In pictures: remembering the Berlin Wall 30 years on

November 2019 marks 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, East Germany’s solution to the mass emigration of its citizens at the height of the Cold War. To mark the anniversary, we rounded up a selection of images showcasing the history of the wall – from its construction in August 1961 to its fall in 1989...

A man attacks the Berlin Wall with a pickaxe on the night of November 9th, 1989 as news spread rapidly that the East German Government would now start granting exit visas to anyone who wanted to go to the West. The announcement was misinterpreted as meaning the border was now open and East German border guards were unable to stop the rush of people to the Wall. Within hours people were smashing sections of the Wall with their own hand tools and these first cracks in the Wall led to the complete opening of the border within days. (Photo by robert wallis/Corbis via Getty Images)

The Berlin Wall was built at the height of the Cold War, on 13 August 1961. Its purpose? To keep disaffected East German citizens from moving to the west…

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August 1961: Building commandos of the National People's Army of the German Democratic Republic begin building the 3.5 metre-high wall to separate East Berlin from the other parts of the city. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
August 1961: Soldiers of the National People’s Army of the German Democratic Republic begin work on a 3.5 metre-high wall separating East Berlin from the other parts of the city. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
December 1961: An armoured truck cleans away debris after the East German government ordered construction work to strengthen the border crossing at Heinrich-Heine-Strasse (aka Checkpoint Delta) on the Berlin Wall. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
December 1961: An armoured truck cleans away debris following construction work to strengthen the border crossing at Heinrich-Heine-Strasse (aka Checkpoint Delta). (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The Berlin Wall: key facts

When was the Berlin Wall built?

The Berlin Wall was constructed in August 1961 after East German communists were given approval by Moscow to close the border between East and West Germany and build a physical barrier. 

Why was the Berlin Wall built?

The Berlin Wall was constructed to stop people from East Germany moving to the west at the height of the Cold War. Prior to the wall’s existence, one in six people had been fleeing the communist German Democratic Republic (GDR), many in search of work and a better life.

The border installations around West Berlin zig-zagged for 163 kilometres, or just over 100 miles. “It turned the usual function of walls – to keep people out – on its head; this wall was solely to keep its citizens in,” writes Professor Patrick Major for HistoryExtra.

When did the Berlin Wall fall?

The Berlin Wall fell on 9 November 1989, following a press conference in which   East German politician Günter Schabowski suggested that people would be “immediately” able to apply for passports to travel to the west. 

“By midnight tens of thousands of East Berliners had swamped the border checkpoints whose Stasi guards realised that the game was up,” writes Professor Patrick Major.

Read more facts about the history of the Berlin Wall

January 1962: Members of the East German Volkspolizei (police) repair a damaged section of the Berlin Wall. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
January 1962: Members of the East German Volkspolizei (police) repair a damaged section of the Berlin Wall following damage caused by bad weather. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
c1961/62: A young boy leans against the Berlin Wall. (Photo by Imagno/Getty Images)
c1961/62: A young boy leans against the Berlin Wall. (Photo by Imagno/Getty Images)
A young man and woman stand near the top of the Berlin Wall to talk to someone on the opposite side. (Photo by Getty Images)
Date unknown: A young man and woman stand near the top of the Berlin Wall to talk to someone on the opposite side. Unauthorised crossing was punishable by death. (Photo by Getty Images)
Crowds of Germans wait for friends and relatives to arrive from the opposite sector on a day the wall is open. (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images)
Crowds of Germans wait for friends and relatives to arrive from the opposite sector on a day when the wall is open. (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images)
Date unknown: Border guards on top of the Berlin Wall. (Photo by David Turnley/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)
Date unknown: Border guards on top of the Berlin Wall. (Photo by David Turnley/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)
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"Love is thicker than concrete": graffiti on the Berlin Wall. (Photo by Getty Images)
“Love is thicker than concrete”: graffiti on the Berlin Wall. (Photo by Getty Images)
Early November 1989: Germans living in West Berlin crowd in front of the Berlin Wall to watch guards open a new crossing point near Potsdamer Platz
Early November 1989: Germans living in West Berlin crowd in front of the Berlin Wall to watch guards open a new crossing point near Potsdamer Platz. (Photo by GERARD MALIE/AFP via Getty Images)
November 1989: A couple kisses in front of the wall. (Photo by Patrick PIEL/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
November 1989: A couple kisses in front of the wall. (Photo by Patrick PIEL/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
9 November 1989: A young man in East Berlin attacks the Berlin Wall following news that the government would grant exit visas to anyone wishing to go to the west. Within hours, people were smashing sections of the wall – leading to the complete opening of the border within days. (Photo by robert wallis/Corbis via Getty Images)
9 November 1989: A young man in East Berlin attacks the Berlin Wall following news that the government would grant exit visas to anyone wishing to go to the west. Within hours, people were smashing sections of the wall – leading to the complete opening of the border within days. (Photo by robert wallis/Corbis via Getty Images)
November 1989: Celebrations on the Berlin Wall. (Photo by Pool CHUTE DU MUR BERLIN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
November 1989: Celebrations on the Berlin Wall following news that the city’s partition has ceased to exist. (Photo by Pool CHUTE DU MUR BERLIN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Read more about the history of the Berlin Wall, its construction and its fall, here.