The Berlin Wall was the wall which separated East and West Berlin up until its gradual destruction starting on the 9th of November 1989. The history of the wall itself is complex.
After World War 2, Germany was divided up into four sections. Each section was controlled by one of the four Allied Powers (Russia, England, France and the USA). Further to this, the capital Berlin was also divided up into four sections, even though the city itself lay deep within Russian controlled Germany.
On the 13th of August, 1961 the heavily Russian influenced East German government started the construction of what would become the Berlin Wall.
In a well planned operation, a wall that would later span 97 miles (156 kilometers) was constructed separating East and West Berlin was erected in under 24 hours. The wall split Berlin streets and apartment blocks, and many residents along the border on the East German side were forced to relocate. These buildings where vacated and sealed to stop anyone using them to cross the border.
The quick construction of the wall split many families in half, and it was a number of years before family members were able to see each other again.
Initially the wall consisted of only a barbed wire fence, but this wall was gradually fortified to become what most people would today recognize as the Berlin Wall.
Many reasons were given for the Berlin Wall's construction, the main being that it was to protect the East Germans from the West German "fascists". In fact, the name given to the wall by the East German regime was the "antifaschisticher Schutzwall" or in English the "Anti-Fascist Protection Barrier". In reality, the wall was constructed for other reasons.
At the time, over 1500 people each day were fleeing from East to West Germany. This served to discredit the East German government and also reduce their workforce. The wall also prevented the movement of western spies who were increasingly active due to the cold war.
The wall created an island out of West Berlin. There were twelve check points at which people could cross from West to East Berlin, although whether someone was able to cross at a particular border was dependent upon whether they were from West Germany, West Berlin or merely a foreigner. One of the most famous of these border crossings was Checkpoint Charlie, where tourists and allied military where able to cross.
During the period of separation, more than 100 people died trying to cross the barrier. Today, almost the entire wall has been torn down. There are now only really three places where the wall can be viewed, however even at these locations the wall is, in places, quite heavily vandalized, mainly by tourists seeking to take a part of the wall for themselves. More information about these four locations can be found below:
- Berlin Wall - East Side Gallery (1300m long)
- Berlin Wall - Bernauer Strasse
- Checkpoint Charlie, Friedrichstrasse (200m long)