A barbed-wire barrier that became a 155-kilometer network of concrete walls, the Berlin Wall divided democratic West Berlin from Soviet-controlled East Berlin from 1961 until 1989.
Despite the Communist regime’s claim that the heavily guarded wall was a defensive measure, it effectively prevented East Germans from seeking freedom in the West. Nearly 200 people died trying to cross over to West Berlin.
On the 30th anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down, these photos illustrate both the brutal repression of Eastern Europe under the Communist regime and the exultation of freedom regained in 1989.
East German border guards carry 18-year-old Peter Fechter, whom they shot and killed when he tried to flee to West Berlin on August 17, 1962.
Turned away from the border by armed soldiers, an elderly couple retreat from a checkpoint on the East German side of the wall, August 13, 1961.
East German workers fortify the Berlin Wall with concrete blocks and metal bars. The Communist regime called it an “anti-fascist bulwark” to keep Westerners from entering East Germany and undermining its government. Instead, it became a symbol of Communist tyranny.
A West Berliner mourns at the grave marker of an East German woman who died in an attempt to escape East Berlin, August 1961.
Within hours of the East German government’s decision to allow its citizens passage to the West, people gather to celebrate near the Brandenburg Gate, November 9, 1989.
A woman climbs the Berlin Wall on November 10, 1989.
A man takes a hammer and chisel to the Berlin Wall, a monument of oppression for almost three decades.
West Berliners welcome East German citizens crossing the border on November 9, 1989. Less than a year later, the Communist government collapsed, and East Germany became a part of the Federal Republic of Germany that reunited the divided Germany.