Overview 1966

Willi Block, shot dead in cold blood on 7 February 1966 while trying to escape at the Berlin border

2 February: The Swiss newspaper "Neue Zürcher Zeitung" and the British "Times" report that West German has ransomed around 2,600 political prisoners from the GDR by giving the East German state economic assistance (in the form of coffee, citrus fruits, etc.) to the tune of 100 million marks since the end of 1963.

7 February: Willi Block, whose name at first remains unknown, tries to escape into West Berlin territory at the Outer Ring around Berlin near Staaken. He is noticed while crawling through the wire obstacles. He cannot obey the order given by border soldiers to return, as he is caught in the barbed wire.

Willi Block, shot dead in cold blood on 7 February 1966 while trying to escape at the Berlin border

Seventy-two shots are fired at the defenceless man, before soldiers cut him out of the barbed wire and transport the bloodied body away. The retrieval of the corpse is observed and documented by West Berlin police officers.

10 February: In the GDR, the envoy Gerhard Kegel fabulates that each of the two German states and West Berlin has its own nationals. By so doing, he means to declare the unified German nation - which, he admits, still lives on in the imagination of many Germans - to be an illusion.

Willi Block, shot dead in cold blood on 7 February 1966 while trying to escape at the Berlin border

7 March: The fourth Border Pass Agreement between the West Berlin Senate and the GDR is signed for Easter and Pentecost in 1966. It is to remain the last such agreement for some time. In December, the negotiations over an agreement regarding Christmas visits fail because the GDR now wants formal negotiations with the Senate. Until 1972 West Berliners do not have the possibility to visit East Berlin.

1 April: Professor Robert Havemann is officially excluded from the GDR Academy of Sciences because, it is said, he has violated the loyalty due to the state of the GDR with his publications and offended "against the duties of the citizens of a socialist state".

1 April: At an order from the GDR Council of Ministers, the department "Commercial Coordination" is founded within the Ministry for Foreign and Inner-German Trade. Its sole task is to obtain the maximum amount of foreign currencies outside the state plan. The head of the department is the state secretary and Stasi officer Alexander Schalck-Golodkowski.

Watchtower of the GDR border troops in the cemetery on Liesenstrasse, Wedding, Berlin, May 1966

8 April: In an interview with the weekly newspaper "Die Zeit", the leader of the Bavarian Christian Social Union, Franz Josef Strauss, calls for the German question to be Europeanised: "However utopian this may sound today, I see only one single way of shifting the current balance of power so that the German question is not a source of worry to Germany's neighbours, either to the west or to the east: it involves Europe."

29 April: The 31-year-old West Berliner Paul Stretz is shot dead by border soldiers while swimming in the Spandau shipping canal.

26 May: After long and difficult discussions, the SED and the SPD agree to an "exchange of speakers" to take place in July: fundamental questions of German politics are to be discussed at two meetings, one on each side of the border. The project is cancelled a few weeks later.

22 June: In Oslo, a meeting begins of the study group "Television" from the Consultative Committee for International Radio. On the agenda is the recommendation for a uniform system for colour television in Europe. No agreement is reached on any of the available systems - the American NTSC, the German PAL and the French SECAM.

23 June: The Beatles arrive at the Munich-Riem airport at the start of their tour of Germany.

14 July: The West German Ministry of Defence announces the 60th crash by a Starfighter since 1961; 34 pilots have lost their lives.

29 July: In Berlin, negotiations on the 5th Border Pass Agreement for visiting relatives in East Berlin fail, because the GDR refuses to accept the so-called severability clause again - both sides come to the conclusion that no agreement on the names of places, authorities and offices could be reached. No agreement is reached on the visiting of relatives in autumn 1966 for the same reason. West Berliners are unable to visit East Berlin until 1972.

13 August: A big parade of troops is held in East Berlin for the fifth anniversary of the construction of the Berlin Wall. Walter Ulbricht states that the GDR, together with the Soviet Union, rescued peace by building the Wall five years ago. The Western Allies call the military parade an affront to the four-power agreements and protest against it. In West Berlin, Willy Brandt says: "The Wall will not vanish on its own, not by protest alone and not as an isolated event. It will come down, but only in the context of bigger changes."

7 October: After his visit to the United States, West German Chancellor Ludwig Erhard says that a blueprint for lasting peace in Europe cannot be achieved on the basis of the existing situation. He says that this fact is agreed upon within the Western alliance: "The hope of arriving at a lasting peace in Europe by means of concessions, that is, sacrifices of the highest order, without a connection to the restoration of German unity is dangerous and deceptive." He adds that the reason why reunification has not been able to be brought about is not "a lack of effort, too little imagination or unused opportunities, but the attitude of the Soviet Union."

9 October: As a reaction to the fatal shootings of the past days and weeks, the Western Allies step up their patrols at the Wall.

19 October: In an interview with Günter Gaus, the leader of the SPD parliamentary party, Herbert Wehner, brings up the idea of a German Economic Community and a German Alliance. He rejects any recognition of the GDR, considering this to be the final seal on the division of Germany; but he is of the opinion that any steps this side of recognition could be introduced to pave the way for inner German regulations.

27 October: In Bonn, the CDU/FDP governing coalition falls apart; the FDP rejects tax hikes to balance the 1967 federal budget; its four ministers in the Federal Cabinet resign. On 8 November, the Bundestag indirectly expresses no confidence in Chancellor Erhard; on 10 November, the CDU/CSU parliamentary party nominates Kurt Georg Kiesinger as candidate for the chancellorship.

1 December: Ludwig Erhard resigns on 30 November after the collapse of the governing coalition of CDU/CSU and FDP. A "grand coalition" is formed; Kurt Georg Kiesinger (CDU) becomes Chancellor, the SPD chairman Willy Brandt is made Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister, Franz Josef Strauss (CSU) is Finance Minister and Karl Schiller (SPD) is Economics Minister. Because of the weak opposition in the Bundestag, the so-called "Extraparliamentary Opposition" (APD), consisting mostly of students, comes into being; among other things, it protests against the passing of the so-called "emergency laws".

In a letter, the writer Günter Grass tells Willy Brandt of his reservations about the SPD's joining a grand coalition; in his answer, Willy Brandt promises that there will be "no bland political stew".


Memorial cross for Karl-Heinz Kube in Berlepschstrasse in Düppel, Berlin (photo: December 2004)

16 December: In Kleinmachnow, south of Berlin, the 17-year-old Karl-Heinz Kube and the 18-year-old Detlef Schadow try to get through the border fortifications towards the Berlin district of Zehlendorf (Düppel). They are noticed by border guards, who fire at them. Karl-Heinz Kube is killed; Detlef Schadow remains uninjured. The guards who killed Kube and the other border soldiers involved are given the "Medal for Exemplary Border Service" and the "Service Badge of the Border Troops" respectively and commended. A memorial cross on the West Berlin side commemorates the victim.

19 December: The Saale motorway bridge, the first and so far only joint construction project carried out by the two German states since the division of Germany, is opened to traffic. The old bridge had been blown up in 1945.