31 August 1961
Every day, successful escapes from East to West Berlin continue to be made. After the shots that have been fired at escapees above ground, underground escape methods through wastewater and stormwater drains are seen as less risky. West Berlin "escape helpers" assist East Berliners wanting to escape to find suitable manholes to enter by, as well as having the heavy manhole covers opened by so-called "lid men" and closed again after the escapees have gone in. – The border police respond to the escapes through the sewage system by welding down the manhole covers and placing grids in the drains.
Two construction workers who have escaped to West Berlin relate how they were taken away from their construction sites in Zehdenick to Berlin to build the Wall, and talk about the mood among the Wall builders.
On the second day of his visit to West Berlin, West German President Heinrich Lübke speaks at an improvised rally in front of the Schöneberg Town Hall. He assures the West Berliners that all Germans are behind them.
In a radio and television address to the German nation in the evening, the President sums up his impressions: "What I saw yesterday during my trips along the sector border is hard to put into words. Across this city runs a bloody border. Blocked streets, front doors and windows that have been cemented up, walls and barbed wire separate husbands from their wives, parents from their children. (…) While, until 13 August, the masses of refugees were the eloquent symbol of the unjust regime in the Zone, today it is walls, barbed wire and machine guns."
The West Berlin Mayor Franz Amrehn announces the formation of two Senate special commissions. These commissions are to ensure that West Berlin soon overcomes the negative educational, scientific, social and economic consequences of 13 August. West Berlin is to develop into a new centre of education, science and business in the years to come.
The West Berlin Senate announces that the salaries of West Berlin "cross-border commuters" who work in East Berlin will no longer be changed into West German marks as of 1 September. This affects around 13,000 West Berliners, of whom more than half work for the East German railway, the Reichsbahn. The Senate says that it can no longer be expected to "take money from the state budget for an exchange that brings the state of Berlin only worthless East German marks."
The East Berlin head of the Evangelical Church in Germany, Dr. Kurt Scharf, possesses a permit to allow him to carry out his duties in West Berlin. On his return to East Berlin, his permit and his GDR identity card are confiscated from him at the sector border, and he is forbidden to return to his residence in East Berlin. As the chairman of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), the authorities say, he is the head of an "illegal organisation that is inimical to peace". The Council protests against this violation of the right to carry out church duties undisturbed, a right that is also recognised in the GDR. It expresses its indignation that "such a cynical and dishonourable form of the practical expulsion of the leading clergyman of the EKD and the hindrance to episcopal duties is possible among our people". – Scharf was appointed administrator of the episcopal office for East Berlin after Bishop Otto Dibelius was no longer allowed to travel to East Berlin as of 13 August 1961.
The SED leadership has the GDR flag with hammer and sickle hoisted on the Brandenburg Gate, the symbol for German unity. The next day, the "Berliner Zeitung", the organ of the SED district administration of Berlin, says that "workers of our republic in the honourable dress of the National People’s Army, the German People’s Police and the Combat Groups of the GDR" had placed "the state flag of the GDR" on the Brandenburg Gate. A spokesman for the West Berlin Senate comments on this event in the newspaper "Tagesspiegel", saying that "those in power in the Soviet zone" were trying to complete "the annexation of East Berlin with a symbolic act".
A top-secret CIA study examines "reactions to possible US measures in the Berlin crisis". The idea of a sea blockade by the USA of the states in the Soviet-Chinese bloc as one of the possible responses to the – still feared - restriction of access routes to Berlin by the Soviet Union is viewed by the CIA with some scepticism. It believes that such a blockade would isolate the USA and West internationally and draw condemnation by the United Nations. The study shows that the West still has no appropriate military response except the use of atomic weapons to react to a restriction of its rights in Berlin.
Eastern press reactions:
Under the headline "Aunty Frieda and peace, or: Citizens of the German Democratic Republic and trips to the West", the SED central organ "Neues Deutschland" publishes a fictitious letter. It states that no one can travel with a good conscience from the GDR to the country that "did not, on its own admission, desire peaceful relations, but an attack on the GDR and socialist states". It goes on to say that the GDR was the "state of truth and freedom", whereas the Federal Republic was "the NATO state of non-freedom and war" that had split off from Germany.