The Berlin Wall (Berliner Mauer)
On 13th August 1961 the authorities of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) or in German Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR) commenced construction of the Berlin Wall. The East Germans called their Wall the Anti-Fascist Protective Wall,which was designed to stop East Germans and East Berliners defecting to West Berlin, where the border had been open.
Until it was opened again in November 1989, ‘The Wall’ cut off West Berlin from East Berlin and East Germany, effectively isolating the ‘Divided City’ which became an island of freedom in the midst of the Eastern Bloc. There were Air, Land and Rail corridors which had been agreed by the four military powers controlling Berlin after the war. Only certain airlines were permitted to use the Air Corridors and military personnel travelling the road and rail corridors were required to wear uniform, their identity being checked by Russian soldiers.
The Berlin Wall was the barrier between East and West Berlin, whereas the barrier between West Berlin and East Germany was known as ‘The Wire’. Both barriers initially comprised of a wire fence which was improved in 1962 by the addition of a concrete block wall between East and West Berlin and a further wire fence 100 metres into East German territory. Over the next few years the wire fence was improved and the area between the fences cleared to provide a death strip where the guards in their towers had an uninterrupted fields of fire. From 1965 until 1975 the concrete wall was improved and eventually replaced by the fourth generation wall, a very sophisticated structure indeed.
To deter would be escapees, the East German border was continually upgraded and included guard watchtowers, anti-tank obstacles and traps, patrolling guards, war dogs either free running between fences or on long leashes, mines, trip wires, raked sand to show footprints and the controversial spring gun or automated firing device. The official number of deaths at the Berlin Wall is given as 139, however, some researchers believe the figure to be higher. The Author was present at a number of escape attempts and witnessed escapers being shot whilst on the Berlin Wall and Wire. An extract from his AB 466 Police Note Book dated 5th November 1969 whilst on Wall Patrol reads: "1305 Hours Bravo 13, attempted escape from East Berlin, man shot and taken away by ambulance. Male Person 25 - 30 years, from Leipziger Strasse,crossed tank traps onto death strip, ordered to halt, started to run, East Germans opened fire, approximately 20 shots, 20 yards from wall, man ran to old S-Bahn tunnel entrance, brought out by four guards and taken away in red cross ambulance".