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Who Built the Berlin Wall during the Cold War?

by | Mar 7, 2024 | World War Tour Berlin

The Berlin Wall was a physical barrier that divided the city of Berlin from 1961 to 1989, separating East Germany (German Democratic Republic) from West Germany (Federal Republic of Germany) during the Cold War. It was built by the German Democratic Republic (GDR) government, which was controlled by the Soviet Union.

The Construction of the Berlin Wall

The construction of the Berlin Wall began on August 13, 1961, without any prior warning or public announcement. The GDR government justified the erection of the wall as a measure to protect its citizens from the influences of Western imperialism and to prevent the mass exodus of skilled workers to West Germany.

The wall was initially built using barbed wire fences, but it later evolved into a complex system of concrete walls, watchtowers, and heavily guarded checkpoints. The main purpose of the wall was to prevent people from East Germany from crossing over to West Germany.

The Role of the GDR Government

The German Democratic Republic government, led by Walter Ulbricht, played a significant role in the construction of the Berlin Wall. Ulbricht was a staunch communist and was determined to secure the power of the GDR regime. The building of the wall was seen as a way to achieve this by preventing defections and tightening control over East Berlin.

The GDR government deployed border guards and military personnel to reinforce the wall, ensuring that it was effectively policed and escape attempts were thwarted. The wall became a symbol of the repressive regime of the GDR and the division between East and West Germany.

Life with the Berlin Wall

Once the Berlin Wall was constructed, it had a profound impact on the lives of Berliners. Families were separated, with loved ones unable to see each other for years or even decades. People living in East Germany faced strict travel restrictions and were subjected to intense surveillance by the state.

Escape attempts were not uncommon, and many risked their lives in daring attempts to cross the wall. Those caught attempting to escape faced severe consequences, including imprisonment or even death. Several hundred people lost their lives while trying to cross the wall.

Fall of the Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall finally fell on November 9, 1989, as a result of mounting political pressure and a widespread desire for reunification between East and West Germany. The dismantling of the wall followed a series of peaceful protests and the opening of border crossings by the GDR government.

The fall of the Berlin Wall marked a symbolic end to the Cold War division in Germany and paved the way for the reunification of East and West Germany in 1990.


The Berlin Wall is a powerful reminder of the political and social divisions that existed during the Cold War. It was built by the German Democratic Republic government to enforce its control over East Berlin and prevent mass emigration. The wall had a profound impact on the lives of Berliners, separating families and restricting personal freedoms. However, it ultimately crumbled under the weight of political change, leading to the reunification of East and West Germany. Today, the Berlin Wall stands as a testament to the resilience and the ultimate triumph of the human spirit.

Who Built the Berlin Wall during the Cold War?