This is an updated and extended version of the historic timeline of the events about and surrounding the Berlin Wall that separated a city and it’s people for over 28 years. I posted a timeline previously on July 29, 2009. This version has much more details and I also included a lot more images to illustrate the individual events within the historic timeline.
The timeline extends beyond the events of the actual erection of the Wall on August 13, 1961 and its fall on November 9, 1989, because I believe that it is important to know the events that eventually led to the building of such a horrible thing in the first place. Events actually started with the end of World War 2 in Europe and when Nazi Germany surrendered to the victorious allies.
BEFORE THE WALL
|May 8th, 1945 – Germany signs its total capitulation and ends the World War 2 in the European theatre.
Picture: Raising of the Soviet flag on top of the Berlin Reichstag building by soldiers of the Red Army on May 2nd, 1945
|Germany is broken up into 4 zones, each governed by one of the victorious Allies: the Soviet Union, the United States, Great Britain and France. Berlin gets a special status and is also broken up into 4 zones. The three sectors occupied by the U.S., Britain and France is called West Berlin or the “allied sectors” and the Soviet occupied sector is called East Berlin or simply “the zone”.|
|June 19th, 1948 – A new currency is introduced, but only in 3 of the 4 German sectors, the American, British and French occupied. The Soviets responded to this on June 23rd, 1948 with the blockade of West Berlin and an emergency changeover to a new currency for the soviet occupied sector. The blockade will last almost an entire year before it is lifted on May 11th, 1949.|
September 9th, 1948 Ernst Reuter makes his famous speech where he appeals to the
|May 23rd, 1949, West Germany or more correctly the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) is founded in the West Sectors (US/GB/FR), „Bonn“ becomes the temporary Capital, the „special status“ of Berlin remains. On October 7th, 1949 the second German state, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) is founded in the soviet occupied zone.|
|June 17th, 1953 Volksaufstand (People Unrest) in East Berlin. The uprising is triggered by an increase in Quota for Workers by the government, but fuelled by a general unhappiness with the situation in the Eastern part of Germany|
June 15th, 1961 – International Press-Conference in East-Berlin
The East German Head of State “Walter Ulbricht” responded to this question with the following…
|July, 1961, 30.415 refugees moved to West Berlin, the largest number since 1953. The border between West and East Germany was already shut close and every attempt to cross it a deadly risk. The border between West and East Berlin was the only opening left for people to escape; East Germany was bleeding out, because the people who fled were mostly the young and skilled workers, which had catastrophic consequences for the East German economy.|
THE WALL IS BEING ERRECTED
|August 13th, 1961 0:00AM local time, launch of operation “Rose”. East German Army (NVA), Standing/Militarized Police Force (Bereitschaftspolizei), Paramilitary Combat Troops (Kampfgruppen der Arbeiterklasse) severed 12 City Train and Subway connections between East and West Berlin, by 1:05AM Brandenburg Gate was blocked and by 6:00AM 193 Main and Side Streets between West and East Berlin were cut off/blocked.|
Nowhere becomes the tragedy more clear than at Bernauer Strasse where the houses on one side belong to East Berlin, but the street including the curb to West Berlin.
East German could simply climb out of their Windows to flee to the west, but that was made harder quickly when East Germany started to wall up the windows, starting at the lower floors first forcing people to take much greater risks by escaping through windows in the upper floors.
This is also the reason for the Wall to claim its first victim there.
August 22nd, 1961, the 58 years old Ida Siekmann died as a result of her injuries caused by her jump out of the window at Bernauer Stasse.
|October 27th, 1961 5:00PM, 10 Tanks on each side, the American and Russian faced off at the Berlin Wall for 18 hours, getting the world at the brink of World War 3. The Incident was caused because an American diplomat was forced by East German border guards to show papers, which was against his immunity status.|
|August, 1962 Brick Wall 7 ½ Miles, 91.7 Miles Fences, 130 Watchtowers|
|August 17th, 1962, the 18-years old bricklayer Peter Fechter was shot by East German border guards when he attempted to escape from East Berlin to West Berlin. He bleeds to death, lying in the death strip near the border crossing “Checkpoint Charlie” after crying for help for over 1 hour, in front of West Berlin Police and allied forces who were unable to help him.|
1965 The brick wall is being replaced by concrete Wall
1966 Wall length 25 KM (15.5 mi), 210 Watchtowers
|Between 1975 and 1980 the final and most sophisticated version of the wall was build, which was made up of 12ft high and 4ft wide reinforced concrete segments. The top of those segments was lined with smooth pipe, made of concrete as well to make it harder to climb. This new concrete wall made up 66mi of the 96mi border around West Berlin. 27mi of it was the border between East and West Berlin, with 23mi of it through residential areas. It got also 302 watch towers and 20 bunkers to make this border even more impregnable. Additional technical details: Electrified Fence: 107,5 KM (66.8 mi), Anti-Tank Trenches: 105,5 KM (65.5 mi), Metal Grating (special fence): 66,5 KM (41.3 mi)|
|February 5th, 1989, the Wall claimed its last victim. The 20 years old Chris Gueffroy was shot at the Wall while he and his friend attempted to cross the border to West Berlin.|
|May 2nd, 1989 Communist Hungary begins to dismantle the 150mi (240 km)of barbed-wire fence along its border with capitalist neighbor Austria.|
|August 8th, 1989 Hundreds of East Germans take refuge in West German diplomatic facilities in East Berlin, Prague, and Budapest.|
|August 19th, 1989 Hungarian border guards unlock a frontier gate at a joint Hungarian-Austrian friendship picnic organized by Hungarian opposition groups and Austria’s “Pan-Europa Union”, allowing hundreds of East Germans to flee into Austria (illegally).|
|September 11th, 1989, Hungary legalized travel over the border to Austria for GDR (East German) citizens heading for the FRG (West Germany).|
|October 1st, 1989, West German Foreign Minister Hans Dietrich Genscher announces to the 3,500 East German refugees (including 800 children) in the West German Embassy in Prague that they are permitted to leave to West Germany. More than 800 East Germans who camped at the West German Embassy in Warsaw were also permitted to leave. More than 30,000 East Germans had fled by then via the Hungarian-Austrian border already.|
|October 4th, 1989 East Germany allows the refugees in the West German embassy in Prague to leave to West Germany via special trains driving across East Germany (implying that those refugees are being expelled from East Germany, which makes them legal immigrants and exempts them from criminal prosecutions in absentia for violating an East German law that prohibits “escape from the republic.”) Riots occurred in the East German cities where the special trains passed through.|
|October 7th, 1989. East Germany celebrates its 40th anniversary with a big parade and the soviet prime-minister Michael Gorbachev as a special guest. The Palace of the Republic where the leaders celebrated later that evening is completely surrounded and cut off by police. Outside in the streets people were demonstrating against the system. Riots erupted.|
|November 4th, 1989, the largest single demonstration against the regime took place in East Berlin. At least 500,000 people gathered in the center of the City to protest.|
November 9th, 1989 6:00PM At the end of an international press conference in East Berlin, East German Politbüro member Günther Schabowski fished out a handwritten note that was handed to him 30 minutes before the conference and announced a new travel law in front of the astonished international press , quote:
Some members of the press asked “When?”, “From Now?”
Berliners from East and West could not believe their ears when they heard about this announcement in the evening news and flocked to the border to find out if this is really true. When they arrived at the border, they found the border crossings shut as usual. People were upset and talked to the border guards, referring to what Schabowski had said on national television, meanwhile people from West Berlin started climbing the Wall platform at Brandenburg Gate from the western side, which was unique and only available there.
Note: Mr. Schabowski made an error. East Germans were not supposed to be able to cross the borders to West Berlin and West Germany immediately. They were required to get a travel visa at a local police or registration office first, which were to be issued to any East German who asks for it without any restriction starting on November 10th, 1989. The issued visa would not be valid before the next day or November 11th, 1989.
People felt betrayed and some even tor their passports or IDs to pieces in protest. Eventually the guards were allowed to let the loudest of the “trouble makers” pass and stamped their IDs in a special way to be able to identify them later and deny access back to East Berlin, if they should decide to return. Most of them did of course, which heated the situation even further.
November 9th, 1989 11:30PM local time, PKE-Oberstleutnant Harald Jäger (PKE = Passkontrolleinheit), officer in charge at the border crossing between Berlin Prenzlauer Berg and Wedding, at Bornholmer Strasse disobeys a direct order of his superior officer Oberst Sieghorn and ceases passport check operations. The pike fell.
The impregnable bulwark of East Germany against the capitalist west lost its power over night without a single shot being fired “to defend it”. This is a remarkable fact that should not be forgotten.
The Berlin Wall lasted 10,860 days.
THE WALL FELL
|October 3rd, 1990, East and West Germany are re-united (4 days before the 41 birthday of East Germany, which was intended)|
There were 136 confirmed deaths (as of 7. August 2009**) as a direct result of the Berlin Wall (and at least 251 died during or shortly after checks at Berlin border crossings**); the actual number of deaths is probably much higher. Estimates go as high as over 200 and over 1,000 deaths on the entire border between East and West Germany . East German authorities were trying to cover up any incident as good as possible, which makes it impossible to ever be able to determine the actual number of deaths caused by the Wall and the inner German border.
Break-down of the 136 confirmed deaths**:
- 98 East German escapees who died during their attempt to cross the border, through deadly fire by border guards, fatal accident or committing suicide.
- 30 people from East and West Germany without escape intentions were either shot or had fatal accidents at the border.
- 8 East German border guards, who were killed by a deserter, comrade, escapee, escape helper or by a West-Berlin cop while on-duty.
Figures with unknown source/not verified:
Total number of escaped persons: 218,283 using Disguise, Hand-built Aircrafts, Small Submarines, Hot-Air Balloons, Tunnels, Rudimentary Chair Lifts and other ingenious methods.
Sentences for Escapes: 60,000 with an average term of imprisonment of 16 months. Most of them were “sold off” to West Germany usually for the equivalent of today $75,000 US Dollars a-piece (paid in DM back then) after that time.
** Source: Joint project “Die Todesopfer an der Berliner Mauer 1961-1989” (The Fatalities at the Berlin Wall 1961-1989) between “Gedenkstaette Berliner Mauer” (Berlin Wall Memorial) and the “Zentrums fuer Zeithistorische Forschung Potsdam” (Center for time based Historic Research Potsdam)
I wrote about the subject of the Berlin Wall already several times in the past and even created some video documentaries to illustrate the events in picture and audio. Here is the list of my previous posts:
- The Berlin Wall and the Walls between Us (August 6, 2008)
- The Berlin Wall History – Lessons Learned … Again (September 4, 2008)
- Moments in History – The Fall of the Berlin Wall (December 6, 2008)
- The Berlin Wall – August 13, 1961 to November 9, 1989 (July 29, 2009)
- The Fall of the Berlin Wall – Personal Account of Events (August 13, 2009) (on the day, the Wall was erected)
- Berlin Wall Video Responses, Copyright and Background Information (October 5, 2009)
The reason for the increased coverage is the upcoming 20th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9th, 2009. This is a big event and commemorated around the world.
Carsten aka Roy/SAC
Born in East Berlin in 1974
Appendix A) Names and year of death of the confirmed fatalities**:
Sahmland, Max Willi
|1978 and 1979
Steinhaür, Ulrich (Border Guard)
Muschol, Dr. Johannes
Freie, Lothar Fritz