The 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall

26 July 2019

Did you know that November 2019 this year marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall?

Separating East Germany and West Germany both physically and ideologically, the wall was built by East Germany in 1961.

On the east side was the socialist Eastern Bloc, which was an ally of the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, the west side was a capitalist state, allied with the USA and NATO.

Why was the Berlin Wall built?

After the German Reich was defeated in World War II, Germany (and Berlin) were divided into four zones: occupied by British, French, American, and Soviet powers. But the USSR ultimately wanted to control the whole country. So in 1949 a compromise was reached, and Germany was formally split into two states: East Germany and West Germany.

However, the introduction of a socialist state in East Germany did not run as smoothly as hoped. Rebellions sprang up, violence erupted, and there was a colossal ‘brain drain’ – where many of the most skilled workers moved to West Germany, hoping for a better life.   

East Germany could not afford for this to go on. So in August 1961, they closed the border in Berlin – deploying the army to stop people from going across. Six months later, the Wall was built.

When did the Berlin Wall come down?

So when did the Berlin Wall fall? Physically, the Berlin Wall started being demolished on November 9th 1989, and finished in November 1991. However, there had been protests, mass migration, and political instability across Eastern Europe throughout the late 1980s, all of which helped contribute to the Wall’s symbolic destruction, too.

After demolition of ten official crossing points had begun, local residents also took to the streets with a variety of tools, and created unofficial crossings of their own. By October 1990, the German Reunification Treaty had been completed – and Berlin became a united city once again.

What is left of the Berlin Wall today?

Today, there are a few small sections of the Berlin Wall still standing – the longest and most famous of which is the East Side Gallery. Over a kilometre long, this section of wall has been an open-air art gallery since 1990, when 118 artists from 21 countries painted murals of hope, freedom, and protest.  

A popular destination for school trips to Berlin, the East Side Gallery attracts art student tours for pupils of all ages, as well as school history trips from all over the world.