Bernauer Straße 119, 13355 Berlin
GPS: 52.534388555476, 13.388656431824
The Berlin Wall (Berliner Mauer) was a system of fortifications, including a vast concrete wall that was 3.6 metres high, that stretched for 45 kilometres dividing the German capital into two parts for 28 years: West Berlin (12 districts occupied by the French, British and American allied forces) and East Berlin (8 districts attached to the Soviet bloc).
Erected on the night of 12-13 August 1961, in the early years of the Cold War, this physical boundary symbolises the Iron Curtain that cuts Berlin in two. At that time, it separated Western Europe from the Communist bloc. Described as the “wall of shame” by West Germany (FRG) and the “anti-fascist protection wall” by East Germany (GDR), this further construction of fortified barriers completely encircled West Berlin, as the German capital was located in the Soviet occupation zone. The Berlin Wall is infamous for its “death row”, the border strip between the two walls where East Berlin guards were ordered to shoot anyone who tried to enter. More than a hundred people are said to have lost their lives trying to escape to West Berlin.
Built on the initiative of the German Communist Party (SED) with Soviet support, the aim of this complex system of fortifications was to prevent East Berliners and GDR citizens from fleeing to the West at a time when East Germany had already lost a sixth of its population. According to estimates, 50,000 people crossed the border every day until the wall was built (a total of 3 million people migrated to the West to escape the repressive GDR regime between 1950 and 1961). Under pressure and forced to reopen its borders, the SED saw the wall fall on the night of 9 November 1989 and caused scenes of jubilation. This fall of the wall, as a sudden, confused and unexpected event, put an end to 40 years of cold war. At the same time, it precipitated the collapse of the Soviet Empire and the end of Communist rule in Europe. The excitement and exaltation of the German population in the following months led to the destruction of the wall, fences, watchtowers and checkpoints, so that few remnants remain visible to this day. The demolition of the wall did not officially begin until 13 June 1990 and was completed in 1992, leading to the reunification of the country and the dissolution of the East German state.