On the night of August 13th, 1961, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) began the construction of a massive wall to enclose West Berlin and seal it off from the rest of East Germany, though the real purpose of the structure was to keep East German citizens from defecting to the West.
The Wall stood until November 9th, 1989. Radical political changes had been underway in Eastern Europe, and civil unrest had wracked the East German government for weeks. Thousands of citizens from East and West Berlin met at the wall and smashed it down with sledgehammers.
This specimen is a piece of debris from the wall which was collected after the fall in 1989.
The Berlin Wall
On August 13th, 1961, construction began on a massive wall to encircle Western Berlin. The project was part of an effort to prevent citizens of East Germany from defecting to the West. With guard towers, barbed wires, and concrete blocks, the Berlin Wall stood for 38 years.
On November 9th, 1989, growing discontent caused the GDR to allow its citizens to visit West Germany. Thousands of East Berliners massed at the structure, many climbing the wall to join West Berliners in celebration while others smashed through with sledgehammers. Around the world, November 9th became known as the day the Berlin Wall fell.
This specimen is a fragment of concrete that was collected from the ruins of the wall after its fall in 1989. Shapes and patterns of each specimen vary as they come from different parts of the concrete.
All specimens are enclosed in an acrylic specimen jar with a removable top which arrives in a handsome, glass-topped riker box case measuring 4x3x1 (inches). A small information card is included, which also serves as the certificate of authenticity.
August 1961 - November 1989
MORE ABOUT THE BERLIN WALL
📸 Berlin civilians during the blockage in 1948
East & West
In the wake of Germany’s defeat in the Second World War, its capital city was partitioned between the victorious Allied powers: the British, French, and Americans occupying sectors in the west with the Soviets, having captured the city from the Germans, commanding a larger chunk in the east.
In the years after the war, the Soviet Union restricted movement across the city’s zones, prompting the Berlin Airlift of 1948-49. Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin conceded and lifted the blockade, replacing it with a network of red tape to unofficially hamper crossings.
📸 West Germany (Blue), East Germany (Red), Saarland (Purple), and West Berlin (Yellow.)
In 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany formed from the Allied-occupied zone, with the German Democratic Republic following later that year in the east. With the Allies’ rejection of Stalin’s plan for a reunified, disarmed Germany in 1952, the separation between East and West was fixed.
After Stalin’s death in 1953, control of the Soviet Union fell to Nikita Khrushchev who issued a 1958 ultimatum for U.S. troops to withdraw from West Berlin in six months. The deadline passed without incident and Khrushchev, along with U.S. President John F. Kennedy, largely balked at the Berlin issue, preferring to let the matter rest and not risk war.
📸 Workers constructing the wall in August of 1961
Walter Ulbricht, East Germany’s head of government, faced with a population drain of defectors via West Berlin, took matters into his own hands. If Berlin was not to be united, then its separation would be final.
On August 13, 1961, the GDR, under Operation Rose, began the construction of a massive wall encircling West Berlin. Sewers were sealed, phone lines cut, and barbed wire was installed around the territory. In just four days, the beginnings of the Berlin Wall had been finalized, and the first concrete blocks were put into place.
📸 The Berlin Wall in 1986
The post-war division between East and West Germany was made literal with a deadly no man’s land encircling half the city, manned by 300 watch towers of armed guards.
The wall stood until November 9th, 1989 when waning Soviet control and popular discontent prompted the GDR to allow its citizens to visit West Germany. Thousands of East Berliners massed at the structure, many climbing the wall to join West Berliners in celebration while others smashed through with sledgehammers.
The popular legitimacy of the GDR collapsed and less than a year later, East Germany was absorbed into the FRG.
Photographer: Udo Weitz
Photographer: Lionel Cironneau
Photographer: Thomas Kienzle
Front of the Specimen Card
Back of the Specimen Card
Funder, Anna. Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall. (2003).
Taylor, Fred. The Berlin Wall: A World Divided, 1961-1989 / Frederick Taylor. 1st Harper Perennial ed., Harper Perennial, 2008.