Friday, August 5, 2011


Around 2.7 million people left the GDR and East Berlin between 1949 and 1961, causing increasing difficulties for the leadership of the East German communist party, the Socialist Unity Party (SED). Around half of this steady stream of refugees were young people under the age of 25. Roughly half a million people crossed the sector borders in Berlin each day in both directions, enabling them to compare living conditions on both sides. In 1960 alone, around 200,000 people made a permanent move to the West. The GDR was on the brink of social and economic collapse.
(Senate Chancellery at
The border between East and West Berlin was opened and daily half a million people crossed the border from one part of the city into the other. Many East Berliners went into the cinema or discos in the West, they even worked in the West or they went shopping in the West. Women got the first seamless panty hoses in the West; tropical fruits were only available there.
At the same time the leaders of the Communist parties of the Commecon met in Moscow from August 3 until August 5, 1961 and they decided to close the open border between East and West Berlin.

Berlin wall
East German construction workers
November 20, 1961
Uploaded by: Angr from Wikimedia Commons
Found at:

Berlin wall

Satellite image of Berlin, Germany
The yellow line marks where the Berlin Wall once stood
& U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team

The Berlin Wall Map

In the night of the 12 to the 13 of August 1961, The East Germany leader Walter Ulbricht, as SED of Germany leader and Chairman of the National Defense Council of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) gave the order to seal off the sector border in Berlin. Having obtained the agreement of the Soviet Union a few days previously, and with the support of the Soviet troops in the GDR, the regime closed off the last route for escape from the Party dictatorship: in the early morning of August 13, border police started ripping up streets in the middle of Berlin, pieces of asphalt and paving stones were piled up to form barricades, concrete posts were driven into the ground and barbed-wire barriers erected.
From one day to the next, the Wall separated streets, squares, and neighborhoods from each other and severed public transportation links. On the evening of August 13, Governing Mayor Willy Brandt said in a speech to the House of Representatives: “The Berlin Senate publicly condemns the illegal and inhuman measures being taken by those who are dividing Germany, oppressing East Berlin, and threatening West Berlin....”
(Senate Chancellery at
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.
A few days later, in the night of August 17 to 18, groups of construction workers stared replacing the barbed wire by a wall made of hollow blocks. On August 24, 1961, the first refugee, the 24-year-old tailor Günter Litfin, was shot by GDR border guards as he tried to escape from East Berlin into West Berlin.

Berlin Wall at Zimmerstrasse/Markgrafenstrasse
West Berliners watching over the Wall to the East
By Heiko Burkhardt at

US President Nixon and family at the Berlin Wall
Saturday Evening Post cover Oct 12, 1963

The Berlin Wall was officially referred to as the "Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart" by GDR authorities, implying that neighboring West Germany had not been fully de-Nazified. The West Berlin city government sometimes referred to it as the "Wall of Shame"—a term coined by Mayor Willy Brandt—while condemning the Wall's restriction on freedom of movement. Along with the separate and much longer Inner German border that demarcated the border between East and West Germany, both borders came to symbolize the "Iron Curtain" between Western Europe and the Eastern Bloc.
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.
On August 23, 1989, communist Hungary removed its border restrictions with Austria, and in September more than 13,000 East German tourists in Hungary escaped to Austria. Mass demonstrations against the government in East Germany began in the autumn of 1989. The long-time leader of East Germany, Erich Honecker, resigned on October 18, 1989, and was replaced by Egon Krenz a few days later. Honecker had predicted in January of that year that the wall would stand for a "hundred more years" if the conditions which had caused its construction did not change. He would be wrong by more than 99 years.
The new Krenz government decided to allow East Berliners to apply for visas to travel to West Germany. Günter Schabowski, the East German Minister of Propaganda, had the task of announcing this; however he had been on vacation prior to this decision and had not been fully updated. Shortly before a press conference on November 9, 1989, he was handed a note that said that East Berliners would be allowed to cross the border with proper permission, but gave no further instructions on how to handle the information. These regulations had only been completed a few hours earlier, and were to take effect the following day, so as to allow time to inform the border guards. However, nobody had informed Schabowski. He read the note out loud at the end of the conference and when asked when the regulations would come into effect, he assumed it would be the same day based on the wording of the note and replied, "As far as I know effective immediately, right now."
(New World Encyclopedia)

Former Check Point Charlie, Berlin

Germany is reunited

Reichstag - Home of German Parliament
Parliament of reunified Germany
By Pat and Bob at

Tens of thousands of East Berliners heard Schabowski's statement live on East German television and flooded the checkpoints in the wall demanding entry into West Berlin. The surprised and overwhelmed border guards made many hectic telephone calls with their superiors, but it became clear that there was no way to hold back the huge crowd of East German citizens short of dispatching the army with lethal force, as the vastly outnumbered border guards had only been equipped for regular duty. The guards and the East Berlin government were not willing to use lethal force, so in face of the escalating crowd safety issues the guards finally yielded, opening the checkpoints and allowing people through with little or no identity checks. The ecstatic East Berliners were soon greeted by West Berliners on the other side in a celebratory atmosphere, and the bars near the wall spontaneously gave out free beer. November 9 is thus considered the date the wall fell. In the days and weeks that followed, people came to the wall with sledgehammers in order to chip off souvenirs, demolishing lengthy parts of it in the process. These people were nicknamed "Mauerspechte" (wall peckers).
The fall of the Wall was the first step toward German reunification, which was formally concluded on October 3, 1990.
(New World Encyclopedia)

One in seven Germans wants Berlin Wall back

More than a third of Berliners say the construction of the Berlin Wall 50 years ago was at least partly justified to stem the flow of refugees from East Germany and stabilize Cold War tensions, a poll showed.
Twenty-five percent of the residents of the German capital said they “partly” agreed that the Wall’s construction on Aug. 13, 1961, was “necessary and justified,” according to a Forsa poll commissioned by the Berliner Zeitung. Ten percent said they agreed fully, while 62 percent rejected the suggestion.
The survey reveals ongoing divisions in the city of 3.4 million as leaders including Chancellor Angela Merkel prepared to mark the Wall’s latest anniversary two years after marking the second decade since its 1989 collapse. The Berlin Wall stood for more than 28 years as the edifice and the people it kept apart came to symbolize the entrenched battle lines of the Cold War.
Members of Germany’s Left Party, the anti-capitalist faction that’s the successor of the East German Communist Party, were the most sympathetic toward the Berlin Wall’s function, the Forsa poll showed. Twenty-eight percent of Left members said they fully agreed that the Wall was necessary, with 46 percent expressing partial support; 23 percent rejected it.
Some 2.7 million Germans in the Soviet-dominated East fled to West Germany between 1949 and the erection of the Wall, equal to one-seventh of the population of the communist state, whose full title in English was the German Democratic Republic, or GDR. The wave of refugees sapped East Germany of its most qualified workers and created a crisis that threatened to snap Cold War tensions between the Soviet Union and the U.S.
(Berlin Wall Partly Justified, ‘Necessary,’ 35% of Berliners Say in Poll By Patrick Donahue at
The German are thorough people. The Wall was completely removed and there are only a few parts which can still be found. One of the most asked question is: "Where is the Wall?"

Berlin Wall Timeline:
May 8, 1945 World War II is over and Berlin is divided into 4 sectors:
the American, British, French in the West and
the Soviet in the East
June 30, 1946 At the instigation of the Soviet Military administration the demarcation line between East and West Germany is safeguarded
October 29, 1946 A 30 day valid Interzonenpass is required to travel between the sectors in Germany
June 23, 1948 Currency reform in Berlin, Berlin is divided into two different currency zones
June 24, 1948 Begin of the Berlin blockade
June 25, 1948 Berlin Airlift begins
May 12, 1949 End of Berlin blockade
May 24, 1949 Federal Republic of Germany is founded
(West Germany)
September 30, 1949 End of Berlin Airlift
October 7, 1949 German Democratic Republic is founded
(East Germany)
May 26, 1952 Border between East and West Germany and between East Germany and West Berlin is closed. Only the border between East and West Berlin is still opened
June 17, 1953 Uprising of East Berlin building workers against the imposition of increased working norms, suppression by Red Army tanks
November 14, 1953 The Western Powers waive the Interzonenpass, the Soviet Union follows but East German citizen need a permission to travel to the West
December 11, 1957 Leaving East Germany without permission is forbidden and violations are prosecuted with prison up to three years
August 13, 1961 The Berlin sectorial border between East and West Berlin is closed, barriers are built
August 14, 1961 Brandenburg Gate is closed
August 26, 1961 All crossing points are closed for West Berlin citizens
June 26, 1963 President J. F. Kennedy visits Berlin and says: "Ich bin ein Berliner." ("I am a Berliner.")
December 17, 1963 West Berliner citizen may visit East Berlin the first time after more than two years
September 3, 1971 Four Power's Agreement over Berlin
visiting becomes easier for West Berliners
June 12, 1987 President Ronald Reagan visits Berlin and urges Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall.
September 10, 1989 Hungarian government opens border for East German refugees
November 9, 1989 Berlin Wall is opened
December 22, 1989 Brandenburg Gate is opened
October 3, 1990 Germany is reunited

Brandenburg gate while the wall was still up
By Pat and Bob at

Political leaders
Brandenberg gate Nov 9, 2009
By Pat and Bob at

A Divided Berlin
Richard Parke's Photostream

Call of Duty Black Ops First Strike - Berlin Wall
Screenshot of the Call of Duty Black Ops
Multiplayer Map Berlin Wall
Activision By Michael Klappenbach at Guide

1 comment:

Tony Papard said...

The Berlin Wall was absolutely necessary, but of course mining it and shooting people trying to cross it illegally was never justified. In a city with two totally different political and economic systems, there had to be control of population movements. Westerners could not be allowed to take advantage of subsidized foodstuffs, etc. in the East, nor Easterners allowed to live in subsidized homes in the GDR Capital and use their GDR education for the benefit of West Berlin, earning and paying taxes in the West. However crossing both ways for all Berliners should have been made possible with the Wall erected and payment of returnable deposits for Easterners, and taxes imposed on subsidized goods bought in the East by returning West Berliners. Tony Papard, London