How the Wall was built

'Berlin was an anomaly and the Soviets were eager to incorporate the city into their German satellite state'

 

Like its collapse 28 years later, the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 was precipitated by a flood of refugees from east to west but that exodus was triggered by a succession of bungled diplomatic manoeuvres. At the end of the second World War in 1945, the four victorious allied powers – the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain and France – had put Germany under joint occupation, with each administering a zone of the country. Berlin, which was 176km inside the Soviet zone, was also under joint allied authority, with each of the four powers governing a sector.

After the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany in the west and the communist German Democratic Republic in the east, Berlin was an anomaly and the Soviets were eager to incorporate the city into their German satellite state. They tried to drive the western allies from Berlin in 1948 by blocking access from West Germany by road and rail but the allies kept the western sectors of the city supplied with food and other necessities through an airlift lasting more than a year.

Diplomatic offensive

Kennedy made clear his commitment to defending the western sectors of the city but not the special status of Berlin as a whole, a message he and senior US officials reinforced in the weeks after.

Fears that the border would be sealed had prompted growing numbers of East Germans to cross into the west during the early months of 1961 and the flow of migrants, many of them highly skilled, now turned into a torrent, with more than 1,000 a day arriving at a reception centre in Marienfelde. East German leader Walter Ulbricht had long been pressing Kruschchev to allow him to stem the flow of refugees by sealing off West Berlin and had been stockpiling building materials and barbed wire.

Barbed wire

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.