Saturday, January 19, 2019

The Berlin Wall Is Built — August 13, 1961

On August 13, 1961, Berlin woke up to a shock:  the East German Army had begun construction on the infamous Berlin Wall.  The Wall was initially constructed in the middle of Berlin, and expanded over the following months. It entirely cut off West Berlin from the surrounding East Germany, prohibiting East Germans to pass into West Germany.  However, American military cars were sometimes able to pass through and, in the words of Charles K. Johnson, “poke around.”  The Wall would quickly become a symbol of the Cold War and separated families for a generation. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan demanded “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Two years later, the Wall officially fell, leading to the eventual reunification of East and West Berlin.

Robert Lochner, who was interviewed by G. Lewis Schmidt in October 1991, was the Director of RIAS (Broadcasting in the American Sector) in Berlin.  Charles K. Johnson, an Economic Officer in Berlin, was interviewed by Jay P. Moffat in 2000. Elizabeth Ann Brown was a Political Officer in Bonn when the Wall began construction.  She was interviewed by Thomas J. Dunnigan beginning in May of 1995.  Bruce A. Flatin served in West Berlin from 1964-1969; he was interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy, beginning in January 1993.

Read another account of the building of the Berlin Wall. Go here to read about JFK’s famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech and the negotiations behind the Berlin Crisis.

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