The Rise of the Berlin Wall through rare photographs, 1961-1989

The story of the Berlin Wall began in the early hours of August 13, 1961, when the government of East Germany ordered the closure of all borders between East and West Berlin. As the sun rose that morning, Berliners were woken up by the sound of trucks, jackhammers and other heavy machinery.

Seen by Soviet soldiers and East German police, workers began tearing down roads, sidewalks and other structures, before laying thousands of meters of temporary but impassable fences, barricades and barbed wire.

They worked for several days, completely encircling the western areas of Berlin and cutting them off from the eastern areas of the city.

The Berliners were in shock. "A concentration camp barrier" extended through the center of Berlin, the then mayor - and later chancellor - Willy Brandt said in front of the city's parliament a few hours later.

The Berlin Wall would remain in place for exactly 10,315 days, becoming a symbol of the Cold War and dividing the world into two hostile blocs: the capitalist West and the Communist East.

The wall became a clear and foreboding symbol of the Cold War. In the West, its presence was exploited as propaganda. Western leaders said the Berlin Wall was proof that East Germany was a failed state, with thousands of its people not wanting to live under communism. US Secretary of State Dean Rusk called the wall a "monument to communist failure", while West German Mayor Willy Brandt called it a "wall of shame".

In Washington, there was much debate about how America should react to the construction of the Berlin Wall. Once a realist, President Kennedy knew that threats or displays of aggression could provoke conflict or lead to war. Instead he focused his attention on West Berlin, positioning it as a small but steadfast bastion of freedom locked inside an imprisoned state.

Kennedy visited West Berlin in June 1963 and was greeted by enthusiastic crowds who rejoiced and showered his convoy with flowers and confetti.

In Rudolf Wilde Platz (later renamed John F. Kennedy Platts), the US President told an enthusiastic audience: "There are many people in the world who don't really understand, or say they don't understand, what is great. The issue between the free world and the communist world. Let them come to Berlin. There are some people who say that communism is the wave of the future.

Let them come to Berlin. And there are some who say that in Europe and elsewhere we can work with communists. Let them come to Berlin. And there are some who say that it is true that communism is a bad system, but it allows us to make economic progress. 'Lassi Nach Berlin Commons': Let them come to Berlin...

Freedom is indivisible, and when a man is enslaved, not all men are free ... All free men, wherever they live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I Proud of these words: 'Ich bin ain' Berliner (I am a citizen of Berlin)."

Improvements on the wall continued until 1980 when the entire wall was converted into reinforced concrete sections that were 12 feet high and 4 feet wide.

The wall was covered with barbed wire, as well as watchtowers, in which soldiers held machine guns. By the 1980s, the wall extended for 28 miles through Berlin and 75 miles around West Berlin. There were extensive barriers along the border of East and West Germany which covered a distance of 850 miles.

The fall of the Berlin Wall began on the evening of 9 November 1989. In the weeks that followed, citizens of East Germany began using various tools to demolish parts of the wall to create unofficial crossing points.

Shortly thereafter the government of East Germany demolished sections of the wall to create ten official crossing points, and as of December 22, 1989, it allowed visa-free travel on either side of the wall.

On June 13, 1990, the East German military began officially breaking down the wall and completed the task in November 1991, signaling the official reunification of Germany.

During the 28 years it stood, only 5,000 people managed to cross the wall, fleeing to West Berlin. More than 100 people are believed to have died in the attempt, most of whom were shot by East German border guards.

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