The Berlin Wall, Haunting Pictures Of A Divided City

This section of the Wall's
This section of the Wall's "death strip" featured Czech hedgehogs, a guard tower and a cleared area, 1977. (By GeorgeLouis CC BY-SA 3.0)

After the defeat of the Nazis in World War II Germany was divided. The United States, the United Kingdom and their allies occupied western Germany. The Soviet Union occupied the east. The West became the Federal Republic of Germany, while the east became the German Democratic Republic. The capital Berlin was also divided into eastern and western zones.

Relations between east and west soon became tense, and in 1961 the Democratic Republic, with Soviet backing, began building a tall concrete wall to separate western and eastern Berlin. This wall was fortified by towers, wire fences, anti-vehicle trenches and other defenses. Nobody from West Berlin was allowed to cross to the east, and no-one from East Berlin was allowed to cross to the west.

The Structure of Berlin Wall.

The Soviets and East Germans said that the wall prevented ‘fascists’ from corrupting the people and preventing them building a prosperous communist society. In fact, it was to stop people going to West Berlin and defecting. The reality was that many people did not want to live under Communist rule. At least 5000 people tried to cross the wall, and perhaps 200 or more were killed by East German guards in the attempt.

The Berlin Wall became a symbol of Communist oppression. Eventually, it became impossible to stop people wanting to leave, and the wall was opened in November 1989. Soon after that, the Berlin Wall was torn down. Little of the wall is left, and much of it has been taken away for souvenirs.

Border guards at Brandenburg Gate on August 13, 1961, the day the Berlin Wall was erected
East German construction workers building the Berlin Wall, 1961-11-20
The Brandenburger gate on 15 February 1963 (Bundesarchiv)
Brandenburger Gate on 17 October 1987 (By Amidasu CC BY-SA 3.0)
Waving over the Berlin Wall
Potsdamer Platz and Stresemannstraße, November 1975
Versöhnungskirche Bernauer Straße, 12. Januar 1978
Wall at Bernauer Straße with Versöhnungskirche in death strip, January 12, 1978 (by Olga Bandelowa, CC BY-SA 2.0)
The church was demolished in 1985
Border section at the corner of Liesenstraße and Nordbahnhof on St. Hedwig cemetery (1980) (By Axb Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Abschlussarbeiten an der Mauerkrone an der Bernauer Straße im Jahr 1980
Building the 3rd (and last) generation of the Berlin Wall in 1980 (By Alexander Buschorn CC BY-SA 3.0)
The top of the Wall was lined with a smooth pipe, intended to make it more difficult to scale, 1984. (By GeorgeLouis CC BY-SA 3.0)
Death strip & graffiti at Bethaniendamm in Kreuzberg in 1986 (By Noir CC BY-SA 3.0)
The West Berlin side of the Berlin Wall, between the boroughs of Tiergarten and Mitte. Photograph taken in June 1989. (Public Domain)
East German guards feed the birds from their post at the Berlin Wall near Checkpoint Charlie.
East German guards feed the birds from their post at the Berlin Wall near Checkpoint Charlie. (Public Domain)
Berlin Wall, East German border guard looks at the Kubat-Dreieck, July 1st 1988 (By Neptuul CC BY-SA 3.0)
East Berlin “death strip” of the Berlin Wall, as seen from the Axel Springer AG Building, 1984. (By BeenAroundAWhile CC BY-SA 3.0)
US President John F. Kennedy visiting the Berlin Wall on 26 June 1963. (Public Domain)

The fall of the Wall


Germans stand on top of the Wall in the days before it was torn down. (By Lear 21 CC BY-SA 3.0)
Soldier on the wall at the Brandenburger Gate, November 1989 (Public Domain)
Soldier on the wall at the Brandenburger Gate, November 1989 (By Yann (talk) CC BY-SA 3.0)
East and West Germans converse at the newly created opening in the Berlin Wall after a crane removed a section of the structure beside the Brandenburg Gate. (Public domain)
A view of the East side of the Berlin Wall, taken in 1990 (after the border was opened). The graffiti seen in the photo would date from after the border was opened. Most sections of the Berlin Wall were damaged by both local residents and tourists during the period after the wall was opened, either to hasten the removal of the walls or in order to obtain souvenirs. (Public Domain)
Germans stand on top of the Wall in the days before it was torn down. (By Raphaël Thiémard CC BY-SA 2.0)


Joris Nieuwint

Joris Nieuwint is a battlefield guide for the Operation Market Garden area. His primary focus is on the Allied operations from September 17th, 1944 onwards. Having lived in the Market Garden area for 25 years, he has been studying the events for nearly as long. He has a deep understanding of the history and a passion for sharing the stories of the men who are no longer with us.