After World War II, Germany was divided into two portions. East Germany was controlled by the Communist German Democratic Republic (GDR), and West Germany was controlled by the US government, France, and Britain. The capital, Berlin was also divided into west and east Berlin. West Germany was booming with rapid economic growth, they had better food supply, better infrastructure, and better jobs and opportunities for the bright future. While on the other side, East Germany was struggling for basic necessities.
The majority of the people were moving to the west in search of work under West Germany’s economic miracle. The growth stopped in East Germany and more than 1.2 million people moved to the West. The communist government Nikita Khrushchev decided to build the longest walls to stop the people from moving to the west. GDR authorities officially referred to the Berlin Wall as the Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart while the West Berlin city government sometimes referred to it as the “Wall of Shame”. The construction was started on 13 August 1961.
People were still crossing the wall by climbing or using the underground tunnels, so the GDR decided to secure the wall with security guards and troops. They were patrolling day and night around the wall to stop the people. During this period thousands of people attempted to cross the wall and only a few of them succeeded. Hundreds of people were shot by the troops and guards.
Here below are some historical photos that show life around the Berlin wall from the 1960s to the late 1980s.
Two men only dress in their swimming trunks are covered with blankets and smoking a cigarette after they managed to flee across the high-security border separating Berlin to the West at a refugee camp in West Berlin Marienfelde swimming across the river Spree on Aug. 13, 1961
In the foreground, French Military Police, left, West Berlin alert police, right, and West Berlin customs officials are on guard in front of the concrete wall on the western side of the Berlin Wall in the French sector near Schoenholz, Germany, on Sept. 27, 1961. In the background behind the concrete wall and barbed wire fence are East Berliners working on cable. Beyond them, East German soldiers guard the border.
Crouching in a tangle of grass in East Berlin," wrote LIFE when this escape sequence originally ran in the magazine, "and hidden except for his face [barely visible on the left side of the pic], a boy waits to make a break over the wall he must surmount to reach the West. Nearby is a patrol of East German Vopos who will shoot to kill if they see him."