Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Wall

Red Baron admits that we Germans have a special attitude to walls and by the way to wheels as well. The latter is natural in a country relying on its economy with Volkswagen, BMW, and Mercedes. German carmakers do not intend to reinvent the wheel, but they are still betting on stone age technology in particular on air-polluting diesel engines.

Back to walls. I still vividly remember Ronald Reagan contemplating the Berlin Wall near the Brandenburg Gate on June 12, 1987, imploring, ”Mr. Gorbatschow, tear down this wall!" Note pre-Merkel Chancellor Helmut Kohl as usual grinning, this time in the background.


In 2019 another wall has emerged as a protagonist of world history, as a symbol of the struggle for humanity and freedom with POTUS demanding, "This barrier is absolutely critical to border security."

This is how German cartoonist Klaus Stuttmann© "saw" POTUS on television
In his speech on television, POTUS claimed, “The wall will also be paid for, indirectly by the great new trade deal we have made with Mexico.”

Since Mexico will pay for it Democrats see no reason to yield to the president’s demand for 5.7 billion U$ to finance "his" wall. Subsequently, POTUS refused to raise the US debt ceiling thus forcing his government into a shutdown. Government institutions stopped working and their employees are no longer paid. As a tourist, I once lived through a shutdown in Wahington, DC, in 2013.

POTUS is desperately trying to fulfill his campaign pledge where he promised to build a 1,000-mile concrete southern border wall. Now he calls the wall whatever you like a steel barrier, sometimes even a fence (wooden?), although he has frequently rejected suggestions that it is just a fence.


In an interview Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer mentioned a wall of 20 feet high, but as historic examples show it is more important how deep a wall reaches into the ground in order to fight a technique called tunneling.

Since the ancient times, people have dug tunnels to “undercome” walls. Here as an example is what the French troops under the command of General Louis Hector de Villars achieved during the siege of Freiburg in October 1706. Mineurs* (sappers) approached the city in approches* (covered ditches) until they were in reach of the wall when they started to dig tunnels. After having filled the tunnel stub with gun powder and igniting the fuse they hoped for a breche* (breach) in the wall.
*note that all those military terms are French

French mineurs approaching Freiburg's walls from the west in 1706.
The fortifications were built by the famous French architect S├ębastien Le Prestre de Vauban
thirty years earlier.
A more recent example is that of escape tunnels being dug under the Berlin wall from 1961 to 1989.

Built escape tunnels are marked in red
Note that the border protection facilities built by the German Democratic Republic (GDR) comprised a pre-wall, a barbed-wired fence, a death strip with patrolling dogs, observation towers manned by border guards with submachine guns, and the wall proper right on the border and visible from West-Berlin.

These were long tunnels of about 50 meters (©Onetz.de)
While President Reagen had a clear message with respect to a political wall, POTUS rather has an unclear idea about his wall. In his televised address to the American people he said, "So sad, so terrible" where I would like to agree with and add, "so true".

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