The German Democratic Republic of East Germany began construction of the Berlin Wall on August 13, 1961. The wall was constructed to completely isolate West Berlin from East Berlin and East Germany. East Germany was supported by the Soviets at the time, while West Germany was supported by the United States. Although the East claimed it was building the wall to keep Western spies out of East Germany, it was actually built to keep East German citizens from leaving for West Germany. Following World War II, Germany was divided into four zones, each controlled by the Soviet Union, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The Berlin Wall separated the communist Soviet Union from the other three sides.
The Berlin Wall ran for 96 miles between East and West Berlin, with concrete and barbed wire barriers separating the two sides at various points along the way.
The Berlin Wall was also known as the Iron Curtain.
The Berlin Wall was constructed to prevent East Germans from defecting to the West. Permits were required for West Germans to visit East Germany.
During the Berlin Wall’s existence, 136 people died attempting to cross it. It is estimated that approximately 5,000 people successfully crossed the Berlin Wall from East Germany to the West.
Graffiti covered the West side of the Berlin Wall but not the East side.
Following the construction of the Berlin Wall, the subway system that had previously run across Germany was divided. Subways could only operate on the East side and vice versa.
The Berlin Wall made the Soviets and East Germans look bad – people already had a negative view of communism, but the Berlin Wall painted them as tyrants.
West Germans would frequently throw garbage over the border into East Germany, knowing that neither the East Germans nor the Soviets could do anything about it.
The Hungary border was opened in the summer of 1989, making it easier for East Germans to flee to Austria via Hungary.
People could cross the Berlin Wall at checkpoints along the way. Checkpoint Charlie was the most well-known. The Checkpoint Charlie guard house is on display at the Allied Museum in Berlin-Zehlendorf.
The Berlin Wall was officially demolished on November 9th, 1989. The demolition didn’t start until June 13th, 1990. Border controls were still in place between these dates, but they were less strict.
Germans chipped away at the wall, selling pieces on eBay. People who did this were known as ‘wall woodpeckers.’
On July 1, 1990, all border controls along the Berlin Wall were lifted.
On October 3, 1990, Germany reunified as a single country.
The Berlin Wall’s footprint is marked in German streets by a row of cobblestones.
The Berlin Wall was built to keep East Germans from fleeing, but it was demolished for the same reason – to keep East German residents from fleeing.
There were 302 observation towers, 259 dog runs, and 20 bunkers along the Berlin Wall.
The fall of the Berlin Wall also contributed to the end of the Cold War.