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For those who didn’t see and experience it, the massive Berlin wall carving post-war Berlin into two halves is a concept that’s hard to fully wrap one’s head around. It seems totally absurd that the capital city of a modern, developed nation could have been ground zero for such division. Even more shocking, revisiting the time of a divided city doesn’t require too far a glance back in time – only about a quarter century.
After the defeat of Nazi Germany, post-war Berlin found itself host to the varied militaries of the Allied powers. While Stalin was ready to set Berlin as a jewel in the crown of the Soviet Union, the remaining Allies weren’t exactly ready to give up their foothold in the city. Each laid claim to a section of the city, laying the framework for the east-west divide – Allies in the West and Soviets in the East.
In the early years after the war, movement throughout the city was relatively unrestricted. And as post-war reconstruction boomed in the western half more and more east Germans decided to leave. Roughly three million people left East Germany via the border in Berlin and this posed a huge threat to the East’s already precarious economic situation. The Soviets couldn’t afford to keep loosing it’s labor force to the West. They needed a solution to keep their East German citizens in.
Building the Wall
In 1961 the Soviets began constructing a concrete wall through Berlin. What was once as simple as crossing a street now meant the impenetrable barrier between East and West. By the time it was completed, the Berlin Wall ran for almost one hundred miles, fully encircling the western Allied-controlled sectors and cutting them off from East Germany. While Berlin had once been the most fluid point of movement between East and West Germany, it was now the most controlled and closed off. There were still a series of border openings or “checkpoints” which were mostly used to allow West Germans access to the East Berlin. The most famous of which, Checkpoint Charlie, remains apopular tourist attraction today.
Berlin Tourist Attractions
Most of the Berlin wall was demolished after the fall of the Soviet Union and the subsequent dissolving of Eastern Bloc regimes, but three substantial sections are left standing. The best living representation of the Berlin Wall as it was during the city’s division is the stretch of wall running along Bernauer Straße, which, along with the Eastside Gallery, make appearances in our list of the best Berlin tourist attractions.