Walls and Bridges

Walls and Bridges… At the end of the Second World War, defeated Germany was occupied for several years by the armies of 4 countries – Britain, France, the Soviet Union and the United States – each temporarily supervising an area. Although Berlin, the German capital, was situated within the Soviet Zone in the east, it was also divided into 4 zones. Within a very short time, relationships deteriorated between the Americans, British and French on one side and the Soviets on the other. In 1948, the Soviet Zone of Germany decided to become a separate country – Communist “East Germany” – leaving the larger part as “West Germany”. The united zones of Berlin became known as “West Berlin”, initially protected by the troops of Britain, France and the USA. West Berlin was completely surrounded by Communist East Germany. From 1949 onwards, nearly 3 million people left East Germany – most by simply walking into West Berlin. The Communist countries felt they could no longer allow this to continue, especially as they were losing many of their skilled and professional people – 2,000 each day by 1961. As people woke up on this day, 13th of August, 1961, they discovered that road blocks and miles of barbed wire had been set up to stop people walking into West Berlin. Within the next few days a 4-metre high cement wall was built, and armed sentries occupied watchtowers. The Berlin Wall was 29 miles (47 km) in length, surrounding West Berlin. The Berlin Wall was a symbol of the divisions and mistrust between the countries of the West and the Communist bloc. As Communism started to collapse in Eastern Europe in 1989, ordinary people began to demolish parts of the Berlin Wall and Germany became united in October 1990. These days we hear a lot about walls being built. Pope Francis has reminded us that it is more important to build bridges than to build walls. From this we might ask if we have built walls in our own lives? If so, is it time to start building bridges?