Gedächtniskirche     Berlin am Spree    

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The settlement at Spandau is first mentioned in 1197, and Köpenick in 1209 (although both were much older settlements). First documented in the thirteenth century the etymology of the name Berlin is unknown, but it may be related to an Old Polabian stem berl-/birl meaning "swamp." On January 13, 1505, Joachim II Hektor was born in Köln, Germany. Joachim II was the Elector of Brandenburg at the time of the Reformation. He remained true to the Catholic Church and to the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, but he tolerated Protestantism in the areas under his governance. On several occasions he served as a mediator between Catholic and Protestant factions within the empire. He played a significant role in the processes leading to the Peace of Augsburg (1555).

In the late 14th century, Count Friedrich von Zollern, from a castle located in southern Germany, was given the Duchy of Brandenburg as an hereditary fief. Thus begins the HOHENZOLLERN DYNASTY, which was to rule over Brandenburg / Prussia / Germany until 1918. The territory had a parliament, the LANDTAG, which met irregularly, primarily to discuss the Duke's proposal to raise taxes. It was dominated by the notoriously obstinate nobility, the JUNKERS.

The Duchy of Brandenburg was located in the east of the Holy Roman Empire, and it was one of the largest territories. Its duke had a special status among the Empire's princes, because he was one of the 7 ELECTORS who, whenever the throne was vacant, were to meet and elect a new Emperor. When the Empire was reorganized in Imperial circles in 1512, Brandenburg was allocated to the UPPER SAXON CIRCLE. The cities within Brandenburg -- foremost BRANDENBURG, BERLIN, POTSDAM, FRANKFURT am ODER, were of secondary importance in the Empire. Brandenburg administratively was divided in 3 parts - the ALTMARK (to the west of the Elbe), the KURMARK (between Elbe and Oder) and the NEUMARK (to the East of the Oder). The capital, seat of the Duchy and the Landtag, was Berlin. http://www.zum.de/whkmla/region/germany/braref.html The City of Berlin was successively the capital of the Kingdom of Prussia (1701–1918), the German Empire (1871–1918), the Weimar Republic (1919–1933) and the Third Reich (1933–1945). After World War II, the city was divided; East Berlin became the capital of East Germany while West Berlin became a Western exclave. Following German reunification in 1990, the city regained its status as the capital (which had been Bonn) of all Germany. Compendium of Berlin Information Links

When I visited East Berlin in 1989, a month before the Wall fell, I saw many things: the tanks on side streets, Stasi all about, hidden Soviet troops and a populace milling about the US Embassy, held back from entering by the police. I also noted the freshness of the cathedral (Berliner Dom). Literature freely being handed out, invited one to worship there. Babylon was falling, confirmed to me by a visit to the Vorderasiatisches Museum on Museum Island (Berlin Mitte), where I stumbled upon the part of the wall of ancient Babylon (reconstructed) (Ishtar Gate), spoken about in the saga about exiled Israel, as well as the Pergamum exhibit (Pergamum was the place of the den of inequity spoken about by Saint John, writer of the Revelation (2:12-17)). Another set of traveller's Pictures of Berlin is HERE -- Links to several related sets are here.

June 12, 1987: President, Ronald Reagan, visits Berlin on this day in history. In a speech in front of a closed Brandenburg Gate at 2:20pm he begins his discourse on freedom. During it, he remarks, Es gibt nur ein Berlin ... General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

I noticed words crudely spray-painted upon the wall, perhaps by a young Berliner: This wall will fall. Beliefs become reality. Yes, across Europe, this wall will fall. For it cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth. The wall cannot withstand freedom. Reagan was right; his critics were wrong, very wrong and easily misled by the propoganda of the socialist left across the globe. http://www.reaganfoundation.org/reagan-quotes-detail.aspx?tx=2233

From July 17 until August 2, 1945, a conference was held by the victorious powers who had defeated Germany. Truman, Churchill and Stalin met at Cecilienhof castle at Potsdam near Berlin. The Potsdam Agreement, to a far greater extent than that of Yalta, determined the shape of post-war Europe. Among other important decisions, they reached an agreement on how to divide the defeated country between them: Not only was Germany parted in four zones (French as well), but the capital of the Third Reich was divided into four sectors, with the Russians getting almost half of the city, which became East Berlin, while the Western Allies shared the other half into three sectors, which became West Berlin. During the following years Bonn became the capital of West Germany, and on October 6, 1949 the Russian occupied zone became the country of East Germany, a country with a truly grand new name, calling themselves The German Democratic Republic, with East Berlin its capital. We could travel freely from West to East, which we often did, as almost everyone had families in the Eastern part of Germany and East Berlin. Technically West Berlin belonged to West Germany, although geographically it was located in the center of East Germany. Anyone wanting to travel from West Berlin to West Germany by road or rail, had to pass through East German check points. In the early post war years these check points were under the control of Russian military personnel.

Schloß Cecilienhof is in the northern portion of the 72 hektar Neuen Garten im Potsdam, close to the Jungfernsee. It was the last palace built by the Hohenzollern dynasty (under Wilhelm der Zweite).


The Berlin Airlift begins June 26, 1948

June 24, 1948: After the end of the war in Europe in 1945, the Allies divided the city into four sectors, analogous to the occupation zones into which Germany was divided. Berlin received large numbers of refugees from the Eastern provinces. The Soviet Union, which controlled the territory surrounding Berlin, imposed what became known as the Berlin Blockade, an economic blockade of West Berlin. The allies successfully overcame this action by airlifting food and other supplies into the city from June 24, 1948, to May 11, 1949. The German city of Berlin became permanently divided in 1961.

West Berlin, Germany, physically located entirely within communist-held East Germany, was isolated completely from the Western world on this day. Joseph Stalin, premier of Soviet Union, who had already cut rail and road access to the city for three months, now blocked all ground and water entry. He cut electric power to the Western sector. Within a few days, the great Berlin Airlift began. U.S. planes flew up to 13,000 tons of goods per day into the city for the next 10 months. Stalin lifted the blockade on May 23, 1949. Berlin--Retracing the Cold War begins at: http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/european_travel/6745. See also USAFE Berlin Airlift Web Site; more here too. The organization of CARE was involved in the process of giving humanitarian aid, in the face of Soviet domination.



Airlift Map of Germany and Berlin

August 13, 1961: Soviet forces in East Germany, sealed off the open border, between the Berlin's eastern and western sectors, in order to halt the continued and growing flight of refugees, leaving the oppression and misery of the east. Two days later, work began on the Berlin Wall. The wall would remain until November 9, 1989. The nation dedicated a monument to the 255 people who died crossing the Berlin Wall on August 13, 1998 {found at the corner of Ackerstraße and Bernauer Straße}.

October 2, 1989: Nearly 10,000 people marched through Leipzig, East Germany, demanding legalization of opposition groups and adoption of democratic reforms in the country's largest protest since 1953. This was the beginning of the end. Within the next forty days, the Wall would be falling, and the government which celebrated 40 years of rule on October 7th, collapsed. It was not obvious to many then, but Germany would soon be reunited, and the Soviet Union would spin apart -- at least for a time.

October 2, 1990: On this day Radio Berlin International (RBI) transmits its final broadcast. The East-German powerhouse is merged with Deutsche Welle (DW), the Federal Republic's chief communications arm. The final music played is The End by an American group called The Doors, led by the late Jim Morrison. Why ??? Le 3 octobre 1990, la République Fédérale Allemande et la République Démocratique Allemande célèbrent officiellement leur réunion en un seul État. Ce jour est depuis lors fête nationale en Allemagne.

November 9, 1989: It was crystal clear, the Berlin Wall was no longer a political obstacle, and soon, would not remain a physical one either. East Germany now permitted free exchange between the eastern and western portions of the divided city. Communist East Germany threw open all its borders, allowing its citizens to travel freely for the first time in over 40 years. As a practical matter, border security no longer had relevance because of recent changes that now furnished unhindered passage through Czechoslovakia. On November 10, 1989, approximately 600,000 East Germans came to West Berlin for a visit, some to shop, some to meet family and friends, some just to stand there to witness that moment in history. East and West German citizens began to dance atop the Wall, as the Stasi (guards of the East) stood unsure about what to do next with their lives. On the evening of November 11, 1989, the first concrete slab was removed from The Wall to the cheering of thousands (some cite the 10th for this event, and by the 11th a goodly number of wall samples had been taken already). Read the account at: http://members.tripod.com/~Nevermore/wall.html.

During the 20th year remembrance in 2009, former East German citizen, now the current Chancellor, Angela Merkel, of a united Germany spoke about the importance of the event for European freedom, along with former Soviet Union leader, General Secretary Mikhail S. Gorbachev. Chancellor Helmut Kohl who oversaw the reunification could not attend the evening functions. Also present was Lech Walesa. The former shipyard worker and Solidarity trades union leader, who led a fight against Moscow-backed Communism in Poland, symbolically pushed over (8:32pm local time) the first in a line of about 1000 colorful, giant dominos to illustrate how a legitimate labor movement was able to change the course of history. Absent were the late Pope of Polish descent (now Saint) and an American President who assisted greatly the effort. Mrs. Merkel said recently that she was one of those to walk into the West that night, then returned to go to work the next day. Today she repeated her walk with Gorbachev and Walesa, a moment that most certainly we will never see again. -- Das Christentum darf nicht in die Welt des Mythos und der Gefühle verbannt werden, sondern es muß in seinem Anspruch respektiert werden, die Wahrheit über den Menschen ans Licht zu bringen und die Kraft zu besitzen, Männer und Frauen geistlich umzuwandeln, so daß sie ihrer Sendung in der Geschichte nachkommen können. -- The Church Universal must never become relegated to the world of myth and sentimentality, but its message that it reveals the light of truth must find respect, as well as its power to transform the spiritual life of women and men, in order to fulfill its historic mission.

"We have worked our fingers to the bone for this country, and we are not standing by to see it all fall into ruins.
The truth has come to light. A nation that can not keep their young at home, has no future."

"We, the people, demand:

1.) The right to free access of information.
2.) We demand the right to open political discussions.
3.) We demand the freedom of thoughts and creativity.
4.) We demand the right to maintain a plural ideology.
5.) We demand the right to dissent.
6.) We demand the right to travel freely.
7.) We demand the right to exert influence over government authority.
8.) We demand the right to re-examine our beliefs.
9.) We, the people, demand the right to voice an opinion in the affairs of state."

Quote is from East Germany in 1989 -- it is interesting how history repeats itself in many variations -- WE The People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessing of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this, Constitution for the United States of America.

"Therefore...um...we have decided today...um...to implement a regulation that allows every citizen of the German Democratic Republic...um...to...um...leave East Germany through any of the border crossings," said Guenter Schabowski {government spokesman}. He appeared scarcely to believe his own words and we were all dumbfounded. What did he just say? Schabowski was asked when the new rule would take effect. "That comes into effect...according to my information.... immediately, without delay," Schabowski stammered, shuffling through the papers spread in front of him as he sought in vain for more information. It later emerged that the announcement was not supposed to be released until 4 a.m. the next morning. He also meant to say East Germans could apply for visas in an orderly manner at the appropriate state agency. The sudden rush to the border, which so overwhelmed the guards there, was the last thing he had in mind. http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSTRE5A82OE20091109 (Deshalb ... um ... wir haben heute beschlossen, ... um ... um eine Verordnung, dass jeder Bürger der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik ermöglicht ... um ... um ... um ... zu verlassen Osten Deutschland umsetzen durch eines der Grenzübergänge) -- see also http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/1109/p09s03-coop.html

December 18, 1913: Today marks the birth of Herbert Ernst Karl Frahm in Lübeck, Germany. He had just started his university studies when, in 1933, the Nazis came to power. As a Social Democrat, he had to flee. It was then that he took a new name which would mark him in history. He spent the duration of World War II in Norway and Sweden. He returned to Germany at the end of the war and was elected to the new parliament in 1949. In 1957, he became the mayor of West Berlin (1957-66). While he was mayor, the Berlin Wall was built. He became the foreign minister and vice-chancellor in the Grand Coalition of 1966. In 1969, he became the chancellor for the Federal German Republic. As chancellor he pursued the Ostpolitik, and one might say, laid the foundation for the eventual reunification of the two Germanys. He resigned as chancellor in 1974 when he learned that a close aid, Gunther Guillaume, had been functioning as a spy for the East German government. Willy Brandt won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1971.

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New: 08/20/09