The Fall of the Berlin Wall
Anthony Suau is a longtime Time magazine contract photographer. He has captured a range of subjects, from famine in Ethiopia, wars in Chechnya and Iraq to the transformation of Soviet states after the fall of communism. When his agent sent him to cover the opening of the border between East and West Berlin, he was unsure at first, but his agent convinced him that it would be the ‘story of a lifetime’. It was of the pictures he had taken the above picture of the West Germans trying to climb now-merely-symbolic wall at dawn after hammering at the concrete throughout the night became the most iconic image. In the picture, the West Germans are repulsed by police with a water-cannon. [East German guards used their water cannon for a time, trying to control the crowds but it was no use.] For 10 years following the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Suau has traveled the lands of the former Soviet bloc, making a photojournal Beyond the Fall.
In August 1961, the Wall went up. The-then President John F. Kennedy’s reaction was subdued at first. Earlier in June, he had met with Soviet Leader Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna, where Khrushchev threatened Berlin with a blockage unless the American troops withdraw. After Kennedy left Vienna, he thought that war was on the horizon. Thousands had fled to the West in the previous months, and through the Berlin Wall, Khrushchev solved his refugee problem in a way that would not violate American rights. The State Department framed building of the Wall as a success for the West. Secretary of State Dean Rusk said its construction represents a victory for the West because it showed that the Communists had to imprison their own people. The world, however, viewed it differently. It took the fiery editorials in every American newspaper, accused the US of appeasement and outraged cables of ambassadors from Europe to change the official positions of the U.S. government with regards to the Wall.
The next year, Kennedy went to Berlin and gave his “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech. It was a beginning of American resolve towards the Wall that would culminate with Reagan’s equally memorable speech 25 years later and the subsequent fall of the Wall.