aug 13, 1961 - Berlin Wall


Even though Berlin was located entirely within the Soviet part of the country, the Yalta and Potsdam agreements split the city when Germany was split into four zones. The eastern part of the country went to the Soviet Union, while the western part went to the United States, Great Britain and France.

Premier Khrushchev gave the East German's government permission to stop the flow of immigrants by closing its borders. In just two weeks, Eastern Germany had completed a makeshift barbed wire and concrete block that divided one side of the city from the other.

Before the wall was built, Berliners on both sides of the city could move around fairly freely. They crossed the East-West border to work, to shop, to go to the theater and the movies. After the wall was built, it became impossible to get from East to West Berlin except through one of three checkpoints along the wall.

At each of the checkpoints, East German soldiers screened diplomats and other officials before they were allowed to enter or leave. Except under special circumstances, travelers from East and West Berlin were rarely allowed across the border.

Over time, East German officials replaced the makeshift wall with one that was sturdier and more difficult to scale. A 12-foot-tall, 4-foot-wide mass of reinforced concrete was topped with an enormous pipe that made climbing over nearly impossible. Behind the wall on the East German side was a “Death Strip”. A maze of soft sand, floodlights, vicious dogs, trip-wire machine guns and patrolling soldiers with orders to shoot escapees on sight.

At least 171 people were killed trying to get over, under or around the Berlin Wall. However, from 1961 until 1989, more than 5,000 East Germans managed to cross the border by jumping out of windows adjacent to the wall, climbing over the barbed wire, flying in hot air balloons, crawling through the sewers and driving through unfortified parts of the wall at high speeds.

Added to timeline:

8 months ago
Cold War Events


aug 13, 1961
~ 57 years ago



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