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This Day in History

World History

Sunday, August 13, 1961. :   East Berlin is cut off from the west by the Berlin Wall.

     Berlin is the capital city of Germany. Following WWII, it was divided into four sectors, with sectors being controlled by the Soviet Union, USA, the UK and France. Whilst the countries initially cooperated, governing the city jointly by a commission of all four occupying armies, tensions began to increase between the Soviet Union and the western allies with the development of the Cold War. The border between East and West Germany was closed in 1952, and movement of citizens between East and West Berlin also became more restricted, particularly as people continued to defect from East Germany via West Berlin. Shoppers from East Berlin tended to make their purchases in the western sector, where goods were cheaper and more readily available. This damaged the Soviet economy, which was subsidising East Germany's economy.

Overnight on 13 August 1961, the East and Western halves of Berlin were separated by barbed wire fences up to 1.83 metres high which were raised by the Communist East German authorities. Over the next few days, East German troops began to replace the barbed wire with permanent concrete blocks, reaching up to 3.6m high. Ultimately, the wall included over 300 watchtowers, 106km of concrete and 66.5km of wire fencing completely surrounding West Berlin and preventing any access from East Germany. The wall remained as a barrier between East and West until 1989, when the collapse of communism led to it being dismantled.

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