The Berlin Wall (1961-1989)

The Berlin Wall (1961-1989)

A symbol of division and oppression, the Wall tore a city and numerous families apart.



Berlin Wall, Berlin, wall, West Berlin, East Berlin, FRG, GDR, Cold War, great power, symbol, border, capital city, communism, socialism, eastern, west, blockade, Berlin Blockade, concrete wall, watchtower, oppression, Germany, history, symbolic, oppressed

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  • When was the Federal Republic of Germany established?
  • When was the German Democratic Republic established?
  • Which of the allied powers did NOT have a sector in Berlin?
  • When did the blockade of Berlin take place?
  • Who initiated the blockade against Berlin?
  • How was the supply of the surrounded part of Berlin maintained by the USA and its allies?
  • Which part of Berlin was surrounded by the Soviets during the blockade?
  • How many sectors was Berlin divided into by the Allied Powers?
  • Which country took control of West Berlin?
  • What is the name of the period characterised by a continuing state of political tension that never involved direct military action?
  • When was the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) established?
  • What kind of organisation is NATO?
  • When was the Warsaw Pact established?
  • What kind of organisation was the Warsaw Pact?
  • Which event did NOT happen during the Cold War?
  • Which important figure of the Cold War era died in 1953?
  • What gesture did the Soviet leaders consider West Germany joining NATO?
  • What happened in the year of the acceptance of West Germany into the NATO?
  • When did West Germany join NATO?
  • What was the principal reason for building the Berlin Wall?
  • In which year was the Berlin Wall built?
  • Is it true that some people managed to escape through the Wall to West Berlin?
  • Is it true that the Berlin Wall was built around East Berlin?
  • Is it true that the Berlin Wall has split many families?
  • Is it true that there were no border crossings on the Berlin Wall?
  • When did the Berlin Wall fall?
  • What was NOT a part of the structure of the Berlin Wall?
  • What was NOT a part of the structure of the Berlin Wall?
  • What colour was the eastern side of the Wall?
  • How high was the Wall?
  • How many East German soldiers were guarding the Wall on an average day?
  • What was the name of the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point (controlled by the USA)?
  • What was the sight on the western side of the Wall?
  • Which way could nobody escape through the Wall from East Germany?


The Berlin Wall

The division of Berlin: the Wall

The end of the Second World War in 1945 and the victory of the Allies brought enormous changes for Germans. The country was split in two and Berlin, the capital city now in the Eastern part was divided into occupation zones (Soviet, French, American and British sectors).

A ‘technical barrier’ was constructed around the Soviet zone by 1947. The division of Berlin was finalised by the concrete wall built around West Berlin in 1961. The Berlin Wall (die Berliner Mauer, die Mauer) was a dividing structure on the territory of East Berlin and the German Democratic Republic (GDR) surrounding West Berlin, which was controlled by the former Allied powers.

The Wall ceased to function in 1989, when the waves of change (and the hands and tools of both Eastern and Western citizens) knocked down this symbol of division.
The technical barrier had been permanently eliminated by November 1991. A few remaining pieces of the wall today serve as memorials and tourist attractions.
One million Euros were donated recently by a Japanese television company to plant ten thousand cherry trees among the remains of the Wall.

Occupation zones of Berlin

The fall of the Berlin Wall in newspapers


  • row of lampposts
  • trench
  • concrete wall (3.75 m )
  • control tower
  • asphalt road
  • guard dogs' path
  • patrol lane (1-2 m)
  • barbed wire fence (2-3 m)
  • barbed wire fence (2.5 m) with electric alarm system
  • vehicle trap
  • West Berlin
  • East Berlin

The structure of the border strip

The Berlin Wall was one of the most strictly guarded borders ever. Grenzkommando Mitte (Border Command Centre) of the GDF Border Troops guarded the wall, with 2,300 soldiers on duty on an average day, with nearly 1,000 dogs.
The Wall had been fully completed by the 1980s. The complex border defence system and its immediate vicinity (on the eastern side) consisted of several zones: rows of concrete ‘flower beds,’ signal fences or poles, barbed wire fences, patrol lanes, vehicle traps, guard dog’s path, control towers, road, lampposts, concrete fence etc.

The length of different sections of the Berlin border was:
42 km of 3.6 m high concrete wall
59 km of 3.4 m high concrete wall
69 km of 2.9 m high barbed wire fence​
114 km of signal wire

The wall itself was a concrete wall of 3.75 m height. It consisted of L shaped elements with smooth concrete pipes on top, painted white on the eastern side. It was the last technical element of the barrier.

Its western side became completely covered with graffiti over the years. There were several crossing points in the Wall, the most famous of these was the American-controlled Checkpoint Charlie.

Checkpoint Charlie




After the Allied victory at the end of the Second World War, Germany was split in two and Berlin, the capital city, now in the Eastern part, was divided into two occupation zones.

The western part was controlled by the French, the Americans and the British, while the eastern part was under Soviet control. The creation of the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic further deepened the existing hostility between the former Allies, which led to the Cold War. An increasing number of East Germans immigrated to the West through Berlin.

To prevent further emigration, the East German government constructed a technical barrier between East and West Berlin that almost completely cut West Berlin off from the outside world. At first, the barrier consisted of a barbed wire fence, but later it was reinforced with several other elements. One of these was a concrete wall that became the symbol of the Cold War.

The Wall was completed by the 1980s, separating families and making it impossible to escape to the West. Looking from the Eastern side, the first zone of this complex border defence system consisted of a barbed wire fence, a patrol lane and another wire fence. The next zone consisted of a strip with vehicle traps and a path for guard dogs. The wide central strip contained a road and control towers, positioned at regular intervals. There was also a row of lamp posts and ditches. The final element was the notorious concrete wall.

The Berlin Wall marked one of the most strictly guarded borders ever. The Grenzkommando Mitte (Border Command Center) of the GDF Border Troops guarded the wall, with 2,300 soldiers on duty on an average day, aided by nearly 1,000 dogs. Of the 268 escape attempts 125 ended in death.

But the winds of change reached Berlin in 1989. From the summer of 1989, demonstrations were held daily on the streets, demanding change in the East German political system and, most importantly, an opening of the inner German border and the removal of the Wall. These demonstrations, together with other European events led to the opening of the border and the destruction of the Wall, which had lost its function by then. Berlin and Germany itself were then reunited and by 1991 the Cold War had ended too.

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