The Story Of The Lebanese Man Who Protested The Berlin Wall With A Giant Wooden Cross

This Lebanese Businessman Protested The Berlin Wall With A Giant Wooden Cross
Paul Schutzer/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images | JEAN-CLAUDE COUTAUSSE/CONTACT PRESS IMAGES

In the early hours of August 13, 1961, the construction of the Berlin Wall began, widening the fissure between East and West Germany, and further undermining people’s freedom of travel between the two sections of the divided country.

The Wall caused a lot of anger on the street level and drew criticism on the international stage, even almost sparking a new conflict between the Soviet Union, which controlled East Germany, and the western allies, which shared control of West Germany.

Before the move, East Germans and West Germans could move freely between the two sections, as the capital Berlin was also split between the USSR and the Allies, which created a loophole that ultimately prompted the construction of the Wall.

As such, the Berlin Wall – dubbed the “Wall of Shame” by the mayor of West Berlin – cost many people their jobs, separated families, and created an ideological and physical barrier between the people of Germany.

The Berlin Wall in its early form.
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Opposing these notions, a West-Germany-based Lebanese businessman decided to take action.

In October, Edmond Khayat was photographed as he headed toward Brandenburg Gate, which stood on the border between East and West Berlin, in order to protest the Berlin Wall.

In the iconic photo caught by Paul Schutzer, Khayat is shown walking alone down an empty street toward the gate, dragging a large, nearly 39-kg wooden cross, the top of its vertical section inscribed with the word HUMANITY, and its left arm bearing the Arabic translation of the same word (الانسانية).

October 1961 – Photo by Paul Schutzer

With this message, Khayat wanted to enter East Germany – officially, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) – to protest the Wall and make a plea for peace.

He was one of many people who wanted to see the detested structure torn down for its repressive nature and divisive purpose.

However, he was denied entry by the Volkspolizei, the national police force of the GDR.

The Berlin Wall at Kurfurstendamm
The Berlin Wall at Kurfurstendamm 1985. Source: @quaxi.modo.wye

The Berlin Wall not only remained standing over the following years but was additionally fortified by East German authorities.

They even ordered guards to immediately shoot any East Germans who attempted to cross to the more prosperous and free western part of the city.

It was only brought down in November 1989, when East and West Germans came together to celebrate the fall of the barrier that had kept them physically and ideologically separated for 10,316 days; nearly 3 decades.

A border guard of the German Democratic Republic and a policeman of the Federal Republic of Germany at the Berlin Wall 1990
A border guard of the German Democratic Republic and a policeman of the Federal Republic of Germany at the Berlin Wall 1990 – Source: @e_p_o_r_u_e

In the end, HUMANITY did prevail, and the cries of Edmond Khayat and his fellow citizens, in all sections of the partitioned country, were successful in demolishing the Wall of Shame.