Can you imagine being separated from family or friends by a concrete wall? For almost 30 years that was the reality for thousands of Germans in West and East Berlin. On August 12, 1961 everything changed for Berliners with a 155 kilometre, and 12 feet high wall. Here are 6 facts you didn’t know about living behind the Berlin Wall.
Fact #1: The Berlin Wall was erected to prevent Soviet-controlled East Berliners from entering into the American-controlled west side but West Berliners were allowed to cross to the other side with a permit.
Fact #2: The wall only divided Berlin above ground but not underground. Train stations were shut down and booby traps kept East Berliners from escaping through sewers.
Fact #3: Before its fall in 1990, people were dubbed “wall woodpeckers” for chipping away pieces of the structure to keep as souvenirs.
Fact #4: At least 5,000 people attempted to climb the wall, most of them never making it. Hundreds more either drowned or were shot swimming across the Spree River nearby.
Fact #5: West Berliners used the divider as an ideal way of getting rid of trash by tossing it over the wall.
Fact #6: The East Side Gallery is an amazing stretch of artwork on the largest remaining piece of the Berlin Wall. After Germany was unified in 1990, artists and painters transformed the side, once untouchable, to create an international symbolism of freedom.
Unfortunately, it has been deteriorating ever since with the paintings flaking off, and the wall crumbling at each angle. The Gallery relies on contributions from private donors to maintain it but I think it’s becoming more and more forgotten and some non-artists feel they need to contribute with graffiti.
Getting There: Metro Stop “Ostbahnhof” on Mühlenstrasse in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district