Free Walking Tour Berlin

When: Every day 10am & 12pm every day
Where: The meeting point is in front of the ehemaliges Kaiserliches Postfuhramt Berlin, Oranienburger Straße, 10117 Berlin, Germany, next to the entrance.
Price: Free

The Historic Divide: Understanding the Construction of the Berlin Wall

by | Mar 7, 2024 | Original Berlin

When exploring the tumultuous history of the twentieth century, one cannot ignore the significance of the Berlin Wall. Erected in 1961, this concrete barrier physically divided the city of Berlin, reflecting the political divide of the time between East and West. In this article, we delve into the reasons behind the construction of the Berlin Wall and the impact it had on the people, the Cold War, and the world at large.

The Context of the Cold War

To understand why the Berlin Wall was built, we need to examine the historical context of the Cold War. The aftermath of World War II left Europe divided into two distinct spheres of influence: the capitalist West, led by the United States, and the communist East, dominated by the Soviet Union.

In the heart of Berlin, which was itself divided into four occupation zones controlled by the four victorious Allied powers—the United States, Soviet Union, United Kingdom, and France—the ideological differences between East and West became increasingly tense.

Rising Tensions and the Brain Drain

The period after the war saw an increasing exodus of East German citizens to the more economically prosperous West. Seeking better opportunities and freedom from the restrictive socialist regime in the East, thousands of East Germans—including skilled professionals, intellectuals, and young people—flocked to the West.

This migration of talents, often referred to as a “brain drain,” threatened the viability and stability of the East German state. With a diminishing workforce and a growing sense of dissatisfaction among its citizens, the East German government feared losing control and becoming economically and politically weakened.

Desperation and Escalation

As the number of people leaving East Germany increased, the authorities became desperate to stop this mass exodus. Initially, they implemented stricter regulations and border controls, but these measures were ineffective.

On the night of August 12, 1961, the East German government took drastic action; overnight, they erected a makeshift barrier using barbed wire and barricades to separate East and West Berlin. This initial barrier was later fortified with the construction of the iconic Berlin Wall.

Reasons behind the Construction

Political Control and Propaganda

One of the primary motivations behind the construction of the Berlin Wall was to reassert political control over the East German population. By physically dividing the city, the East German government aimed to curtail emigration and maintain its grip on power.

Additionally, the presence of a physical barrier allowed the East German regime to control the flow of information and influence its citizens’ perception of the outside world. State-controlled media outlets propagated a narrative that portrayed the West as a threat, isolating East Germans from Western ideas and values.

Cold War Ideology

The construction of the Berlin Wall also played into the broader ideological struggle between the Soviet Union and the United States during the Cold War. The division of Berlin, with the Wall acting as a stark symbol, showcased the rivalry between communism and capitalism.

By reinforcing the notion that the West was an enemy, the Soviet Union hoped to maintain its grip on East Germany and prevent any potential ideological influence from the West on its population. The Berlin Wall became an emblematic manifestation of this ideological struggle.

Stability and Control for the Soviet Union

One must not overlook the significance of the Berlin Wall in ensuring stability and control of the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence. With East Germany being one of its most important allies in Eastern Europe, the construction of the Wall helped solidify the Soviet Union’s control over East Germany and prevent any potential fragmentation.

Moreover, the Soviet Union could not afford to allow a crisis sparked by the defection of skilled workers and intellectuals to weaken the East German economy and undermine its political agenda.


The Berlin Wall represented a physical and symbolic manifestation of the deep ideological divide between East and West during the Cold War era. Constructed primarily to control its population and prevent emigration, the Wall also symbolized the larger struggle between communism and capitalism.

While the Berlin Wall was seen by many as a symbol of oppression and division, its eventual fall in 1989 marked the beginning of an era of reunification, hope, and the fall of the Iron Curtain. The lessons learned from its construction and subsequent collapse continue to shape our understanding of history and serve as a reminder of the importance of freedom, unity, and the pursuit of peace.

Thank you for reading. If you're inspired by the stories of Berlin and want to delve deeper, why not join us on our Free Berlin Walking Tour? It's a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the city's rich history and vibrant culture. We look forward to welcoming you soon.


  • 3.5 hours walking tour
  • Berlin’s major highlights
  • Brandenburg Gate
  • Reichstag and Berlin Wall
  • Historical sites

Free Walking Tour Berlin

When: Every day 10am & 12pm every day
Where: The meeting point is in front of the ehemaliges Kaiserliches Postfuhramt Berlin, Oranienburger Straße, 10117 Berlin, Germany, next to the entrance.
Price: Free