15th August 1961: East German troops and police seal off the frontier between East and West Berlin with barbed-wire to control the flow of refugees.
IN PICTURES: THE BERLIN WALL IN 1961-1965
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It is exactly 49-years tomorrow since the Berlin Wall was constructed by the German Democratic Republic, drawing Soviet-occupied East Berlin away from the half of the city occupied by America, Britain and France, and firmly behind the iron curtain.
High stone walls with barbed wire, anti-vehicle trenches, troops and look-out towers divided streets, parks, roads, sometimes even buildings. Families were separated and lives ruined, in part to prevent the circumvention of emigration restrictions- to keep Germans and those in other Soviet states out of the democratised West – and in part to keep Western influences out.
A reported 3.5 million left the Eastern bloc in the immediate aftermath of the Soviet occupation of East Germany, prior to the Berlin Wall’s resurrection. But in the 28 years that the wall stood, only an estimated 5,000 attempted to breach it. Escape carried a serious risk of death, with as many as 200 lives lost overall.
Two months before the wall was built Walter Ulbricht, the First Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party, famously said ‘Niemand hat die Absicht, eine Mauer zu errichten!’ or ‘No one has the intention of erecting a wall!’ at an international press conference.