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Wednesday, July 27, 2016


When The Wall Went Up: Berlin 1961

Published 6 November 2014


RFE/RL archival photos of the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961. All of the photographs in this slide show were culled from the RFE/RL archives at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

1

East German troops were prominently deployed following the division of East and West Berlin on August 13, 1961.

2

East German police patrol a temporary, prefabricated section of the Berlin Wall. After midnight on August 13, East German troops began erecting what Communist East German leader Walter Ulbricht called an "anti-fascist protection barrier." Two months earlier, on June 15, he had declared: "Nobody intends to build a wall."

3

A section of the temporary wall snaking through Berlin. In the first week of the division of Berlin, East German authorities erected a barbed-wire fence, laid concertina wire, and mounted heavily armed patrols. The construction of the real wall would begin in the next week or so.

4

An East German armored car patrols the zonal border between East and West Berlin in mid-August 1961.

5

William Marsh, Berlin bureau chief of Radio Free Europe, interviews a police official at Potsdamer Platz. In the background, East German workers are erecting the permanent wall that bisected Potsdamer Platz and rendered the square a desolate wasteland.

6

View of the newly constructed Berlin Wall, looking from West to East. On August 19, 1961, the wall claimed its first life as a man fell to his death trying to climb down from his top-floor apartment in East Berlin's Bernauerstrasse to the pavement below in West Berlin.

7

View of the newly constructed Berlin Wall, looking from West to East. On August 24, 1961, 24-year-old Guenter Litfin was shot dead as he swam across the River Spree. The incident is generally accepted as the date of the first killing of a would-be escapee by border guards after the wall went up.

8

A section of the wall. On August 17, 1962, 18-year-old Peter Fechter bled to death in the no-man's land between East and West Berlin after being shot trying to escape. Western cameramen recorded the scene for nearly an hour before guards took away his body.

9

The wall with the Brandenburg Gate in the background. On June 12, 1987, near this site, U.S. President Ronald Reagan famously demanded of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

10

Looking through the Brandenburg Gate from West to East Berlin in 1961.