Work Begins on the Berlin Wall

U.S. #3211 – During the Berlin Airlift, the U.S. and our Allies delivered food and supplies to blockaded West Berlin.

Shortly after midnight on August 13, 1961, East German soldiers laid barbed wire and bricks, creating the Berlin Wall.

When the Nazis were defeated in World War II, Germany was divided into two countries. The German Democratic Republic in the East was part of the communist Soviet Bloc, while the Federal Republic of Germany was aligned with Western Europe. The capital city of Berlin was technically part of the Soviet zone, but was split as well. The Soviets attempted to blockade the Allied-supported western half of the city, but the Berlin airlift foiled those plans.

Soon the oppressed in East Germany traveled west to find better opportunities. Over the course of 12 years, some 3 million people made the journey. To prevent additional defectors, the East German communist leader ordered a wall to be built between East and West Berlin. Work on the wall began on August 13, 1961 and it eventually rose to be 10 feet high and extended 100 miles. Suddenly, the people of Berlin were cut off from their friends and families on the other side of the wall.

U.S. #1246 – In 1963, President Kennedy visited the wall and celebrated West Berlin as a symbol of freedom against tyranny.

A physical representation of the “Iron Curtain,” the dreaded Berlin Wall was a daily reminder to citizens of East Berlin of their government’s brutality. The wall was known around the world as a symbol of the Communist government’s strength. It quickly became a symbol of the Cold War and was the site of frequent protests and continued escape attempts. At least 100 people died trying to get across this barrier to freedom.

U.S. #3897 – President Reagan visited the wall in 1987 and demanded it be torn down.

By the 1980s, the powerful Soviet Union started to crumble economically and politically. Protesters took to the streets of East Germany beginning in September 1989. On a Monday evening, thousands of East Germans poured into a square near the St. Nicholas Church in Leipzig to show their opposition to the Communist rule of their German Democratic Republic government. Surrounded by police and government troops, some 70,000 protestors held a candlelight vigil. They returned the following Monday, and the Monday after that, and their number grew. Remarkably, the protestors were armed with only one thing – a chant that spoke to all of us: “Wir sind das volk! Wir sind ein volk! Deutsche einheit!” (“We are the people! We are one people! German unification!”) The chant grew louder, the news spread – and so did the dream of democracy.

U.S. #3190k – The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

The “Peaceful Revolution” lasted for two months. On November 9, the government announced that crossing points would be opened along the border for anyone who wanted to leave the country. Crowds soon gathered at checkpoints, and the border guards, who hadn’t been given clear instructions, let people through the gates without checking identification.

Item #4453514 – German coin honors re-opening of Brandenburg Gate after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

In the weeks that followed, citizens from both sides of Germany became “wall woodpeckers” – they came to the wall with chisels and chipped off a piece as a souvenir. Soon the holes were large enough that East Germans walked through them to freedom.

During the next year, negotiations took place to work out the details for a unified Germany. The five states that made up East Germany became part of the Federal Republic of Germany. On October 3, 1990, the “Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany” went into effect, and the following month free elections were held throughout Germany for the first time since 1932.

Item #57996 – FDC presentation pack outlines the events leading to Germany’s reunification.

Click here to see video from the night the Berlin Wall fell.

Click here to see last year’s discussion about This Day in History.

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  1. The Yalta Conference divided the pie and we moved from the Hot to the Cold War. It was a scary time. I saw the wall go up and I saw the wall come down. Freedom can not be contained within a wall. Collecting stamps is a great way to remember History. Let us never forget our past.

  2. Wir sind das volk! Wir sind ein volk! Deutsche einheit!
    should read correctly as
    Wir sind das Volk! Wir sind ein Volk! Deutsche Einheit!

  3. I went through through the checkpoints Alpha, Bravo and Charlie while the wall was up in 1979. It was frightening when the vehicles were searched for anything that might be considered contraband, etc. It definitely made you appreciate the freedoms we have in the US and most western countries.

    1. We went through in 1981 and have photos to document it. The contrast between West and East Berlins were unbelievable at that time.

  4. “Iron Curtain” was not in reference to the Berlin Wall but rather the most concrete example of what Winston Churchill astutely observed in his 1946 speech in Missouri.

    1. I’m glad someone brought that up. As you said, the Berlin wall was not the Iron Curtain. It was a term used to describe anything within the USSR’s sphere of influence. The so-called communist bloc. Churchill was one of the first to recognise this, as you also pointed out, and he gets credit for coining the phrase. The airlift called the USSR’s bluff and there are many stories of heroism and kindness that came out of it. To the willing, it’s worth a closer look. Thanks for these little bits of history.

  5. This is my third or fourth time that I am writing to day that I have not been receiving by email the Mystic Stamp day in history stories.
    I am still chasing them down myself which makes me happy to get to read the stories.
    Can you please send them to me on a daily basis??

  6. Both Yalta and Tehran, had: Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, Chan Kai Check, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. On one of the meetings, the Chinese Head was not present. It was these collaborations that laid the groundwork for the eventual establishment of the NWO (New World Order) following the end of WWII. Thank You Mr Stu Hoyt for your comment. Thank you WGP. There are words that are capitalized in German, that are not in English. And to R. Appleyard, and Mr Thomas Daniel. The term “Iron Curtain” refers to the Russian-Communist “Sphere of Influence” In the Far East, it is referred as the: “Bamboo Curtain”

  7. Part of my mothers family who I had no idea existed, endured 46 years in the so called German Democratic Republic escaped under the guise of a holiday in Hungary in late 1989 when the border between Hungary and Austria was opened. My mothers family left East Germany with little more more than the clothes on their back. They now are free and live in Vienna. Word to those here in America who want socialism, think twice as I have stories that would make your blood boil. Be thankful you live here in America

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