Berlin Wall

Berlin Wall
View from the West Berlin side of graffiti art on the Wall in 1986. The Wall's "death strip", on the east side of the Wall, here follows the curve of the Luisenstadt Canal (filled in 1932).
Berlin-wall-map en.svg
Map of the location of the Berlin Wall, showing checkpoints
General information
Coordinates52°30′58″N 13°22′37″E / 52°30′58″N 13°22′37″E / 52.51611; 13.3769413 August 1961
Demolished9 November 1989
Other dimensions
  • Border length around West Berlin: 155 km (96 mi)
  • Border length between West Berlin and East Germany: 111.9 km (69.5 mi)
  • Border length between West and East Berlin: 43.1 km (26.8 mi)
  • Border length through residential areas in East Berlin: 37 km (23 mi)
  • Concrete segment of wall height: 3.6 m (11.8 ft)
  • Concrete segment of wall length: 106 km (66 mi)
  • Wire mesh fencing: 66.5 km (41.3 mi)
  • Anti-vehicle trenches length: 105.5 km (65.6 mi)
  • Contact/signal fence length: 127.5 km (79.2 mi)
  • Column track width: 7 m (7.7 yd)
  • Column track length: 124.3 km (77.2 mi)
  • Number of watch towers: 302
  • Number of bunkers: 20
Technical details
Size155 km (96.3 mi)
Satellite image of Berlin, with the Wall's location marked in yellow
West and East Berlin borders overlaying a current road map (interactive map)

The Berlin Wall (German: Berliner Mauer, pronounced [bɛʁˈliːnɐ ˈmaʊ̯ɐ] (About this soundlisten)) was a guarded concrete barrier that physically and ideologically divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989.[1] Constructed by the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany), starting on 13 August 1961, the Wall cut off (by land) West Berlin from surrounding East Germany, including East Berlin, until East German officials ordered it opened in November 1989.[2] Its demolition officially began on 13 June 1990 and finished in 1992.[1][3] The barrier included guard towers placed along large concrete walls,[4] accompanied by a wide area (later known as the "death strip") that contained anti-vehicle trenches, "fakir beds" and other defenses. The Eastern Bloc portrayed the Wall as protecting its population from fascist elements conspiring to prevent the "will of the people" in building a socialist state in East Germany.

GDR authorities officially referred to the Berlin Wall as the Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart (German: Antifaschistischer Schutzwall). The West Berlin city government sometimes referred to it as the "Wall of Shame", a term coined by mayor Willy Brandt in reference to the Wall's restriction on freedom of movement.[5] Along with the separate and much longer Inner German border (IGB), which demarcated the border between East and West Germany, it came to symbolize physically the "Iron Curtain" that separated Western Europe and the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War.[6]

Before the Wall's erection, 3.5 million East Germans circumvented Eastern Bloc emigration restrictions and defected from the GDR, many by crossing over the border from East Berlin into West Berlin; from there they could then travel to West Germany and to other Western European countries. Between 1961 and 1989 the Wall prevented almost all such emigration.[7] During this period over 100,000[6] people attempted to escape and over 5,000 people succeeded in escaping over the Wall, with an estimated death toll ranging from 136[8] to more than 200[9][6] in and around Berlin.

In 1989 a series of revolutions in nearby Eastern Bloc countries—Poland and Hungary in particular—caused a chain reaction in East Germany that ultimately resulted in the demise of the Wall.[10] After several weeks of civil unrest, the East German government announced on 9 November 1989 that all GDR citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin. Crowds of East Germans crossed and climbed onto the Wall, joined by West Germans on the other side in a celebratory atmosphere. Over the next few weeks, euphoric people and souvenir hunters chipped away parts of the Wall; the governments later used industrial equipment to remove most of what was left.[6] The "fall of the Berlin Wall" paved the way for German reunification, which formally took place on 3 October 1990.[6]


Post-war Germany

After the end of World War II in Europe, what remained of pre-war Germany west of the Oder-Neisse line was divided into four occupation zones (as per the Potsdam Agreement), each one controlled by one of the four occupying Allied powers: the United States, the United Kingdom, France and the Soviet Union. The capital of Berlin, as the seat of the Allied Control Council, was similarly subdivided into four sectors despite the city's location, which was fully within the Soviet zone.[11]

Within two years, political divisions increased between the Soviets and the other occupying powers. These included the Soviets' refusal to agree to reconstruction plans making post-war Germany self-sufficient, and to a detailed accounting of industrial plants, goods and infrastructure - some of which was already removed by the Soviets.[12] France, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Benelux countries later met to combine the non-Soviet zones of Germany into one zone for reconstruction, and to approve the extension of the Marshall Plan.[6]

Eastern Bloc and the Berlin airlift

Brandenburg Gate in 1945, after the end of World War II

Following World War II, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin headed a group of nations on his Western border, the Eastern Bloc, that then included Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, which he wished to maintain alongside a weakened Soviet-controlled Germany.[13] As early as 1945, Stalin revealed to German communist leaders that he expected to slowly undermine the British position within the British occupation zone, that the United States would withdraw within a year or two, and that nothing would then stand in the way of a united communist Germany within the bloc.[14]

The major task of the ruling communist party in the Soviet zone was to channel Soviet orders down to both the administrative apparatus and the other bloc parties, which in turn would be presented as internal measures.[15] Property and industry was nationalized in the East German zone.[16][17] If statements or decisions deviated from the described line, reprimands and (for persons outside public attention) punishment would ensue, such as imprisonment, torture and even death.[15]

Indoctrination of Marxism-Leninism became a compulsory part of school curricula, sending professors and students fleeing to the West. The East Germans created an elaborate political police apparatus that kept the population under close surveillance,[18] including Soviet SMERSH secret police.[16]

In 1948, following disagreements regarding reconstruction and a new German currency, Stalin instituted the Berlin Blockade, preventing food, materials and supplies from arriving in West Berlin.[19] The United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and several other countries began a massive "airlift", supplying West Berlin with food and other supplies.[20] The Soviets mounted a public relations campaign against the Western policy change. Communists attempted to disrupt the elections of 1948, preceding large losses therein,[21] while 300,000 Berliners demonstrated for the international airlift to continue.[22] In May 1949, Stalin lifted the blockade, permitting the resumption of Western shipments to Berlin.[23][24]

The German Democratic Republic (East Germany) was declared on 7 October 1949. By a secret treaty, the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs accorded the East German state administrative authority, but not autonomy. The Soviets permeated East German administrative, military and secret police structures and had full control.[25][26]

East Germany differed from West Germany (Federal Republic of Germany), which developed into a Western capitalist country with a social market economy ("Soziale Marktwirtschaft" in German) and a democratic parliamentary government. Continual economic growth starting in the 1950s fuelled a 20-year "economic miracle" ("Wirtschaftswunder"). As West Germany's economy grew, and its standard of living steadily improved, many East Germans wanted to move to West Germany.[27]

Emigration westward in the early 1950s

After the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe at the end of World War II, the majority of those living in the newly acquired areas of the Eastern Bloc aspired to independence and wanted the Soviets to leave.[28] Taking advantage of the zonal border between occupied zones in Germany, the number of GDR citizens moving to West Germany totaled 187,000 in 1950; 165,000 in 1951; 182,000 in 1952; and 331,000 in 1953.[29][30] One reason for the sharp 1953 increase was fear of potential further Sovietization, given the increasingly paranoid actions of Joseph Stalin in late 1952 and early 1953.[31] 226,000 had fled in just the first six months of 1953.[32]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Berlynse Muur
Alemannisch: Berliner Mauer
العربية: جدار برلين
aragonés: Muro de Berlín
asturianu: Muru de Berlín
azərbaycanca: Berlin divarı
Bân-lâm-gú: Berlin Chhiûⁿ-ûi
беларуская: Берлінская сцяна
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Бэрлінскі мур
български: Берлинска стена
bosanski: Berlinski zid
brezhoneg: Moger Berlin
čeština: Berlínská zeď
Cymraeg: Mur Berlin
davvisámegiella: Berlinmuvra
español: Muro de Berlín
Esperanto: Berlina muro
føroyskt: Berlinmúrurin
français: Mur de Berlin
한국어: 베를린 장벽
հայերեն: Բեռլինի պատ
hrvatski: Berlinski zid
Bahasa Indonesia: Tembok Berlin
íslenska: Berlínarmúrinn
italiano: Muro di Berlino
Kiswahili: Ukuta wa Berlin
latviešu: Berlīnes mūris
Lëtzebuergesch: Berliner Mauer
lietuvių: Berlyno siena
lumbaart: Mür de Berlin
magyar: Berlini fal
македонски: Берлински ѕид
მარგალური: ბერლინიშ კიდა
مازِرونی: برلین دیوار
Bahasa Melayu: Tembok Berlin
မြန်မာဘာသာ: ဘာလင် တံတိုင်း
Nederlands: Berlijnse Muur
Napulitano: Muro 'e Berlino
norsk nynorsk: Berlinmuren
occitan: Mur de Berlin
پنجابی: برلن کندھ
Papiamentu: Muraya di Berlin
Piemontèis: Mur ëd Berlin
português: Muro de Berlim
Runa Simi: Berlin pirqa
Scots: Berlin Waw
Seeltersk: Berliner Muure
sicilianu: Muru di Birlinu
Simple English: Berlin Wall
slovenčina: Berlínsky múr
slovenščina: Berlinski zid
ślůnski: Berliński mur
српски / srpski: Берлински зид
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Berlinski zid
svenska: Berlinmuren
татарча/tatarça: Берлин дивары
Türkçe: Berlin Duvarı
українська: Берлінський мур
Tiếng Việt: Bức tường Berlin
文言: 柏林圍牆
吴语: 柏林墙
粵語: 柏林圍牆
中文: 柏林圍牆