A Short History of the Berlin Wall

For 40 years, the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe appeared indestructible. The Iron Curtain began to fall apart in 1989 and in only one year, countries have left communism one after another, like domino pieces. The symbol of the Cold War, Berlin Wall has been called the “physical representation” of the Iron Curtain. For 28 years, the enormous construction divided in two a city – Berlin and a country – Germany. The fall of the Berlin Wall is the most important mark of the communist bloc failure.

The construction of the wall began on August 13, 1961 to stop the westward emigration of the German people. In the east it was named “the anti-fascist protection wall” while in the west people called it “Wall of Shame”. 155 km of disgrace of over 3 m high, of which 43 km through the heart of Berlin.

The frontier was also made of km of trenches, bunkers, hundreds of watch towers and barbed wire. Although the creation of the wall began in 1961, Germany was ruptured since the end of World War II. In 1945, Reich capital was divided between the Allied powers in the west and the Soviet Union in the east, and in 1949 two countries were born: Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic. In 1952, East Germany closed its border with West Germany, worried about the departure of population. There were exposed points though, where people were still able to pass. More than 2.5 million Germans made it to west between 1949 and 1961.

Although on June 15, 1961 East German leader Walter Ulbricht declared that there will not be a wall built, on August 13, the eastern part of Berlin is surrounded by barricades and barbed wire. The wall is built in certain stages. In 1962 a barricade was added, 90 feet on the inside, being created a strictly controlled “restrained zone”. Houses on this strip were bulldozed and people moved. The zone, mined and full of trapping wire, offered an extensive field of fire for the guards. In 1965 concrete walls began to be raised and, over the years, observation towers were added, while patrols and security were increased.

The “four generations wall”, completed in 1975 was the last version. It was assembled from slabs of 3.6 meters high and 1.2 meters wide. The wall was strengthened with motion sensors, fencing net and barbed wire, trenches against vehicles, and on the crest wall it was mounted a clean pipe, which would have made even problematic to escalate.

The eight passing points were planned particularly for different types of people that could pass through. The most well-known was Checkpoint Charlie, which was meant only to Allied personnel and non-German citizens. During the history of the Wall, military personnel, officials and Allied diplomats could enter East Berlin without passport control. Also, Soviet patrols could enter freely in the West Berlin.

On November 9, 1989 the East German government choose to permit visits to West Germany, but the minister for propaganda was not properly informed therefore a lot of confusion was developed. Tens of thousands of Berliners assailed the crossing points, claiming to move freely in the West. Overwhelmed by tens of thousands of people and in the absence of clear instructions, border guards were not likely to open fire, permitting the crowds to pass over.

The wall has been kept some time after November 9. On June 13, 1990 East German army launched formal demolition, and on July 1 all border crossing points were conventionally abolished. The two Germany halves were finally rejoined on October 3, 1990. Today, there are only three remaining portions of the wall: a section of 80 meters near Postdamer Plaz, a longer section near the river Spree and the third piece, turned into a monument, north of Bernauer Strasse.