Building The Berlin Wall

By | April 12, 2022

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The building of the wall. A girl watches an East-German bricklayer working at the border. - August 1961 (Photo by Hyzdal von Miserony/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

With the end of World War II, Germany was split into four “allied occupation zones,” with the eastern part of the country going to the Soviet Union. The remaining three zones, which comprised West Germany, went to the United States, Great Britain, and France. Berlin, although technically in East Germany, was also split, with the Soviet Union taking East Berlin. Prior to the building of the wall, about a half-million people moved between East and West Berlin every day, which caused problems because the East German residents could compare living situations. 

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Source: (AP).

The East Germans Said They Weren't Planning To Build A Wall

In June 1948, an Allied airlift impeded a blockade of West Berlin by the Soviets, and over the next 12 years, millions had left East Germany, including about 1,000 skilled laborers, professionals, and intellectuals daily by 1961. However, on June 15, 1961, the East German head of state, Walter Ulbricht claimed that there was no intention to build a wall.

On August 12, 1961, the largest number of defectors left, 2,400, and the next day, the construction of the wall began. On that day, August 13, 1961, a Sunday, during the early morning hours, they set up temporary borders to separate east from west and tore up the asphalt and cobblestone on the connecting roads to construct the wall of barbed wire and concrete. They called this the “Antifascistischer Schutzwall,” reflecting what they claimed was the purpose of the wall: to keep the Western fascists out and stop them from undermining the socialist state. As they said, the wall was to “put a stop to the hostile activity of West Germany’s and West Berlin’s revanchist and militaristic forces, border controls of the kind generally found in every sovereign state will be set up at the border of the German Democratic Republic, including the border to the western sectors of Greater Berlin.” Of course, the real reason was to stop the defections.