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Photos That Changed History: Tearing Down The Wall

Photos That Changed History: Tearing Down The Wall

I was browsing through historical events that happened this week and came across a big one. This event was one that many people had hoped to see happen for many years. It marked the beginning of the end of a long conflict between the superpowers of the time and the reconciliation and reunification of a country that had been divided into two parts since the end of the second World War. On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. This event is one of the most well-remembered events of recent history and is something of a landmark date for those who were old enough to watch it happen.

Now, for those of you who weren’t born before or during the early 1980s, you might wonder why this particular wall coming down was such a big deal. According to History Geek, this wall was built by the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). East Germany called it the “Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart” as part of their propaganda to gather support for the Wall. The Berlin Wall divided the city of Berlin into two parts. On the east was the Soviet bloc. To the west, the American/French/British bloc. Though Berlin was behind the Iron Curtain, it had been divided into quarters as it was the capital of both East and West Germany. The Soviets were determined to gain control of the entire city. However, the Allies were able to hold on to their sections of the city even when the Soviets cut off all land-based access to Berlin.

Throughout the entire Cold War, relations between the Soviets and the West (led by the US) were tense. The Berlin Wall and the death zone around it were a constant reminder that the Cold War was not going to be easily settled by either side. However, in the 1980s, things began to change. The entire world was recovering from the stagflation of the 1970s. The Soviet Union, though, was still scrambling to keep everything under control. Their propaganda campaigns showing the “horrible conditions” in the West instead showed just how far ahead of them the West was. One by one, Soviet bloc countries began to rebel. The then president of the United States, Ronald Reagan, issued a challenge to the leader of the Soviet Union. In his speech at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Reagan challenged Gorbachev to “Tear down this wall!” Reagan’s speech set off a series of events that gave the rebels behind the Iron Curtain hope and also chipped away at the Soviets’ control over their populace. Later that same year (1989), the leaders of East Berlin and East Germany were forced to allow their people free access to the West in order to try to keep Eastern Germans from defecting entirely. The wall was opened on November 9, 1989. History Geek says that he saw it happening on television and thought it was pretty cool that all of these people who supposedly hated each other were partying together on top of the Berlin Wall.

In the days that followed, Eastern and Western Germans began dismantling the wall with pickaxes, sledgehammers, regular hammers, anything they could use to tear it down or to create unofficial crossing points. The wall itself is now mostly gone. Only a few sections remain still standing and none of those impede travel.

— da Bird

Remember, remember…

Remember, remember...

Today is November 5. Tomorrow is an important day in the US: Election Day. However, across the Pond in the United Kingdom, today is a national holiday. Known as Guy Fawkes day, today is the day that many Britons get together to burn effigies of Guy Fawkes and to set off fireworks. So, who is Guy Fawkes and why does he get his own day? He tried to blow up the English Parliament building in a bid to kill the Protestant king, James, in hopes of restoring a Catholic monarch. Or rather, he was part of a conspiracy to do that. However, since he was the person actually caught with the gunpowder, his name is the one that everyone recalls.

This image of the English Parliament building taken from the Thames River is probably one of the most well-known and iconic images of England. The Elizabeth Tower where Big Ben knells the hour is one of the most recognizable features of the Parliament building. It was this building that Guy Fawkes and his associates planned to blow up. The conspiracy was actually the brainchild of Thomas Wintour who had sought help for his plans in Spain. His own associations eventually introduced him to Guy Fawkes who had been fighting in the Eighty Years War and was relatively unknown in Britain, having left the kingdom for the continent many years before. Some believe that the conspirators planned to dig a tunnel under the House of Lords starting from beneath John Whynniard’s, the Keeper of the King’s Wardrobe, house. However, the reality is that the conspirators purchase the lease to an undercroft that was directly beneath the House of Lords and stored nearly fifty barrels of gunpowder in it. The plan was to ignite them during the opening of Parliament. The king and many of his ministers would be present for the opening which normally took place during the late summer. However, the threat of the plague delayed the opening of Parliament until November.

Though the conspirators had been reaching out to their various contacts on the continent and throughout England, they had, thus far, managed to elude capture. So, how was the Gunpowder Plot discovered? Probably by a case of guilty conscience. An anonymous letter was sent to Lord Monteagle, a Catholic sympathizer who, nonetheless, had acquiesced to James’ Protestant rule. This letter warned Monteagle not to attend the opening of Parliament. Monteagle’s servants reported the receipt of the letter to the conspirators but the decision was made to go ahead with the plot regardless. The conspirators were betting that the letter would be taken for a hoax and would ignore it. However, Monteagle showed the letter to King James who ordered Sir Thomas Knyvet to conduct a thorough search beneath Parliament.

Guy Fawkes was guarding the gunpowder on the night of November 5. He had a watch and a slow match with him and was waiting for the opening of Parliament to begin later that day. His plan was to ignite the powder and then escape across the Thames and then make his way to the continent where he would confess his part in the plot to the Catholic powers there and hope that they would be swayed by his arguments of duty to the faith enough to overlook the regicide. However, while leaving the cellar that night, Fawkes was uncovered by the searchers. The undercroft and its explosive contents were found and Fawkes was arrested, interrogated and tortured. He broke and confessed the entire plot. He and seven other conspirators were tried shortly thereafter, found guilty, and sentenced to death.

Afterwards, the King decided to proclaim November 5 to be a day of thanksgiving for having escaped being assassinated. Since Guy Fawkes was the most well-known of the conspirators and the first to be caught, his name has been given to the holiday.

Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

It’s been a heck of a week here at Beach Camera. Monday we closed due to Hurricane Sandy. The aftermath of that storm has closed roads and caused issues with gasoline and the electrical systems across the region so orders may take longer to ship out than previously. We are working to get everything sorted out as quickly as we can, though. Also, our phone lines have been experiencing problems so if you’ve been unable to reach our customer support via phone, we recommend that you contact us via email, Twitter, or Facebook for the time being.

With the hurricane being the major headliner in this week’s news, it’s not surprising that a lot of the discussion in the photography world this week has been centered on storm photography and weather-proofing your camera. However, if you haven’t been following us on Twitter you might have missed out on some of these stories. Don’t worry. As always, we’ll recap the week in news for you below!

That’s all for this week, folks! Stay safe, stay warm, and see you again next week!

— da Bird