The Berlin Wall

Construction of which of the following landmarks began in 1961?

Considering Notre Dame, Berlin Wall, Great Wall of China, and the Statue of Liberty, the answer is: The Berlin Wall.    

In August 1961, East Germany began building a barbed wire and concrete wall between East and West Berlin. The wall primarily served to prevent East Germans from escaping to the West. The wall stood until November 1989.

Photo credit: UC Public Affairs

The Berlin Wall stood as a symbol of ideological division and suppression of human rights during the Cold War. It was the physical manifestation of the Iron Curtain that separated Western Europe and the Eastern Bloc. In August of 1961, East Germany began their efforts to stop Westerners from entering their socialist state and prevent defections from their own.

When World War II came to an end in 1945, the victors came together to split Germany into four allied occupation zones. East Germany would go to the Soviet Union, while the West went to the United States, Great Britain, and France. Even though Berlin was located entirely in the Soviet part of the country, the city would be split into four sectors in the same way. However, the Soviets were determined to remove the Western powers in the city. Despite the economic boom experienced in the western sector (against the relative poverty of the socialist eastern side), the wall went up in 1961, locking out the Eastern Berliners.

In 1989, after years of pressure from world leaders, including U.S. Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan ("Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"), the thawing of the Cold War brought on new considerations to reconnect West and East Berlin. With celebrations – and mallets to hack down the concrete separation – the East was reunited with the Western world in November of 1989.

Learn more about the creation and effect of the Berlin Wall below.

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