It began with barbed wire, and then an actual wall divided an entire city. This was the case for Berlin, the capital of Germany, from the years 1961 -1989.
The Berlin Wall came about because of the increasing tensions between the two former Allies – the USA/The West and the Soviet Union. It was a consequence of the Berlin Airlift that happened in 1948.
Not only was there the wall, but there was also the Inner German Border which blocked East Germany’s countryside from West Germany.
The GDR (German Democratic Republic) feared the “fascists” of the West and therefore started to construct a literal wall in the city, closing off the existing borders from West to East Berlin. Building work officially started on 13th August 1961 and ended up being a total of 97 miles in length (27 miles dividing the city – the rest blocked East Germany countryside from West access).
It divided streets, homes, families, lives. There were numerous escape attempts (usually from East to West) but the majority of these ended in certain death.
Escapees were usually shot by East Berlin guards stationed in the watch towers along the infamous “Death Strip.” A total of 5,000 people managed to escape over the years.
In 1989 however, the fall of the Soviet Union meant change was about to happen. It began with Hungary relaxing their border into Austria, meaning hundreds of people escaped to the West and declared never to return. The increasing amount of people who made the journey to the West was unmanageable for Eastern officials.
Realising that there would be no other way of managing the situation apart from to open the checkpoints and render the wall inactive, East Berlin officials announced that as of midnight on 9th November 1989, East Berliners were free to cross to the West.
The reunification of East and West Germany was a year later in 1990.
Today, sections of the wall still stand as historically and culturally important parts of history. Around focal points such as the Brandenburg Gate, lines, which are marked out on the street floor have the words – “Berliner Mauer 1961-1989” – for people today to get a real sense of where the wall would have been.