If I had only one story to tell, this one wouldn’t be the one I would choose.
The fall of the Berlin Wall in Germany is an emotional account of reunification, not just of two sides of a city and country, but also of family and community. The image of East and West Germans clambering in freedom to the top of the wall on 9 November 1989 is one that even the hardest-heart could quiver at.
Yet Thursday, 9 November 1989 is just one day in a long story of segregation, restraint, persecution and ultimately, war. The announcement that East Germans would be given back their freedom to visit the West of Germany, or in fact any country they wished, is a joyful part of a sad story that began around 50 years earlier, with the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.
Baby Holger, 15 months
If his mother hadn’t smothered him to death, baby Holger would have celebrated his eighteenth birthday with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
Chances are that between his birth in 1971 and his eighteenth birthday he would also have become an older brother, being the first child of 20 year old Ingrid and 23 year old Klaus.
I couldn’t find any records of what happened to his young parents after his death, although it can be certain that what should have been a hopeful escape to West Berlin by a young married couple and their first child was instead corrupted by suffering and sadness.
In 1973, desperate to raise their family away from the confines of the tight communist regime they had grown up in, Ingrid and Klaus decided to risk escape from East Berlin in to West in the back of a truck. Their crossing of the border, unlike the experience of hundreds before and after them, was a success in that they were not caught by the intimidating East Berlin border guards. Unfortunately, their fifteen month old son didn’t survive to see the other side of the Berlin Wall.
Baby Holger was suffering from bronchitis, making it difficult for him to breathe through his nose, although his mother could not have known this when she placed her hand over his mouth to prevent his cries alerting the border guards.
By the time the doors of the truck were opened at the border of West Berlin, in what should have been a celebratory moment for the young parents, baby Holger had stopped breathing.
Above is an artistic represent of the victims of the Berlin Wall who died during escape attempts between 1961 and 1989. Each small red or pink dot represents one of the 136 people who died at the East Berlin Wall, although berliner-mauer-gedenkstaette.de puts the number at 138. The mural can be found along the East Side Gallery, whilst records of those who died can be found online at chronik-der-mauer.de.
The photographer in the photo at the top of this article is the fabulous João, the Travelholic Nomad. After meeting at the Circus Berlin after ITB Berlin (click here for tips on your first travel blogging conference!) we spent a good hour or two walking and photographing the 1.3km stretch of wall that makes up the East Side Gallery. Make sure to follow him on Facebook to see some of his great photography.
Lots of love,