Residents of West Berlin show children to their grandparents who reside on the Eastern side, 1961

The construction of the Berlin Wall in August 1961 divided families and neighborhoods in Germany's capital. The Wall represents a uniquely brutal, violent, and ultimately pointless, episode in the post-war world. Life changed overnight in Berlin.

Roads, metro lines, bus lines, tramlines, canals and rivers were divided. Family members, friends, lovers, classmates, work colleagues and others suddenly parted ways. In some cases, children who went to visit their grandparents on the other side of the border were suddenly cut off from their parents.

By 1953, the lines between East Germany and the Western Occupied Territories could be easily crossed in most places. Then the inner border of East Germany was closed. Berlin became the main route by which East Germans left for the West. The Berlin sector border was essentially a "loophole" through which citizens of the Eastern Bloc could still escape.

The 3.5 million East Germans who had left by 1961 were about 20% of the total East German population. The loss was disproportionately heavy among professionals—engineers, technicians, physicians, teachers, lawyers, and skilled workers.

In 1961 West Berlin became an island completely surrounded by East Germany. West Berliners initially could not travel to East Berlin or East Germany at all. Between 26 August 1961 and 17 December 1963 all crossing points were closed to them. In 1963, negotiations between East and West resulted in a limited possibility of visits during the Christmas season (Passierscheinregelung) that year.

Similar very limited arrangements were made in 1964, 1965 and 1966. In 1971, agreements were made, along with the Four Powers Agreement on Berlin, which allowed West Berliners to regularly apply for visas to enter East Berlin and East Germany, which was already in comparison with the rules. was in Applicable to West Germany. However, each trip had to be applied for individually and approval was never guaranteed.

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