The Berlin Wall was under the constant surveillance of armed East German border guards who were authorised to shoot anyone attempting to escape into West Berlin. Though construction  began in 1961, the wall would divide the city until 1989.

But what was life like in divided Berlin?
 

Life in Divided Berlin

I'm here at the Tränenpalast, meaning Palace of Tears, in Berlin. The name is in reference to tearful goodbyes between people at this former checkpoint between West and East Berlin at the Friedrichstraße railway station. Today is it home to a museum dedicated to people who experienced and lived in divided Berlin. 

When the Berlin wall was constructed on the 13th of August 1961, it was painful for citizens. Relatives, friends and neighbours were separated overnight. Travel restrictions made it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for them to reunite. Loved ones would wave at each other over the wall or communicate through letters. As telephone lines between West and East Berlin had been cut in 1952, not to be reconnected until 1971. Some people wanted to flee the German Democratic Republic and many succeeded, meaning that the border fortifications were improved and expanded over time to deter people from escaping further. Despite this, and the border guards being armed with the order to shoot, many risked their lives to cross from East to West. From digging tunnels under the wall, to flying a hot air balloon over it.

I am stood on Bernauer Straße, a street in Berlin where countless escape attempts took place. Behind me is the Berlin Wall memorial, a stretch of the Berlin Wall fortifications which have been preserved since 1990 complete with watchtower and death strip. What was once part of the border between East and West Berlin is now a memorial, dedicated to over 140 people who lost their lives at the wall between 1961 and 1989. Here at the Window of Remembrance visitors can pay their respects to the victims to the victims of the Berlin Wall. 

The last person to be killed by shooting while trying to escape was 20 year old Chris Gueffroy, pictured here, in February 1989. Just 9 months after Chris Gueffroy's death the Berlin Wall fell, allowing the free movement of people in Berlin. Checkpoints, which had been so heavily guarded, were opened and new ones created. People from both sides of the border reunited and rejoiced in their thousands. 30 years on and walls and physical barriers between people continue to multiply as the world faces 21st century tensions.

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