people. Taking these deaths at its point of departure, this book reconstructs twelve individual tragedies that occurred at the Wall between 1961 and 1989. They include deaths of escapees from the GDR—by far the largest subcategory of the Wall's victims—as well as those of West Berliners who made an unauthorized entry into the border zone and of East German border guards killed in the line of duty. The book connects these fatalities to larger political processes between the two Germanys, linking micro- and macro-historical perspectives in innovative ways. Within a comparative East–West framework, it examines how the deaths became politicized and instrumentalized in the two states' Cold War battles over legitimacy and power. At the same time, the book provides a broader narrative history of the Berlin Wall and of German–German relations during the last three decades of the Cold War. It also extends the analysis into the post-1989 context, exploring post-unification Germany's efforts to come to terms with the problematic legacies of the Wall and of national division more generally, thereby adding new perspectives to the ongoing analysis of contemporary German memory politics.

Keywords: Germany; division; Cold War; GDR; Berlin; Berlin Wall; legitimacy; escape; Iron Curtain; memory

Book.  320 pages. 

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Table of Contents

Introduction in Death at the Berlin Wall

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The Wall goes up in Death at the Berlin Wall

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The East–West clash at its peak in Death at the Berlin Wall

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The Wall and its victims in the 1970s in Death at the Berlin Wall

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The Wall comes tumbling down in Death at the Berlin Wall

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After the Wall in Death at the Berlin Wall

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