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1961 - Construction of Berlin Wall

1961 Berliin Wall Construction_min.JPG

Title: 1961 - Construction of Berlin Wall

About: After sealing off free passage between East and West Berlin with barbed wire, East German authorities began building the Berlin Wall to permanently close off access to the West.

By 1961, Cold War tensions were focussed on the divided city of Berlin. For East Germans dissatisfied with life under the communist system, West Berlin was a gateway to the democratic West. Some 2.5 million East Germans had fled the Soviet regime, mostly via West Berlin. Many of the refugees were skilled laborers, professionals, and intellectuals, and their loss was having a devastating effect on the East German economy. To halt the exodus to the West, Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev recommended to East Germany that it close off access between East and West Berlin.

On the night of August 12, 1961, East German soldiers laid down more than 30 miles of barbed wire barrier through the heart of Berlin. East Berlin citizens were forbidden to pass into West Berlin, and the number of checkpoints in which Westerners could cross the border was drastically reduced.


Emboldened by a lack of response from the West, the barbed wire was soon replaced by concrete, with workers watched over by armed guards. With the realisation that the border was closing permanently, escape attempts by East Germans intensified.

During the rest of 1961, the grim and imposing Berlin Wall continued to grow in size and scope, eventually consisting of a series of concrete walls up to 15 feet high. These walls were topped with barbed wire and guarded with watchtowers, machine gun emplacements and mines. 

In the West, the Berlin Wall was seen as symbolic of communist oppression. Until it's collapse, about 5,000 East Germans managed to escape across the Berlin Wall to the West, but the frequency of successful escapes dwindled as the wall was increasingly fortified. Thousands of East Germans were captured during attempted crossings and 191 were killed.

Decade: 1960s

Year: 1961

Region: Europe

Country: Germany + USSR

Conflict: Cold War

Society: Migration

Type: Historical Event

Impact: 9

Artist: Bryan Willian


Group: Genesis

Number: 61/100

Price: 0.9 ETH


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