The Berlin Wall, constructed in 1961, was the border between West Berlin and East Berlin, a single city in Germany separated by different political cultures. West Berlin was affiliated with democratic West Germany, although the city was actually divided into French, British, and American sectors. East Berlin was controlled by the Soviet Union.

Photograph by Volkmar Wentzel
  • On August 13, 1961, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) began construction of the Berlin Wall. The barrier was erected to stop a flow of emigrants fleeing the Soviet-held quarter of the city, and quickly became a stark symbol of the Cold War.

    After World War II, the city of Berlin was occupied by the victorious Allies. The Soviets administered the largest quarter, “East Berlin,” while the French, British, and American quarters made up “West Berlin.” The Berlin Wall stretched about 155 kilometers (96 miles) and consisted of tall concrete barriers (the wall itself), barbed wire fencing, anti-vehicle trenches, and watch towers staffed with armed guards. More than 100 people died trying to breach the wall, which fell after a popular East German uprising (the “Peaceful Revolution”) in 1989.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    Allies Noun

    alliance of countries that opposed the Axis during World War II. The Allies were led by the U.S., the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union.

    barrier Noun

    obstacle or object that prevents movement.

    Berlin Wall Noun

    (1961-1989) barrier erected by East Germany that divided the city of Berlin into halves controlled by East Germany and West Germany.

    boundary Noun

    line separating geographical areas.

    Encyclopedic Entry: boundary
    city Noun

    large settlement with a high population density.

    Cold War Noun

    (1947-1991) conflict between the Soviet Union (and its allies) and the United States (and its allies). The two sides never confronted each other directly.

    construction Noun

    arrangement of different parts.

    Soviet Adjective

    having to do with the Soviet Union and the areas it influenced.

    symbol Noun

    something used to represent something else.

    World War II Noun

    (1939-1945) armed conflict between the Allies (represented by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union) and the Axis (represented by Germany, Italy, and Japan.)