West Germans scale the Berlin Wall before East German guards as the Cold War barrier came down in November 1989. PHOTOGRAPH BY HESSE, ULLSTEIN BILD/GETTY
CAIRO – 14 August 2022: Shortly after midnight on August 13, 1961, East German soldiers began laying barbed wire and bricks as a barrier between Soviet-controlled East Berlin and the democratic western part of the city.
The story began a few days before with Walter Albrecht, the communist leader of East Germany, getting the green light from Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev to start closing all entrances between East and West Berlin.
Soldiers set to work on the night of August 12-13, and put over 100 miles of barbed wire a little inside the borders of East Berlin. The wire was soon replaced by a six-foot-high, 96-mile-long wall of concrete blocks, guard towers, machine-gun poles and searchlights. East German officers known as Volkspolizei patrolled the Berlin Wall day and night, according to History.
After World War II, defeated Germany was divided into Soviet, American, British and French occupation zones. The city of Berlin, although technically part of the Soviet region, was also divided. The Soviets captured the eastern part of the city after a massive Allied airlift in June 1948 thwarted a Soviet attempt to encircle West Berlin.The eastern part was pulled more tightly into the fold of the USSR.
Over the next 12 years after its isolation from its western counterpart, East Germany saw between 2.5 million and 3 million of its citizens turn to West Germany in search of better opportunities. By 1961, about 1,000 East Germans - including many skilled workers, professionals, and intellectuals - were leaving each day.