The infamous Berlin Wall was erected in August 1961 to stanch the exodus of disillusioned citizens from the struggling East German communist state. With Soviet support, and in a marvel of precision planning, the border between East and West Berlin was closed and transformed overnight into a brick and mortar manifestation of the Cold War. (More about the Berlin Wall here).
Much like the Iron Curtain, the Berlin Wall was not simply a narrow barrier but it also encompassed a large militarized zone on the East German side where people were removed from their homes, buildings boarded up, streets closed, and structures cleared away to make observation of the Wall zone easier for the shoot-on-sight guards.
The Wall was breached in November 1989 as the East German government collapsed, and within years much of the physical barrier was removed as Berlin and Germany reunified. Nevertheless it is still today very much a part of Berlin’s cityscape as well as its psyche.
I first visited Berlin in 1962, several months after the Wall was built, when I was in the U.S. Army working as a newspaper reporter. At that time, and on subsequent trips to Berlin, I often passed through Checkpoint Charlie (rather nervously, I might add) so I could observe East Berlin firsthand. Unfortunately, I have no photographs from that time because they were strictly forbidden; my memories of that time, however, are indelibly imprinted in my mind.
Decades later I returned to Berlin in 2001, some 11 years after Berlin (and Germany) were unified and the Wall abandoned. Understandably, I took hundreds of pictures of the Wall zone. More recently I was in Berlin during the summer of 2011, 50 years after the Wall was built. Photos from both 2001 and 2011 are here on my Flickr photo account (click on “slideshow” to see photos, but to read the captions go back to thumbnails or click on “detail”).