Peter Fechter and the Cost of the Wall

There is no agreement on how many people were murdered to build actually existing socialism. Discounting National Socialists, as we properly should, the global figure runs to something of the order of sixty to two hundred million people, with most figures settling nearer to one hundred million. Of course, if you stretch things back to the French Revolutionary Wars, or even the Paris Commune whose flag Gagarin carried into space, you get a slightly expanded number.

I view this as a dystopian combination of the lunacy best articulated by Rousseau, materialism, the reformation, and industrial badness. Did this happen because western Christianity was so much mixed up with militarism?

All those lost lives...of course, many would by now be dead anyway, but didn't they have some basic right to a chance of life? I always wonder when I see an old picture what would have become of a person.

Ah well. The photograph is of Peter Fechter. He met God at eighteen, after an hour of agony. He was a bricklayer, shot in the pelvis by a DDR guard as he tried to get to freedom. It isn't the constant threat of nuclear destruction, nor the persecutions of the faithful, nor the wars, that bring home to me what happened after Proudhon and Marx. It's him, and the 136 who died with him and the 5000 who escaped.

The wall's been down twenty years, and life and God have broken out again. If the twentieth century was a horror story, I am glad for Germany and Russia, whom it was all about, that it ended the way it did.

UPDATE: After this post, I went looking for any equivalent wall which was established to keep a state's own people in. I found the peace wall in Israel--which has worked in stopping nutcases murdering Jews--and multiple walls in the Arab and Muslim worlds, not least in Iran. I found the European Union's walls in Mellila and Ceuta, which share a border with Morocco and from which many illegal migrants have been killed. I also thought about the anabaptists and the Paris Commune, and for that matter Waco, but all seemed inappropriate. The only near comparison that I could think of was the British Treaty Line with Native Americans established in 1763-4, shortly before the American Revolution to guarantee Indian land (and which, of course, drove the colonists nuts).

The Berlin wall remains the only one that I could think of dedicated openly to the proposition that a state had to be maintained as a sort of prison. 80,000 tried to escape it, 5000 succeeded, and several hundred seem to have died on it (the figures are disputed). People make you sad sometimes.


Popular Posts