Why Was the Berlin Wall Built?

To better understand the reasons why the Berlin Wall was built in 1961, it’s important to learn about the events that happened after World War II. Specifically it involved the growing rift between the US and the USSR under Stalin.

The Potsdam Agreement

After Nazi Germany surrendered in 1945, the country was divided into four groups. One belonged to Russia. The other three were shared by the United States, Britain and France. The four parties made the Potsdam Agreement which defined the borders for each.

The Cold War

The division of territories marked the points where US and Russian influence could extend. As the 1950s approached, the Western side became influenced by the United States’ way of life. The Eastern side would be marked by Communist rule. So part of the reason why the Berlin Wall was built was to make the separation formal.

The East Brain Drain

But a more important reason was the brain drain. Education was provided free in East Germany but more work was available in the West. What the Easterners did was to study there but after graduation, head over to the West. From 1954 to 1960, over 5,700 doctors and over 30,000 teachers and engineers left the East.

There were also over 11,000 students that headed for the West. This exodus affected the East German economy. As it was heavily damaged during the war, it needed all the help from its citizens it could get.


Another possible reason why the Berlin Wall was built was to limit US spying. It was well known that during the Cold War (from the 50s to the 60s) both sides employed spies on each other. One of the places were the US and her allies would send their spies over was Berlin.

To Prevent War

Some historians have suggested that whether it was intended to or not, the construction of the wall helped prevent open warfare. The rules prevailing at the time was that the wall would serve as a state border. Individuals who violated the established rules would be issued warning shots.

While it was potentially a dangerous place, it helped define limitations. If there hadn’t been a wall, some argued the two German countries could have gotten in a war.

Because it was in the midst of Europe, the US and USSR would have been involved. The results would have been horrific. War prevention probably wasn’t part of the reason why the Berlin Wall was built, but unwittingly it served that purpose.


Also not to be discounted were issues of economics. The rate was 1 DM West for every 4 DM East. The disparity meant those in the West could purchase products in the East at a lower cost. The reverse was true in the East where people could buy less. This issue compounded the already severe economic problems in the East.

The factors that led to its construction were a combination of political and economic issues. All of these elements plus the threat of war, help explain why the Berlin Wall was built.

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One Response to “Why Was the Berlin Wall Built?”

  1. Ben Dover says:

    Want a essay;

    The Berlin Wall
    The Berlin wall stood for a total of for twenty-eight years, the Berlin Wall separated friends, families, and a nation and it was a physical symbol of the political and emotional divisions of Germany.
    After the Second World War in 1945, the victorious Allies, the US, Britain, France and Russia divided Germany into four sectors, each under the control of an ally. The US, British, and French Sectors combined to form a democratic state, The Federal Republic of Germany, or West Germany. The Soviet sector became a communist state, The German Democratic Republic, or East Germany, on October 7, 1949. The largest sector was the Russian sector.
    ~When And Why was it built?~
    It was constructed by the German democratic republic. It all started on the 13th of August 1961. It entirely cut of West Berlin from bordering East Germany and East Berlin.
    The Wall was built because of a long lasting suspicion with the Soviet Union on one side and Western Europe and the United States on the other. When World War II was over, these Allies had no longer a common purpose to hold them together. Their differences became less hidden and more incompatible. The Western Allies rapidly realized that Germany was in desperate need of help. Too many well-educated people moved from East Germany, and some worked in West Berlin and lived in East Berlin Where it’s cheaper which made DDR lost money on this. Therefore, the Allies’ aim was to reconstruct Germany’s economy.
    The life in the West was much better than in the East after 1948. West Germany including West Berlin had got financial help through the Marshallplan from the USA. In East Germany a communist system was established and many people had to suffer under repressions of the Communist party.
    Another big problem were the two currencies in Germany and especially in Berlin. West German DM had been exchanged into East German DM at a rate of 1:4 (1 DM West = 4 DM Ost) in West Berlin.
    People with West German DM could get goods very cheaply in the Eastern part of Berlin.

    ~What did the wall look like?~
    The wall has several defences such as; guard towers placed along concrete Walls, which covered a wide area, concrete blocks, barbed wire, machine gun towers, and minefields also there were anti vehicle trenches and many more. When the wall was finished, it was a total of 103 miles long and roughly 10 to thirteen feet high! It also Cut across 193 roads, and it sealed West Berlin not only from the rest of the city to the east, but from all of East Germany.
    ~Who Wanted the wall to be built?~
    The Soviet Union disagreed with this plan vastly, and instead they became busy with setting up Communist dictatorships in their conquered areas, like the zone of East Germany. This major difference among these powers marked the beginning of the Cold War. The war was not of physical battle, but of international diplomacy.
    Germany now became the prize struggle between enemies. Then, In response to the numbers of people who fled the communist world to the free world, East Germany built a wall that cut across the heart of Berlin. The eastern part said that the wall helped to protect its population from fascist elements that would prevent the `will of the people` in building a socialist state in Germany.
    ~Who and What did this effect?~
    Before the wall was built, 3.5 million Germans from the east circumvented eastern bloc immigration restrictions and they started to cross the border, from East Berlin to West Berlin. Then they could travel to West Germany and other European countries.
    The wall stopped the massive emigration and defection Germany and the communist’s eastern bloc during the World War 2 period!
    Between the years 1954 -1960, East Germany suffered a “brain drain”. During that period, 4,600 doctors, 15,885 teachers, 738 university teachers, 15,536 engineers and technicians moved from East to West Germany. Altogether this came to 36,759 people with academic and professional qualifications, plus 11,705 students. These highly qualified people were educated at the expense of East Germany (and former Nazi Germany). So West Germany benefited from East Germany’s investment. Of course such a situation was untenable for East Germany. Being a new state East Germany needed its educated people to re-build the country after the ravages of the 2nd World War.
    There was considerable abuse of the educational system itself. Education was free in East, but it cost money in West. So of course German students went to East German schools to get their education for free, then returned to work in West Germany where they could earn more money.
    After the Wall was built the East German side made a 100 meter width “no man’s land”. They removed all buildings (most of these were ruins from the 2nd World War) to get the 100 meter free space to be able to control the border. According to international laws – the control of the Berlin Wall AND the border had to be checked by the International Red Cross, and they had no objections regarding the state border. Also the East German patrols were strongly instructed NOT to fire one single shot across the border (the Berlin Wall here). The border patrols were instructed to shout warning words at first, then warning shots in the event of illegal violations of the frontier. Violators were only shot when they failed to heed those warnings. This is standard routine for controlling any border. The Berlin Wall is a state border between two countries in this context.

    ~What were People’s Views?~
    Later on, the wall was referred to as the ‘anti fascist protection rampart’ by the German authorities. This implied that West Germany still had Nazis in it. Mayor wily brunt, of the West Berlin city called the Berlin wall the wall of shame. This was to describe the Walls lack of freedom and movement.
    Throughout this time, around 5,000 people tried to escape over the wall!!! According to reports, official figures show that more than 400 people died trying to flee. People Tried to climb over the wall very dramatically! They leapt from windows, tunnelled through sewers, rammed through the gates in steel-plated trucks, crawled through mud and swam the icy waters of the city’s the downfall of the political power in pro-soviet governments in Poland and Hungary!

    In the first year alone, 14 attempts were made to breach the wall through driving into it. Many drove through legal checkpoints. The Berlin Wall was built at the line of demarcation between the eastern sector of Berlin and the western sectors. Before the Wall was built the border was open. On the West side, there were 90 checkpoints on the 45 kilometer border, that is two checkpoints on every kilometer. At the East side there were 78 checkpoints. It was only possible to check about a hundred vehicles that crossed the line of demarcation every day. There were also the buses, U-bahn (subway traffic), and railways, which were hardly checked at all.
    By 1968 (after the Wall was built) only 19 checkpoints were needed. Twice, East Germans escaped in a car so low that it could be driven right under the horizontal bars at the crossing points. Vertical bars were added to make it even more impossible. Many escaped in cleverly designed hiding places in cars driven by West Germans who could cross the border legally. Three escaped using Soviet Union military uniforms that a friend had sewn for them. Peter Fechter, an eighteen year old boy, was one of the first who tried to scale the wall outright. The East Germans shot him down while West Berliners heard Fechter’s cries for help for nearly an hour.
    Then Escape soon became harder. The barbed wire was replaced with concrete slabs. Waterways were blocked by underground fences. Windows along the borders had bricks instead of glass. Getting across became increasingly difficult, and it required ingenuity as well as determination.
    Escapees tried to get under the Wall using sewer systems. In 1962, NBC, the American Public television network, provided funds to dig a tunnel from Bernauer St., in East Berlin, to Schoenholzer St., in West Berlin. “That September, the TV network filmed the escape of fifty-six refugees before flooding shut down the tunnel.” (Mirabile 10) Probably the longest and the most famous tunnel was the one built in 1964 by Wolfgang Fuchs. This tunnel was Fuchs’s seventh, and it was 140 ft. long, almost 40 ft. below the city, and about 28 inches high inside. It took six months to build, and 57 people were able to use it before it was discovered.

    Man’s intelligence and ingenuity was constantly being tested to cross the Wall. “One man threw a hammer and a line from the roof of a building, pulled a cable, and with his wife and son, slid down it in a homemade chair lift to safety on the other side.” (Mirabile 11) Another man built his own submarine to drag him across the Baltic Sea to Denmark. Two families flew from East Germany to West in a homemade hot-air balloon. All these people wouldn’t let a Wall ruin their lives. They wouldn’t let a Wall keep them from a life of freedom. They wouldn’t let a Wall crush their hope.
    For 28 years the Berlin Wall stood as a grim symbol of the gulf between the Communist East and the Non-Communist West. When Hungary opened its borders with Austria, over 12,000 people escaped in a period of three days. It was reported that about 5,000 people made it safely, and about 5,000 people were captured.
    A wave of democratization swept throughout Europe, and at the same time East Germany’s communist leadership was slowly but surely becoming ousted from power.
    Cold War
    The division of territories marked the points where US and Russian influence could extend. As the 1950s approached, the Western side became influenced by the United States’ way of life. The Eastern side would be marked by Communist rule. So part of the reason why the Berlin Wall was built was to make the separation formal.
    Hapily eva After
    Finally on November 9, 1989, at 10:00 at night, the German leader Egon Krenz ordered the Wall to be opened. After twenty-eight years, two months, and twenty-seven days, Berlin once again became a city.
    The old Berlin Wall, was a stark symbol of the human cost of the Cold War, a stark reminder of the political division of Europe, and a monument to the political failure of East Germany.

    ” Freedom is indivisible, and when man is enslaved, all are not free…All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin. And therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words Ich bin ein Berliner- I am a Berliner.”
    John F. Kennedy- Remarks upon signing of the Golden Book in Rudolph-W

    The fall of the berlin wall
    In the year 1989, there were dramatic events such as a massive flight of inhabitants of the GDR via Hungary and big demonstrations in Leipzig on Mondays. After weeks of discussion about a new travel law, the leader of East Berlin’s communist party (SED), Günter Schabowski, said on November 9, 1989 at about 7 p.m. in somewhat unclear words that the border would be opened for “private trips abroad”. Little later, an onrush of East Berliner’s towards West Berlin began, and there were celebrations at the Brandenburg Gate and at the Kurfürstendamm in West Berlin. On November 10, demolition works began with the aim of creating new border crossings. On November 12, a checkpoint at the Potsdamer Platz was opened, and on December 22, a checkpoint for pedestrians was opened at the Brandenburg Gate. So-called “wall woodpeckers” hammered pieces out of the wall, many of which were sold as souvenirs. A few larger segments were officially donated or sold.
    On July 1 1990, an economic, monetary and social union between East and West Germany was formed, and all restrictions concerning travels were dropped. The wall had vanished almost completely by 1991; there are a few remainders at the Bernauer Strasse, the Niederkirchnerstrasse (near the building of the former Prussian parliament, now housing the parliament of Berlin) and as the 1.3 km long “East-Side-Gallery” near the railway station “Ostbahnhof”.

    On February 1997, a red line was painted on the pavement at the former “Checkpoint Charlie” to mark the course of the former Berlin wall. This line shall reach a length of 20 km and shall be replaced by two rows of paving stones.

    Berlin Wall Timeline 😉

    May 8, 1945 World War II is over and Berlin is divided into 4 sectors:
    The American, British, French in the West and
    The Soviet in the East

    June 30, 1946 At the instigation of the Soviet Military administration the demarcation line between East and West Germany is safeguarded

    October 29, 1946 a 30 day valid Interzonenpass is required to travel between the sectors n Germany

    June 23, 1948 Currency reform in Berlin, Berlin is divided into two different currency zones

    June 24, 1948 Begin of the Berlin blockade

    June 25, 1948 Berlin Airlift begins

    May 12, 1949 End of Berlin blockade

    May 24, 1949 Federal Republic of Germany is founded
    (West Germany)

    September 30, 1949 End of Berlin Airlift

    October 7, 1949 German Democratic Republic is founded
    (East Germany)

    May 26, 1952 Border between East and West Germany and between East Germany and West Berlin is closed. Only the border between East and West Berlin is still opened

    June 17, 1953 Uprising of East Berlin building workers against the imposition of increased working norms, suppression by Red Army tanks

    November 14, 1953 The Western Powers waive the Interzonenpass, the Soviet Union follows but East German citizen need a permission to travel to the West

    December 11, 1957 Leaving East Germany without permission is forbidden and violations are prosecuted with prison up to three years

    August 13, 1961 The Berlin sartorial border between East and West Berlin is closed, barriers are built

    August 14, 1961 Brandenburg Gate is closed

    August 26, 1961 all crossing points are closed for West Berlin citizens

    June 26, 1963 President J. F. Kennedy visits Berlin and says: “Itch bin eon Berliner.” (“I am a Berliner.”)

    December 17, 1963 West Berliner citizen may visit East Berlin the first time after more than two years

    September 3, 1971 Four Power’s Agreement over Berlin
    Visiting becomes easier for West Berliners

    June 12, 1987 President Ronald Reagan visits Berlin and urges Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall.

    September 10, 1989 Hungarian government opens border for East German refugees

    November 9, 1989 Berlin Wall is opened

    December 22, 1989 Brandenburg Gate is opened

    October 3, 1990 Germany is reunited