Fall of the Berlin Wall Series
Lectures curated around the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which signaled the beginning of the end of Communism in Europe. This anniversary series includes lectures on Berlin and Germany, on human rights and freedom, as well as talks by some of the journalists who covered the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989.
The Berlin Wall was constructed by the German Democratic Republic (GDR) to separate West Berlin from East Germany, including East Berlin. Early in the morning on August 13, 1961, the GDR began to block off East Berlin and the GDR from West Berlin by means of barbed wire and antitank obstacles. Inhabitants of East Berlin and the GDR were no longer allowed to enter West Berlin, including 60,000 commuters employed in West Berlin. In the following days, construction brigades began replacing the provisional barriers by a solid wall. By August 23, 1961, citizens of West Berlin were no longer allowed to enter East Berlin, and by September 20, 1961 houses situated at the border to West Berlin were forcibly evacuated.
Prior to the Wall's erection, 3.5 million East Germans had avoided Eastern Bloc emigration restrictions to escape into West Germany, many over the border between East and West Berlin. During its existence from 1961 to 1989, the Wall stopped almost all such emigration and separated East Germany from West Germany for more than a quarter of a century. The Wall included guard towers lining large concrete walls circumscribing a wide area (later known as the "death strip") containing anti-vehicle trenches, "fakir beds" and other defenses. After its erection, around 5,000 people attempted to escape circumventing the wall, with estimates of the resulting death toll varying between 98 and 200.
In late fall of 1989, after several weeks of civil unrest (including an exodus of GDR inhabitants through Hungary and demonstrations in Leipzig, the East German government announced on November 9, 1989 that all GDR citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin. Over the next few weeks, parts of the wall were chipped away by a celebratory public and by souvenir hunters; industrial equipment was later used to remove most of the rest. The fall of the Berlin Wall paved the way for German reunification, which was formally concluded on October 3, 1990.
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