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Thursday, September 01, 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.


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


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."


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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."


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