- History & Culture
Why the Berlin Wall rose—and how it fell
The ugly symbol of the Cold War was built to keep East Germans from escaping to the West. A decades-long fight to flee brought it down.
For nearly 30 years, Berlin was divided not just by ideology, but by a concrete barrier that snaked through the city, serving as an ugly symbol of the Cold War. Erected in haste and torn down in protest, the Berlin Wall was almost 27 miles long and was protected with barbed wire, attack dogs, and 55,000 landmines. But though the wall stood between 1961 and 1989, it could not survive a massive democratic movement that ended up bringing down the the socialist German Democratic Republic (GDR) and spurring on the Cold War’s end.
The wall had its origins in the end of World War II, when Germany was carved into four pieces and occupied by