Berlin Wall: Formation of the Wall

With a fear that the German Democratic Republic were losing their skilled and qualified workers to West Berlin, Nikita Krushchev (then First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union) approved the construction of a wall, creating an official and physical divide of the city. This construction happened very quickly - initially the barrier was created from barbed wire until eventually this developed into, the almost impossible to cross, Berlin Wall.

In 1961 the temporary barbed wire barrier that went up was unexpected, (although there had been rumours), to both the West and East Berliners. The division happened incredibly quickly, separating families and once neighbours overnight.

Over years of developing and in 1965 the Wall was complete and designed to be impossible to cross. The height of the wall (15 feet high) made it difficult to climb over, with not much to cling on to, as well as being topped with barbed wire. If one did manage to climb over, they then had to cross the ‘Death Strip’ a walkway of sand where one could be easily seen, and even if they were not spotted, their footsteps would be seen by someone in one of the hundreds of watchtowers across the wall.


The Death Strip was watched and guarded by thousands of East German soldiers who believed that anyone who tried to escape over the wall was an enemy. Therefore, they were instructed to shoot and kill anyone who attempted to cross. The Wall would also be guarded by dogs, see more on them here. Even if someone was able to cross the Death Strip, there was  another wall the other side to get over…

Although the Wall was nearly impossible to cross, this did not stop a number of East Berliners attempting to - sometimes with rather imaginative methods. It has been recorded that more than 5,000 East Germans escaped to West Berlin - however between 1961 till 1989, around 170 people were killed trying to escape East Berlin… a lot of whom are commemorated close to where the wall was. See more on commemoration and aftermath of the wall here.