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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

In the midst of concrete and barbed wire, imagine a group of children lost in laughter and play, oblivious to the harsh realities that surround them. This starkly beautiful juxtaposition is encapsulated in a series of captivating black and white photographs by renowned Magnum photographer Thomas Hoepker. Today, we journey back to 1963, to explore the lives of children playing along the Berlin Wall through Hoepker’s lens.

A seasoned photojournalist with a career spanning over six decades, Thomas Hoepker is known for his ability to capture the essence of life within his frames. He documented life in East Germany from 1959 until the fall of the Berlin Wall, creating a visual anthology that presents an evocative narrative of a divided nation.

Painting a Picture of Berlin, 1963

The Berlin Wall, a symbol of the Cold War and a city divided, cast an imposing shadow over the lives of those who lived alongside it. Yet, amidst the tension and discord, life found a way to continue. Hoepker’s collection of photos focuses on an aspect of life that we don’t often associate with the Berlin Wall—childhood play.

The Joyful Rebellion of Childhood

As you peruse through these photos, you are immediately struck by a paradox. The towering Berlin Wall, a monolith of division and oppression, forms the backdrop of scenes filled with joy, camaraderie, and the innocence of childhood. Children can be seen playing, laughing, and even climbing on the wall.

One photograph stands out—an image of a young boy proudly standing atop the wall, his hands on his hips as if he’s just conquered a mountain. He is small in comparison to the foreboding structure, but in his world, he’s the king of the castle.

Another memorable image shows a group of children engrossed in a game of football, using the wall as their goalpost. The stark contrast between their lively game and the ominous wall is both poignant and profound.

#1 Child with scooter at the Berlin Wall. This pedestrian way belongs to the Soviet Sector of Berlin.

Child with scooter at the Berlin Wall. This pedestrian way belongs to the Soviet Sector of Berlin.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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#2 Two boys in leather shorts standing on a viewing platform at the western side of the Berlin Wall.

Two boys in leather shorts standing on a viewing platform at the western side of the Berlin Wall.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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#3 Children playing at the Berlin Wall in Berlin Wedding.

Children playing at the Berlin Wall in Berlin Wedding.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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#4 A child playing by the Berlin Wall. The latin words “IN TYRANNOS” has been written in capital letters on the Wall. West-Berlin.

A child playing by the Berlin Wall. The latin words "IN TYRANNOS" has been written in capital letters on the Wall. West-Berlin.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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#5 A man takes souvenir photos of his sons at the Berlin Wall near Bernauer Strasse. West-Berlin Wedding.

A man takes souvenir photos of his sons at the Berlin Wall near Bernauer Strasse. West-Berlin Wedding.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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#6 Scene at the Berlin Wall near Bernauer Strasse. Four children, one of them with a soccer ball and another with a bike, watching a fifth child climbing up the Wall.

Scene at the Berlin Wall near Bernauer Strasse. Four children, one of them with a soccer ball and another with a bike, watching a fifth child climbing up the Wall.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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#7 Children playing on the western side of the Berlin Wall.

Children playing on the western side of the Berlin Wall.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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#8 Children playing on the western side of the Berlin Wall.

Children playing on the western side of the Berlin Wall.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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#9 Children playing at the Berlin Wall near Bernauer Strasse. The three boys are climbing up the wall and moving along a barbed wire fence alongside the wall hand by hand.

Children playing at the Berlin Wall near Bernauer Strasse. The three boys are climbing up the wall and moving along a barbed wire fence alongside the wall hand by hand.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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#10 A young boy, on the West Berlin side, climbing the Berlin Wall between East and West Berlin.

A young boy, on the West Berlin side, climbing the Berlin Wall between East and West Berlin.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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#11 Boys wrestling on western side of the Berlin Wall near Bernauer Strasse while East German border guard watches with binoculars.

Boys wrestling on western side of the Berlin Wall near Bernauer Strasse while East German border guard watches with binoculars.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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#12 Young boys playing near a barbed wire fence along the border between East and West Berlin.

Young boys playing near a barbed wire fence along the border between East and West Berlin.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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#13 A young girl playing near a barbed wire fence along the border Wall between East and West Berlin.

A young girl playing near a barbed wire fence along the border Wall between East and West Berlin.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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#14 A young boy looking out a window near the border Wall between East and West Berlin.

A young boy looking out a window near the border Wall between East and West Berlin.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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#15 Children playing at the Berlin Wall in Wedding.

Children playing at the Berlin Wall in Wedding.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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#16 Children playing on the western side of the Berlin Wall.

Children playing on the western side of the Berlin Wall.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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#17 Children playing on the western side of the Berlin Wall.

Children playing on the western side of the Berlin Wall.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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#18 Children playing on the western side of the Berlin Wall.

Children playing on the western side of the Berlin Wall.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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#19 Girl and West Berlin Policeman in front of the Berlin Wall in Berlin Wedding.

Girl and West Berlin Policeman in front of the Berlin Wall in Berlin Wedding.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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#20 Children playing at the Berlin Wall in Berlin Wedding.

Children playing at the Berlin Wall in Berlin Wedding.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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#21 Children playing at the Berlin Wall in Berlin Wedding.

Children playing at the Berlin Wall in Berlin Wedding.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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#22 Children playing at the Berlin Wall in Berlin Wedding.

Children playing at the Berlin Wall in Berlin Wedding.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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#23 Children playing at the Berlin Wall in Berlin Wedding.

Children playing at the Berlin Wall in Berlin Wedding.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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#24 A girl on an overpass at the Berlin Wall in West-Berlin Wedding.

A girl on an overpass at the Berlin Wall in West-Berlin Wedding.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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#25 Children playing at the Berlin Wall in Berlin Wedding.

Children playing at the Berlin Wall in Berlin Wedding.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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#26 Garden Gnome in front of the Berlin Wall in Berlin Wedding.

Garden Gnome in front of the Berlin Wall in Berlin Wedding.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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#27 Children playing at the Berlin Wall in Berlin Wedding.

Children playing at the Berlin Wall in Berlin Wedding.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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#28 Children playing at the Berlin Wall in Berlin Wedding.

Children playing at the Berlin Wall in Berlin Wedding.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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#29 Children playing at the Berlin Wall in Berlin Wedding.

Children playing at the Berlin Wall in Berlin Wedding.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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#30 A young boy playing with an East German border guard near a barbed wire fence along the border between East and West Berlin. The boy is looking through binoculars into the West.

A young boy playing with an East German border guard near a barbed wire fence along the border between East and West Berlin. The boy is looking through binoculars into the West.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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#31 A young boy playing with an East German border guard near a barbed wire fence along the border between East and West Berlin. The boy is looking through binoculars into the West.

A young boy playing with an East German border guard near a barbed wire fence along the border between East and West Berlin. The boy is looking through binoculars into the West.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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#32 A boy playing with an East German border guard behind a barbed wire fence along the border wall between East and West Berlin.

A boy playing with an East German border guard behind a barbed wire fence along the border wall between East and West Berlin.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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#33 A boy playing with an East German border guard behind a barbed wire fence along the border wall between East and West Berlin.

A boy playing with an East German border guard behind a barbed wire fence along the border wall between East and West Berlin.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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#34 A boy playing with an East German guard behind a barbed wire fence along the border between East and West Berlin. The soldier is lying in the grass and performing gymnastics while the young boy watches him.

A boy playing with an East German guard behind a barbed wire fence along the border between East and West Berlin. The soldier is lying in the grass and performing gymnastics while the young boy watches him.

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Heartwarming Photos of Children Playing at the Berlin Wall in 1963

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Written by Andrew Thompson

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