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When Did They Finish Building the Berlin Wall?

by | Mar 7, 2024 | World War Tour Berlin

The Berlin Wall, a symbol of the division between East and West Germany during the Cold War, was built to separate the communist and capitalist worlds. Its construction began on August 13, 1961, and lasted for several years until its completion on August 15, 1961.

The Construction of the Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall was assembled by the German Democratic Republic (GDR), also known as East Germany, to prevent its citizens from fleeing to West Germany. It consisted of a series of concrete walls, watchtowers, barbed wire fences, and other fortifications.

Initially, the GDR constructed a temporary barbed wire fence on the border between East and West Berlin on the night of August 12, 1961. Subsequently, this barrier was replaced by a solid concrete wall, fortified with guard towers to prevent escape attempts.

The Purpose of the Berlin Wall

The primary objective of the Berlin Wall was to halt the mass emigration of East Germans to West Germany, which was causing significant economic and political issues for the GDR. The Wall aimed to maintain the communist regime’s control over its citizens by restricting their freedom of movement.

Moreover, the Soviet Union, which supported the GDR, wanted to prevent the West from influencing East Germany and potentially destabilizing the Eastern Bloc.

Features of the Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall spanned a total distance of 155 kilometers (96 miles) that encircled West Berlin from all sides. It consisted of two parallel walls with a “death strip” in between. The death strip contained gravel, sand, and other materials to make crossing difficult.

Watchtowers were strategically placed to observe and prevent any escape attempts. Border guards were ordered to shoot anyone trying to cross the wall, making it an incredibly dangerous barrier for those seeking freedom.

Checkpoint Charlie

The most famous checkpoint was called “Checkpoint Charlie,” located at the junction between Friedrichstraße and Zimmerstraße in central Berlin. It served as a vital transit point for diplomats, military personnel, and foreigners passing between East and West Berlin.

Checkpoint Charlie is now preserved as a historical site, attracting tourists from around the world.

Life with the Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall had a profound impact on the lives of the people living in both East and West Berlin. Families were separated, friendships were divided, and the city’s culture and economy suffered due to the enforced isolation.

However, despite the restrictions, some East Berlin residents managed to escape or seek refuge via various means, including tunnels, hidden compartments in vehicles, and even hot air balloons.

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall stood as a powerful symbol of the division between East and West for 28 years. However, as the Soviet Union’s grip on Eastern Europe weakened and the political climate changed, pressure mounted on the GDR to remove the barriers.

On November 9, 1989, following a series of protests, the East German government announced that crossing the border would be allowed. Thousands of East and West Berliners flocked to the wall, tearing it down and celebrating its demise. This event marked a significant turning point in world history and the reunification of Germany.


The Berlin Wall served as a physical embodiment of the Cold War’s political and ideological division. Its construction began in 1961 and lasted until its completion in the same year. The wall stood for 28 years, symbolizing the separation between East and West Berlin. While it caused immense hardship for the people living under its restrictions, the fall of the Berlin Wall represented a triumph of freedom and unity.

When Did They Finish Building the Berlin Wall?