Ribbon awarded by the 'History Contest' (see ribbon posted on port page)
|650 word winning entry for "Historical Fiction Short Story Contest" prompt: point of view of a German living in Berlin (either side) while the wall was up
“Life used to be so easy.” Hans Von Smitt put down his binoculars. No-man’s land stretched a half a mile to end abruptly against the Berlin Wall. Guard’s guarded each other for any hint of escape. No one walked alone. Not here. Not now. Not in this year of our Lord, 1968.
Marvin Snell lifted his cap to wipe the sweat off his brow. He had family living in the Western half of the divided city. Today was the exact anniversary of the wall being built on August 13th. There had been little communication between him and his brothers since the wall’s rise in 1961. “My kin walked across with the three million erupting from the hemorrhage of East Berlin when the Soviets invaded.”
“All we asked of Hitler during the Second World War was bread in our mouths and a place to eat it. He gave us this.” Von Smitt waved his friend into uncomfortable silence.
It was not accepted to mention the Furrer’s name in public or private. West Germany was intent on erasing that chapter from everyone’s minds. The island capital of Berlin where their leader committed suicide was now a schizophrenic political war zone.
“Our East German leaders are ruled by the Kremlin. We have money to install underground sound detectors to prevent tunnels to freedom but little for public welfare.” Von Smitt’s wife had given birth and died doing so, with only a midwife to comfort her going. Complaining about any injustice meant a transfer to one of the many labor camps. It was neighbor against neighbor renouncing anyone for a bit of favor in the police state.
Everyone was a party member. Hans and Marvin used their public allegiance to spy on opportunities for escape to the West. They were the true underground whether the tunnels were found and destroyed or not.
They faced the largest number of tanks and other weaponry in the modern world ready to devour each other in what was called ‘The Cold War”. The beloved capital was the center of it all. It was physically split in two by the wall and more so by the ideologies of East versus West. “Corruption is our friend. That and the worthless tools used to construct the wall.” Han’s passed across the brief jotted message of where a weakness had been found.
“Yes. The steel bars embedded in concrete erode the construction with rust. The barrier is in a constant state of repair and reinforcement. It is a chance.” Marvin wet his dry lips. He was nervous in spite of staring hope in the eyes.
The two freedom fighters exchanged handshakes. Each wore the uniform of the local guards. When turned inside out they would appear to be construction workers. Their hope to actually make it across the death strip would be minimized. They were sure to reach the wall as they merged with other workers. With the usual extreme attention to detail all Germans prided themselves on, their plan had been rehearsed and refined for months.
“Perhaps we will evade the bullets and live to tell the truth about what life is like here.” It is what Han’s lived for. Marvin had family he yearned to see again. To both men, the Berlin Wall filled their lives more than any other thing. Guarding it provided them jobs. Its presence provided them their own prison. Such was their daily existence. Where West Berlin blazed its city lights at night that was when East Berlin showed off its darkness.
“I hope no other nation ever thinks building a wall between two countries will solve anything.” Han’s spat on his semi-automatic weapon that had killed others trying to break for freedom. He polished the gunmetal side with an empty hand. “Ready? Let’s do our race to freedom.”