The Austrian Mint have issued a new coin which marks the 25th anniversary of the collapse of one of Europe and the world’s more stark reminders of political and physical separation between peoples – that of the Berlin Wall. A constant, disparaging and everyday presence in the lives of Berliners, Germans and Europeans that many aspects of the conclusion of the Second World War had not been wholly concluded.
With the end of WWII, The German nation had been sectioned off between the victorious allied countries, and each country became responsible for their sector in terms of security, rehabilitation, economical re-growth and more importantly, political stability. In a very short time, the United States, Great Britain and France had joined forces and pooled together their resources to re-build a tattered and war-torn Germany while the Soviet Union had begun to isolate their sector both economically and politically. Berlin, the capital of the Third Reich, was located in the sector of the Soviet Union but – the city had also been divided into sectors, just as the county had been. Within a short period of time, the Soviet sector had also been isolated with the limitation of movement between the three sectors controlled by the US, the UK and France and the Soviet Union.
In June 1948, and with substantial support by the three western allied governments, the new “Deutsche Mark” had been planned for and introduced into the whole of the country but, within a few days of that introduction, the USSR had announced it too would introduce a new Currency, the “OstMark” into what would be known as the German Democratic Republic or, East Germany. To coincide with the announcement and in an effort to convince Berliners to vote for a socialist town council to govern the city, the Soviet Union had begun to restrict the delivery of food, medicine and energy requirements such as coal and oil to the western sectors of Berlin and cutting off utilities where possible to the western half of the city. Within weeks, the citizens of what was now being referred to as West Berlin were feeling the deprivations quickly. It became necessary to airlift needed supplies to West Berliners from the western half of Germany via Templehof Airport Within days of the Soviet restrictions, the Western allied forces had begun to air-lift into Berlin what would result in literally thousands of tons of needed food and energy per day. The famed Douglas C-47’s and C-54’s continued to deliver needed supplies to a grateful population which continued uninterrupted for more than eleven months until Soviet forces realized that Allied forces could feasibly supply the western half indefinitely and relented, allowed supplies to be brought in by road by May 1949.
It wasn’t until August 1961 when construction began on a structure which would be synonymous with the physical imprisonment of peoples against their will or from freedom of movement within a city of country – the Berlin Wall. Built along the borders of the city of Berlin on East German territory, it consisted of barbed wire, wire fence and eventually solid thick concrete walls which literally walled in the inhabitants of the western half of the city, rather than barricading in those in the East. With a total length of 96 miles or 155 kilometers around, it was impenetrable with its 302 guard towers and armed soldiers who were ordered to shoot on site, anyone caught trying to go over its walls. Called the “Wall of Shame” by the then-city’s mayor and future Chancellor of West Germany Willy Brandt, the wall all but ended the immigration of hundreds of thousands of Germans who had previously crossed into West Berlin and flew out of the city to the western half of the country. It has been documented that from its construction to its eventual collapse, the wall resulted in the deaths of 100 people attempting to scale the wall or tunnel under.
As the political climate had changed dramatically in the late 1980’s from the USSR to the Warsaw Pact nations, a more liberalization of the authoritarian governments who had been in charge, it became for some, a real possibility that some day, the wall might come down – so much so that even US President Ronald Reagan in a speech to Berliners in June 1987 uttered the now famous words “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” challenging the Soviet leader to do just that.
In June 1989, the previously unthinkable had happened, Hungarian border guards dismantled their barriers between them and Austria resulting in thousands of East Germans traveling through Hungary to Austria in the hopes of escaping to the West. When East German authorities prevented travel to Hungary, protests erupted resulting in the resignation of the country’s long-time strongman, Eric Honecker. Further protests gained momentum on the night of the 9th November with hundreds of thousands of East Berliners demanding their exit from East Berlin. It soon became clear that no one among the East German authorities would take personal responsibility for issuing orders to use lethal force as had been done previously, so the vastly outnumbered soldiers had no way to hold back the huge crowd of East German citizens. As East Berliners swarmed through the open gates, they were greeted by West Berliners waiting with flowers and champagne amid wild rejoicing. Soon afterward, a crowd of West Berliners jumped on top of the wall with sledgehammers, and were soon joined by East German youngsters. They danced together to celebrate their new freedom.
The new coin, creatively designed by Mint engraver Herbert Waehner captures this moving time and historical moment with a very meaningful design. The obverse shows a young man cutting through the Wall leaving behind the barbed wire of the communist world on the left side and going towards freedom and greener grass on the right side. The reverse of the coin shows the young man coming through the wall and into freedom. The barbed wire is now behind him and he looks forward to see global symbols of freedom: the Statue of Liberty, the Brandenburg Gate (which was on the very front of this wall), the Elisabeth bridge connecting eastern Hungary to the West, the giant Ferris wheel of Vienna and the Charles Bridge in Prague, all symbols that bridge to the free world. Superimposed on this are the 12 stars of the European Union.
|20 Euro||.900 silver||18 grams||34 mm.||Proof||50,000 pieces|
Each coin is encapsulated and comes in box with a sleeve and an individually numbered certificate of authenticity. Due to the subject at hand, the anniversary commemorated and the limited mintage there is expected to be a higher than normal demand for this coin and interested collectors are advised to enquire early to avoid disappointment.
For more information on this and other coins offered by the Mint of Austria, please visit their website at: http://www.muenzeoesterreich.at/eng/produkte/25th-anniversary-of-the-fall-of-the-iron-curtain Information offered in German & English, international orders dispatched.