Saturday, August 13, 2016


JFK+50:  Volume 6, No. 2038


Berlin (JFK+50) Fifty-five years ago today, August 13, 1961, the East German government began construction of a wall designed to permanently divide the eastern and western parts of the city of Berlin.

East German guards were posted to stop anyone from crossing the border. While the wall was under construction, barbed wire was used to separate the two parts of the city.

The Berlin Wall had been under consideration throughout most of the 1950s as 3.5 million East Germans crossed over into West Berlin.  By 1960, East Germany had only 61% of its population at working age vs. 70.5% at the end of WWII.  Its losses as a result were estimated between $7 and $9 billion.

The Berlin Wall  stretched 96 miles with 69.5 miles along the border between East and West Berlin.  The height of the wall was 11.8 feet.  Between 1961 and 1989 there were 5000 attempts by East Berliners to cross over the border.

West Berlin became isolated from the Free World completely surrounded by Communist territory as the city was located within the boundaries of East Germany.  The wall was built at a time of increasing tensions of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.

While President John F. Kennedy was not particularly pleased with the wall, he said to his aides privately, "a wall is a hell-of-a-lot better than a war."  During the Cuban Missile Crisis, there was concern that the Soviets would attempt to seize West Berlin.

With the fall of Communist regimes across Europe in the late 1980s, the Berlin Wall was toppled on November 9, 1989.

Today JFK+50 visited the Newseum in Washington, D.C.  It was an opportune time to learn more about the Berlin Wall and to take some appropriate photographs.

In the panel titled "A Caged City," the Newseum tells us...

"In the early morning hours of August 13, 1961, the Berlin Wall appeared without warning.  Communist-controlled East Germany strung barbed wire (and) guards were ordered to shoot anyone trying to enter West Berlin."


Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

Original Fragment of the Berlin Wall
Newseum Collection
Washington, D.C.
August 13, 2016
Photos by John White