Photograph by Thomas Nebbia, Nat Geo Image Collection
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“Attention! You are now leaving West Berlin,” warns the sign in this picture, taken in front of the city’s famed Brandenburg Gate in 1961, on the eve of the border closing. This photograph appeared in the December 1961 issue of National Geographic magazine.

Photograph by Thomas Nebbia, Nat Geo Image Collection

From the archives: Life behind the Berlin Wall in 1961

30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, see how National Geographic reported from the city as East German officials began dividing it.

“When we first arrived in Berlin last summer, the concrete curtain had not yet fallen,” wrote National Geographic correspondents Nathaniel Kenney and Volkmar Wentzel in 1961. Their account, which appeared in the December 1961 issue of the magazine along with dozens of color photographs, provides readers with a deeply thoughtful and occasionally harrowing account of how the barricades rose and spliced through the heart of Berlin, and how residents of West Berlin were rebuilding their lives in an urban island surrounded by Communist forces.