Why shouldn't we build a wall?

"Nobody has the intention to build a wall"

Walter Ulbricht:

"Dear listeners, we are reporting from the large ballroom in the House of Ministries for the international press conference that the Chairman of the State Council, Comrade Walter Ulbricht, will be holding here in a few minutes."

More than 300 journalists from Germany and abroad had gathered in the House of Ministries on Leipziger Strasse in East Berlin for one of Walter Ulbricht's rare press conferences. A peace treaty with Germany proposed by the Soviet Union and the settlement of the Berlin question were on the agenda on June 15, 1961. Almost three years earlier, in November 1958, the Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev had questioned the four-power status of Berlin and ultimately called for West Berlin to be transformed into a "demilitarized and free city". Since then, the victorious powers have repeatedly negotiated the Berlin question without reaching an agreement. The expert on the history of the Berlin Wall, Hans-Hermann Hertle, from the Center for Contemporary History Potsdam.

"" Khrushchev had met Kennedy on June 4th in Vienna, had gambled very hard and said he could run over the young, inexperienced American president with his threat if the United States, if the Western powers were not ready to conclude one Peace treaty, then he would sign a separate treaty with the GDR and, in particular, give the GDR control of the access routes to Berlin to Ulbricht. And those were questions that could at least have led to the brink of world war. "

The inner-city sector border, which one could cross at any time, had been an existential annoyance to the GDR government for years.

Hans-Hermann Hertle:
"The GDR had lost a fifth to a quarter of the population by 1961. That is, the GDR was and was in such a severe crisis that one can say that it was on the verge of economic collapse, if it did not succeed, the flow of refugees to prevent West Berlin. "

The international press conference on June 15, 1961 revolved around the refugee problem.

A reporter:
"Editorial office of Spiegel in Berlin. Does the GDR's desired control over the traffic routes from a Free City of West Berlin to West Germany still include the possibility that, in your opinion, refugees from West Berlin can be flown to the Federal Republic?"

Walter Ulbricht:
"We take it for granted that the so-called refugee camps in West Berlin will be closed and that those involved in human trafficking will leave West Berlin."

Another reporter:
"Doherr, Frankfurter Rundschau. Mr. Chairman, does the formation of a Free City mean in your opinion that the state border will be established at the Brandenburg Gate?"

Walter Ulbricht:
"I understand your question as follows: That there are people in West Germany who want us to mobilize the construction workers of the capital of the GDR to erect a wall, yes? Uh, I do not know that there is such an intention, because the construction workers are in the capital are mainly engaged in housing construction and their manpower is being used to the full. Nobody has any intention of building a wall. "

On this Hans-Hermann Hertle:
"In retrospect, we are smarter, and it seems to us a lie. But if we go back in time, I would say more soberly that Ulbricht reveals with this saying that building a wall was under discussion as a way of stopping the flow of refugees. Ulbricht pushed Khrushchev for months to close the border. And it was only when he saw that the United States and France and Great Britain would not submit to his ultimatum that Khrushchev gave in to Ulbricht's insistence in July and consented to the border being closed. "

On the night of August 12th to 13th, units of the National People's Army, the People's Police and the factory combat groups set up barbed wire barricades along the sector border running across Berlin. A few days later the construction of the wall began.