Berlin Wall Partly Justified, ‘Necessary,’ 35% of Berliners Say in Poll

More than a third of Berliners say the construction of the Berlin Wall 50 years ago was at least partly justified to stem the flow of refugees from East Germany and stabilize Cold War tensions, a poll showed.

Twenty-five percent of the residents of the German capital said they “partly” agreed that the Wall’s construction on Aug. 13, 1961, was “necessary and justified,” according to a Forsa poll commissioned by the Berliner Zeitung. Ten percent said they agreed fully, while 62 percent rejected the suggestion.

The survey reveals ongoing divisions in the city of 3.4 million as leaders including Chancellor Angela Merkel prepare to mark the Wall’s latest anniversary two years after marking the second decade since its 1989 collapse. The Berlin Wall stood for more than 28 years as the edifice and the people it kept apart came to symbolize the entrenched battle lines of the Cold War.

Members of Germany’s Left Party, the anti-capitalist faction that’s the successor of the East German Communist Party, were the most sympathetic toward the Berlin Wall’s function, the Forsa poll showed. Twenty-eight percent of Left members said they fully agreed that the Wall was necessary, with 46 percent expressing partial support; 23 percent rejected it.

Some 2.7 million Germans in the Soviet-dominated East fled to West Germany between 1949 and the erection of the Wall, equal to one-seventh of the population of the communist state, whose full title in English was the German Democratic Republic, or GDR. The wave of refugees sapped East Germany of its most qualified workers and created a crisis that threatened to snap Cold War tensions between the Soviet Union and the U.S.

‘Anti-Fascist Protection’

Soviet authorities approved building what it called the “anti-fascist protection wall” in 1961, less than two months after East German leader Walter Ulbricht told reporters in a rare press conference that “nobody has the intention to build a wall.”

The Forsa poll asked 1,003 Berlin residents July 18-28 whether they agree that the Berlin Wall’s construction was “necessary and justified from the perspective at the time in order to stop the flow of labor from the GDR and to stabilize the political situation in the GDR and Germany in general.” The poll had a margin of error of as much as 3 percent, Forsa said.

The survey revealed other divisions. Only 41 percent of those who lived in East Berlin before the Wall rejected the Forsa statement; the same figure for West Berliners before 1961 was 69 percent. Seventy-five percent of those who have moved to Berlin since 1990 were also unsympathetic to the construction.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Donahue in Berlin at pdonahue1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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