After World War II, the Allies divided Berlin into four sectors. The American, French and British sectors became West Berlin, and East Berlin was controlled by the Soviet Union. Between 1949 and 1961, three million people left East Germany. To stop this mass exodus, a 100-mile fence was erected virtually overnight on August 13, 1961, a barrier that remained for 28 years. Ultimately, the concrete wall was 13 feet tall and had a buffer zone (no man’s land) of between 25 and 160 feet. Three hundred guard towers were built to monitor the area around the wall. In that 28-year period, 5,043 people are known to have successfully gotten around the wall. Guards fired at 1,693 people and made 3,221 arrests. In all, 1,067 are said to have died trying to flee East Germany, and as many as 263 of the deaths were at the Berlin Wall. Did you know that the GDR referred to the wall as “The Anti-Fascist Protective Rampart”? Guards suspected of shooting to miss were court-marshaled. A total of 52 military officials and 141 border guards were charged with manslaughter or attempted manslaughter for killings at the border, although most were given suspended sentences. Only 11 spent time in prison.
Almost the entire wall is gone, having been chipped away as souvenirs or demolished. A 230-feet-long portion of the wall was reconstructed and includes bits and pieces of the original wall. The “new wall” is mostly stainless steel and contains narrow holes allowing you to look to the other side. It’s located at Bernauer Strasse and Ackerstrasse, not too far from the Bernauer Strasse U-Bahn. A large stretch still stands along Wilhelmstrasse. Behind it is a park on the site of Hitler’s SS command center.
Berlin has erected several temporary (and free) exhibits about the erection of the wall, life in a divided city, and the fall of the wall. It's just another reason to visit this fantastic city!