The Berlin Wall

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 ‘Stützwandelement 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.

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reviewed by frankie from United States on Nov.21.2014

Thanks for the help on my school project :)

reviewed by Janet from New Zealand on Nov.19.2014

Nothing about the Berlin wall here whatsoever.

reviewed by Ben Dover from United States on Nov.18.2014

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!

reviewed by Paul from United States on Nov.13.2014

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

reviewed by bewewewewity from United States on Nov.10.2014

thanks for the info.!

reviewed by popo pants from United States on Mar.19.2014

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

reviewed by hayden mauch from United States on Mar.03.2014

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!!!!

reviewed by Chad from Germany on Dec.15.2013

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

reviewed by Avery from United States on Nov.01.2013

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.

reviewed by Chris from United States on Aug.13.2013

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.

reviewed by chloe from United Kingdom on Jul.06.2013

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

reviewed by hannah from United States on Jun.13.2013

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

reviewed by bubblez0042 from United States on May.08.2013

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

reviewed by Collen from South Africa on May.05.2013

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

reviewed by elijah martim from United States on May.03.2013

when did it blow up

reviewed by from United States on Apr.25.2013

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

reviewed by Calvin from United States on Apr.24.2013

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

reviewed by Naser from United Arab Emirates on Apr.21.2013

good info, but should include some organization

reviewed by thepman from United States on Apr.13.2013

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!

reviewed by Richard K from United Kingdom on Mar.28.2013

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!

reviewed by Dave Quigley from United Kingdom on Mar.24.2013

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

reviewed by Katey from United States on Mar.15.2013

not good but not horrible, there have been better sites

reviewed by CAD from Colombia on Mar.14.2013

this is very good i love it

reviewed by Erin Findlay from United Kingdom on Mar.05.2013

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

reviewed by Akika Altman-Chandler from United States on Mar.04.2013

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

reviewed by Angie from Taiwan on Feb.17.2013

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.

reviewed by Dave from United Kingdom on Feb.07.2013

Really helped i nearly failed the test

reviewed by Paula Hohmann from United Arab Emirates on Feb.01.2013

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

reviewed by BOB from United States on Jan.18.2013

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

reviewed by Dylan from United States on Jan.07.2013


reviewed by from United States on Jan.01.2013

it was nice to know our history

reviewed by geno from United States on Dec.19.2012

When did the it end

reviewed by Tameira from United States on Dec.19.2012

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

reviewed by Avery from United States on Nov.28.2012

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

reviewed by Sieben from China on Nov.28.2012

Very Helpful. But could use more pictures

reviewed by Gabriel Anderson from United States on Nov.27.2012

Who is the author?

reviewed by Ly from United States on Nov.01.2012


reviewed by from Germany on Nov.01.2012

veryyyyyyyyyyyyyy long

reviewed by patel mansi from India on Oct.24.2012

add subheadings and that would make things so much easier

reviewed by si from United States on Oct.21.2012


reviewed by tof from United States on Oct.15.2012

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

reviewed by Karissa from United States on Sep.06.2012

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 :)

reviewed by Harry from Greece on Jun.17.2012

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

reviewed by kaleigh and chelsea from Canada on Jun.07.2012

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!

reviewed by rowan from United States on Jun.03.2012

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

reviewed by A Student from United States on May.30.2012

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!

reviewed by Jose from Brazil on May.28.2012

Needs more info on the Miltary aspects

reviewed by SotoS from United States on May.22.2012

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

reviewed by Amber from United States on May.08.2012

tons of info

reviewed by Gurtrude Fret from Greece on May.01.2012

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

reviewed by Anonymous from United States on Apr.30.2012

North Korea FTW!

reviewed by Minjae Lee from Korea on Apr.23.2012

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

reviewed by Payton from United States on Apr.17.2012

it was good i guess needs more info like idk?

reviewed by from United States on Apr.09.2012

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

reviewed by neydishah carter from United States on Apr.03.2012

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

reviewed by sydney zvidzai from Zimbabwe on Mar.26.2012

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.

reviewed by Amanda from United States on Mar.16.2012

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

reviewed by mark from United States on Mar.15.2012

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!!

reviewed by Alexis from United States on Mar.15.2012

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

reviewed by Monique from United States on Mar.12.2012

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

reviewed by Rylee Waldner from United States on Feb.20.2012

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

reviewed by daved leaton from United States on Feb.19.2012


reviewed by ihioy from United States on Feb.18.2012

nice pics

reviewed by pb&j from Cambodia on Feb.17.2012

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.

reviewed by carla from United States on Feb.10.2012

loved it!!! :)

reviewed by whitney from United States on Feb.08.2012

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.

reviewed by Caybrah64 from United States on Feb.07.2012

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

reviewed by Sophie K from United Kingdom on Jan.29.2012

where did the unicorns go?! O:

reviewed by Bob from Uruguay on Jan.24.2012


reviewed by nina from United Kingdom on Jan.15.2012

pretty good
few more facts would be nice

reviewed by person101 from United States on Jan.05.2012

very well done i LOVE this website!!!

reviewed by ANONIMOUS from United States on Jan.04.2012

i thought it was ment for kids there

reviewed by alisha from United States on Jan.04.2012

I am writing my journal for my family and as I was living in Berlin in 1963 aged 25, teaching for the allied forces, I needed to refresh on the history of the wall. It was awesome standing looking at the guards on the watch towers, guns at the ready and binoculars in hand. It was the first time in my life I saw a gun when we travelled on the military train into Berlin! The gun laws in UK are very different from the US. It wasn't all wall alot was barbed wire with no mans land in between. Very factual article well done.

reviewed by maggie from United Kingdom on Nov.28.2011

wow i totally loved this i had to do an essay on this and i didn't really understand this before but now I'm quite interested in it...

reviewed by Esme from United States on Nov.20.2011