50 years since Berlin Wall went up

Exactly half a century has passed since construction began on the Berlin Wall, a symbolic reminder of Germany’s troubled past.

The 96 mile wall, which completely surrounded West Berlin, stopped East Germans from escaping to the more financially viable West during its 28 year existence.

Between 1949 and 1961, a reported 3.5 million, many of whom were skilled workers, left the Eastern bloc, escaping a strict communist regime enforced by a repressive Communist party under Wilhelm Pieck.

On a map, the threat seemed somewhat trivial. But the reality of metal and concrete walls and watch towers diminished any attempt of crossing the boundary from the Soviet-occupied East to the Allied-occupied West.

The beginnings of the wall were erected during the night on 13 August 1961. East German troops began to tear apart streets, replacing them with entanglements of barbed wire fencing. Two days later, concrete blocks replaced barbed wire and anti-vehicle trenches were rent into the ground.

Protests in West Berlin were to no avail as jobs were lost and families divided. It wasn’t until two years later, in 1963, that Western Berliners were allowed to visit family and friends in the East whom they had been forbidden to see.

Exhibitions have been commissioned in the German capital over the past couple months to remember the Wall and the history of Berlin’s notorious separation. This renewed interest in the monument’s existence is marked by numerous memorials, museums, sights and special tours, available for visitors in Berlin throughout 2011.

For pictures of the area the Berlin wall divided and the impact on local communities in the ensuing decade click here or on the image above.