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

Untangling the Enigma: The Architects behind the Berlin Wall

by | Mar 7, 2024 | Original Berlin

History is replete with defining moments that have shaped the world we know today. One such pivotal event is the construction of the Berlin Wall. From its ominous rise in 1961 to its eventual fall in 1989, this physical barrier stood as a powerful symbol of the ideological divide of the Cold War. But who were the individuals responsible for erecting this concrete curtain? In this article, we will embark on a journey through time to uncover the architects behind the Berlin Wall, shedding light on their motivations, actions, and the consequences that ensued. So fasten your seatbelts as we dig deep into this intriguing chapter of history.

The Wall’s Mastermind: Walter Ulbricht

The driving force behind the Berlin Wall was Walter Ulbricht, the leader of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Ulbricht, a staunch communist, sought to curb the mass exodus of East Germans to the more prosperous West. Tensions rose as individuals flocked to the Western sector in search of better economic opportunities and freedom.

Ulbricht’s plan was twofold: first, to prevent the brain drain of skilled workers and intellectuals leaving East Germany, and second, to establish a physical barrier to reinforce the socialist system and prevent ideological contamination from the capitalist West. This resulted in the creation of a 96-mile-long barrier divided into various sectors encompassing the city of Berlin.

The Face of East German Security: Erich Honecker

While Ulbricht initiated the idea, it was his successor, Erich Honecker, who oversaw the Berlin Wall’s most notorious phase. Honecker, as the leader of the Socialist Unity Party, believed in the strict control of citizens and the preservation of the GDR’s socialist regime. Under his leadership, the Berlin Wall was fortified, transforming it into a formidable barrier.

Honecker’s influence extended beyond the wall itself. He implemented ruthless measures to suppress dissidents and those who attempted to escape, employing the notorious secret police, the Stasi, to spy on citizens and quash any opposition. This reign of terror ensured that the Berlin Wall became more than just a physical blockade but a symbol of oppression and isolation for the inhabitants of East Germany.

The Man of Peace: Willy Brandt

In the midst of this tense era, there were voices calling for a path to reconciliation. Most notably, West German Chancellor Willy Brandt emerged as a proponent of détente and amicable relations between East and West. Brandt’s diplomatic efforts aimed to ease the tensions of the Cold War and bring about a thawing of relations.

Brandt’s policies of engagement and cooperation stood in stark contrast to the hardline approach of Ulbricht and Honecker. His commitment to dialogue ultimately paved the way for a significant event known as “Ostpolitik.” This policy sought to establish normalization between East and West, leading to increased communication and collaboration.

Escaping the Wall: The Courageous East Germans

While the Berlin Wall was designed to be impenetrable, determined individuals sought ways to defy its barriers and reach the freedom that lay just beyond. The number of successful escape attempts remains uncertain, but the stories of those who achieved liberation against all odds are awe-inspiring.

One notable example is the audacious tunnel escape. In 1962, a group of university students dug a tunnel beneath the wall, allowing 29 people to make their way to the West. Another daring escape involved a hot air balloon that soared over the formidable barrier, carrying a family to freedom.

These tales of bravery and resilience remind us of the indomitable spirit of those trapped behind the Berlin Wall. They epitomize the human quest for freedom and the lengths individuals will go to defy oppression.

The Stumbling Blocks Crumble: The Fall of the Berlin Wall

After decades of division, the Berlin Wall saw its impending demise in 1989. The pressures for change had intensified, both domestically and internationally, primarily fueled by the winds of Glasnost and Perestroika emanating from the Soviet Union.

Mass protests erupted in East Germany, demanding reforms and the opening of borders. The mounting pressure became too much for the government to bear. On November 9, 1989, an unintended announcement by a party official led to a wave of citizens flocking to the border crossings.

The border guards, unprepared for the influx, eventually relented, and the unthinkable happened—the Berlin Wall started to crumble. The world watched in awe as families and friends were joyously reunited, standing upon the symbolic ruins of a barrier that had divided a nation.

Conclusion: The Architects and the Aftermath

The Berlin Wall stood as a physical and ideological testament to the divisions of the Cold War era. Walter Ulbricht and Erich Honecker, among others, constructed and maintained this stark symbol of separation. However, it would be remiss not to acknowledge the tireless efforts of those who fought for freedom and reconciliation, such as Willy Brandt and the courageous escapees.

The legacy of the Berlin Wall serves as a poignant reminder of the power of human will and the triumph of unity over division. The fall of this monumental barrier transformed not only the physical landscape of Berlin but also the course of history. It serves as a permanent testament that no wall, however formidable, can hinder the indomitable spirit of humanity.

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