Berlin wall

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Map of the Berlin Wall (brown) before 1989, including
* western and southern Berlin outer ring
* Border crossing points 1–14
* Area exchange A:
Staaken - Gatow / Weinmeisterhöhe (1945)
* Area exchange B:
Spandau - Falkensee (after 1970)
* Area exchange C:
Zehlendorf - Babelsberg (after 1970)
* Sectors:
I. = France , II. = Great Britain ,
III. = USA (including V. Steinstücke ),
IV. = So-called "democratic sector" ( East Berlin ).
Border strip with hinterland wall, view from a viewing platform on Bernauer Strasse (west) to Eberswalder and Oderberger Strasse (east), 1973
Graffiti on the West Berlin side, on the East Berlin side the leveled facilities of the Luisenstadt Canal , 1986
Animation of the construction of the wall
The Berlin Wall from eye level on Potsdamer Platz , 1985
Death strip and watchtower of the "command post" at the Mill Street , 1990 - there corresponded to the hinterland wall facing west else type "retaining wall element UL 12:41"
Graffiti directed against Helmut Kohl and reunification in the former Mühlenstrasse death strip, October 2, 1990
Remains of the Berlin Wall on Niederkirchnerstrasse , 2004

The Berlin Wall was during the division of Germany , a border fortification system of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), the more than 28 years from 13 August 1961 to November 9, 1989, was, and the GDR from West Berlin hermetically should seal off. It not only separated the connections in the area of Greater Berlin between the eastern part ("capital of the GDR") and the western part of the city, but also completely enclosed all three sectors of the western part and thus also interrupted its connections to the Berlin area, the GDR district Potsdam lay.

The former inner German border between West (old Federal Republic) and East Germany (GDR) is to be distinguished from the Berlin Wall .

The Berlin Wall as the last action in the division of the four-sector city of Berlin created by the post-war order of the Allies was part and at the same time a striking symbol of the conflict in the Cold War between the Western powers dominated by the United States and the so-called Eastern Bloc under the leadership of the Soviet Union . It was built on the basis of a resolution by the political leadership of the Soviet Union at the beginning of August 1961 and an instruction from the GDR government issued a few days later . The Berlin Wall supplemented the 1378 kilometer long inner-German border between the GDR and the Federal Republic of Germany , which had already been "fortified" more than nine years earlier in order to stop the flow of refugees.

For the GDR border soldiers , the shooting order had been in effect since 1960 in cases of "illegal border crossings" , which was only formally incorporated into a law in 1982. According to the current state of research (2009), between 136 and 245 people were killed in attempts to overcome the 167.8 kilometers long and heavily guarded border installations in the direction of West Berlin. The exact number of deaths at the Berlin Wall is not known.

The Berlin Wall was opened on the evening of November 9, 1989 in the course of the political change . This happened under the growing pressure of the GDR population demanding more freedom. The fall of the Berlin Wall paved the way for the collapse of the SED dictatorship, the dissolution of the GDR and, at the same time, the unification of Germany .

Linguistic aspects

The wall, which was erected in August 1961, with its watchtowers, the barbed wire and death strip as well as the death shots on refugees, aroused comparisons with concentration camps , which in the western public became expressions such as "red concentration camp" and "Ulbricht concentration camp" for the GDR and "Ulbricht- SS ”for the border guards. In August 1961, the governing mayor, Willy Brandt, coined the term “ wall of shame ”, which became widely used. On the GDR side, the SED Politburo commissioned Horst Sindermann, the head of the agitation department at the SED Central Committee, to develop an ideological justification for the construction of the wall. Sindermann found the name " anti-fascist protective wall ". To justify this, he told Spiegel in May 1990 : “We didn't want to bleed to death, we wanted to preserve the anti-fascist-democratic order that existed in the GDR. In this respect, I still consider my term to be correct today ”. The suggestion that the open border with West Berlin represented a " fascist " threat to the GDR was intended to hide the real motive: the main purpose was to prevent people from fleeing the GDR .

In 1961 the name entered the political language of the SED. Walter Ulbricht used it on October 20, 1961 in his greeting address to the XXII. CPSU party congress in Moscow and a little later it appeared in the SED central organ Neues Deutschland . A GDR propaganda brochure from December 1961 stated that on August 13, an anti-fascist protective wall had "brought the war fire in West Berlin under control".

In its session on July 31, 1962, when planning a propaganda campaign to mark the first anniversary of the building of the Wall, the SED Politburo decided on Sindermann's words as a binding designation for the Berlin Wall in the GDR public and remained so until the end of the GDR. By the mid-1960s, other designations, including “the Wall”, disappeared from public language, while the social designation “anti-fascist protective wall” was considered a symbol of good political behavior. The term found its place beyond propaganda in school and textbooks and in scientific presentations.

The propaganda legend was accompanied by a complete control over pictorial representations of the border fortifications in Berlin. The images of the border installations in Berlin were only allowed if they were related to the Brandenburg Gate . Only the photos from a series of the ADN news agency taken there on August 14, 1961 were permitted to document the cordon measures. A photograph of four armed members of the fighting groups of the working class , who look to the west with the gate behind them, determined to fight, became a media icon of the GDR and the gate in parades and on postage stamps became the wall's logo .

When Willy Brandt and Egon Bahr introduced a " policy of small steps " towards the GDR towards the end of the 1960s , they dispensed with words such as "Schandmauer" and "Ulbricht-KZ". Another reason for the growing silence of Nazi comparisons on the wall was the mid-1960s with the Auschwitz trial commencing processing of the Nazi dictatorship .

In the GDR the term “anti-fascist protective wall” remained until its last years, but in 1988 the “anti-fascist protective wall” was missing from the school curriculum.




After the end of World War II was Germany in 1945 under the EAC - Zone protocols or the agreements of the Yalta Conference in four occupation zones divided by the Allied victors USA , USSR , UK and France controls should be and managed. Similarly, as the former capital of the Reich , Greater Berlin was divided into four sectors.

In the summer of 1945 demarcation lines were drawn between the occupation zones, the so-called "zone borders". In some cases, barriers and white and yellow wooden pillars were erected, and trees were colored. A permit was now required to cross the zone border, a small border traffic was introduced only for commuters and farmers . On the orders of the Soviet Military Administration in Germany (SMAD), a border police was set up in the Soviet Occupation Zone (SBZ) , which first became active on December 1, 1946, and regulations for the use of firearms were issued. Interzone passes now had to be applied for for travel between the Soviet Zone and the western zones . The first border installations were set up on the east side, especially in wooded areas with barbed wire barriers and roadblocks on cross-border roads and paths.

A little later the Cold War began on various levels between the West and the developing Eastern Bloc . First of all, the Cold War conflict was followed by a mutual exchange of blows between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union. The first insoluble rift was the reparations payments , about which a dispute arose between the four allies, who were still meeting together. Since the USSR saw in the meantime that it could not cover its need for reparations payments from its zone, it demanded participation in the reparations from the Ruhr area at various Allied conferences in 1946/1947 , otherwise it could not agree to an economic unit planned in the Potsdam Agreement . Only France accepted this, the USA and Great Britain did not.

In addition, there was the problem of the different social systems - capitalism on the one hand and communism on the other, whereby the Soviet Union also planned to build a communist social structure in its sector. However, this contradicted the plan of the Western powers.

The Soviet Union was excluded from the London Six Power Conference in February 1948, at which the Western powers held negotiations for the first time on a separate state in western Germany, among other things; she was not invited. As a result, the Soviet Union withdrew from the supreme authority of the Allies in Germany, the Control Council , in March , which meant that there was no longer any joint inter-allied control over Germany. In March 1948, after France gave up its opposition, the three victorious Western powers agreed to form a common trizone out of the three western zones . About three months later - and surprisingly for the general public - the currency reform was carried out in this new unified zone on June 20, 1948 , whereby the D-Mark (West) was introduced and the Reichsmark was devalued. At this point in time, the SPD-dominated Berlin magistrate was still hesitating about the form in which Berlin should participate in the impending currency reform.

The result of the currency reform in Germany was a division of the political and economic unity into two opposing zones with two different currencies. Greater Berlin was divided into two currency areas because the Western Allies in their sectors did not accept the introduction of the DM-East ordered by the SMAD and had for their part introduced the DM-West as a second currency. Among other things, this created initial problems when the residents of Berlin lived and worked in the other area.

The Soviet Union reacted with the Berlin blockade, which lasted from June 24, 1948 to May 12, 1949. During this time Berlin was divided and with it the first Berlin crisis.

Another effect of the Cold War was that Greater Berlin developed into a central area for mutual spying by intelligence services from East and West.


Border control at the Brandenburg Gate ( East Berlin side, August 1961)

Immediately after the end of the Soviet blockade, the Federal Republic of Germany was founded in the Trizone area on May 23, 1949 . On October 7 of the same year, the German Democratic Republic was founded in the Soviet occupation zone . Formally, Berlin had the status of a four- sector city ​​that had been demilitarized with regard to the German military and was independent of the two German states, although this was of little significance in practice. In many ways, West Berlin approached the status of a federal state and was also viewed as such by the West German side, but later in the context of the policy of détente and the Eastern Treaties, meetings of the German Bundestag , the Bundesrat and the Federal Assembly were not held in West Berlin allow. When the GDR was founded, all of Berlin was declared its capital. The term capital of the German Democratic Republic for the eastern part of the city was only introduced in the 1960s. Initially, the eastern part was called the Democratic Sector as propaganda . Citizens have fled to the Federal Republic of Germany since the GDR was founded, and unusual and often life-threatening escape routes were also taken.

In 1952, the GDR began to secure the German-German border with fences, guards and alarm devices and also set up a five-kilometer-wide exclusion zone that could only be entered with a special permit - typically for residents. In the direction of the border there was again a 500-meter-wide protective strip, which was immediately followed by a ten-meter-wide control strip. “Unreliable” residents were forcibly relocated from the border area - for example in the “ Vermin campaign ”.

Potsdam Pirschheide station in 2009 with the designation "Hbf"

Also since 1952, the SED leadership had been considering sealing off the border with the western sectors. On the one hand, there was no approval of the Soviet Union at the time, and on the other hand, a closure for traffic reasons would hardly have been possible: Already in 1956, the SED leadership had the - currently largely dilapidated - Potsdam Pirschheide station expanded into Potsdam-Süd station, which was converted into "Potsdam-Süd" in 1960. Hauptbahnhof ”was renamed. However, the Deutsche Reichsbahn was still dependent on journeys through the western sectors. The bypassing of West Berlin was only possible with the complete completion of the Berlin Outer Ring (BAR) in May 1961, a railway ring , which at the same time provides a connection to the radial lines crossing it to the stations Birkenwerder , Hennigsdorf , Albrechtshof , Staaken , Potsdam Stadt , Teltow , Mahlow and ultimately secured the connection to the Görlitzer Bahn . The only transport project that at that time actually enabled independent transport without using the western sector was the Havel Canal , which was built with considerable performance from 1950 to 1952 .

Nonetheless, the People's Police carried out intensive identity checks on many roads, railways and other means of transport leading into the western sectors, in order, among other things, to Detect escape suspects and smugglers . However, the 45.1 kilometer sector border as the city boundary between West and East Berlin and the border to the surrounding area of ​​around 120 kilometers could hardly be completely controlled, so they seemed like a loophole through the border, which initially remained open.

Between 1945 and the construction of the Berlin Wall, a total of around 3.5 million people fled, including around 2.6 million people from the Soviet occupation zone and the later GDR and East Berlin between 1949 and 1961 . In addition, for many people from Poland and Czechoslovakia, Berlin was a gateway to fleeing to the West. Since the refugees were often well-educated young people, this emigration threatened the economic strength of the GDR and ultimately the existence of the state.


The Soviet Union pursued the goal of transforming West Berlin into a free city , of achieving recognition of the GDR by the Federal Republic and a peace treaty . In the event of a rejection, it threatened the Western powers with transferring control of all routes between the federal territory and the western sectors of Berlin to the GDR. The federal government rejected the demands that were part of the Khrushchev ultimatum on January 5, 1959. The United States also refused to give up its position in Berlin. This led to the failure of these long-term attempts by the Soviet Union.

During these three years (1959–1961) the situation came to a head again, and the GDR found itself in a new, but deeper crisis than in 1952/1953 in almost all areas. During the first crisis in the GDR from 1952 to 1953, the USSR stepped in and waived part of the payments, for example when the Soviet joint-stock companies were handed over to the GDR, and made additional deliveries of grain, ore and coke. After the popular uprising, there was another waiver of payments and goods were delivered again. However, in the current crisis, caused among other things by errors in the collectivization of agriculture, the Soviet Union did not support the GDR through additional deliveries or payments. The information on the crisis is documented, among other things, in reports from the Stasi to the party and state leadership.

Another problem was the “East and West border commuters” in the Berlin area . At the time of the introduction of the East Mark in Berlin and the Soviet Zone on June 23, 1948 and the German Mark (DM-West) in the western sectors of Berlin on June 24, around 122,000 West Berliners were employed in East Berlin or in the Berlin area and were paid there with Ost-Marks (east border commuters), while 76,000 East Berliners worked in the western sectors of Berlin, where they were paid with DM-East and gradually increased rates in DM-West (west border commuters). In order to maintain the free choice of occupation on the Berlin labor market, the Western powers created a wage equalization fund in March 1949, when the gradual introduction of the DM-West in their sectors was over. There, the east cross-border commuters were able to exchange 60% of their DM-East wages at a rate of 1: 1 for DM-West, while the west-frontier commuters only received 10% of their income in DM-West and 90% in DM-East. Because after the split in Berlin, the east border commuters were not involved in the political and socio-political program of the SED, the building of socialism , it reduced their number through mass layoffs and the blocking of the border between Berlin and the GDR for West Berliners from 1952 on 13,000. Almost half of those crossing the border to East Germany in 1961 were employees of the Deutsche Reichsbahn, the rest of the performing artists, musicians, highly qualified scientists and technicians or they belonged to the staff of the two Christian churches. By reducing the number of cross-border commuters from the East, the SED made it possible for the wage equalization fund to raise the West money quota for cross-border commuters from the West to 40% by 1961, but not more than DM 275 West. Despite administrative disadvantages in their place of residence, the number of these in the spring of 1961 was around 50,000. In contrast to their fellow citizens, they were able to take vacation trips to West Germany or other western countries as well as the purchase of high-quality “ West goods”. The SED found the existence of these citizens, who could not be integrated into the construction of socialism, a constant nuisance. In preparation for the construction of the wall, she initiated a smear campaign against the western border crossers as traitors, criminals and parasites. To solve the problem, the Eastern Magistrate proposed to the Senate that a joint commission be formed; however, the governing mayor Willy Brandt declined talks: “There would be no cross-border commuter problem if the other side paid attention to free career choice.” Thereupon, on August 4, 1961, the East Berlin magistrate ordered that West cross-border commuters rent rents and other taxes in future have to pay in DM-West, which in practice would have meant the end of it.

In addition, in the last few years before the building of the Wall, the number of refugees to the West - including well-trained specialists - rose rapidly, which considerably exacerbated the GDR's economic crisis. Half of the refugees were under 25 years of age. The shortage of workers had meanwhile become so severe that the GDR was in danger of being unable to maintain its economy, as there was a shortage of 45,000 workers in the eastern part of Berlin alone. The GDR was threatened with bloodletting, both personally and intellectually. This wave of flight also reached highs in 1961. In July there were already 30,000 and on August 12, 1961, i.e. in a single day, 3,190 people fled.

Construction of the wall

Walter Ulbricht during the press conference on June 15, 1961
Construction of the wall, erection of concrete blocks, 1961
Construction of the wall, August 1961
Armored water cannon G5 SK-2 (Sonderkraftfahrzeug 2) in August 1961 at the Brandenburg Gate

The decision to close the sector border was made at a meeting between Khrushchev and Ulbricht on August 3, 1961 in Moscow, after the Soviet leadership had long protested against such a project since the mid-1950s. The plan to build the wall, or literally, to secure the western border, was decided at the meeting of the political leaders of the Warsaw Treaty states from August 3rd to 5th, 1961. The wall was intended to serve the rulers of the Eastern Bloc to finally stop the colloquially so-called “ voting with the feet ”, away from the “socialist workers and peasants state”, by locking off the borders.

The plan to build the wall was a state secret of the GDR government. It was not until August 10, 1961, three days before the Wall was built, that the Federal Intelligence Service received the first indications that the Wall was being built. The wall was built at the behest of the SED leadership under the protection and supervision of people's police , soldiers of the National People's Army and z. Some members of the combat groups erected by construction workers - contrary to the assurances of the Chairman of the State Council of the GDR, Walter Ulbricht, at an international press conference on June 15, 1961 in the large ballroom of the House of Ministries in East Berlin. The journalist Annamarie Doherr from the Frankfurter Rundschau asked the following question:

“I would like to ask a supplementary question. Doherr, Frankfurter Rundschau : Mr. Chairman, does the formation of a free city mean in your opinion that the state border will be built at the Brandenburg Gate ? And are you determined to take this fact into account with all the consequences? "

Walter Ulbricht replied:

“I understand your question to mean that there are people in West Germany who would like us to mobilize the construction workers of the GDR capital to erect a wall, yes? I do not know that there is such an intention, as the construction workers in the capital are mainly engaged in housing construction and their manpower is used to the full. Nobody has the intention to build a wall. We are in favor of contractual regulation of relations between West Berlin and the government of the German Democratic Republic. This is the easiest and most normal way of resolving these issues.

The state border runs, as is known, z. B. on the Elbe, etc. And the territory of West Berlin belongs to the territory of the German Democratic Republic. In a certain sense, there will of course be state border issues between West Berlin and the German Democratic Republic if West Berlin is neutralized. But there is a difference between the regulations that apply to the state border with West Germany and the regulations that apply to Berlin. "

- Documents on Germany Policy IV / 6 (1961), 925 ff.

Ulbricht was the first to use the term “wall” publicly in this context - two months before it even stood. At that time, however, no decision had been made about the construction of the wall.

The aforementioned aim of a contractual agreement was confirmed by Ulbricht with Khrushchev in an exchange of letters on January 18 and 30, 1961.

In February Moscow and East Berlin assumed a peace treaty that Khrushchev had announced a week and a half before the building of the Wall in June 1961 at his summit in Vienna with Kennedy.

The Warsaw contracting states did not formally adopt the measures of August 13, 1961 in Moscow until August 3 to 5, 1961, agreements and material preparations had already taken place beforehand.

Although the western allies were informed by informants about the planning of "drastic measures" to cordon off West Berlin, they were publicly surprised by the specific time and extent of the cordon. Since their access rights to and within Berlin were not curtailed, there was no reason to intervene militarily. The foreign ministers of the three Western powers and the Federal Republic decided on August 7th in Paris to take preparatory measures in order to be able to counter a critical situation in Berlin.

The Federal Intelligence Service (BND) had already received similar information in mid-July. After Ulbricht's visit to Khrushchev during the high-level meeting of the Warsaw Pact countries in Moscow from August 3rd to 5th, 1961 , the BND weekly report of August 9th said:

"Existing reports show that the Pankow regime is endeavoring to obtain Moscow's consent for the implementation of thoroughly effective blocking measures - which would include, in particular, the sealing off of the Berlin sector border and the interruption of S - and U-Bahn traffic in Berlin. [...] It remains to be seen whether and how far Ulbricht [...] was able to penetrate Moscow [...] with the corresponding demands. "

In the published declaration of the participating states of the Warsaw Pact meeting, it was proposed that "on the West Berlin border, the routing against the countries of the socialist camp should be relocated and that the area of ​​West Berlin should be reliably guarded and effectively controlled." Prime Minister Khrushchev announced in a radio speech that the armed forces would be strengthened on the Soviet western border and that reservists would be called up. On August 11th, the People's Chamber of the GDR approved the results of the Moscow consultation and passed a “resolution on questions of the peace treaty”. In it, the Council of Ministers was charged with vague wording to “prepare and implement all measures that prove to be necessary on the basis of the stipulations of the participating states of the Warsaw Treaty and this resolution”.

On Saturday, August 12th, the BND from East Berlin received the following information:

“On August 11, 1961, a conference of the party secretaries of the party-affiliated publishers and other party functionaries at the Central Committee of the SED (ZK) took place. Here, among other things, explains: [...] The situation of the steadily increasing flow of refugees makes it necessary to seal off the Eastern sector from Berlin and the Soviet Zone in the next few days - an exact day was not specified - and not, as originally planned, in 14 days. "

A police officer and a member of the combat group secure the construction of the wall, August 1961

Ulbricht invited members of the SED Politburo , ministers and state secretaries, the chairmen of the bloc parties and the Lord Mayor of East Berlin to a “get-together” in the guest house of the GDR government on the Great Döllnsee , around 80 km north , at 4 p.m. on August 12 from Berlin, one where they were cut off from the outside world and under control. At first he withheld the purpose of the meeting, only the members of the SED Politburo had been inaugurated on August 7th. At around 10 p.m., Ulbricht invited to a "small meeting". On it he informed his guests: "Due to the decisions of the People's Chamber, reliable security will be carried out at the border tonight."

The resolution, signed by the members of the Council of Ministers without objection, stated: “To prevent the hostile activity of the revanchist and militarist forces in West Germany and West Berlin, such controls will be introduced at the borders of the German Democratic Republic, including the border with the western sectors of Greater Berlin as is customary on the borders of every sovereign state. Reliable guarding and effective controls must be ensured at the West Berlin borders in order to prevent the burrowing activity. ”Ulbricht had already signed the instructions for the border closure before the guests arrived. Honecker had worked out "Operation Rose" and had long been on the way to the East Berlin police headquarters, the operations center for sealing off the border with West Berlin.

On the night of August 12th to 13th, 1961, the NVA and 5,000 members of the German border police (forerunners of the border troops ) with 5,000 members of the protective police and the people's police on standby as well as 4,500 members of the factory combat groups began to seal off the roads and railways to West Berlin . The NVA deployed the 1st motorized rifle division and the 8th motorized rifle division with significant participation of units from Prora as a second "security team" at a depth of around 1000 meters behind the border. Soviet troops were also in increased combat readiness and were present at the Allied border crossings. All remaining traffic connections between the two parts of Berlin were interrupted. However, this only affected the subway and the S-Bahn . The West Berlin S-Bahn and U-Bahn lines on the tunnels under East Berlin were only affected to the extent that the stations were cordoned off and boarding and alighting was no longer possible. From the evening of August 13, the trains ran without stopping through the stations that had become so-called “ ghost stations”. Only the lines touching Friedrichstrasse station stopped here to enable the border crossing point to be reached. Erich Honecker , as the Central Committee secretary for security issues at the time, was politically responsible for the entire planning and implementation of the construction of the wall on behalf of the SED leadership.

August 13, 1961 is known as the “day the wall was built”, but actually only the sector border was cordoned off on that day. To secure the border, walls were erected in some places on this and the following days, fences were erected in others and barbed wire was drawn. On the south side of Bernauer Strasse on the border between the districts of Mitte and Wedding , the sidewalk belonged to West Berlin, while the buildings were on East Berlin territory. In such cases the house entrances were bricked up. The residents only got to their apartments via the backyards. In the days after the sector border was sealed off, there were many attempts to escape. B. the walling up of the windows that opened at the sector border to West Berlin, and the further expansion of the border security systems were made more difficult.

The closure also brought bizarre situations with it, especially in the area of ​​the exclaves , where years later there were also exchanges of territory in some cases. For example, the Lenné triangle at Potsdamer Platz, although belonging to East Berlin, was left out when the Wall was built. Due to the lack of powers of the West Berlin authorities, the terrain developed into a de facto lawless area at times .

The Soviet government announced on August 24th that the air corridors to West Berlin were being used to smuggle in West German "agents, revanchists and militarists". West Berlin does not belong to the Federal Republic; therefore the competence of the Federal Republic's offices could not extend to Berlin.

By September 1961, 85 of the security forces deployed deserted to West Berlin, and there were 216 successful escape attempts by 400 people. The well-known pictures of refugees abseiling on sheets from houses in Bernauer Strasse , an old woman who dropped into a jumping mat for the West Berlin fire brigade, and the young border police officer Conrad Schumann jumping over the barbed wire have not been forgotten .

West German and West Berlin reactions

Aerial photo of the Brandenburg Gate , 1961

On the same day, Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer called on the population to calm down and be prudent on the radio and referred to unspecified reactions that would follow together with the Allies. Only on August 22nd, nine days after the Wall was built, did he visit West Berlin. On a political level, the Governing Mayor Willy Brandt protested vigorously - but ultimately powerless - against the walling in of West Berlin and the seemingly final division of the city. In the same year, the West German federal states founded the central registration office of the state justice administrations in Salzgitter in order to document human rights violations on the territory of the GDR and thus at least symbolically to stop the regime. On August 16, 1961, there was a protest demonstration by Willy Brandt and 300,000 West Berliners in front of Schöneberg Town Hall .

In the official language of the Senate , the wall was soon referred to as the wall of shame .

Allied reactions

US soldiers and GDR People's Police, October 1961
US President Richard Nixon at the Berlin Wall, 1969
US President John F. Kennedy and German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer at
Checkpoint Charlie on June 26, 1963

The reactions of the Western powers to the building of the wall came slowly and gradually: after 20 hours, military patrols appeared at the border. After 40 hours, legal detention was sent to the Soviet commander in Berlin. After 72 hours, diplomatic protests by the Allies were received directly in Moscow - to be fair. There were repeated rumors that the Soviets had assured the Western allies beforehand that their rights to West Berlin would not be affected. In 1970 Egon Bahr received news that none of the Western powers had protested against the building of the Wall in Moscow.

Based on this attitude of the Soviets, the American President Kennedy had already given the Soviet Prime Minister Khrushchev at a meeting in Vienna at the beginning of June 1961 his approval that measures could be taken to prevent the emigration of people from the GDR and East Berlin to West Berlin to prevent. However, the prerequisite was free access to West Berlin. In fact, given the experience of the Berlin blockade, the status of West Berlin was always endangered in the eyes of the Western Allies - the building of the Wall was now a concrete manifestation of the status quo :

"A wall is damn better than a war"

“The East Germans hold up the flow of refugees and hide behind an even thicker iron curtain . There is nothing illegal in that. "

- Harold Macmillan , British Prime Minister

US President John F. Kennedy initially reacted cautiously, but stood by the “free city” of Berlin. He reactivated General Lucius D. Clay , the "father of the Berlin Airlift ", and sent him to West Berlin together with US Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson . On August 19, 1961, the two arrived in town. The American combat troops in the city were reinforced: 1,500 men from the 8th US Infantry Division drove from Mannheim over the transit route through the GDR to West Berlin. When the troops arrived in the city, the people greeted the troops with such great cheers that the US mission wrote to Washington that they were reminded of the enthusiasm for the liberation of France in World War II. Both made it clear to the insecure West Berlin population that the United States would stand by its rights in the city. The Americans vigorously rejected attempts by the People's and Border Police to control Allied officers and employees. Finally, Marshal Ivan Konew , commander-in-chief of the Group of Soviet Armed Forces in Germany (GSSD), had a moderating effect on the GDR functionaries.

A direct confrontation between American and Soviet troops occurred on October 27, 1961 at Checkpoint Charlie on Friedrichstrasse , when - as a result of discrepancies - 30 battle tanks from the American and Soviet armies were shown facing each other on the border strip. The next day, however, both groups of tanks were withdrawn. This “cold skirmish ” was of enormous political importance because it enabled the Americans to prove that the USSR and not the GDR was responsible for the eastern part of Berlin. Neither side wanted to let the Cold War escalate because of Berlin or even risk a nuclear war .

In a television interview on February 28, 1962, US Secretary of State Dean Rusk spoke out in favor of the creation of an international authority to monitor free access to Berlin and against recognition of the GDR, and on April 24, Rusk declared the US government consider free access to Berlin to be incompatible with the powers of the GDR authorities on the access routes. The Federal German Foreign Minister Heinrich von Brentano and the French President Charles de Gaulle, in turn, spoke out in press conferences against an international access control authority for Berlin.

In June 1963, US President John F. Kennedy visited Berlin. In front of the Schöneberg Town Hall , he gave a speech about the Wall, in which he uttered the historical words “ I am a Berliner ”. This symbolic act meant a lot to the West Berliners - especially in view of the American acceptance of the building of the wall. For the Western Allies and the GDR, the construction of the Wall meant political and military stabilization, the status quo of West Berlin was enshrined - the Soviet Union gave up its 1958 Khrushchev ultimatum for a demilitarized, “free” city of West Berlin.

On August 22, 1962, the Soviet headquarters in Berlin was dissolved. On September 28, 1962, the US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara declared in Washington that free access to Berlin should be secured by all means. The Foreign Ministers of the three Western Powers and the Federal Republic of Germany agreed on December 12, 1962 in Paris that no new proposals should be made to the Soviet Union on the Berlin question .

On the occasion of a working visit by Federal Chancellor Ludwig Erhard on June 11, 1964 in Paris , the French President Charles de Gaulle offered the immediate use of French nuclear weapons in the event of a military conflict over Berlin or the Federal Republic .

In a joint declaration on June 26, 1964, on the friendship treaty between the Soviet Union and the GDR of June 12, 1964, the governments of the three Western powers affirmed their joint responsibility for all of Berlin.

GDR propaganda

The East German propaganda presented the wall as well as the entire border security with the Federal Republic as protection against "brain drain, subversion, espionage, sabotage, smuggling, sale and aggression from the West". In order to propagate this view belonged to the organizing of show trials , of which the opposite Gottfried Strympe ended in a judicial murder in 1962 . The barriers were mainly directed against their own citizens. This circumstance could not be discussed in the public of the GDR as well as the fact of the massive flight from the GDR . Initially, leaving the GDR territory without authorization was a criminal offense under Section 8 of the GDR Passport Act since 1954, only when the GDR Criminal Code came into force on July 1, 1968, a prison sentence of two years was threatened for illegally crossing the border , which, however, in the judgment practice has been exceeded by up to five years. An amendment to the law of June 28, 1979 set the maximum sentence at eight years.

On the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the construction of the wall, Ulbricht demanded a DM 30 billion loan from the West German government in 1966 for the GDR to “repair at least part of the damage” it had suffered through “plundering” by the West before the wall was built was created. The Bonn government intended to " begin after the elections (in September 1961) with an open attack on the GDR, the civil war and military provocations". The building of the wall saved the peace of the world.

Divided land

"End of British Sector" in front of the Brandenburg Gate , 1988
Wall section low-kirchner-road between Kreuzberg and Mitte , 1988
10 years of the Berlin Wall. Postage stamp of the GDR from 1971

The construction of the wall soon turned Berlin from the easiest place for an unauthorized passage from East to West Germany to the most difficult. As early as June 1, 1952, West Berliners were no longer allowed to enter the GDR freely, after the construction of the Wall they could no longer visit East Berlin from August 26, 1961. After long negotiations, the pass agreement was reached in 1963, which made it possible for several hundred thousand West Berliners to see their relatives in the eastern part of the city again at the end of the year. In 1964, 1965 and 1966 there was again the limited issue of passes . A fifth permit agreement did not follow. From 1966, the GDR only issued permits to West Berliners to visit relatives in the eastern sector in "cases of hardship".

From April 13, 1968, the GDR forbade ministers and officials from the Federal Republic of Germany to transit through its territory to West Berlin . On April 19, 1968, the three Western powers protested against this order. On June 12, 1968, the GDR introduced passport and visa requirements for transit traffic between West Berlin and the Federal Republic of Germany. As a reaction to the visa fees introduced by the GDR in Berlin traffic, the NATO Council decided to impose a fee for GDR officials in NATO countries for travel permits . On February 8, 1969, the GDR government issued a travel ban for members of the Federal Assembly convened in West Berlin , as well as for members of the Bundeswehr and members of the Defense Committee of the German Bundestag, with effect from February 15 . The Soviet government protested against the election of the Federal President in West Berlin. On March 5, 1969 , Gustav Heinemann was elected Federal President.

Berlin Wall, Bouchéstrasse , view from the east to West Berlin from a GDR officer's apartment, around 1984

On December 15, 1969, the three Western powers proposed four-power talks to the Soviet Union to improve the situation in Berlin and on the access routes to Berlin. In 1971, the Four Power Agreement on Berlin ensured that West Berlin was accessible and ended the economic threat by closing the access routes. Furthermore, all four powers reaffirmed their joint responsibility for the whole of Berlin and made it clear that West Berlin was not part of the Federal Republic and should not be governed by it. While the Soviet Union only applied the four-power status to West Berlin, the Western Allies underlined their view of the four-power status of the whole of Berlin in a note to the United Nations in 1975 .

From the beginning of the 1970s, with the policy of rapprochement between the GDR and the Federal Republic of Germany (→  New Ostpolitik ) initiated by Willy Brandt and Erich Honecker, the border between the two states became somewhat more permeable. The GDR now made travel easier, primarily for “unproductive” sections of the population such as pensioners, and simplified visits to the GDR for German citizens from regions close to the border. A more comprehensive freedom of travel made the GDR dependent on the recognition of its status as a sovereign state and demanded the extradition of GDR travelers who were not willing to return. Due to the Basic Law, the Federal Republic did not meet these requirements.

Between August 13, 1961 and November 9, 1989 there were 5075 successful escapes to West Berlin, of which 574 deserted .

Fall of the wall

Ronald Reagan at his famous Berlin speech with an appeal to open the Brandenburg Gate on June 12, 1987

The Berlin Wall was opened on the night from Thursday November 9th to Friday November 10th 1989 after more than 28 years of existence. Preparations for an opening controlled by the GDR government began as early as October 1989: Walter Momper , then Governing Mayor of West Berlin , said he had known since October 29 from a conversation with East Berlin's SED leader Günter Schabowski and East Berlin's Lord Mayor Erhard Krack and made the appropriate preparations for the opening of the wall in December 1989.

Mass rallies during the fall of the Wall and the demand for freedom of travel led to the opening of the wall . Another important motive was the continued flight of large sections of the GDR to the Federal Republic of Germany via foreign countries, partly via embassies in various capitals of the Eastern Bloc countries at the time (including Prague and Warsaw ), alternatively via those in Hungary at the Pan-European Picnic on August 19 1989 and comprehensively open border to Austria since September 11, 1989 and directly via Czechoslovakia since the beginning of November .

After the draft of a new travel law published on November 6, 1989, met with sharp criticism and the Czechoslovak leadership protested increasingly sharply through diplomatic channels against the departure of GDR citizens via their country, the Politburo of the Central Committee of the SED decided on November 7, a regulation for permanent departure is preferable.

On the morning of November 9th, Colonel Gerhard Lauter , Head of Department for Passport and Registration in the Ministry of the Interior, was given the task of drafting a new travel law. The corresponding draft, which also contained a passage on visiting trips, was confirmed by the Politburo on November 9th and forwarded to the Council of Ministers . In the further course of business, a draft resolution was submitted to the Council of Ministers, which was approved by circulation on the same day by 6 p.m. , but was only to be published on November 10 at 4 a.m. as a transitional arrangement via the state news agency ADN .

Fighting parade on the 25th anniversary of the anti-fascist protective wall on August 13, 1986 in Karl-Marx-Allee

However, the Ministry of Justice of the GDR lodged an objection on November 9th. In parallel to the circulation procedure, the Ministerial Council draft was dealt with in the Central Committee on the afternoon of November 9th and was slightly modified. Egon Krenz handed over the handwritten appropriately modified ministerial draft to the SED Politburo member Günter Schabowski before he went to the scheduled press conference on the results of the Central Committee meeting without explicitly informing him about the deadline until 4 a.m. Schabowski was not present at the previous deliberations in the Politburo and the Central Committee.

This press conference with Schabowski in the press office / international press center in East Berlin's Mohrenstrasse 38 (now part of the Federal Ministry of Justice ), which was broadcast live on television and on the radio and could therefore be followed by many citizens at the same time, triggered the opening of the Wall . At the end of the press conference at 6:53 p.m., the correspondent of the Italian agency ANSA , Riccardo Ehrman , asked a question about the travel law. In April 2009, Ehrman stated that he had received a previous phone call asking a member of the Central Committee to ask a question about travel law. Ehrman later relativized this statement and stated that although Günter Pötschke , the then head of the GDR news agency ADN , called him, he ultimately only asked him whether he would attend the press conference. Ehrman's question was in somewhat broken German according to the minutes of the press conference:

“You spoke of a mistake. Don't you think that it was a big mistake to introduce this draft travel law that you presented a few days ago? "

Schabowski answered this question in a very cumbersome and extravagant manner. Finally it occurred to him that he should present the new travel rules at the press conference and said:

"And that's why we decided to come up with a regulation today that makes it possible for every citizen of the GDR to leave the GDR via border crossing points."

When asked by a journalist, “When does this come into effect? From now on? "Replied Schabowski at 6:57 pm by reading out the paper that Krenz had given him:

"Private trips abroad can be applied for without the existence of any prerequisites [reasons for travel and family relationships]. The permits are granted at short notice. The responsible passport and registration departments of the VPKÄ - the Volkspolizeikreisämter - in the GDR are instructed to issue visas for permanent departure immediately, without the requirements for permanent departure having to be met. Permanent departures can take place via all border crossing points from the GDR to the FRG [...] "

In response to another question from the Hamburger Bild newspaper reporter Peter Brinkmann : “When does this take effect?” Schabowski replied verbatim:

"As far as I know, it happens immediately, immediately."

After two interim questions from a journalist “Does that also apply to West Berlin?” Schabowski finally found the corresponding passage in the submission:

"The permanent exit can take place via all border crossing points from the GDR to the FRG or to Berlin-West."

Press conference with Günter Schabowski on November 9, 1989
dpa - Breaking news, November 9, 1989, 7:04 p.m.
GDR citizens are welcomed on the Bösebrücke , November 10, 1989
November 10, 1989: From the night of November 9th to the morning of November 11th, a celebrating crowd occupied the wall at the Brandenburg Gate
December 22, 1989: Border guards dismantle segments of the wall at the Brandenburg Gate to create a border crossing

West German and West Berlin radio and television broadcasters immediately announced that the wall was “open” (which was not yet implemented in practice at the time). Several thousand East Berliners moved to the border crossings and demanded that they be opened immediately. At this point, neither were border troops still responsible for the actual handling passport control units (PCUs) of the Ministry of State Security or the Soviet army in Berlin informed about what a certain risk of - meant intervention - possibly armed.

At 9:15 p.m., GDR citizens Annemarie Reffert and her 16-year-old daughter were the first to pass the Helmstedt-Marienborn border crossing with their car and ID cards . Since the border guards were not informed, they were passed on from one control point to the next with repeated references to Schabowski's announcement and were able to pass. The Deutschlandfunk reported on this immediately afterwards in a short message.

In order to alleviate the great pressure of the crowds, the first East Germans were allowed to travel to West Berlin at the Bornholmer Strasse border crossing at 9:20 p.m. The emigrants were checked and initially the identity cards were stamped as invalid, the owners were supposed to be expatriated.

At 9:30 p.m. the radio station RIAS also broadcast the first reports from open border crossings.

Hanns Joachim Friedrichs , who moderated the day's topics that day , opened the program at 10:42 p.m. as follows:

“Caution is advised when dealing with superlatives; they wear out easily. But tonight you can take a risk: this ninth November is a historic day. The GDR has announced that its borders are now open to everyone. The gates in the wall are wide open. "

Little by little, dense crowds gathered at all crossings, sometimes the situation became tense or looked threatening. At the Bornholmer Strasse border crossing , the head on duty feared that those wishing to leave the country could also get the weapons belonging to his employees who were carrying them. Therefore, at around 11:30 p.m. , Lieutenant Colonel Harald Jäger ordered the border crossing point to be opened and passport controls to be suspended. Under the pressure of the masses and in view of the lack of support from his superiors, Jäger saw only this way out. Jäger said in the ARD documentary Schabowski's note from November 2, 2009:

“All of this taken together was then the motive for acting, so I said, that's enough for me. Now you decide on your own [...] I have instructed everyone to leave the country [...] let everyone leave the country [...] "

An estimated 20,000 people came to West Berlin via this border crossing between 11:30 p.m. and 12:15 a.m.

Unlike most historians, a documentary broadcast on ZDF in 2009 claims that the Waltersdorfer Chaussee border crossing was the first open border crossing. The commandant, Lieutenant Colonel Heinz Schäfer, drove to “his” border crossing immediately after Schabowski's press conference, had the security systems switched off and ordered his border guards to actually let those wishing to leave the country through. He also immediately took all live ammunition from his soldiers. At around 8:30 p.m. he opened the checkpoint between Rudow and Schönefeld. GDR citizens report that they rode their bicycles to the nearby border crossing on Waltersdorfer Chaussee on November 9, around 8:30 p.m. With an exit stamp in their passport, both were allowed to travel to West Berlin; Strangely enough, they had to leave their bikes at the border. On the west side, several eyewitnesses also want to have observed the increasing border traffic to West Berlin from 8:30 p.m. In the opposite direction, when returning from an approved day's stay in West Berlin, a GDR citizen says that he was waved through by the unarmed border guards. When asked for a counting card for the next departure, he was told that he would no longer need one. Other historians question this representation, pointing to deficiencies in the scientific approach and the representation of contradicting Stasi documents .

All border crossings in the Berlin city area were open until midnight. The border crossings on the West Berlin external border and on the inner German border were also opened that night. Already in the late evening, many watched the opening of the border crossings on television and some of them went on their way. The big rush started on the morning of November 10, 1989, as the border opening at midnight was often "overslept".

The GDR citizens were enthusiastically received by the population of West Berlin. Most pubs near the wall gave spontaneously free beer and on the Kurfürstendamm there was a great nation casserole with hupendem motorcade and strangers that were in the arms. In the euphoria of that night, the wall was also climbed by many West Berliners. That night, the Governing Mayor Walter Momper ordered the creation of additional accommodation options for emigrants and the payment of the welcome money of 100 DM by the Sparkasse West Berlin as an immediate measure . Some time after the news of Schabowski's press conference became known, the Bundestag in Bonn interrupted its ongoing session in the evening. After a break, Chancellery Minister Rudolf Seiters issued a statement by the federal government, representatives of all parliamentary groups welcomed the events in their contributions. Afterwards, the MPs present rose spontaneously from their seats and sang the national anthem .

According to the West Berlin State Secretary Jörg Rommerskirchen and the photo journalist Peter Brinkmann , they were already aware of the fall of the Wall by the morning of November 9th. Rommerskirchen had received confidential information from Brinkmann that the wall would open that day. As a result, preparations were made in a hurry in West Berlin.

Development after the fall of the wall

Through traffic through the Brandenburg Gate in the 1990s
Berlin Wall on November 12, 1989 (seen from West Berlin)
Watchtower type BT-11 in the former death strip (slightly offset from the original location at that time)

After November 9, 1989, the wall was initially guarded and uncontrolled border crossings through the wall strip were mostly prevented. In the first few weeks, the border troops tried to repair the holes made by the wall woodpeckers , while in the hinterland restrictions for local residents no longer came into force.

By November 14, the GDR opened ten new border crossings ; including some in particularly symbolic places such as Potsdamer Platz , Glienicke Bridge and Bernauer Strasse . At these crossings, crowds of people gathered, waiting for the opening and cheering every concrete element that was lifted out . On December 22nd, the section of the wall at the Brandenburg Gate was removed in the presence of Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Prime Minister Hans Modrow .

German citizens and West Berliners were allowed to enter the GDR without a visa for the first time on December 24, 1989 from midnight; Up to this point in time, the regulations regarding visa requirements and minimum exchange rates still applied. In the weeks between November 9th and December 23rd, GDR citizens therefore had "greater freedom of travel" than West Germans in a certain way.

The guarding of the wall became more and more relaxed over time; the uncontrolled crossing of the border through the ever-growing holes was increasingly tolerated. At the same time, the practice at the crossings changed to only random checks of the traffic flow. The process intensified especially after the election to the People's Chamber on March 18, 1990. By June 30, 1990, further new border crossings to West Berlin were opened.

Wall at the Dreilinden border crossing on October 3, 1990

On July 1, 1990, the day the monetary union came into force , the guarding of the wall and all border controls were suspended. The official demolition began on June 13, 1990 in Bernauer Strasse. Unofficially, the demolition of the wall on Bornholmer Strasse began due to construction work on the railway. A total of 300 GDR border soldiers and - after October 3, 1990 - 600 pioneers of the Bundeswehr were involved . These were equipped with 175 trucks, 65 cranes, 55 excavators and 13 bulldozers. The demolition of the inner city wall officially ended on November 30, 1990. According to estimates by the border troop leadership, a total of around 1.7 million tons of building rubble had accumulated by then. In Berlin alone, 184 km of walls, 154 km of border fences, 144 km of signal systems and 87 km of barriers were removed. What remained were six sections that were to be preserved as a memorial . The rest of the Wall, especially on the Berlin-Brandenburg border, disappeared by November 1991. Painted wall segments with artistically valuable motifs were auctioned off in 1990 in Berlin and Monte Carlo.

Some of the wall segments can now be found in different places around the world. The US secret service CIA secured some artistically decorated wall segments for its new building in Langley (Virginia) . In August 1994, some segments of the wall with a painted Saint Michael's Church were erected in the Vatican Gardens . Another section of the wall can be viewed in the House of History in Bonn . One segment is on the Königinstraße at the Englischer Garten in Munich , one on the staff building of the Panzer Brigade 21Lipperland ” in Augustdorf , another in a new building area in Weiden in the Upper Palatinate , at the Max-Mannheimer-Gymnasium Grafing and in a front garden in Essen-Rüttenscheid . The Peace Museum in the French town of Caen in Normandy and the Imperial War Museum in London are also exhibiting.

There are also three sections of the Berlin Wall at the Deutsches Eck in Koblenz .

The wall segment opposite the European Information Center in Schengen, in the immediate vicinity of the border triangle Luxembourg, Germany and France, reminds us that freedom of movement should be the norm within Europe . All locations in the three states that can be seen from this segment can be visited spontaneously due to the Schengen Agreement, unhindered by border controls.

Historical significance of the fall of the wall

The fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989 marked the end of an era by being the most visible phenomenon in the fall of the entire “ Iron Curtain ” and the communist system in Eastern Europe , which made the reunification of Germany and the overcoming of the division of Europe possible.

Structure of the Berlin border fortifications

Systems of the Berlin Wall in the spring of 1989 according to information from the MfS
Length (km) investment
156.40 Border fortifications around West Berlin between 3.40 and 4.20 m high
111.90 Concrete and stone walls
44.50 Metal mesh fence
112.70 Border fortification in the Potsdam district
43.70 Border fortifications within East and West Berlin (sector border)
0.50 Remnants of house fronts, property walls
58.95 Border wall in panel construction with a height of 3.40 m
68.42 Expanded metal fence with a height of 2.90 m as the "front blocking element"
16100 Light path
113.85 Border signal and barrier fence (GSSZ)
127.50 Contact and signal fence
124.30 Convoy path
number investment
1860 Observation towers (302 around West Berlin)
310 Leadership positions
2590 Dog running systems
20th0 bunker

The Berlin Wall was supplemented by extensive fortifications of the border with the Federal Republic and - to a lesser extent - other western borders of the Warsaw Pact states, whereby the so-called Iron Curtain took on material form.

Like the rest of the inner-German border , the Berlin Wall was provided with extensive systems of barbed wire obstacles, trenches, tank obstacles, control routes and post towers over long stretches. Around 1,000 service dogs alone were used in dog runs until the early 1980s. This system has been continuously expanded over decades. This included that houses standing close to the wall, the residents of which had been forcibly relocated, were blown up. On January 28, 1985, the Church of Reconciliation on Bernauer Strasse was blown up. As a result, a wide lane, lit as bright as day at night, drew itself through the once densely built-up city.

Of the 167.8 km long border around West Berlin, 45.1 km were directly in East Berlin and 112.7 km in the East German district of Potsdam . This partly includes the openings of the border crossings. 63.8 km of the border line were in built-up areas, 32 km in wooded areas and 22.65 km in open areas, 37.95 km of the border lay in or on rivers, lakes and canals. The absolute length of the frontier border systems in the direction of West Berlin was 267.3 km and that of the rear border systems in the direction of the GDR was 297.64 km.

For the East German border guards, Article 27 of the Border Act of 1982 applied, according to which the use of firearms to prevent a border breach was the ultimate measure of violence against people. This is usually referred to as a shooting order . The use of firearms was expressly forbidden before major public holidays or state visits in order to avoid negative Western press. From West Berlin the border was watched by the West Berlin police and allied military patrols. Suspicious activities were documented; also to prevent spies and agents from being smuggled into West Berlin. Later it turned out that there were hidden wall passages that were used by the MfS.

Construction of the border fortifications

Schematic structure of the Berlin Wall in the 1980s
Border installations between Berlin-Lichtenrade (left) and Mahlow (right), January 1990
Liesenstrasse border section with tunnel below the S-Bahn line crossing the sector boundary , 1980
Lohmühlenstraße with the interior wall
Warning sign border area
Flower bowl barrier to secure passage on the corner of Dolomitenstraße and Esplanade

The border fortifications were built in several stages. On August 13, 1961, barbed wire and guarding prevented easy transfers to or from the western sectors of Greater Berlin. From August 15th, the first wall was built with concrete elements and hollow blocks . In June 1962 the so-called “Hinterland Wall” was added. In 1965, concrete slabs embedded between steel or concrete posts replaced the previous components. A concrete pipe was put on top of it. Finally, in 1975, the "third generation" of the "Grenzmauer 75" was used, which gradually replaced the previous border structure completely. The more modern reinforced concrete elements of the type "retaining wall element UL 12.41" with a height of 3.60 meters were manufactured in the VEB Baustoffkombinat Neubrandenburg based in Malchin . They were easy to assemble and more resistant to environmental influences and breaches of boundaries.

In their final stage of development - in some places not until the late 1980s - the border installations, which were located entirely on the territory of the GDR or East Berlin - starting from the direction of the GDR or East Berlin - consisted of:

  • Hinterland wall made of concrete or expanded metal fence , about two to three meters high; In many places, especially in the inner city area, house walls (often fire walls ), which were whitewashed to the appropriate height, took on the function of the interior wall ,
  • Signal systems on the ground that set off an alarm when touched,
  • Contact fence made of over-the-top expanded metal, covered with barbed and signal wire,
  • dog runs in places (sharp shepherd dogs , hung on guide wire, running freely),
  • Motor vehicle barriers and anti-tank barriers ( Czech hedgehogs made of cross-welded railroad tracks), which were then dismantled in return for federal German loans worth billions,
  • Postenstrasse / Kolonnenweg, to relieve border guards and to be able to bring in reinforcements,
  • Light route to illuminate the control strip (in some places "east" of the patrol path),
  • Post towers (in 1989 a total of 302 pieces) with searchlights, visual contact of the posts during the day, additional border guards pulled up at night,
  • Control strips (KS), always freshly harrowed , to identify traces, which the border guards were not allowed to enter without a reason,
  • (partially extra) full-length expanded metal fence, only viewable at an angle,
  • Precast concrete wall or wall to West Berlin, 3.75 meters high (some with a concrete roll that should not provide support when climbing over). The material used was agricultural prefabricated parts as they were previously used as storage walls for stable manure,
  • before that, a few meters of GDR territory.

The total width of these border installations was dependent on the number of houses in the border area and ranged from about 30 meters to about 500 meters (at Potsdamer Platz). Minefields and self-firing systems were not set up on the Berlin Wall (but this was not generally known in the GDR), but on the inner-German border with the Federal Republic.

The structure of the border, which the border troops referred to internally as an action strip , was treated as a military secret and was therefore not exactly known to most GDR citizens. The border guards were sworn to secrecy. Any civilian who showed conspicuous interest in border installations ran at least the risk of being provisionally arrested and taken to the nearest police station or border command for identity verification. A conviction to a prison term for planning an escape attempt could follow.

The "border area" on the GDR and East Berlin side began in front of the interior wall and was then a restricted area. This could only be entered with a special permit. This meant a severe reduction in the quality of life for local residents. Structural measures (walls, fences, grids, barbed wire, road barriers, climbing protection), visual aids (lights, white contrasting surfaces) and warning notices should prevent unauthorized (or unnoticed) entering or driving in this area as "apron protection". Viewing options for unauthorized persons were built in with screens.

In the East Berlin city area near the border near the Brandenburg Gate, a covert so-called "deep protection" was regularly carried out by civil forces of the Ministry for State Security in order to clear up potential border breaches and special situations (demonstrations or other undesirable gatherings of people) as early as possible and beyond the visibility of the western part to prevent. A building north of the Brandenburg Gate was used by Main Department 1 of the MfS , the department responsible for monitoring the border troops of the GDR . It was later torn down to make room for the Jakob-Kaiser-Haus .

Personnel structure and equipment of the Central Border Command

In the GDR, the border command center of the GDR's border troops was responsible for protecting the border with West Berlin , which, according to the Stasi in spring 1989, comprised 11,500 soldiers and 500 civilian employees. In addition to the headquarters in Berlin-Karlshorst, it consisted of seven border regiments stationed in Treptow , Pankow , Rummelsburg , Hennigsdorf , Groß-Glienicke , Babelsberg and Kleinmachnow , as well as the border training regiments GAR-39 in Wilhelmshagen and GAR-40 in Oranienburg .

Border security in Staaken , 1986

Each border regiment had five directly managed border companies, as well as a pioneer, intelligence, transport company, grenade launcher and artillery battery, a reconnaissance and a flamethrower train as well as a service dog unit and possibly a boat company and security trains or companies for the border crossing points.

The border command center had 567 armored personnel carriers , 48 mortars , 48 anti-tank guns and 114 flamethrowers and 156 armored vehicles and heavy pioneering technology and 2,295 motor vehicles. There were also 992 dogs in the herd.

On a normal day, around 2,300 soldiers were deployed directly at the border and in the area near the border. In the case of so-called "increased border security", which was in effect for about 80 days in 1988 due to political high points or bad weather conditions, there were around 2,500 border guards whose number could be increased further in special situations.

Water boundaries

The outer city limits of West Berlin ran through navigable waters in several places. The course of the border was marked there by a chain of round, white buoys erected by the West Berlin Senate with the inscription “Sector boundary” (which is not entirely applicable to the city limits). West Berlin passenger ships and pleasure craft had to be careful to stay on the West Berlin side of the buoy chain. On the GDR side of the border, these waters were patrolled by boats of the GDR border troops .

The border fortifications of the GDR were each on the GDR-side bank, which sometimes forced major detours and "walled up" the banks of several Havel lakes . The biggest detour was at Jungfernsee , where the wall stood up to two kilometers from the actual border. In several places the border strip ran through former water properties and made them unusable for the residents; so on the west bank of the Groß Glienicker See and on the south bank of the Griebnitzsee .

In the case of the waters on the inner-city border, this ran directly on the western or eastern bank, so that there was no marking of the boundary in the water. The actual wall also stood here on the East Berlin bank. Nevertheless, the waters belonging to East Berlin were also monitored. As a result, the situation on side canals and rivers became partly confusing. Some swimmers and boats from West Berlin accidentally or recklessly got into East Berlin territory and were shot at. There have been several deaths over the decades.

In some places in the Spree there were underwater barriers against swimmers. For refugees, it was not clear when they had reached West Berlin, so that there was still a risk of being seized after they had overcome the actual wall.

Border crossings

Sign at the sector border, to be seen in the direction of East Berlin
Sign towards West Berlin

There were 25 border crossing points (GÜSt), 13 road, four rail and eight waterway border crossing points along the entire Berlin Wall. This was around 60 percent of all border crossings between the GDR and the Federal Republic or West Berlin. There were only two border crossings in Berlin for road transit traffic , as Dreilinden , Staaken until 1987 and Heiligensee afterwards could be used.

The border crossing points were very well developed on the GDR side. Occasionally, the GDR border organs and the GDR customs checked very closely when entering and leaving the country. The passport control units (PKE) of Main Department VI of the MfS , who performed their duties in uniforms of the border troops of the GDR, were responsible for securing and monitoring travel traffic, including searches and arrests at the border crossing points . They worked together with the units of the border troops responsible for external security and the prevention of border breaches and employees of the customs administration who carried out property and personal controls.

On the West Berlin side, the police and customs had posts. As a rule, there were no controls on passenger traffic there. The travelers were only recorded statistically at the transit crossings (questioning about the destination), and occasionally checked ( ring manhunt ) when there was a corresponding cause for criminal prosecution . As with international traffic, all freight traffic was subject to customs clearance. In the case of road haulage, when goods were delivered from West Germany to East Berlin, it was not possible to drive from East to West Berlin via border crossing points, but you had to go all the way around and use one of the two West Berlin transit crossings . That was Dreilinden ( A 115 ) and until 1987 Staaken ( B 5 ), then Heiligensee via the A 111 . As a result, it was a so-called “departure from the GDR”; During the inspection, the West German was searched very thoroughly like a foreign truck . In the case of passenger traffic with the Federal Republic of Germany, only statistical surveys were made. In the case of goods traffic , the truck had to be sealed and statistically recorded by customs using the accompanying document . At the Staaken crossing, the only way to use the B 5 was to drive through the GDR with vehicles that were not permitted for traffic on the autobahn (e.g. bicycles, mopeds, tractors, etc.). However, the 220 kilometer long route to Lauenburg had to be mastered without interruption (overnight stay, longer breaks) in daylight . With the opening of the A 24 motorway in 1982, bicycle transit was no longer permitted.

The Allied occupying powers had set up checkpoints at Checkpoint Bravo ( Dreilinden ) and Checkpoint Charlie (in Friedrichstrasse ) , although the latter was only usable for diplomats and foreign nationals, not for German citizens and West Berliners.

With the monetary union on July 1, 1990, all border crossings were given up. Some remains of the facilities have been preserved as memorials.


The construction and constant expansion as well as the decades of maintenance of the heavily guarded Berlin Wall was a great economic burden for the GDR. Of the total costs of 1.822 billion Marks incurred by the GDR between 1961 and 1964 for the construction and operation of the border fortifications , 400 million Marks (22%) went to the Berlin Wall.

Wall victims and wall shooters

Wall victims

Shot on the run ( Jimmy Fell )
Wall victims, Ebertstrasse in Berlin-Tiergarten

There are contradicting data about the number of people who died at the Wall . It has not been clearly established to this day because the deaths at the border were systematically concealed by those responsible for the GDR government. In 2000, the Berlin public prosecutor's office stated the number of verifiably killed victims of violence on the Berlin Wall as 86. How difficult it is to make precise statements in this area is also made clear by the fact that the August 13th Working Group has corrected its number of deaths from the Wall since 2000 from 238 to 138.

Between October 2005 and December 2007, a research project supported by the Berlin Wall Association and the Center for Contemporary Historical Research in Potsdam was carried out with the aim of determining the exact number of Wall victims and documenting the stories of the victims in an accessible manner for the public. The Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media sponsored the project. In the balance sheet published on August 7, 2008, it was shown that of the 374 cases examined, 136 meet the criteria of “victims of the Wall”. The victims were mainly GDR citizens who were willing to flee (98 of the 136 cases), under 30 years of age (112 cases), male (128 cases) and died in the first eight years of the Wall (90 cases). In addition, 48 cases were identified in which people died in the vicinity of controls at border crossings in Berlin - mostly of a heart attack. Among the 159 cases excluded are 19 cases that are listed as victims of the Wall in other publications.

After the publication of the interim report, a controversy arose over the number of victims and the methods of researching what happened at the wall. The August 13th Working Group , which at that time again assumed 262 victims of the Berlin Wall, accused the research project of deliberately "counting down" the number of victims for political reasons. The working group, in whose research no historians are involved, was accused of listing many cases that were unresolved, were not demonstrably related to the border regime or had in the meantime even been refuted.

The first fatality was Ida Siekmann , who died in an accident on August 22, 1961 jumping out of a window in Bernauer Strasse. The first fatal shots were fired on August 24, 1961 at the 24-year-old Günter Litfin , who was shot by transport police at the Humboldthafen while trying to escape. Peter Fechter bled to death on August 17, 1962 in the death strip on Zimmerstrasse. In 1966, two children, aged 10 and 13, were killed in the border strip by a total of 40 shots. The last victim of fatal shots at the wall was Chris Gueffroy on February 6, 1989. The last fatal incident at the border occurred on March 8, 1989, when Winfried Freudenberg fell to his death while attempting to escape with a defective balloon.

Some border guards also died in violent incidents on the wall. The most famous case is the killing of the soldier Reinhold Huhn , who was shot by an escape helper. These incidents were used for propaganda purposes by the GDR and used as a subsequent reason for the construction of the wall.

It is estimated that around 75,000 people had to answer before GDR courts for “ illegally crossing the border ”. According to Section 213 of the GDR Criminal Code, this was punished with imprisonment of up to eight years. Anyone who was armed, damaged border installations or was caught trying to escape as a member of the army or holding secrets rarely got away with less than five years in prison. Anyone who helped to escape could be punished with life imprisonment.

Wall rifle trials

The legal processing of the shooting order in so-called "wall rifle trials" lasted until autumn 2004. The accused included the chairman of the State Council Honecker, his successor Egon Krenz , the members of the National Defense Council Erich Mielke , Willi Stoph , Heinz Keßler , Fritz Streletz and Hans Albrecht , the SED district chief of Suhl , as well as some generals such as the chief of the border troops (1979–1990) Colonel General Klaus-Dieter Baumgarten .

In total, there were 112 proceedings in Berlin against 246 people who had to answer in court as shooters or those involved in the crime. About half of the defendants were acquitted . 132 defendants were sentenced to imprisonment or suspended sentences for their acts or involvement in acts. These included 10 members of the SED leadership, 42 military leaders and 80 former border soldiers. There were also 19 trials with 31 defendants in Neuruppin , which ended with suspended sentences for 19 shooters. For the murder of Walter Kittel , the shooter was given the longest prison sentence of ten years. In general, the gunmen received suspended sentences of between 6 and 24 months, while those in command received higher sentences with increasing responsibility.

In August 2004, Hans-Joachim Boehme and Siegfried Lorenz from Berlin district court as a former Politburo members sentenced to suspended sentences. The last trial against GDR border guards ended on November 9, 2004 - exactly 15 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall - with a guilty verdict.


In memory of the victims of the Berlin Wall, very differently designed memorials were erected. Smaller crosses or other symbols of remembrance serve to remember those refugees who were shot. They are located at various points on the former border and mostly go back to private initiatives. A well-known memorial site are the White Crosses on the banks of the Spree next to the Reichstag building .

There were repeated public disputes about the manner of commemoration; so also at the end of the 1990s with regard to the memorial on Bernauer Strasse. The public debate reached a climax during the dispute over the Freedom Memorial, which was erected near Checkpoint Charlie and was later cleared . The Berlin Senate countered the accusation of not having a memorial concept by convening a commission that presented the main features of a memorial concept in spring 2005. On June 20, 2006, the Senate presented an integrated “Overall Concept for the Remembrance of the Berlin Wall” developed from this, which, among other things, provides for an expansion of the memorial on Bernauer Strasse.

In the Invalidenpark , between the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development and Scharnhorststrasse , a long wall was designed in the mid-1990s that sinks into a water basin, which the garden architect Christoph Girot calls the Sunken Wall , which is partly due to the Gnadenkirche that used to exist here , on the other hand to remind of the Berlin Wall.

Wall museum in the house at Checkpoint Charlie

The Wall Museum at Checkpoint Charlie was opened in 1963 directly in front of the border by the historian, author and resistance fighter against National Socialism Rainer Hildebrandt and is run by the August 13th Working Group . It is one of the most visited museums in Berlin . The Wall Museum illustrates the border security system on the Berlin Wall and documents successful escape attempts and their means of escape such as hot air balloons, escape cars, chair lifts and a mini submarine. The worldwide non-violent struggle for human rights is documented in the house. In addition, the museum researches people who have disappeared in the Soviet occupation zone . In cooperation with the German Red Cross , many unsolved cases are reopened. The Wall Museum is also part of a worldwide campaign to clarify the fate of Raoul Wallenberg , who saved hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews from the National Socialists and went missing. In the recent past, the work of the Wall Museum led to the liberation of Mikhail Khodorkovsky . Today Alexandra Hildebrandt heads the museum.

Memorial ensemble of the Berlin Wall in Bernauer Strasse

The Berlin Wall Memorial has existed since August 13, 1998 on Bernauer Strasse between the former districts of Wedding and Mitte . It includes a preserved section of the border fortifications, the Berlin Wall Documentation Center and the Chapel of Reconciliation .

The memorial emerged from a competition organized by the federal government in 1994 and was inaugurated on August 13, 1998 after long and heated discussions. It represents a newly built section of the wall at the original location, supplemented by artistic and creative means. The documentation center, which is supported by an association, was opened on November 9, 1999. In 2003, a lookout tower was added, from which the walls of the memorial can be easily seen. In addition to a current exhibition (since 2001 under the title Berlin, August 13, 1961 ), there are various information options on the history of the Wall. Seminars and other events are also offered. The Chapel of Reconciliation of the Evangelical Reconciliation Congregation was inaugurated on November 9, 2000. The building is an oval rammed earth building and was erected over the foundations of the choir of the Church of Reconciliation, which was blown up in 1985.

The “overall concept for the memory of the Berlin Wall” developed by Thomas Flierl provides for the memorial in Bernauer Strasse to be expanded and part of the former Stettin train station on Gartenstrasse to be included.

On September 11, 2008, the Berlin House of Representatives decided to merge the Berlin Wall Memorial and the Marienfelde Emergency Reception Center in the state-owned Berlin Wall Foundation on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 2008 .

Berlin Wall History Mile

The Berlin Wall History Mile is a four-language permanent exhibition that consists of 21 information boards. These are distributed across the inner-city border and contain photographs and texts on events that took place at the location of the boards, for example, reference is made to successful or unsuccessful escapes. This history mile of the Berlin Wall , which had existed for a long time in the inner city , was continued in 2006 with additional information boards also outside.

Memorial events

25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall

On the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, 6,880 white balloons marked part of the former course of the Wall as an art installation Light Border from November 7th to 9th, 2014.

Circle day on February 5, 2018

February 5, 2018 was the day on which the Berlin Wall no longer stood for as long as it divided the city from 1961 to 1989: 28 years, 2 months and 27 days. Berlin media, such as the rbb and the Berliner Morgenpost , referred to it as “Circle Day” and remembered the event with special programs and supplements.

30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall

On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, a large number of events and exhibitions took place in Berlin from November 4 to 10, 2019, dealing with the construction of the Berlin Wall, the division of Berlin, the Cold War and the Peaceful Revolution of 1989 . With the installation The Third Land, Korean artists pointed to the ongoing division of North and South Korea .

The wall strip in the 2010s


Double row of paving stones marking the former course of the Wall at the Brandenburg Gate , 2004

The wide route between the two earlier wall lines is called "border strip" or "wall strip" in today's parlance. It can still be seen in many places, partly through large fallow areas such as parts of Bernauer Strasse and between the districts of Mitte and Kreuzberg along Kommandantenstrasse, Alten Jakobstrasse , Stallschreiberstrasse, Alexandrinenstrasse and Sebastianstrasse. Elsewhere in the city that is growing together, however, the borderline is difficult to make out. The whole brutality of the division can no longer be traced anywhere, not even in places where the remains of the wall have been preserved.

In the otherwise densely built-up inner city of Berlin, the strip of wall was mostly quickly used for urban purposes through sale and development. But there are also a variety of other forms: In the Prenzlauer Berg district , a section turned into the Mauerpark . The inner-city section on the eastern Teltow Canal was built over with the route of the federal motorway 113 from the Berlin city ring to Schönefeld .

The dispute over the return of the wall plots is not yet over. The owners of land on the later wall stripes were after the Wall expropriated and the inhabitants relocated been. The question of the return and compensation of those affected was not included in the Unification Treaty signed on August 31, 1990 . It was not until the law on the sale of wall and border land to previous owners ( Wall Land Act ) of July 15, 1996 that an expropriated owner only gets his property back if he pays 25 percent of the current market value for it and the federal government does not pay for it uses his own urgent public purposes or wants to sell them to third parties in the public interest. In this case, the federal government compensates the former owners with 75 percent of the property's value.

Berlin Wall Trail

Signs for the Berlin Wall Trail

The Berlin Wall Trail, the establishment of which the Berlin House of Representatives decided on October 11, 2001, runs along the wall strip around the entire former West Berlin . This cycle and footpath along the 160-kilometer route of the former border fortifications is largely well developed and has been almost complete since 2005. Except for smaller sections, the route is paved throughout. The Wall Trail leads mainly on the former Zollweg (West Berlin) or on the so-called Kolonnenweg, which the GDR border troops had laid out for their control trips. Where it was necessary due to newer development or property rights , it runs on newly laid out paths in the border area or over public traffic areas running parallel to the border. The Wall Trail is currently interrupted on the Dresden Railway in the municipality of Blankenfelde-Mahlow . An underpass is to be built when the railway line is expanded. The Berlin Wall Trail marks the course of the former GDR border systems to West Berlin. It leads around 160 kilometers around the former half-town. Historically interesting sections, in which wall remains or traces of the wall can still be found, alternate with scenic routes.

The Berlin Wall Trail is signposted and provided with overview plans for orientation at regular intervals. Multilingual information about the division of Germany and the Berlin Wall is given on information steles with photographs and texts, and events at the respective location are described or remnants of the Wall are pointed out on site. The dead on the Berlin Wall are remembered at 29 locations along the way. Organizationally, the Berlin Wall Trail is divided into 14 individual routes with a length of seven to 21 kilometers. Mainly in the city center, the course of the wall is also paved with a double row of cobblestones.

Remains of the walls after the demolition

f1Georeferencing Map with all coordinates of the section of the remains of the walls after the demolition : OSM
Wall memorial on Niederkirchnerstrasse , 2009
Hinterland wall " East Side Gallery ", 2010

Until the beginning of 2018, only three sections of the border wall that had been preserved at the original location were known. These can all be found in the Mitte district :

  • The longest preserved section of the border wall is on Bernauer Straße, but is interrupted by larger gaps. The eastern part of this section of the wall was integrated into the memorial erected there and given its original appearance. Graffiti and traces of wall woodpeckers have been removed.
  • A remaining section of the border wall with a length of approx. 200 meters, which is almost as long and only interrupted by a small gap, stands on Niederkirchnerstrasse at the exhibition site of the Topography of Terror , opposite the Federal Ministry of Finance . It was placed under a preservation order in 1990 .
  • A third preserved section of the border wall, which is also listed, is only about 15 meters long and can be found on Liesenstrasse .

In January 2018, the local history researcher Christian Bormann reported a fourth, 80-meter-long section of the Berlin Wall to the State Monuments Office and the responsible district office, which he said he had already discovered in the summer of 1999. The tapering wall fragment stands in a wooded area north of the Schönholz S-Bahn station. The initially paradoxical fact that the section of the Wall is in Reinickendorf and thus in a West Berlin district results from the fact that it is a former Pankow area that was added to the Reinickendorf district as part of a border straightening in 1988. The section comes from an early phase of the construction of the wall. According to spokeswoman Gesine Beutin of the Berlin Wall Foundation , this part of the wall was "placed on top of an existing, much older wall ". Presumably, two outer walls of houses were integrated during the construction of this section of wall, which were destroyed during the attack on the Pankow-Schönholz loading station at the end of the Second World War. In February 2018 it was announced that the discovered section of the wall should be placed under monument protection. The Berlin Senator for Culture, Klaus Lederer, attributed particular historical importance to the building, as it “documents how existing structures were used to quickly cordon off the border in the early days of the building of the wall”, and this construction phase is not documented at any other location in Berlin.

Significantly more and often longer sections of the hinterland wall have been preserved, which closed off the border strip on the East Berlin side. They are mostly away from streets and squares and therefore did not stand in the way of building projects after the reunification period. These remains of the wall are only partially listed.

Sections that have been preserved where the otherwise lower interior wall had the same height as the border wall ("front barrier element") are often mistakenly mistaken for remnants of the front barrier element. In addition to fragments of the hinterland wall at Leipziger Platz and Stresemannstrasse, this also applies to the most extensive remaining section of the wall, which extends 1.3 kilometers in length parallel to Mühlenstrasse and Spree from Ostbahnhof to Oberbaumbrücke . This section is - atypical for the hinterland wall - provided with attached concrete pipes, because there was no "hostile" border wall at this point, as the border ran on the opposite side of the Spree. In 1990 it was designed by international artists for the East Side Gallery and in 1991 it was listed as a historical monument.

Other remnants of the hinterland wall can be found, for example, at the Mauerpark , along Bernauer Strasse, on the site of the former Szczecin train station and on the Invalidenfriedhof . A section of the hinterland wall with the original access gate to the border strip has been preserved on an undeveloped site near the former border crossing at Chausseestrasse . The wall and gate are, however, in poor condition; they are not listed.

Five of the former 302 border watchtowers are still standing today:

Former management position Bergfelde , since then nature protection tower
Remains of the former water barrier on
Kindelfließ on the northern edge of Berlin

The Berlin Wall Trail also leads past former water barriers. At the border between Glienicke / Nordbahn and Schildow, a little south of the Alte Hermsdorfer Straße, you can still see the remains of the barrier on the Kindelfließ. There are also remains of the water barrier on the Tegeler Fließ between Schildow and Berlin-Lübars.

In the 1990s, a discussion developed in Berlin politics about how the former course of the Wall could be made visible in the cityscape. Among other things, a double row of square paving stones embedded in the road surface , a bronze band embedded in the floor surface and marking of the border wall and the hinterland wall with different colored stripes were proposed.

All three variants were carried out on a short piece in the House of Representatives for illustrative purposes. As a result of this discussion, about eight kilometers of the boundary wall was marked by a double row of paving stones in several places, especially in the inner city area. Bronze stripes embedded at irregular intervals bear the simple inscription "Berlin Wall 1961–1989" - legible from the former West Berlin side. The course of the hinterland wall is marked in the same way at prominent locations such as Leipziger Platz .

The wall as an artifact: art and the wall

  • Berlin Wall as a banner: In 1984, the Berlin Germanist Claus Hebell compiled a synopsis of all wall sayings by means of a bicycle tour under the title “ Conditio humana ” in the culture magazine Kultuhr .
  • The Berlin artist Stephan Elsner brought down a piece of the Berlin Wall in 1982 and completed his previously prepared work of art in the approximately eight square meter breakthrough by painting it with cochineal lacquer. Elsner's art actions carried out under the title Border Violation on the Death Strip have been documented in large numbers.
  • On the occasion of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the TV Asahi Group organized the Sakura Campaign fundraising campaign in Japan with the aim of embellishing the border strip with a cherry tree avenue. This campaign raised around two million marks (adjusted for purchasing power in today's currency: around 2 million euros ), with which around 10,000 cherry trees were planted in Berlin and Brandenburg . A thousand of them are in the former border strip near Teltow- Sigridshorst, where a cherry blossom festival has been held every year since 2002 .
  • In 1989 the artist Wolf Vostell created a painting entitled November 9, 1989 and in 1990 a cycle of images entitled The Fall of the Berlin Wall .
  • On July 21, 1990, Roger Waters performed the 1979 album The Wall by the rock band Pink Floyd on Potsdamer Platz , right next to the wall that had just fallen, with the participation of numerous stars. The album describes a psychological wall and originally had nothing to do with the Berlin Wall. Nevertheless, in view of the historical context, connections were made in the media , which - also from a marketing point of view  - was welcomed by the organizers.


Wall segment at the state parliament in Kiel
  • The street Am Sandkrug in the Brandenburg municipality of Glienicke / Nordbahn jutted into the Frohnau district in the north of Berlin as a narrow strip from east to west Berlin. This led to a special shape in the course of the wall, the so-called " duck's bill ".
  • On July 1, 1988, parts of the Lenné triangle at Potsdamer Platz came to West Berlin through an area swap . Some West Berliners, who had hitherto been in almost extraterritorial territory, fled from the West Berlin police over the Wall to East Berlin. This was preceded by an occupation campaign on the area referred to by the participants as the “ Norbert Kubat Triangle ”. In return, z. B. the desert Mark to the GDR.
  • The following example shows how surprisingly the building of the wall came for the Deutsche Reichsbahn, which was responsible in West Berlin: At night, the DR S-Bahn trains were parked at surrounding stations, including the Teltow S-Bahn station. When the wall was built, the railroad tracks were cut so that the trains were unable to move because there were no other track connections. The removed track sections had to be used again for a short time during the day so that the trains could be transferred via West Berlin to their East Berlin depot.
  • The satirical party The PARTY counts the reconstruction of the wall as one of its election promises. In doing so, she can refer to the fact that in various surveys around a fifth of the population regrets the fall of the wall.
  • On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, a "Wall Tour" took place in 2009. Twenty symbolic bricks were sent from Berlin to Israel , Palestine , Korea , Cyprus , Yemen and other places where division and border experiences shape everyday life. There, the stones serve artists, intellectuals and young people as a canvas for dealing with the subject of the “Wall”.
  • On the same occasion (the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall) hundreds of Palestinians tore an eight-meter-high segment of the wall from the Israeli barrier that divides the West Bank and East Jerusalem .
  • Also on the occasion of this anniversary, the tabloid newspaper Bild presented each federal state with an original segment of the wall. This campaign started on September 17th, 2009 in Saarland . The wall segments are regularly provided with a corresponding plaque near the respective state parliament .
  • On the day the Berlin Wall fell, Eugen Drewermann's book Kleriker: Psychogram of an ideal that shook the dogmatic walls of the Catholic Church, put the clergy on the couch, and led to a broad public debate. A four-page Spiegel article on the book a week earlier described Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's concern about it.


Exhibition “25 Years of Reunification. Berlin Wall ”in the Potsdamer Platz Arkaden in Berlin
Permanent exhibition "The Wall" in the asisi Panorama Berlin
“Monoliths” by  Malte Kebbel , Potsdamer Platz , Berlin, 2017
“Monoliths” by Malte Kebbel, Glienicker Brücke , Potsdam , 2017
  • May 15 to October 3, 2015 in the Potsdamer Platz Arkaden in Berlin. Exhibition “25 Years of Reunification. Berlin Wall. ”(Coherent documentation on the construction of the wall, everyday life between East and West, opening of the border, DM, unification treaty).
  • Permanent exhibition "The Wall" in the asisi Panorama Berlin . Representation of the Berlin Wall using a 360 ° panorama.
  • September 29 to October 15, 2017 “Monoliths” by Malte Kebbel , light installation made of Berlin Wall segments at Potsdamer Platz in Berlin as part of the Berlin Lights project .
  • November 2, 2017 to March 31, 2018 “Monoliths” by Malte Kebbel, light installation made of Berlin wall segments on the Glienicker Bridge in Potsdam .



History of the Wall 1961–1989 in general

Living with the wall

  • Thomas Scholze, Falk Blask: Stop! Border area! Life in the shadow of the wall . 2., through and exp. Edition, Basis-Druck, Berlin 1997, ISBN 3-86163-030-3 .
  • Arwed Messmer (Ed.): From a different point of view: The early Berlin Wall . Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern 2011, ISBN 978-3-7757-3207-9 .

Day the Wall was built, August 13, 1961

Day of the fall of the Berlin Wall November 9, 1989

  • Hans-Hermann Hertle : Chronicle of the fall of the wall. The dramatic events of November 9, 1989 . 10th edition, Links, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-86153-113-5 .
  • Gerhard Haase-Hindenberg: The man who opened the wall. Why Lieutenant Colonel Harald Jäger refused the order and thus wrote world history . Heyne, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-453-12713-5 .
  • Renatus Deckert (ed.): The night the wall fell - writers tell of November 9, 1989 . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2009, ISBN 978-3-518-46073-3 .
  • Kai Diekmann , Ralf Georg Reuth (Ed.): The longest night, the greatest day - Germany on November 9, 1989 . Piper, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-492-05336-5 (illustrated book with statements by contemporary witnesses from politics and public life).
  • Hans-Hermann Hertle, Kathrin Elsner (ed.): The day the wall came down. The most important contemporary witnesses report on November 9, 1989 . Nicolai Verlag, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-89479-537-5 .
  • Elke Bitterhof (Ed.): Goodbye, GDR. Memories of the fall of the wall. Construction Verlag, Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-351-03582-2 .
  • Mary Elise Sarotte: The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall. Basic, New York 2014, ISBN 978-0-465-06494-6 .

Review and evaluation

  • Torsten Diedrich , Ilko-Sascha Kowalczuk (Ed.): Establishing a state on installments? Effects of the popular uprising in 1953 and the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 on the state, the military and society (=  military history of the GDR . Volume 11). On behalf of the Military History Research Office and the Federal Commissioner for the Documents of the State Security Service of the former GDR, Links, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-86153-380-4 .
  • Klaus-Dietmar Henke (ed.): The wall: erection, overcoming, memory . Dtv, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-423-24877-8 .
  • Eberhard Heuel: 20 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. With a foreword by Hans-Dietrich Genscher . Weltbild publishing group, Augsburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-86800-106-8 .
  • Karl-Heinz Schoenfeld; Ingeborg Siggelkow, Ulrike Martens (ed.): The Cold War and the Berlin Wall in cartoons . Universitätsverlag der TU, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-7983-2358-2 (239 pages, numerous illustrations).
  • Bennet Schulte: The Berlin Wall. Traces of a disappeared border / The Berlin Wall. Remains of a Lost Border. be.bra verlag, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-8148-0185-8 .

The wall as a memorial

  • Gabi Dolff-Bonekämper : The Berlin Wall. An Archaeological Site in Progress. In: William Gray Johnson, Colleen M. Beck (Ed.): The Archeology of 20th Century Conflict (=  One World Archeology. Volume 44). Routledge, London 2002, ISBN 0-415-23387-9 , pp. 236-248.
  • Axel Klausmeier, Günter Schlusche (Ed.): Preservation of monuments for the Berlin Wall. The preservation of an uncomfortable structure. Links, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-86153-624-6 .

Web links


Commons : Berlin Wall  - Collection of Images
Wiktionary: Berlin Wall  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Sources (multimedia)

Entries in the Berlin State Monument List

Wall concerts

Individual evidence

  1. Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung , October 3, 1990 (special edition), p. 113.
  2. The term "Schandmauer" in the Federal Government Bulletin of September 8, 1961, chronik-der-mauer
  3. ^ Siegfried Prokop : The Berlin Wall (1961–1989). Facts, backgrounds, problems . Homilius, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-89706-404-1 , p. 56.
  4. Ulbricht quote from Manfred Wilke : The way to the wall, stations in the history of division. Ch. Links, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-86153-623-9 , p. 372 f.
  5. ↑ Lead article “First Security” from December 5, 1961.
  6. Michael Kubina: The SED and its wall . In: Klaus-Dietmar Henke : The Wall. Establishment, overcoming, memory. Deutscher Taschenbuch-Verlag, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-423-24877-8 , p. 83.
  7. Michael Kubina: The SED and its wall . In: Klaus-Dietmar Henke : The Wall. Establishment, overcoming, memory. Deutscher Taschenbuch-Verlag, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-423-24877-8 , p. 87.
  8. Elena Demke: "Antifascist protective wall" - "Ulbricht concentration camp". Cold War of the Wall Pictures . In: Klaus-Dietmar Henke : The Wall. Establishment, overcoming, memory. Deutscher Taschenbuch-Verlag, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-423-24877-8 , p. 97, there also on the use of Mauer in 1964, note 2 (p. 481).
  9. Gerald Diesner: June 17, 1953 and August 13, 1961 - Comments on political propaganda at two junctions in GDR history . In Torsten Diedrich , Ilko-Sascha Kowalczuk (Hrsg.): State foundation on installments? On the effects of the popular uprising in 1953 and the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 on the state, the military and society in the GDR . Links, Berlin 2005, ISBN 978-3-86153-380-1 , pp. 275–285, here p. 283.
  10. Leo Schmidt: The universal iconization of the wall . In: Klaus-Dietmar Henke : The Wall. Establishment, overcoming, memory. Deutscher Taschenbuch-Verlag, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-423-24877-8 , 456-468, here p. 458 f.
  11. Elena Demke: "Antifascist protective wall" - "Ulbricht concentration camp". Cold War of the Wall Pictures . In: Klaus-Dietmar Henke : The Wall. Establishment, overcoming, memory. Deutscher Taschenbuch-Verlag, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-423-24877-8 , p. 107 f.
  12. ^ Siegfried Prokop : The Berlin Wall (1961–1989). Facts, backgrounds, problems . Homilius, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-89706-404-1 , p. 56.
  13. Autorenkollektiv Truman Doctrine and conference of the Council of Foreign Ministers in Moscow . In: Files on the prehistory of the Federal Republic of Germany 1945–1949. Federal Archives and Institute for Contemporary History. Oldenbourg Verlag, Munich 1989, ISBN 3-486-52641-3 , p. 6 ff.
  14. ^ Rüdiger Alte: The negotiations . In: The Foreign Policy of Czechoslovakia and the Development of International Relations 1946–1947. Oldenbourg Verlag, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-486-56617-2 , pp. 203 ff.
  15. See Article 23 GG old version
  16. Hannelore Strehlow: The dangerous way to freedom . (PDF; 1.4 MB) Brandenburg State Center for Political Education, 2004, ISBN 3-932502-42-6 , p. 26.
  17. 4 days in November 1989 . Gruner & Jahr, 1990, ISBN 3-570-00876-2 , p. 101.
  18. Gerhard Stapelfeldt : Critique of Economic Rationality. Second volume: Economy and Society of the Federal Republic of Germany . Lit Verlag, Münster 1998, p. 50.
  19. Ullrich Rühmland: Central Germany. "Moscow's Western Province" - Fifteen Years of Soviet Zone State. Bonner Druck- und Verlagsgesellschaft, Bonn 1963, p. 310.
  20. Heiner Timmermann : Building the Wall and Foreign Policy. Lit Verlag, Münster 2002, ISBN 3-8258-6293-3 , p. 40.
  21. ^ Günther Heydemann : New Course, De-Stalinization and New Crisis 1953–1961. In: The internal politics of the GDR. Oldenbourg Verlag, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-486-55772-6 , p. 19 ff.
  22. ^ Rainer Karlsch : Crises as Opportunities? The GDR economy after the popular uprising and the building of the wall. In: Establishing a state in installments? Ch.links, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-86153-380-4 , p. 192 ff.
  23. The GDR in view of the Stasi 1961. The secret reports to the GDR leadership. Collective review at the Federal Agency for Civic Education .
  24. ^ Frank Roggenbuch: The Berlin border commuter problem. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2008, ISBN 3-11-020344-8 , p. 383.
  25. Federal Ministry for Inner-German Relations (ed.): The construction of the wall through Berlin . Bonner Universitäts-Buchdruck, Bonn 1986, p. 32 ff.
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  55. Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung , August 13, 2009, p. 3.
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Coordinates: 52 ° 31 ′ 1.2 "  N , 13 ° 24 ′ 28.8"  E