In post-World War II Germany, the Berlin Wall was built on August 16, 1961, along the demarcation between the eastern sector of Berlin controlled by the Soviet Union, and the western sectors occupied by the United States, France, and Great Britain. East Germany, officially the German Democratic Republic (GDR), was a Communist state that existed from 1949 to 1990 in the former Soviet occupation zone of Germany.
The barrier cut through 192 streets (97 between East and West Berlin and 95 between West Berlin and East Germany), 32 railway lines, eight S-Bahns, and four underground train lines, three autobahns (freeways), and several rivers and lakes. On the waterways, the wall consisted of submerged railings under constant surveillance by patrol boat crews.
- The total length of the Berlin Wall was 96 miles.
- Twenty-seven miles went through the center of the city.
- Twenty-three miles went through residential areas.
- Sixty-six miles comprised a concrete barrier 13 feet high.
- It also consisted of 302 watch towers and 20 bunkers.
- More than 5,000 people successfully crossed the Berlin Wall to freedom.
- About 3,200 people were arrested in the border area.
- More than 160 people were killed in the death area, and another 120 people were injured.
“There are many people in the world who really don’t understand, or say they don’t, what is the great issue between the free world and the communist world. Let them come to Berlin.”
President Ronald Reagan delivered a speech at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin on June 12, 1987. His comments were to the people of West Berlin, but audible on the East side of the Berlin Wall. Part of Reagan`s intended audience was none other than Mikhail Gorbachev:
“There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
The Iron Curtain began to rise when the wall met its demise. Soon afterward, Gorbachev made his first official visit to West Germany in May 1989. While there, he announced that Moscow would no longer forcefully prevent democratic conversion of its outlying states.
Hungary opened its border with Austria on September 11, 1989. The opening of the borders between East and West Berlin, which also symbolized the end of the Cold War, began on June 13, 1990.