Word of the Week: Stacheldrahtsonntag

Sep 5, 2014

Stacheldrahtsonntag Enlarge image (© dpa - Bildarchiv) The events of August 13, 1961 brought a new word into the German language: Stacheldrahtsonntag, which means "Barbed Wire Sunday".

If you're familiar with German history, it shouldn't be too difficult to figure out the meaning of this word. Stacheldrahtsonntag was the day that GDR authorities began sealing off the border between East and West German using barbed wire and other barriers that which were quickly replaced by a wall. The day became so significant that it was referred to without the date. Everyone knew about "August 13" or, in other words, "Barbed Wire Sunday."

Between 1945 and 1961, around 2.7 million people fled East Germany for the West, which was about 15 percent of the GDR's population. To stop the mass emigration, GDR authorities hastily closed the border on the night of August 12 - and they didn't wait long before sealing it with physical barriers. The use of barbed wire was quick and efficient, keeping people from crossing the border until a system of metal and concrete walls reinforced it a few weeks later. Nearly 17 million people were trapped inside the GDR on August 13, and 533,000 East German troops and police were employed to make sure no one escaped.

Stacheldrahtsonntag Enlarge image (© dpa - Bildarchiv) Families were separated, East German residents were unable to go to their jobs in the West and some of those along the border even lost their homes. As barbed wire further separated the two Germanys, August 13 quickly became known as Stacheldrahtsonntag.

As the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall approaches, Stacheldrahtsonntag is a word you might hear in conversation - especially among those who lived through that fateful day.

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

© Germany.info

Word of the Week

Stacheldraht

Word of the Week Dictionary

Missed a Word of the Week? Want to consult the growing Word of the Week dictionary? We have them listed from A to Z!

German Reunification: Words You Need to Know

climbing the wall

What do you call a former East German who longs for the "good old days"? How about someone whose political convictions took a 180-degree turn after reunification? Our reunification dictionary will explain German words related to the fall of the wall!