The Berlin Wall Remembered

people in front of Berlin Wall

August 13, 2011, marked another milestone in Germany’s long journey to move beyond its troubled past. On that day, dignitaries and others gathered in Berlin to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the construction of the Berlin Wall. For decades, the wall was a potent symbol of the Cold War between the West and the Soviet Union. In the early morning hours of August 13, 1961, East German soldiers had hastily laid the foundations of a barrier intended to stop East Berliners from fleeing to prosperous and free West Berlin. Guards stationed at the wall were ordered to shoot anybody who attempted to cross. Over nearly three decades, perhaps as many as 700 died in their attempt to reach a better life.

The Berlin Wall was torn down in 1989. Since then, the city has undergone an inspiring transformation. More than 5.5 million tourists visit Berlin annually, making it the third-most popular destination in Europe. “Cold War tourism” brings many to Berlin, where they can trace the Berlin Wall’s route in a vintage East German car and have their passports stamped by an actor posing as an East German border guard. Tourists exchange their euros for East German marks or even duel with Darth Vader in the shadow of the Brandenburg Gate. All for a fee or a generous tip, Danke very much.

Some Germans decry the influx of entrepreneurship as the “Disneyfication” of the Berlin Wall. Others see it as the natural by-product of capitalism’s triumph over communism. With the events surrounding the recent anniversary behind them, ordinary Berliners are left to ponder the question of how properly to commemorate a painful part of their past.

Image credit: © Sean Gallup/Getty Images

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  1. Keshal Patel says:

    This was very interesting and informational. I never knew they had this kind of stuff in Germany.

  2. Nina Kumar says:

    it was just last school year i started learning about this. my teacher told me to look up this site and learn some more if i was interested. this article was very factual. and i really enjoyed it.

  3. Dave says:

    The year should be 2011 instead of 2001 in the first line of the story if it is 50 years after 1961.

  4. Kaley says:

    So true. Honesty and eveyrhting recognized.

  5. alli d says:


  6. Brooklyn says:

    I think the Berlin wall was cruel to the people. When I first learned about this, I asked my dad about it and told me everything! In a way I’m glad it’s torn down but, it’s a historical landmark.

  7. Arlena says:

    I find this very interesting. I didn’t even know there was a Berlin Wall so… yeah cool 🙂

  8. kgjdkg says:

    super interesting :]

  9. belstafflondon says:

    Great article, I just given this onto a co-worker who was doing a little research on that. And he in fact purchased me lunch because I discovered it for him

  10. motor head says:

    i think your not right

  11. motor head says:

    never mind

  12. alex says:


  13. Anonymous says:


  14. mathew says:

    i think this website is so cool

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  16. Shay says:

    What would’ve happened if the wall didn’t get knocked down?