The Berlin Wall was a physical barrier constructed by the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in an effort to prevent its citizens from fleeing to the democratic West Berlin. This wall, which separated East and West Berlin, became a symbol of the Cold War and the division of Europe. If you’re curious about when the construction of the Berlin Wall began, let’s explore the timeline below.
Background: The Cold War and Berlin
Following World War II, Germany was divided into four occupation zones controlled by the Allied Powers – the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union. The capital city, Berlin, was also divided into four sectors, even though it was located deep within the Soviet-occupied zone.
As tensions rose between the Soviet Union and its Western counterparts, the relationship between the Soviets and the Western Allies deteriorated. In 1948, the Soviets blocked all land and water access to West Berlin in an attempt to force the Western Allies out of the city. This event, known as the Berlin Blockade, eventually led to the Berlin Airlift, during which supplies were delivered by air to sustain West Berlin.
The Construction Begins: August 13, 1961
The construction of the Berlin Wall officially began on August 13, 1961. Soldiers from the GDR began erecting barbed wire fences and barricades across the city, effectively cutting off East Berlin from West Berlin. These initial measures were only temporary, but they laid the foundation for the more substantial wall that would soon follow.
Evolution of the Wall
As the construction progressed, the temporary measures were replaced with a more permanent structure. The final version of the Berlin Wall was a formidable barrier, approximately 12 feet high, made up of concrete segments, barbed wire, and guard towers. It stretched for 96 miles, encircling West Berlin completely.
Over the years, the wall underwent several modifications to enhance its effectiveness. This included the addition of more barbed wire, trenches, and an inner wall. The area between the inner and outer walls, known as the “death strip,” was heavily fortified and equipped with various security measures to prevent escape attempts.
Impact on the People
The Berlin Wall had a profound impact on the people living in Berlin. Families were separated, and individuals found themselves trapped on the wrong side of the wall. East Berliners were effectively cut off from economic opportunities and the freedom of movement enjoyed by West Berliners.
Escape attempts were met with severe consequences, including imprisonment and even loss of life. However, many bravely attempted to cross the wall by various means, such as tunnels, hidden compartments in vehicles, or even jumping out of windows overlooking the wall.
End of the Berlin Wall: November 9, 1989
After nearly three decades as a symbol of division, the Berlin Wall finally fell on November 9, 1989. Mass protests in East Berlin and a gradual easing of Soviet control contributed to the opening of border crossings along the wall. Thousands of people from both sides came together, celebrating the newfound freedom and tearing down parts of the wall.
The construction of the Berlin Wall began on August 13, 1961, as a response to political tensions and the desire of the GDR to prevent its citizens from fleeing to the West. The wall was a physical manifestation of the Cold War division and served as a barrier for almost three decades. However, it ultimately came down in 1989, marking a significant moment in history and symbolizing the end of the division between East and West Berlin.