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This report is taken from PN Review 24, Volume 8 Number 4, March - April 1982.

Letter from Germany Michael Hulse
August 1981

As I write it is August 13th and twenty years to the day since the construction of the Berlin Wall was begun. On 15 June 1961 Walter Ulbricht declared that no one was thinking of building a wall in Berlin; but at 2 a.m. on 13 August tanks and armoured cars rolled through the streets to the perimeter of the Soviet sector of the city, and soldiers with drills, pick-axes and barbed wire began to improvise the obstruction which was later elaborated into the Wall. Though opinion was rapidly mobilized in the West, no action was taken; and, twenty years later, East Berlin is as effectively sealed off as a concentration camp.

In the two decades that have passed since that sealing-off the rift in the German national identity has steadily widened, and nowhere is the breach more apparent than in Berlin itself. The anything-you-can-do spirit in which the two Berlins have tried to outdo each other as showcases of the two Germanies is pathetic, and the visitor to Berlin this autumn can avail himself of the opportunity to examine a richly ironic example of this pathos. 1981 is Preussenjahr, and in order to commemorate Prussia in all its historical, political and cultural complexity West Berlin has mounted a massive exhibition in the Kunstgewerbemuseum, at a cost of DM 11 million. This exhibition, which runs from 15 August until 15 November, is not the only one to be seen; from 21 August the National Gallery ...


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