Here is some basic information about the Berlin Wall, which surrounded West Berlin from 1961 to 1989, in an effort to prevent East Germans from escaping to the West. It became a symbol of East-West relations during the Cold War.
The Berlin Wall began as a border of barbed wire fence and evolved into a concrete barrier fortified by an armed East German border guard.
East Germany encamped the entire border with the West, planting over a million land mines and fielding about 3,000 attack dogs.
The wall between East and West Berlin was about 12 feet high and about 27 miles long, with 302 guard towers and 55,000 anti-personnel explosive devices (land mines).
To prevent attempts to climb the wall or escape by digging under it, the wall was reinforced with barbed wire, nails, metal barriers, bunkers, and vehicles turned into obstacles.
A vast area of dirt and sand, a buffer zone between the two walls, became known as the “Forbidden Zone” or “Death Bar”, where guards in watchtowers could shoot anyone trying to escape.
On frontier grounds, at least 140 people died either from gunshots or from a fatal accident while trying to escape or committing suicide.
The most famous border crossing was known as Checkpoint Charlie.
4-11 February 1945 – Faced with Germany’s defeat in World War II, the Yalta Conference of the Allies agreed to divide Germany into four occupation zones: Great Britain, France and the United States occupy the western, northwestern and southern parts, and the Soviet Union occupies the eastern part. . Berlin, located in Soviet territory, is also divided into eastern and western regions.
1949 – The territories occupied by Britain, France, and the United States became West Germany (officially known as the Federal Republic of Germany). The Soviet region became East Germany (officially known as the German Democratic Republic). West Germany is a democratic republic. East Germany is a communist country allied with the Soviet Union.
1949-1961 – Over 2.7 million East Germans fled to the West. Foreign nationals, West Germans, West Berliners and Allied military personnel are allowed to enter East Berlin, but East Berliners need a special permit to leave.
August 12, 1961 – East German Communist Party leader Walter Ulbricht signs an order to erect a barrier separating East and West Berlin.
August 13, 1961 – The commander of the East German security forces, Erich Honecker, ordered the police and troops to erect a barbed wire fence and began building concrete barriers.
August 18, 1961 – US Vice President Lyndon Johnson and retired General Lucius Clay fly to Berlin as a show of US support for West Germany.
August 20, 1961 – The United States is sending a task force of 1,500 soldiers to Berlin as tensions rise along the border.
August 23, 1961 – Residents of West Berlin without permits are prohibited from entering East Berlin.
June 26, 1963 – United States President John F. Kennedy speaking to a crowd in West Berlin at the Ratus Schöneberg (City Hall) on Rudolf Wilde Platz: “Today in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ (“I am from Berlin”) of all free men , wherever they are, are citizens of Berlin. Thus, as a free man, I am proud of the phrase “Ich bin ein Berliner”.
12-13 September 1964 – Martin Luther King Jr. visits Berlin at the invitation of West Berlin Mayor Willie Brandt. King delivers a sermon on both sides of the wall entitled “East and West – Children of God.”
September 3, 1971 – Talks between the United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union led to the Four Powers Agreement on Berlin, a decree to improve conditions for West Berliners and facilitate travel to and from West Germany and West Berlin, as well as West Berliners’ travel to the East. It also normalizes Berlin’s status as a divided city.
Dec 21, 1972 – West and East Germany signed the Basic Treaty, which normalized diplomatic relations and recognized each other’s sovereignty.
June 12, 1987 – In a speech at the Brandenburg Gate, US President Ronald Reagan challenges General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, the leader of the Soviet Union, “to tear down this wall!”
April 1989 – Border guards in the German Democratic Republic were instructed to stop “using firearms to prevent border violations”.
October 18 1989 – Communist Party chief Honecker was overthrown and replaced by Egon Krenz.
November 2, 1989 – Krens announces comprehensive political and economic reforms.
November 4, 1989 – More than half a million people take part in a pro-freedom rally in East Berlin to demand free elections.
November 6, 1989 – An initial law was passed giving all citizens travel and immigration rights, with restrictions. Travel time is still limited, and the authorities can arbitrarily refuse travel permits.
November 7, 1989 – East German government resigns. Nearly half of the Politburo members are removed and replaced the next day.
November 9, 1989 – East Germany lifts travel restrictions on the West. Politburo member Guenter Schabowski announced that East German citizens can “leave the country via East German border crossing points,” effective immediately.
9-10 November 1989 – Jubilant crowds tear the wall piece by piece using their hands, axes, heavy hammers and shovels.
November 10-11, 1989 – Several new crossing points have been opened. Tens of thousands of people cross into West Berlin.
October 3, 1990 – East and West Germany were officially unified as the Federal Republic of Germany.
August 14, 2018 – A member of the Berlin Council announced that a previously unknown part of the wall was recently discovered in a residential section of the city. The wall was covered with overgrown bushes, and so he remained hidden for a long time.