just after midnight on Sunday, August 13, 1961, trucks rolled through the silent streets of hast Berlin. At the border with West Berlin soldiers jumped out and blocked the streets with coils of barbed wire. By morning they had closed off all but twelve of the eighty crossing points to West Berlin. Within days workmen were replacing the barbed wire with a lasting barrier of concrete. The Berlin Wall had been born.
To understand why the Berlin Wall was built we have to go back to the late 1940s. Since its formation in 1949 West Germany had prospered. By 1961 its people were among the best-off in the world. East Germans were less fortunate. Their wages were lower. They had less to buy in the shops, less chance to speak their minds. Millions fled to the West. The easiest way to do this was to catch a train from East to West Berlin and not bother to come back.
By July 1961, the number of East Germans making these one-way trips had risen to 10,000 a week. Many were highly skilled workers – engineers, doctors, scientists. East Germany’s rulers knew that their country could never prosper
Berlin —the writing оя the wail.
without such people. They built the Wall to stop any more from leaving.
President Kennedy was not prepared to risk war by demolishing the Berlin Wall. But he made it clear that the United States would not let the communists take over West Berlin.
For almost thirty years Berlin became two separate cities. It was not until 1989 that its people tore down the Wall as a first step towards re-uniting their city.