Striking images reveal the Berlin Wall then and now


For nearly three decades, the Berlin Wall cleaved the German capital in two, becoming the physical manifestation of the postwar European divide between Soviet and Western ideologies in one vast concrete structure And now 30 years on again from its famous demolition, the anniversary of the seismic political event has been marked by a series of photographs which shows how life has changed in the now cosmopolitan city The Soviet-allied East German authorities built the Berlin Wall from August 1961 to stop a flood of defections to the democratic West through the city The 96-mile barrier essentially surrounded West Berlin, which was an enclave within East Germany Small sections of the wall remain despite it being torn down in the months following the fall on November 9, 1989, after a wave of anti-Soviet protests across Eastern Europe Even though there remains an economic disparity between the east and west of Berlin today, life across the city could hardly be more different from the divisions of the 20th century, as shown by the series of photographs In August this year, unemployment in the east stood at 6.5 per cent, compared with 4 8 per cent in the west. And politically, the far-right Alternative for Germany party (AfD) regularly scores above 20 per cent in the former communist territories, compared with a ceiling of around 15 per cent elsewhere in Germany   ‹ Slide me › Left: US tanks and troops are stationed at Checkpoint Charlie in February, 1961  The Wall had seven official crossing points, the most famous being Checkpoint C, called Checkpoint Charlie by Western troops It was located in the heart of Berlin in a sector secured by American troops. In a high-stakes standoff at the checkpoint in October 1961, the US and Soviet militaries stared each other down for several hours in a dispute over an attempt by US diplomat Allan Lightner to visit East Berlin Right: Now the checkpoint is nothing more than a photo opportunity and is often crowded with tourists ‹ Slide me › Left: A German women hangs clothing out to dry on a line strung between a tree and the Berlin Wall in November 1963  Concrete panels 12 feet high made up 66 miles of the wall, the rest was composed of barbed wire  About 140 people died attempting to make the crossing between 1961 and 1989 according to the Berlin Wall Memorial, but others believe the figure is much higher Right: People walk along Leuschnerdamm, along which the wall once ran, as Saint Michael church remains standing behind ‹ Slide me › Left: Two women walk along Boyenstrasse, where a portion of the Berlin Wall once stood  A heavily guarded no man’s land known as the ‘death strip’ ran along the Eastern side of the Wall More than 7,000 East German soldiers manned 302 watchtowers and 20 bunkers. At night, with lamp posts every 30 metres, it was the best-lit part of Berlin There were also alarms, ditches, barbed wire, guard dogs and devices that automatically fired shots at would-be escapees Right: Cars line the residential street as Berliners are free to walk where they like in the city ‹ Slide me › Left: Two women wave to East Berlin  The most successful escape route was Tunnel 57, dug by students from the West from the basement of a disused bakery into the East In October 1964, 57 East Germans used the 140-metre tunnel to defect. One of the more extraordinary escapes came in August 1988 when a family of four made it over the Wall aboard a small crop-duster plane Electronics engineer Winfried Freudenberg was the last to die, crashing in March 1989 in West Berlin having made it over using a self-built inflatable balloon Right: A man on a bicycle rides along where the Berlin Wall once stood on Bernauer Strasse ‹ Slide me › Left: Children play on slabs of concrete next to the Berlin Wall The concrete is meant to prevent US jeeps from being able to patrol the area. US President John F Kennedy’s stirring declaration, ‘I am a Berliner,’ issued just metres from the barrier in 1963, has become its most celebrated condemnation in a message of solidarity with the East Germans Right: Two women walk along Sebastianstrasse ‹ Slide me › Left: The Berlin wall snakes its way through the divided city In the background is the 18th-century Brandenburg Gate, now symbolically situated between East and West Berlin The wall fell when East Germany’s communist authorities unexpectedly opened all checkpoints on November 9, 1989, allowing free passage to the democratic West for the first time since the barrier went up in 1961 Right: Cars drive along Scheidemannstrasse Three decades after the Berlin Wall fell, a still-broad but shrinking gap persists between the two halves of a once-divided Germany None of the 30 companies listed on the blue-chip DAX index at the Frankfurt stock exchange are based in the former German Democratic Republic  In August this year, unemployment in the east stood at 6.5 per cent, compared with 4 8 per cent in the west The numbers living in the west – including Berlin – have grown since 1991 by more than four million since 1990, to 69 6 million, while the east has lost two million inhabitants to age and emigration, falling to 12 6 million. The fact that young adults above all were the ones to move west in the 1990s collapsed the birth rate, with consequences set to last for decades according to population specialists Some 74 per cent in the east say there remain ‘very large differences’ between the once-divided halves of Germany In the days following the opening of the checkpoints in 1989, euphoric Berliners perched on the wall and used pickaxes and hammers to knock out chunks Its systematic demolition followed, with just sections remaining today as historical monument  Once a zone blocked off with barbed wire, littered with landmines and manned by soldiers with shoot-to-kill orders, today, much of the border dividing the former East from the West is a thriving natural paradise On January 30, 1990 Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev accepted in principle the reunification of East Germany with the West  Three long sections are still standing: a 260ft piece at the Topography of Terror museum, along the Spree River near the Oberbaumbrücke, nicknamed East Side Gallery, and in the north at Bernauer Straße, which was turned into a memorial in 1999 From David Bowie playing to a divided city to David Hasselhoff serenading a jubilant crowd of East and West Berliners, music helped capture the emotion of the Wall and its collapse  The ‘Knight Rider’ actor went down in music history when he performed a cover of the German 1970s hit ‘Looking for Freedom’ in front of ecstatic East and West Berliners at a crumbling section of the Wall on New Year’s Eve in 1989, wearing an unforgettable leather jacket encrusted with flashing lights The ‘Baywatch’ star is still idolised in Germany, and even has a Berlin museum dedicated to him

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *