The Berlin Wall

5 min read    729 comments

Construction began on The Berlin Wall early in the morning of Sunday, August 13, 1961. It was a desperate - and effective - move by the GDR (German Democratic Republic) to stop East Berliners escaping from the Soviet-controlled East German state into the West of the city, which was then occupied by the Americans, British and French.

Berlin's unique situation as a city half-controlled by Western forces, in the middle of the Soviet Occupation Zone of Germany, made it a focal point for tensions between the Allies and the Soviets and a place where conflicting ideologies were enforced side-by-side. However, as more and more people in the Soviet-controlled East grew disillusioned with communism and the increasingly oppressive economic and political conditions, an increasing number began defecting to the West. By 1961 an estimated 1,500 people a day were fleeing to the West, damaging both the credibility and - more importantly - the workforce of the GDR. Soon rumours began to spread about a wall, and it wasn't long after that those rumours were made a concrete reality.

In a masterfully-planned operation, spanning just 24 hours, the streets of Berlin were torn up, barricades of paving stones were erected, tanks were gathered at crucial places and subways and local railway services were interrupted, so that within a day the West of Berlin was completely sealed off from the East. As of that same day inhabitants of East Berlin and the GDR were no longer allowed to enter the West of the city (including the 60,000 who had been commuters). In response to international criticism that such drastic measures inevitably drew, the GDR claimed that the barricade had been raised as an 'anti-fascist protection wall', and that they had moved to prevent a third world war.

The version of the 'Wall' that started life in 1961, was in fact not a wall but a 96 miles barbed wire fence. However, after this incarnation proved too easy to scale, work started in 1962 on a second fence, parallel to the first but up to 100 yards further in. The area in between the two fences was demolished to create an empty space, which became widely known as "death strip" as it was here that many would-be escapers met their doom. The strip was covered with raked gravel, making it easy to spot footprints, it offered no cover, was mined and booby-trapped with tripwires and, most importantly, it offered a clear field of fire to the armed guards - who were instructed to shoot on sight.

Later on even these measures were deemed insufficient and a concrete wall was added in 1965, which served until 1975 when the infamous 'St?tzwandelement UL 12.11' was constructed. Known also as Grenzmauer 75 (Border Wall '75), it was the final and most sophisticated version of the Wall. It was made from 45,000 separate sections of reinforced concrete, each 3.6 m high and 1.5 m wide, and topped with a smooth pipe, intended to make it more difficult for escapers to scale it. The Grenzmauer was reinforced by mesh fencing, signal fencing, anti-vehicle trenches, barbed wire, over 300 watchtowers, and thirty bunkers… Just to be on the safe side!

Despite the various security measures enforced, escape attempts were commonplace, especially in the years immediately following the erection of the wall, when there was still a fighting chance of making it across alive. Climbing was the obvious way to go and some 5,000 were said to have reached the other side. However in its thirty year history 100 people were shot dead, most famously the eighteen year old Peter Fetcher, who, after he was hit in the hip, was left to bleed to death in no-man's land as the world's media watched on.

As security tightened, more 'creative' escape plans became the order of the day. Tunnels and jumping from bordering buildings were two more successful ways of getting to the West, although the Wetzel and Strlzyck families eloped in true style - floating to salvation in a hot air balloon which they had fashioned from hundreds of small pieces of nylon cloth (after which it became almost impossible to buy cloth in the East). Rivalling them for the coveted prize of brave escapes, is the citizen who drove up to the checkpoint barrier and, winding down the roof of his convertible at the last minute, slipped underneath! Needless to say that a lower barrier was subsequently installed.

For those unable or unwilling to abscond from the East, life was bleak; and things only continued to get worse throughout the 70s and 80s as Communism and the USSR began to collapse. Honecker and the GDR resolutely stuck to their guns, speaking out in support of their regime; but when Hungary opened its borders in the summer of 1989, a flood of East Germans made their way West. Meanwhile student protests in Leipzeig put pressure on the government to lower the borders into West Berlin.

As the Iron Curtain cracked the fall of the wall looked inevitable. In the evening of November 9th, 1989 Gunter Schabowski, Minister of Propoganda, read out a note at a press conference announcing that the border would be opened for "private trips abroad". The news spread like wildfire and the German people immediately gathered in their thousands by the checkpoints, demanding passage. There was some confusion as to what the official line was and the border guards, uncertain of what to do and ill-equipped to deal with the huge and unyielding mob, were forced to let them pass. The Wall had fallen.

The days that followed saw chaotic celebrations erupt over the country as Germany celebrated the political fall of the Wall - and in the following days and weeks hundreds of citizens began physically tearing down the concrete division. These events were the first steps to the reunification of Germany, which was formally concluded on October 3rd, 1990. Today remnants of the Berlin Wall can be found at Bernauer Strasse and in front of the Neiderkirchnerstrasse, the former Prussian Parliament and current Berlin Parliament.

Comments

Add review
Ellie
United States

Who wrote this?

Reply Dec 4th, 2017
Maria
Spain

Buen artículo !!

Reply Dec 4th, 2017
Guest
United States

good article

Reply Dec 4th, 2017
Ellie
United States

Good Article!!

Reply Dec 4th, 2017
hi
Germany

it was good article yes

Reply Nov 12th, 2017
Deeznutz
United States

I'm back

Reply Jan 25th, 2017
MOMMY

MEET AT THE BAR MIDNIGHT

Reply Jan 23rd, 2017
MOMMY

YAH SURE

Reply Jan 23rd, 2017
CHUCKY

ok >:] MOMMY

Reply Jan 23rd, 2017
CHUCKY

hey wanna play

Reply Jan 23rd, 2017
DADDY]

CALL ME DADDY

Reply Jan 23rd, 2017
Katrina
United States

I really needed the author, but besides that it was really helpful

Reply Dec 3rd, 2016
holly
Australia

thanks helped a lot

Reply Jun 22nd, 2016
Mary
Philippines

nice!

Reply Apr 26th, 2016
Jessica
United States

this is a hunk of info! thanks!

Reply Feb 1st, 2016
tdkj
United States

thanks for help with school project

Reply Dec 15th, 2015
Patricia
Spain

Hola Gracias!

Reply Oct 27th, 2015
Judy
Fiji

not much info on the lifes of those living in east and west berlin......

Reply Jul 31st, 2015
Rhys
United Kingdom

didn't say much about the life of a east berliner

Reply Jun 15th, 2015
Charlotte
United Kingdom

very helpful, but it didn't really have much about the wall itself and i struggled to find out some facts. however very good

Reply Jun 14th, 2015
Alaina
United States

It would be so much better if there was credibility, other than that it was very informational and informative.

Reply May 29th, 2015
Michael
United States

Thank U so much, very detailed

Reply Apr 9th, 2015
jane
United States

good job but i kinda wanted more about conditions on both sides

Reply Feb 13th, 2015
Elizabeth
United States

not a lot of info on the wall and its significance

Reply Jan 21st, 2015
madison
United States

it helped me alot on my parper that we had to write in class

Reply Jan 15th, 2015
katie
United States

thanks for the help on my school project

Reply Dec 18th, 2014
frankie
United States

cool

Reply Nov 21st, 2014
Janet
New Zealand

Thanks for the help on my school project :)

Reply Nov 19th, 2014
Ben Dover
United States

Nothing about the Berlin wall here whatsoever.

Reply Nov 18th, 2014
Mike
United States

Not true. It talks about a lot of things having to do with the wall. Watch the hyperboles there fella!

Reply Apr 10th, 2015
Paul
United States

This article was great! A quick and easy way to learn about the Berlin Wall. Reccomended if you don't want to be stuck watching 45 minute to an hour long documentarys about the Berlin Wall on Youtube!

Reply Nov 13th, 2014
bewewewewity
United States

thank u very much this very help on project for life story thank so much it make smile me :)

Reply Nov 10th, 2014
popo pants
United States

thanks for the info.!

Reply Mar 19th, 2014
hayden mauch
United States

you guys saved me I had trouble finding info on the wall for my power point!

Reply Mar 3rd, 2014
Chad
Germany

very very good info for my Rights and Responsibilities report by one thing I needed was the author for my bibliography thanks but FYI I got a B- because I didn't have the author!!!!

Reply Dec 15th, 2013
Avery
United States

would hate to be in the east side of the berlin wall!

Reply Nov 1st, 2013
Chris
United States

Having been to Berlin many times both before and after the wall, let the story serve as a monument to the failure of socialism. Let it serve as a reminder when we go to the polls to vote in our various home countries.

Reply Aug 13th, 2013
chloe
United Kingdom

I took a trip to Berlin last week and went to Checkpoint Charlie, and I saw part of the wall - it really was breath taking standing next to it after I had read about the history behind it.

Reply Jul 6th, 2013
hannah
United States

I loved this so much and I am really interested in it so much me and my mom are studying it

Reply Jun 13th, 2013
bubblez0042
United States

good but it should have something with negative effects after the wall fell

Reply May 8th, 2013
Collen
South Africa

I am studing the Collapse of USSR and the Fall of Berlin wall this chapter is very interesting

Reply May 5th, 2013
elijah martim
United States

This is a very sad and it helped me explain this to all to my AP US history. thank you very much

Reply May 3rd, 2013
United States

when did it blow up

Reply Apr 25th, 2013
Calvin
United States

Can you tell me what is a bad thing about the wall being destroyed

Reply Apr 24th, 2013
Naser
United Arab Emirates

It really helped me on my research paper! THANKS!!!!!

Reply Apr 21st, 2013
thepman
United States

good info, but should include some organization

Reply Apr 13th, 2013
Richard K
United Kingdom

I remember the day the wall went up, it was two days after my 20th Birthday , i was serving with the REME British Army On The Rhine Forces at the time 1960 to 1966 I visited East Germany in 1982 and could only travel on the allocated transit road, until I reached the allocated Hotel in Rostock, it was nothing but gloom and doom!

Reply Mar 28th, 2013
Dave Quigley
United Kingdom

As one who was in Berlin on the night the original wall went this article is certainly factually correct. To thew commnt made about JFK's Berlin speech- this wasn't weird, his German was not as good as it could have been but the peopleof |Berlin knew exactly what he meant to say. A sight I will nevber forget!

Reply Mar 24th, 2013
Katey
United States

This helped my Berlin Wall notes! if i haden't found this i wouldn't have such good notes! Thx!!!

Reply Mar 15th, 2013
CAD
Colombia

not good but not horrible, there have been better sites

Reply Mar 14th, 2013
Erin Findlay
United Kingdom

this is very good i love it

Reply Mar 5th, 2013
Akika Altman-Chandler
United States

you did not include Kennedy's very weird speech about a berlin hot dog!

Reply Mar 4th, 2013
Angie
Taiwan

i think you should put some more information about what life was like and the differences between east and west Berlin, ;)

Reply Feb 17th, 2013
Dave
United Kingdom

Not a bad article- I speak from experience, being in the wrong part of the city on the night of Sat 12th Aug. I helped those wishing to escape and saw my young East German girlfriend murdered by a Stazi officer.

Reply Feb 7th, 2013
Paula Hohmann
United Arab Emirates

Thanks!!!! Really helped i nearly failed the test

Reply Feb 1st, 2013
BOB
United States

What about why the wall was up and how it fell and also you need more pics in addition to this there was little to no info about the kennedy or reagan visit to the wall reagan demanded it be destroyed and he also talked with gorbachev the wall needs its true history and what about the decline of the communist power after the wall

Reply Jan 18th, 2013
Dylan
United States

Was very good but i could use the info were it was like "in the middel of the town" but all though i thought it was very good and yes just a few pics would be nic

Reply Jan 7th, 2013
United States

Good

Reply Jan 1st, 2013
geno
United States

it was nice to know our history

Reply Dec 19th, 2012
Tameira
United States

When did the it end

Reply Dec 19th, 2012
Avery
United States

very informational but needs more information on life behind the berlin wall

Reply Nov 28th, 2012
Sieben
China

Danke!The article is useful .I learnt a lot about Berlin Wall.谢谢

Reply Nov 28th, 2012
Gabriel Anderson
United States

Very Helpful. But could use more pictures

Reply Nov 27th, 2012
Ly
United States

Who is the author?

Reply Nov 1st, 2012
Germany

Helps

Reply Nov 1st, 2012
patel mansi
India

veryyyyyyyyyyyyyy long

Reply Oct 24th, 2012
si
United States

add subheadings and that would make things so much easier

Reply Oct 21st, 2012
tof
United States

bad

Reply Oct 15th, 2012
Karissa
United States

Very informational! Cleared up lots of confusion. Very great. I just wish there was a little bit more information

Reply Sep 6th, 2012
Harry
Greece

Very good info and i liked the style of writing, easy to read and it made sense, just missing tit-bits of info though over all very good :)

Reply Jun 17th, 2012
kaleigh and chelsea
Canada

it was pretty good, helped us with out project :)

Reply Jun 7th, 2012
rowan
United States

I absolutely love this! It helped a lot withy my soocial studies project on the cold war, and I'm really thankfull 'cause it's nearing dark!

Reply Jun 3rd, 2012
A Student
United States

I was looking for something easier to read, with like bulleted info, and smaller paragraphs :/

Reply May 30th, 2012
Jose
Brazil

A good information, like someone else has said it would be good to have a militar point of the wall, but the info is awesome. Dankeschon!

Reply May 28th, 2012
SotoS
United States

Needs more info on the Miltary aspects

Reply May 22nd, 2012
Amber
United States

this helped a lot for my social studies project. it has some good information on it.

Reply May 8th, 2012
Gurtrude Fret
Greece

tons of info

Reply May 1st, 2012
Anonymous
United States

Helped with my "Escape from East Berlin Project" I had to do for Global. Thanx! Could use more pix though... XD

Reply Apr 30th, 2012
Minjae Lee
Korea

North Korea FTW!

Reply Apr 23rd, 2012
Payton
United States

They had to build a wall to keep people from freeing to West Germany. That's really sad.

Reply Apr 17th, 2012
United States

it was good i guess needs more info like idk?

Reply Apr 9th, 2012
neydishah carter
United States

It helps you learn about why America was so afraid of communism.

Reply Apr 3rd, 2012
sydney zvidzai
Zimbabwe

The Berlin Wall was a testimony of brutal experiment made real by suscipicious partners who were more interested in revenge rather than human rights

Reply Mar 26th, 2012
Amanda
United States

This helped me with my project for the Berlin Wall. It is so fascinating and incredible! This is a wonderful source! I want to see more pictures though.

Reply Mar 16th, 2012
mark
United States

It really helped me on my research paper! THANKS!!!!!

Reply Mar 15th, 2012
Alexis
United States

Thanks so much for writing this article!!! It Helped so much on my research paper. :) Almost all of the other websites i looked at were un-official facts!! Thanks Again.(: Maybe some more pictures would be Okay other than that fantastic!!

Reply Mar 15th, 2012
Monique
United States

This really helped me with my history article all the info really came in handy:]

Reply Mar 12th, 2012
Rylee Waldner
United States

I think that this is a great website place! It gave me all the info. that i needed! Thank you so much! :)

Reply Feb 20th, 2012
daved leaton
United States

I am a american who lived in germany from 1989 to 1992 I can remember vividly when the wall came down I was in the us army for 22my years I again returned to germany from 2007 to 2010be I was there for the 20 year celebration of the fall of the wall I have german friends that I still have in schwabach germany and I continue to wish all the best for all my german friends and all germans thanks for a experience of a life

Reply Feb 19th, 2012
ihioy
United States

amazing

Reply Feb 18th, 2012
pb&j
Cambodia

nice pics

Reply Feb 17th, 2012
carla
United States

I think the Berlin wall was a bad thing. I mean, why would you want to separate a nation that is supposed to be united? But, that's just me. I think all people are created equal.

Reply Feb 10th, 2012
whitney
United States

loved it!!! :)

Reply Feb 8th, 2012
Caybrah64
United States

I think the Berlin wall was a bad thing. I mean, why would you want to separate a nation that is supposed to be united? But, that's just me. I think all people are created equal.

Reply Feb 7th, 2012
Sophie K
United Kingdom

This was a wonderful piece to read, and it helped loads with my project about the Berlin Wall! My German teacher will be very impressed with it :D

Reply Jan 29th, 2012
Bob
Uruguay

where did the unicorns go?! O:

Reply Jan 24th, 2012
nina
United Kingdom

cool

Reply Jan 15th, 2012
person101
United States

pretty good few more facts would be nice

Reply Jan 5th, 2012
ANONIMOUS
United States

very well done i LOVE this website!!!

Reply Jan 4th, 2012
alisha
United States

i thought it was ment for kids there

Reply Jan 4th, 2012

Load more comments (50)