After the historical announcement on the 9th November 1989 that the border between the two Germanies would open and after the fall of the Berlin Wall, more than 6,000 dogs from the GDR (German Democratic Republic) were abandoned and forgotten. They were no longer needed as guards.
The concrete border that separated the East from the West of Berlin had thousands of guard-dogs with the objective of guaranteeing safety and respect of the borders as men alone found it hard to do this.
The German Shepherd was a very popular choice of “Wall dog”, although other large breeds such as the Rottweiler, Great Dane or the Griffon were also part of the Wall security troops.
The task of these dogs was to protect the border crossings and chase away people who tried to cross the Wall, until the border patrol caught them. The dogs were tied to a five metre long chain which was attached to a steel cable that ran approximately 100 metres in length along the Wall.
Life for these dogs was hard and very arduous. They lived in a very cold climate and almost without any contact with other dogs or humans. They were fed every two days with very meagre rations. These living conditions lowered the life expectancy of these animals that would die young, and many of them developed what was called “wall syndrome”: they relentlessly barked even when they could hardly stand.
At times the Wall dogs were sacrificed when they no longer served their purpose. Others died by being hanged when they got tangled in their own leads because there was no human supervision.
What became of the dogs of the Berlin Wall after the 9th November 1989?
The future of these animals was evidently not the priority at the time of this historic event. More than 2,000 dogs disappeared (they were obviously sacrificed). The German Association for the Protection of Animals did everything they could possibly do to save as many dogs as they could and correct the behaviour they had learnt during their captivity. This allowed 1,500 dogs to become guard dogs in private residences. The rest, (approximately 2,500) ended up in dogs’ homes without much hope of being adopted. There is, however, a great story with a happy ending: that of the three Wall dogs that got the opportunity to spend their retirement in the sun. In March 1990, two German Shepherds called Juro and Betty, and a Schnauzer called Valco, were adopted by a family in Mallorca.
However, adopting Wall dogs wasn’t so easy, given their reputation in the media as blood-thirsty beasts and not very sociable.
The Federal Association for the Protection of Animals has had to fight hard to leave these prejudices behind and to be able to rehabilitate dogs of the Berlin Wall.
Many of them were forgotten. Today we want to dedicate this modest article to all those dogs, because memory isn’t a privilege reserved only for men.