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Waiting for the Communist Call: Propaganda and reflection as the Berlin Wall turns 49

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The seemingly borderless nature of our digital age renders bizarre the idea of nationalized walls separating people. Current items like the Israeli West Bank “security” barrier and the demand for a wall on the entire Mexican border just seem absurd and brutal.

Those were walls that kept people out. Today marks the 49th anniversary of a wall that kept people in and fired the imaginations of artists like Pink Floyd, David Bowie and the Sex Pistols.

In an effort to stave off “fascist” influence from the West, German Democratic Republic General Secretary Walter Ulbricht closed the border between the Western and Soviet sectors with barbed wire and fences, on order from Nikita Khrushchev. It soon became the symbol of national alienation.

Below are two of the most fascinating pieces of media about the Berlin Wall that I’ve found. Walter de Hoog’s The Wall was produced by the United States Information Agency, the global propaganda arm started by the Eisenhower administration in 1953. Strangely, the USIA was prohibited to screen their films to the American public, so this stark, immediate and emotive piece wasn’t released here until 1990.
 

 
And here’s Magnum photographer Thomas Hoepker’s remarkable narrated slide show of his 40 years covering the Wall…
 

 

Posted by Ron Nachmann
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08.13.2010
05:01 pm
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