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When Did They Start Building the Berlin Wall?

by | Mar 7, 2024 | Cold War Tour Berlin

The Berlin Wall was one of the most significant historical events that shaped the 20th century. Spanning 30 years, its construction, existence, and eventual fall impacted the lives of millions. In this article, we will explore when they started building the Berlin Wall and delve into its historical context and impact.

Historical Context: The Cold War

The construction of the Berlin Wall was closely tied to the political climate of the Cold War. After World War II, Germany was divided into four occupation zones controlled by the victorious Allied powers – the United States, Soviet Union, France, and the United Kingdom. Berlin, located deep within the Soviet zone, was also divided into four sectors.

The Rising Tensions

The relations between the United States and the Soviet Union started to deteriorate, leading to an ideological struggle known as the Cold War. The differences in political and economic systems between the two superpowers created tensions, with Berlin becoming a hotspot of contention.

The Construction Begins

On August 13, 1961, in the early hours of the morning, the construction of the Berlin Wall began. This sudden and unexpected development shocked the inhabitants of Berlin and the world. The East German government, backed by the Soviet Union, aimed to halt the mass emigration of East Germans to the West

The Purpose of the Wall

The primary purpose of the Berlin Wall was to prevent citizens from East Germany from escaping to the more prosperous West Germany. East Germans were increasingly leaving due to political oppression, economic troubles, and the desire for freedom.

The Design and Structure

The wall consisted of a series of concrete segments, topped with barbed wire, guard towers, and a “death strip” in between. This “death strip” included trenches, anti-vehicle traps, and no-man’s land, making crossing extremely perilous.

Impact on Berlin and the World

The construction of the Berlin Wall had profound consequences on Berlin and the international community as a whole.

Separation of Families and Communities

Many families and communities were abruptly divided by the wall. People who once lived, worked, and socialized together found themselves cut off from one another. The emotional toll of this separation was immeasurable.

The Symbol of the Cold War

The Berlin Wall became a powerful symbol of the divisions caused by the Cold War. Its existence stood as a stark reminder of the divide between communism in the East and democracy in the West, physically manifesting the ideological struggle of the time.

Attempts to Escape

Desperate East Germans made countless attempts to escape the clutches of the wall. Some tried to tunnel their way, others risked their lives by jumping from windows, while a few even used hot air balloons. Unfortunately, many paid the ultimate price for their freedom.

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

After 28 years, the Berlin Wall finally fell on November 9, 1989. This momentous event was a result of tremendous societal pressure, political changes, and the fall of the Soviet Union.

Peaceful Revolution

The citizens of East Germany had grown tired of the oppressive regime and the wall that separated them from their fellow Germans. Peaceful protests, such as the famous demonstrations at the Brandenburg Gate, played a significant role in the eventual dismantling of the wall.

Reunification of Germany

The fall of the Berlin Wall marked the beginning of the reunification process for Germany. East and West Germany were officially reunited on October 3, 1990. The fall of the wall was celebrated worldwide as a symbol of hope, freedom, and the end of the Cold War.


The construction of the Berlin Wall on August 13, 1961, was a pivotal moment in history. It became an enduring symbol of the Cold War division, separated families, and the resilience of human spirit in pursuit of freedom. Its eventual fall in 1989 brought an end to an era and marked the beginning of a new chapter for Germany and the world.

Remembering the Berlin Wall serves as a reminder of the importance of unity, understanding, and the continued fight for freedom and human rights.

When Did They Start Building the Berlin Wall?