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Berlin Wall Comes Down - History

Berlin Wall Comes Down - History

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On October 18th, the regime of Erich Hoenecker, the Communist leader of East Germany, fell. It succumbed to increasing riots, as well as a flood of East Germans leaving via the open borders of Hungary. On November 10th, the new government announced the end of all travel restrictions, and soon thousands of Berliners took part in taking down the Berlin Wall that had divided the city for 27 years.

Amazing, Rare Photographs of the Berlin Wall Coming Down

1989 was already a dramatic year. Working for Time magazine and the New York Times, I had already covered the Palestinian Intifada, the start of war in Nagorno-Karabakh, glasnost and perestroika in Moscow, the death of Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran, among other stories.

From This Story

Windows of the Soul: My Journeys in the Muslim World, National Geographic Books

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On the evening of November 5, I was sitting on a friend's couch in Paris glued to my shortwave radio. Hour by hour, the story grew in excitement: rumors abounded that the Berlin Wall could very well be coming down within days. So that morning, about 5 a.m., with no assignment, I jumped on a plane headed to West Berlin. By the time I landed, I had the assignment for Life.

I found a cheap two-star hotel, The Hervis, whose best features were close proximity to the Wall and a gossipy owner who passed on the latest whispers he'd heard.

The morning of November 7, I awoke before dawn and walked along the Wall, ready to take pictures. Yet the coming fall was still just an unconfirmed rumor.

I found a group of young West German men slamming the Wall with a hammer. They had been at it for hours.

Suddenly, water cannons blasted through the crack the young men had made in the Wall. East German border guards were trying to push us away with the hard freezing blasts of water. Wet and cold, I took lots of pictures and had no idea at the time that one frame would become so famous.

Men hammering through the Wall as E. German guards fire water cannon through the crack, soaking everyone in that freezing morning. I found them before the official dismantling of the Wall. (Alexandra Avakian)

At a certain point I climbed a rickety ladder and photographed from the top of the Wall. In the distance I saw uniformed, armed men standing motionless with automatic weapons at the ready.

Soon East German border guards came up and forced us down off the Wall. It was not at all clear that the fall of the Berlin Wall would be successful or that it would go peacefully. At last, on November 8, a tall rectangular section of the Wall was brought down, the very first break in the Wall. The border guards on both sides, however, stepped in to keep order, for the time being.

The next night, coming down with the flu but not even daring to nap, I was walking along the Wall and what seemed like tens of thousands of people were standing near the Brandenburg Gate at the Wall.

I knew I could never fight my way through that crowd to the base of the Wall, so I let the crowd carry me along---the path of least resistance, really. I ended up in front of the Wall where I stood all night long in a denim jacket and flimsy sneakers, so freezing I thought I would break in two. It ended up being the best spot. Sometime before dawn border guards and workers came and started systematically dismantling the Wall right in front of us, cutting through a huge swastika. A guard handed me one of the very first chunks of Wall to be officially broken off ---it still sits on my desk.

By dawn, people were streaming through the break in the Wall, mostly from East to West. Finally, I went off to ship my film to New York and rest for a couple of hours. The next three days had a magical feeling, Germans were high on history, and it seemed nobody slept---the fall of the Berlin Wall was one of the happiest moments in history I have ever photographed and a rare peaceful resolution to a potentially dangerous event, which changed the world.

A Divided Germany and Berlin

At the end of World War II, the Allied powers divided conquered Germany into four zones. As agreed at the July 1945 Potsdam Conference, each was occupied by either the United States, Great Britain, France, or the Soviet Union. The same was done in Germany's capital city, Berlin.

The relationship between the Soviet Union and the other three Allied powers quickly disintegrated. As a result, the cooperative atmosphere of the occupation of Germany turned competitive and aggressive. One of the best-known incidents was the Berlin Blockade in June of 1948 during which the Soviet Union stopped all supplies from reaching West Berlin.

Although an eventual reunification of Germany had been intended, the new relationship between the Allied powers turned Germany into West versus East and democracy versus Communism.

In 1949, this new organization of Germany became official when the three zones occupied by the United States, Great Britain, and France combined to form West Germany (the Federal Republic of Germany, or FRG). The zone occupied by the Soviet Union quickly followed by forming East Germany (the German Democratic Republic, or GDR).

This same division into West and East occurred in Berlin. Since the city of Berlin had been situated entirely within the Soviet Zone of Occupation, West Berlin became an island of democracy within Communist East Germany.

The fall of the Berlin Wall: what it meant to be there

W e throw chocolates up to the putty-faced East German frontier troops, as they stand guard – against whom? defending what? – atop a Wall that since yesterday has become useless. They push the chocs away with their boots. One of the West Berliners standing next to me tries again: “Wouldn’t you like a West-cigarette?” Sheepish refusal. Then I ask: “Why are you there?” This time, I get an answer: “Interview requests must be registered in advance, on this side as on yours.”

Lines scribbled in my notebook. Surreal moments from the greatest turning point of our time. In German, all nouns take an initial capital letter, so even a bungalow wall is a Mauer with a capital M. In English, there are many walls, but only one Wall. It’s the one that “fell” on the night of Thursday 9 November 1989, giving us history’s new rhyme: the fall of the Wall.

There are things in my notebook which I later published and therefore always remember: the breathless, denim-jacketed couple from the provinces asking: “Excuse me, is this the way out?” the man walking up Friedrichstrasse who exclaimed “28 years and 91 days!” (that’s how long he had been stuck behind the Wall) the improvised poster proclaiming “Only today is the war really over”.

But there are other passages that I had quite forgotten, and some of them don’t fit so comfortably into hindsight’s fairytale of liberation. For example, during an onstage discussion at a well-known East Berlin theatre, three days after the Wall’s fall, Markus “Mischa” Wolf, the longtime East German spy chief who had become a Gorbachevite reformer after his retirement a few years earlier, still defended the Stasi.

“Most of Stasi not torturers, beasts,” recorded my indignant pencil, but “decent, clean people – anständige, saubere Menschen”. Wolf insisted he had no responsibility for the persecution of dissidents (sound of Pontius Pilate washing hands) and anyway, there “must be an apparatus for the security of the state and individual citizens as in any developed country”. Then, expressing its holder’s evident amazement, my pencil added “Loud applause!!”

Some of those who applauded loudly then, in the Deutsches Theater, will have re-remembered their own reaction by now. Nietszche: “‘I did that,’ says my memory. ‘I can’t have done that,’ says my pride, and remains implacable. Finally, memory gives way.”

And then there were the two American television reporters I overheard conversing at the airport on the way home: “Good story”, “Yeah, kinda trailed off yesterday and today”, “Yeah, audience interest has gone right down”, “Yeah …” I bet that is not how they tell the story now. Ah, what memories.

M y father landed with the first wave of allied forces on D-day, 6 June 1944. He used to go back sometimes for anniversary events on the Normandy beaches, standing to attention in a dark suit, wearing his campaign medals and the miniature of his Military Cross. The 25th anniversary of those landings was in 1969 – so reminiscing about the fall of the Berlin Wall today is like talking about your memories of D-day in the year the Beatles released Abbey Road and Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. I would not presume to compare my experience to my father’s. He risked his life for the freedom of his nation and other nations I just carried a notebook. Yet the calendar tells me that I must seem, to someone born after the Wall’s fall, as much a veteran, repeating well-worn tales of vanished times, as my father would have been in 1969. “Old men forget yet all shall be forgot, / But he’ll remember with advantages / What feats he did that day . ” and so on, and so forth, while bored schoolchildren thumb messages on their smartphones.

West Berlin, 1961. A young woman talks to her mother on the eastern side of the newly erected Wall. Photograph: Bettmann/CORBIS

So why not leave it to a new generation of bright-eyed historians, versed in all the documents, armed with their interrogations of the survivors, cognisant of all the consequences, wise after the event? Let them tell us “how it really was”, in the famous phrase of the father of modern historiography, Leopold von Ranke (who taught at Berlin’s leading university, now called the Humboldt University, which itself endured decades behind the Wall).

On a plane back from Warsaw last week, I finished a new book by the American historian Mary Elise Sarotte. It is called The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall. Surprisingly, she opens with a two-page vignette of NBC’s Tom Brokaw reporting from the West Berlin side of the about-to-open Wall. Brokaw? Why Brokaw? If you had said that name to an East Berliner, he might well have thought Brokaw was a small town in Poland. Or she would have asked the Berlinisch equivalent of “Who the fuck is he?”

That vignette may attract a few American readers, but what mattered to the East Germans was the news anchors whom they regularly watched on the main West German television channels. (Western broadcasts reached most of East Germany, apart from a remote corner, popularly known as the Valley of the Clueless). Authoritative figures such as the silver haired, avuncular ARD anchorman Hanns-Joachim Friedrichs – who declared, at around 10.40pm: “This 9th of November is a historic day. The GDR has announced that its borders are, starting immediately, open for everyone.” There were already crowds at some border crossings, but this West German news – which completely overwhelmed East German state television warnings that “journeys must be applied for!” – was what brought ever larger streams of East Berliners pouring towards the concrete barrier that had imprisoned them since 1961.

Once you get past Sarotte’s Brokaw opening, it turns out she has produced a skilful, scrupulously documented, nuanced reconstruction of how a series of mistakes by East German leaders and officials – and individual decisions made by border post commanders, such as Harald Jäger, on duty that night at the Bornholmer Strasse crossing – turned what was meant to be a carefully managed process of controlled opening (“journeys must be applied for”) into the world’s most celebrated festival of popular liberation. Those fateful missteps included the wording of an official document on travel liberalisation to include Berlin as well as the rest of the inter-German frontier, and the famous moment when Politburo member Günter Schabowski at a crucial press conference early on the evening of 9 November, when he suggested people could travel “right away”. On such fumbles, contingencies and individual choices, Sarotte suggests, history turns.

Her subtitle – “the accidental opening” – is both wrong and right. Wrong in the sense that the old, Wall-sealed regime in East Berlin could not have carried on as before, given what Mikhail Gorbachev was prepared to encourage – far-reaching reform – and, even more important, what he was willing to accept: peaceful negotiated revolution, as was already happening in Poland and Hungary. Right in the sense that the “accidental” way in which this happened, from those spontaneous East German popular reactions to West German television reporting of East German officials’ blunders, all the way to the pentecostal scenes of that night of wonders, changed everything for ever: in Berlin, Germany, Europe, the world.

As she observes, the “why” is inseparable from the “how”. In this case, the “how” then became both the essence of the event and a key determinant of its consequences. Not only did it produce unforgettable images that in an important sense are the event (in this respect comparable, though in shades of light rather than dark, to the collapse of the twin towers in New York on 11 September 2001). It marked the moment when power shifted decisively from the so-called Machthaber – powerholders – to the people. Because everyone said the Wall was open, the Wall was open. Because everyone said everything had changed, everything had changed.

A ll this the historian can tell. So is there anything that the person who was there at the time does know – and those who come after do not? Most obviously, we know what it felt like at the time. In the case of the opening of the Wall, this is not half as easy to convey as you might think. Everyone can imagine, or at least can think they can imagine, what it is like to land on a Normandy beach, under Wehrmacht machine-gun fire, dodging mines, knowing that every moment might be your last. What we end up picturing in our mind’s eye may be more Tom Hanks than the historical reality – a reality which, when I interviewed him towards the end of his life, my father also found it difficult to evoke, or perhaps could not bring himself to describe – but the drama is obvious. Hence the endless films and video games based on the second world war.

Thousands of people rushed to the Berlin Wall in the first few days after its opening on 9 November, 1989. Photograph: Robert Wallis/ /Corbis

The true drama of 9 November 1989 is harder to recapture. For a start, it is not the one you see on the vast majority of photographs and video clips, which show the side of the Wall covered in colourful graffiti. For that was the western side, the free side, the one that already enjoyed freedom of expression – hence all the colourful graffiti.

Of course this was a big moment for West Berliners, and for West Germans altogether, but it was not the day of unification. That came nearly a year later, on 3 October 1990, after a majority of East Germans had voted to join West Germany, and Helmut Kohl and George HW Bush had skilfully negotiated it with Gorbachev. Wall’s fall was the day of liberation, for those behind the Wall, not the day of unification for those in front of it.

So it was the other side of the roughcast concrete barrier that mattered, the side that people did not spray with aerosol cans but had risked their lives to climb over. The emotional quality of this liberation can only be captured if you can imagine what it was like to live behind that “anti-fascist protection rampart” (its mendacious official name) for all your life, never setting foot in the western half of your own city, and with the expectation that this would continue for years to come.

Here is the other thing that even the finest historians struggle to recover: the sense of what people at the time did not know. To those who lived behind it, the Berlin Wall had become something almost like the Alps, a seemingly unchangeable fact of physical geography. Even when things began to change so dramatically in Poland and Hungary, most people just did not believe the Alps could crumble. After all, there was a nuclear-armed empire holding them up. In summer 1989 I came hot foot from Warsaw and Budapest to visit a small circle of dissident friends in East Berlin, having finally been granted an East German visa after long exclusion. “Well,” the gloomy dissidents said, “it may be possible in Poland and Hungary, but not here.”

However much the historian warns against the pitfalls of hindsight, you simply cannot un-know your own and your readers’ knowledge of what came afterwards. So even if you do not fall into the trap of writing history as if that which actually happened somehow had to happen – what Henri Bergson called “the illusions of retrospective determinism” – it is almost impossible to recreate the emotional intensity of the moment of liberation. For that intensity came from having lived for most, if not all, your life with the aching certainty that something like this was, precisely, impossible.

My East German friend Werner Krätschell came closest to capturing it. Having heard the “strange piece of news” from a French journalist, he scooped up his 20-year-old daughter Konstanze and her 21-year-old friend Astrid, who had never been in the west. They leapt into his Wartburg car and puttered down to the Bornholmer Strasse border crossing. As he wrote soon afterwards, in a piece for Granta: “Dream and reality become confused. The guards let us through: the girls cry. They cling together tightly on the back seat, as if they’re expecting an air raid.” West Berliners greet them, waving, cheering, shouting. “Astrid, suddenly, tells me to stop the car at the next intersection. She wants only to put her foot down on the street, just once. Touching the ground. Armstrong after the moon landing.”

T he German equivalent of the phrase “hindsight is 20:20” is im Nachhinein sind alle klüger – in retrospect everyone is wiser. And so they are. The multitude of those who recall that they somehow foresaw these events has grown like the relics of the true cross. But they didn’t: not the spooks, not the pundits, not the politicians, not the diplomats, not the political scientists – and not me either. To be sure, some insisted the Wall would come down and Germany would be united, but none foresaw when and, above all, how and the how was everything.

A former MI6 man once told me that on the very evening of 9 November he had been meeting with his colleagues from the West German foreign intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst. The West German spies were in the middle of telling the British spooks, clearly on the basis of their excellent East German sources, that change in East Germany would only come very slowly, perhaps in a matter of years, when someone put his head round the door and said: “Turn on the television: the Wall’s open!”

But one person I knew did foresee these events, precisely as they would happen. When I first went to live in West Berlin, in 1978, I ended up camping on the floor of the slightly run-down flat of a delightful, white-haired old lady called Ursula von Krosigk. The dusty old sofa next to which I pitched my sleeping bag was propped up by a prewar Baedeker guide to Dresden, and I remember thinking, as I nodded off to sleep, that this was probably all a prewar Baedeker of Dresden was good for, given the devastation of that city by Allied bombing raids. (These days, after a wonderful effort of reconstruction, the old guidebook is probably quite usable again, as is the map of central Berlin in my 1923 Baedeker, which back then was also a historical curiosity.)

Ursula had seen a lot of German history. Her uncle was Hitler’s finance minister, and she remembered driving out to his country estate on the morning after that other 9 November: Kristallnacht in 1938. They drove past pavements covered with glass from the shattered windows of plundered Jewish shops. “What did the people in the car say?” I asked. “No one said a word.”

A Prussian noblewoman in her bones, but also bohemian, warmhearted and unconventional, Ursula’s own wartime friends had included some of the German resistance leaders who ended up trying to assassinate Hitler. Her family estate was now in East Germany, expropriated. Ursula had a way of tossing her head when she was about to say something she considered a little risky or original. At breakfast one day – Leonid Brezhnev was still in the Kremlin, and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia a recent memory – she tossed her head and, after a slight, shy hesitation, confided: “You know, last night I had a dream.” She had dreamt that, by accident, just for one night, the Berlin Wall was opened. And in the course of that night so many people went to and fro, embracing each other, with tears in their eyes, that the Wall could never be closed again. A dream, you understand, just a dream.

F ive years ago I participated in extensive and exhaustive celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the velvet revolutions of 1989 – yesterday Munich, today Prague, tomorrow Warsaw – and when they were over, I breathed a sigh of relief. Well at least, I thought, I can put that aside for another 10 years, until the 30th anniversary in 2019, and get back to writing my book about free speech. How wrong I was. Just three or four years later, the emails started crawling in. A lecture here? An article there? Of the marking – and marketing – of the Wall’s fall there shall apparently be no end. The scale of commemoration both reflects and buttresses the scale of the event.

1989 has become the new 1789: at once a turning point and a reference point. Twenty-five years on, it has given us what is, politically, the best Germany we have ever had. (Culturally, other Germanies have been more interesting, but if I have to choose between Wagner and democracy, I’ll choose democracy.) It has made possible the Europe we have today, with all its freedoms and all its faults. There is no corner of the world its consequences have not touched. Those consequences have been of two kinds: the direct results of what actually happened, and the ways in which people read and misread it, which themselves produce unintended consequences.

US President Ronald Reagan makes his ‘Tear down this wall!’ speech in Berlin in 1987. Photograph: Mike Sargent/AFP/Getty Images

The fall of the Wall has become a kind of master metaphor (or meta-metaphor) of our age, used especially by western politicians, not just to represent, but to predict, the forward march of freedom. “The Wall is gone,” intoned a recently inaugurated President George W Bush on 1 May 2001, conjuring a sunlit international landscape. (This was, needless to say, before 9/11.) “A wall came down in Berlin,” President-elect Barack Obama said, in his acceptance speech in Chicago on the night of 4 November 2008, evoking wonders past, present and to come. “The Berlin Wall symbolised a world divided and it defined an entire era …” declared Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in her speech about internet freedom in 2010, “but even as networks spread to nations around the globe, virtual walls are cropping up in place of visible walls.” The great firewall of China, for example. Where Ronald Reagan had stood in front of the Berlin Wall and cried, “Mister Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”, Clinton stood in the Newseum in Washington and cried, in effect, “Mister Hu, tear down this firewall!” But Xi Jinping succeeded Hu Jintao, and China’s internet firewall – sorry, “Golden Shield” – is still there. Everyone drew their own lessons from the fall of the Wall, and China’s Leninist leaders learned not to let power slip from their fingers by making the mistakes of Gorbachev and East European communist leaders.

The metaphor has led us astray in other ways. There is no doubt that for at least some neo-conservatives, such as Paul Wolfowitz, the image of what happened in Eastern Europe in and after 1989 played a part in their hopes for a post-invasion Iraq. A generation of journalists, formed by the personal experience or collective media-memory of Europe’s velvet revolutions, greeted the Arab Spring of 2011 as if it might be 1989 in sandals. (I plead guilty to sharing those hopes.) Meanwhile, a former KGB officer who had resentfully witnessed the emergence of people power while serving in East Germany, one Vladimir Putin, is trying to roll back the wheel of history and restore as much as he can of the Russian empire, by violence and lies.

M ost people know the famous story, beloved of conference speakers the world over, in which the Chinese premier Zhou Enlai, asked at a meeting with President Richard Nixon in 1972 about the consequences of the French Revolution, replied that it was “too soon to say”. But the story is wrong: the American diplomat who was interpreting for Nixon, Charles W Freeman, says with confidence that the subject of conversation at that point was clearly the protests in Paris in May 1968, not July 1789. Less than four years later, it simply was too soon to say. So Zhou Enlai’s famous reply was actually quite banal – yet is now universally reinterpreted as a gem of sempiternal Chinese wisdom.

If he had said it, however, it would have been wise. For the meaning and implications of very large events do take decades and even centuries to unfold. The historian François Furet caused a furore in France when he declared, in 1978, that “the French revolution is over”. Over? So soon? How dare he. This year, we have seen many reinterpretations of 1914, not least in the light of Vladimir Putin’s behaviour in 2014. The kaleidoscope never stops turning. So it will be with the fall of the Wall. To my mind, there are few if any big questions left about what happened, and how, although the battle of historical interpretations will surely continue for decades to come. (For example, Russianists will forever highlight the role of Gorbachev, Central Europeanists, that of dissident leaders like Václav Havel.)

There remain, however, big questions about what it means and where it leads. Among these, one stands out for me: where are the 89ers? In my lifetime, there have been only two utterly distinctive generations – the 68ers and the 39ers. The 39ers were formed by the experience of the second world war and its aftermath: men like my father, a generation instantly recognisable wherever you find them. Then there are the 68ers, entirely different in style, initially rebelling against the 39ers, much given (at least in their youth) to wine, sex and weed, but also full of idealistic determination to change European society, making it socially and culturally more liberal. Yet 1989 was clearly a much bigger historical event than 1968. So where are the 89ers?

The 39ers and 68ers were defined by their experiences during and after 1939 and 1968 those who were most active in the events of 1989, by contrast, had arguably been shaped to a greater degree by earlier experiences. (Not a few of them were 68ers). There is, to be sure, a cohort of people who were in their late teens or early 20s when the Wall came down, and now play a leading role in European debates. Yet theirs is nothing like as sharply defined a generation as the other two.

Mstislav Rostropovich in 1989. Photograph: Action Press/Rex Features

I have my own theory about this – or perhaps it is just an illusory hope. I believe that the 89ers may not be those who were active then, or youthful witnesses at the time, but those who were born in or around 1989, and are only now moving from the university of learning to that of life. The world they enter is in many ways less promising than the one we espied as dawn rose over the Brandenburg Gate on Friday, 10 November 1989. Then, Europe and freedom seemed to be marching forward as never before, arm in arm, to the strains of Bach’s Sarabande, played by Mstislav Rostropovich in front of the Wall – and subsequently to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. Twenty-five years on, Europe is in crisis. Free countries are threatened by violent Islamists (a threat partly – though only partly, it is important to emphasise – attributable to the “Berlin to Baghdad” hubris that took us into Iraq). Chinese-style authoritarian capitalism – itself a product of lessons learned by China’s Leninist leaders from the Wall’s fall – looks more attractive to many people outside the traditional west, while unbridled, unequal western financial capitalism (also partly attributable to post-1989 hubris) looks less so.

So where are the 89ers? It is not that this generation has been silent, interested only in private life, eyes and thumbs down on the screen of a smartphone, as grey-haired old 68ers sometimes moan. 89ers have camped out on the streets of cities from New York to Madrid, to demand back a future that the post-Wall world seemed first to promise, and then bankers and politicians to have stolen from them. 89ers have been in the forefront of protests against bad laws that threatened to curb internet freedom. Edward Snowden, who was six when the Wall came down, can be seen as both a voice and a hero of 89ers.

But it is not yet clear what broader political vision this generation represents, how it will change Europe and whether it will appeal to a wider world. Indeed, if it is to succeed, this cannot just be a western generation, in the way the 39ers and 68ers largely were. As important, probably more so, are the 89ers in Beijing, Delhi and São Paolo.

I don’t know whether the 89ers will come together as a defining political generation, how they will act and – as important – how they will react when “stuff happens”, as stuff will. But one thing is clear: their action (or inaction) will determine how we read the Wall’s fall on its 50th anniversary. On them will depend the future of our past.

Gorbachev an inspiration to Eastern Europeans

Increasingly, civil rights activists felt emboldened to push for glasnost and perestroika in their own countries. In Poland, contacts between communist leaders and the union pro-democracy movement Solidarity, which was still officially banned, began as early as the summer of 1988.

Those contacts led to the so-called Round Table Talks, in which not only members of the political opposition took part but also representatives from the country's highly influential Catholic Church.

Among those church representatives was Karol Jozef Wojtyla, who, as Pope John Paul II, openly displayed sympathy toward the Solidarity movement during the three trips he made to his homeland as pontiff. His authority as head of the Catholic Church strengthened the belief among opponents of the communist government that a positive turn of fate might be at hand.

One important milestone happened in June 1989, when opposition candidates were allowed to participate in parliamentary elections for the first time in communist Poland's history — but with one catch. The country's leadership, which had been in power for decades, had to be given in advance two-thirds of all parliamentary seats, while the remaining third could be freely contested.

Pope John Paul II openly sympathized with the Solidarity movement in Poland


Etymology Edit

Berlin lies in northeastern Germany, east of the River Elbe, that once constituted, together with the River (Saxon or Thuringian) Saale (from their confluence at Barby onwards), the eastern border of the Frankish Realm. While the Frankish Realm was primarily inhabited by Germanic tribes like the Franks and the Saxons, the regions east of the border rivers were inhabited by Slavic tribes. This is why most of the cities and villages in northeastern Germany bear Slavic-derived names (Germania Slavica). Typical Germanized place name suffixes of Slavic origin are -ow, -itz, -vitz, -witz, -itzsch and -in, prefixes are Windisch and Wendisch. The name Berlin has its roots in the language of West Slavic inhabitants of the area of today's Berlin, and may be related to the Old Polabian stem berl-/birl- ("swamp"). [26] Since the Ber- at the beginning sounds like the German word Bär (bear), a bear appears in the coat of arms of the city. It is therefore a canting arm.

12th to 16th centuries Edit

The earliest evidence of settlements in the area of today's Berlin are remnants of a house foundation dated to 1174, found in excavations in Berlin Mitte, [27] and a wooden beam dated from approximately 1192. [28] The first written records of towns in the area of present-day Berlin date from the late 12th century. Spandau is first mentioned in 1197 and Köpenick in 1209, although these areas did not join Berlin until 1920. [29] The central part of Berlin can be traced back to two towns. Cölln on the Fischerinsel is first mentioned in a 1237 document, and Berlin, across the Spree in what is now called the Nikolaiviertel, is referenced in a document from 1244. [28] 1237 is considered the founding date of the city. [30] The two towns over time formed close economic and social ties, and profited from the staple right on the two important trade routes Via Imperii and from Bruges to Novgorod. [12] In 1307, they formed an alliance with a common external policy, their internal administrations still being separated. [31] [32]

In 1415, Frederick I became the elector of the Margraviate of Brandenburg, which he ruled until 1440. [33] During the 15th century, his successors established Berlin-Cölln as capital of the margraviate, and subsequent members of the Hohenzollern family ruled in Berlin until 1918, first as electors of Brandenburg, then as kings of Prussia, and eventually as German emperors. In 1443, Frederick II Irontooth started the construction of a new royal palace in the twin city Berlin-Cölln. The protests of the town citizens against the building culminated in 1448, in the "Berlin Indignation" ("Berliner Unwille"). [34] [35] This protest was not successful and the citizenry lost many of its political and economic privileges. After the royal palace was finished in 1451, it gradually came into use. From 1470, with the new elector Albrecht III Achilles, Berlin-Cölln became the new royal residence. [32] Officially, the Berlin-Cölln palace became permanent residence of the Brandenburg electors of the Hohenzollerns from 1486, when John Cicero came to power. [36] Berlin-Cölln, however, had to give up its status as a free Hanseatic city. In 1539, the electors and the city officially became Lutheran. [37]

17th to 19th centuries Edit

The Thirty Years' War between 1618 and 1648 devastated Berlin. One third of its houses were damaged or destroyed, and the city lost half of its population. [38] Frederick William, known as the "Great Elector", who had succeeded his father George William as ruler in 1640, initiated a policy of promoting immigration and religious tolerance. [39] With the Edict of Potsdam in 1685, Frederick William offered asylum to the French Huguenots. [40]

By 1700, approximately 30 percent of Berlin's residents were French, because of the Huguenot immigration. [41] Many other immigrants came from Bohemia, Poland, and Salzburg. [42]

Since 1618, the Margraviate of Brandenburg had been in personal union with the Duchy of Prussia. In 1701, the dual state formed the Kingdom of Prussia, as Frederick III, Elector of Brandenburg, crowned himself as king Frederick I in Prussia. Berlin became the capital of the new Kingdom, [43] replacing Königsberg. This was a successful attempt to centralise the capital in the very far-flung state, and it was the first time the city began to grow. In 1709, Berlin merged with the four cities of Cölln, Friedrichswerder, Friedrichstadt and Dorotheenstadt under the name Berlin, "Haupt- und Residenzstadt Berlin". [31]

In 1740, Frederick II, known as Frederick the Great (1740–1786), came to power. [44] Under the rule of Frederick II, Berlin became a center of the Enlightenment, but also, was briefly occupied during the Seven Years' War by the Russian army. [45] Following France's victory in the War of the Fourth Coalition, Napoleon Bonaparte marched into Berlin in 1806, but granted self-government to the city. [46] In 1815, the city became part of the new Province of Brandenburg. [47]

The Industrial Revolution transformed Berlin during the 19th century the city's economy and population expanded dramatically, and it became the main railway hub and economic center of Germany. Additional suburbs soon developed and increased the area and population of Berlin. In 1861, neighboring suburbs including Wedding, Moabit and several others were incorporated into Berlin. [48] In 1871, Berlin became capital of the newly founded German Empire. [49] In 1881, it became a city district separate from Brandenburg. [50]

20th to 21st centuries Edit

In the early 20th century, Berlin had become a fertile ground for the German Expressionist movement. [51] In fields such as architecture, painting and cinema new forms of artistic styles were invented. At the end of the First World War in 1918, a republic was proclaimed by Philipp Scheidemann at the Reichstag building. In 1920, the Greater Berlin Act incorporated dozens of suburban cities, villages, and estates around Berlin into an expanded city. The act increased the area of Berlin from 66 to 883 km 2 (25 to 341 sq mi). The population almost doubled, and Berlin had a population of around four million. During the Weimar era, Berlin underwent political unrest due to economic uncertainties but also became a renowned center of the Roaring Twenties. The metropolis experienced its heyday as a major world capital and was known for its leadership roles in science, technology, arts, the humanities, city planning, film, higher education, government, and industries. Albert Einstein rose to public prominence during his years in Berlin, being awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921.

In 1933, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power. NSDAP rule diminished Berlin's Jewish community from 160,000 (one-third of all Jews in the country) to about 80,000 due to emigration between 1933 and 1939. After Kristallnacht in 1938, thousands of the city's Jews were imprisoned in the nearby Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Starting in early 1943, many were shipped to concentration camps, such as Auschwitz. [52] Berlin is the most heavily bombed city in history. [ citation needed ] During World War II, large parts of Berlin were destroyed during 1943–45 Allied air raids and the 1945 Battle of Berlin. The Allies dropped 67,607 tons of bombs on the city, destroying 6,427 acres of the built-up area. Around 125,000 civilians were killed. [53] After the end of the war in Europe in May 1945, Berlin received large numbers of refugees from the Eastern provinces. The victorious powers divided the city into four sectors, analogous to the occupation zones into which Germany was divided. The sectors of the Western Allies (the United States, the United Kingdom, and France) formed West Berlin, while the Soviet sector formed East Berlin. [54]

All four Allies shared administrative responsibilities for Berlin. However, in 1948, when the Western Allies extended the currency reform in the Western zones of Germany to the three western sectors of Berlin, the Soviet Union imposed a blockade on the access routes to and from West Berlin, which lay entirely inside Soviet-controlled territory. The Berlin airlift, conducted by the three western Allies, overcame this blockade by supplying food and other supplies to the city from June 1948 to May 1949. [55] In 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany was founded in West Germany and eventually included all of the American, British and French zones, excluding those three countries' zones in Berlin, while the Marxist-Leninist German Democratic Republic was proclaimed in East Germany. West Berlin officially remained an occupied city, but it politically was aligned with the Federal Republic of Germany despite West Berlin's geographic isolation. Airline service to West Berlin was granted only to American, British and French airlines.

The founding of the two German states increased Cold War tensions. West Berlin was surrounded by East German territory, and East Germany proclaimed the Eastern part as its capital, a move the western powers did not recognize. East Berlin included most of the city's historic center. The West German government established itself in Bonn. [56] In 1961, East Germany began to build the Berlin Wall around West Berlin, and events escalated to a tank standoff at Checkpoint Charlie. West Berlin was now de facto a part of West Germany with a unique legal status, while East Berlin was de facto a part of East Germany. John F. Kennedy gave his "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech on June 26, 1963, in front of the Schöneberg city hall, located in the city's western part, underlining the US support for West Berlin. [57] Berlin was completely divided. Although it was possible for Westerners to pass to the other side through strictly controlled checkpoints, for most Easterners, travel to West Berlin or West Germany was prohibited by the government of East Germany. In 1971, a Four-Power agreement guaranteed access to and from West Berlin by car or train through East Germany. [58]

In 1989, with the end of the Cold War and pressure from the East German population, the Berlin Wall fell on 9 November and was subsequently mostly demolished. Today, the East Side Gallery preserves a large portion of the wall. On 3 October 1990, the two parts of Germany were reunified as the Federal Republic of Germany, and Berlin again became a reunified city. [59] Walter Momper, the mayor of West Berlin, became the first mayor of the reunified city in the interim. City-wide elections in December 1990 resulted in the first "all Berlin" mayor being elected to take office in January 1991, with the separate offices of mayors in East and West Berlin expiring by that time, and Eberhard Diepgen (a former mayor of West Berlin) became the first elected mayor of a reunited Berlin. [60] On 18 June 1994, soldiers from the United States, France and Britain marched in a parade which was part of the ceremonies to mark the withdrawal of allied occupation troops allowing a reunified Berlin [61] (the last Russian troops departed on 31 August, while the final departure of Western Allies forces was on 8 September 1994). On 20 June 1991, the Bundestag (German Parliament) voted to move the seat of the German capital from Bonn to Berlin, which was completed in 1999.

Berlin's 2001 administrative reform merged several boroughs, reducing their number from 23 to 12.

In 2006, the FIFA World Cup Final was held in Berlin.

In a 2016 terrorist attack linked to ISIL, a truck was deliberately driven into a Christmas market next to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, leaving 12 people dead and 56 others injured. [62]

Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) opened in 2020, nine years later than planned, with Terminal 1 coming into service at the end of October, and flights to and from Tegel Airport ending in November. [63] Due to the fall in passenger numbers resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, plans were announced to temporarily close BER's Terminal 5, the former Schönefeld Airport, beginning in March 2021 for up to one year. [64] The connecting link of U-Bahn line U5 from Alexanderplatz to Hauptbahnhof, along with the new stations Rotes Rathaus and Unter den Linden, opened on 4 December 2020, with the Museumsinsel U-Bahn station expected to open around March 2021, which would complete all new works on the U5. [65] A partial opening by the end of 2020 of the Humboldt Forum museum, housed in the reconstructed Berlin City Palace, which had been announced in June, was postponed until March 2021. [66]

Topography Edit

Berlin is in northeastern Germany, in an area of low-lying marshy woodlands with a mainly flat topography, part of the vast Northern European Plain which stretches all the way from northern France to western Russia. The Berliner Urstromtal (an ice age glacial valley), between the low Barnim Plateau to the north and the Teltow plateau to the south, was formed by meltwater flowing from ice sheets at the end of the last Weichselian glaciation. The Spree follows this valley now. In Spandau, a borough in the west of Berlin, the Spree empties into the river Havel, which flows from north to south through western Berlin. The course of the Havel is more like a chain of lakes, the largest being the Tegeler See and the Großer Wannsee. A series of lakes also feeds into the upper Spree, which flows through the Großer Müggelsee in eastern Berlin. [67]

Substantial parts of present-day Berlin extend onto the low plateaus on both sides of the Spree Valley. Large parts of the boroughs Reinickendorf and Pankow lie on the Barnim Plateau, while most of the boroughs of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, Steglitz-Zehlendorf, Tempelhof-Schöneberg, and Neukölln lie on the Teltow Plateau.

The borough of Spandau lies partly within the Berlin Glacial Valley and partly on the Nauen Plain, which stretches to the west of Berlin. Since 2015, the Arkenberge hills in Pankow at 122 meters (400 ft) elevation, have been the highest point in Berlin. Through the disposal of construction debris they surpassed Teufelsberg (120.1 m or 394 ft), which itself was made up of rubble from the ruins of the Second World War. [68] The Müggelberge at 114.7 meters (376 ft) elevation is the highest natural point and the lowest is the Spektesee in Spandau, at 28.1 meters (92 ft) elevation. [69]

Climate Edit

Berlin has an oceanic climate (Köppen: Cfb) [70] the eastern part of the city has a slight continental influence (Dfb), especially in the 0 °C isotherm, one of the changes being the annual rainfall according to the air masses and the greater abundance during a period of the year. [71] [72] This type of climate features moderate summer temperatures but sometimes hot (for being semicontinental) and cold winters but not rigorous most of the time. [73] [72]

Due to its transitional climate zones, frosts are common in winter, and there are larger temperature differences between seasons than typical for many oceanic climates. Furthermore, Berlin is classified as a temperate continental climate (Dc) under the Trewartha climate scheme, as well as the suburbs of New York, although the Köppen system puts them in different types. [74]

Summers are warm and sometimes humid with average high temperatures of 22–25 °C (72–77 °F) and lows of 12–14 °C (54–57 °F). Winters are cool with average high temperatures of 3 °C (37 °F) and lows of −2 to 0 °C (28 to 32 °F). Spring and autumn are generally chilly to mild. Berlin's built-up area creates a microclimate, with heat stored by the city's buildings and pavement. Temperatures can be 4 °C (7 °F) higher in the city than in the surrounding areas. [75] Annual precipitation is 570 millimeters (22 in) with moderate rainfall throughout the year. Snowfall mainly occurs from December through March. [76] The hottest month in Berlin was July 1834, with a mean temperature of 23.0 °C (73.4 °F) and the coldest was January 1709, with a mean temperature of −13.2 °C (8.2 °F). [77] The wettest month on record was July 1907, with 230 millimeters (9.1 in) of rainfall, whereas the driest were October 1866, November 1902, October 1908 and September 1928, all with 1 millimeter (0.039 in) of rainfall. [78]

Climate data for Berlin (Schönefeld), 1981–2010 normals, extremes 1957–present
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 15.1
Average high °C (°F) 2.8
Daily mean °C (°F) 0.1
Average low °C (°F) −2.8
Record low °C (°F) −25.3
Average precipitation mm (inches) 37.2
Mean monthly sunshine hours 57.6 71.5 119.4 191.2 229.6 230.0 232.4 217.3 162.3 114.7 54.9 46.9 1,727.6
Average ultraviolet index 1 1 2 4 5 6 6 5 4 2 1 0 3
Source: DWD [79] and Weather Atlas [80]
Climate data for Berlin (Tempelhof), elevation: 48 m or 157 ft, 1971–2000 normals, extremes 1878–present
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 15.5
Average high °C (°F) 3.3
Daily mean °C (°F) 0.6
Average low °C (°F) −1.9
Record low °C (°F) −23.1
Average precipitation mm (inches) 42.3
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 10.0 8.0 9.1 7.8 8.9 7.0 7.0 7.0 7.8 7.6 9.6 11.4 101.2
Source 1: WMO [81]
Source 2: KNMI [82]
Climate data for Berlin (Dahlem), 58 m or 190 ft, 1961–1990 normals, extremes 1908–present [note 2]
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 15.2
Average high °C (°F) 1.8
Daily mean °C (°F) −0.4
Average low °C (°F) −2.9
Record low °C (°F) −21.0
Average precipitation mm (inches) 43.0
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 10.0 9.0 8.0 9.0 10.0 10.0 9.0 9.0 9.0 8.0 10.0 11.0 112
Mean monthly sunshine hours 45.4 72.3 122.0 157.7 221.6 220.9 217.9 210.2 156.3 110.9 52.4 37.4 1,625
Source 1: NOAA [84]
Source 2: Berliner Extremwerte [85]

Cityscape Edit

Berlin's history has left the city with a polycentric organization and a highly eclectic array of architecture and buildings. The city's appearance today has been predominantly shaped by the key role it played in Germany's history during the 20th century. All of the national governments based in Berlin – the Kingdom of Prussia, the 2nd German Empire of 1871, the Weimar Republic, Nazi Germany, East Germany, as well as the reunified Germany – initiated ambitious reconstruction programs, with each adding its own distinctive style to the city's architecture.

Berlin was devastated by air raids, fires, and street battles during the Second World War, and many of the buildings that had survived in both East and West were demolished during the postwar period. Much of this demolition was initiated by municipal architecture programs to build new business or residential districts and the main arteries. Much ornamentation on prewar buildings was destroyed following modernist dogmas, and in both postwar systems, as well as in the reunified Berlin, many important heritage structures have been reconstructed, including the Forum Fridericianum along with, the State Opera (1955), Charlottenburg Palace (1957), the monumental buildings on Gendarmenmarkt (1980s), Kommandantur (2003) and also the project to reconstruct the baroque façades of the City Palace. Many new buildings have been inspired by their historical predecessors or the general classical style of Berlin, such as Hotel Adlon.

Clusters of towers rise at various locations: Potsdamer Platz, the City West, and Alexanderplatz, the latter two delineating the former centers of East and West Berlin, with the first representing a new Berlin of the 21st century, risen from the wastes of no-man's land of the Berlin Wall. Berlin has five of the top 50 tallest buildings in Germany.

Over one-third of the city area consists of green space, woodlands, and water. [11] Berlin's second-largest and most popular park, the Großer Tiergarten, is located right in the center of the city. It covers an area of 210 hectares and stretches from Bahnhof Zoo in the City West to the Brandenburg Gate in the east.

Among famous streets, Unter den Linden and Friedrichstraße are found in the city's old city centre (and were included in the former East Berlin). Some of the major streets in City West are Kurfürstendamm (or just Ku´damm) and Kantstraße.

Architecture Edit

The Fernsehturm (TV tower) at Alexanderplatz in Mitte is among the tallest structures in the European Union at 368 m (1,207 ft). Built in 1969, it is visible throughout most of the central districts of Berlin. The city can be viewed from its 204-meter-high (669 ft) observation floor. Starting here, the Karl-Marx-Allee heads east, an avenue lined by monumental residential buildings, designed in the Socialist Classicism style. Adjacent to this area is the Rotes Rathaus (City Hall), with its distinctive red-brick architecture. In front of it is the Neptunbrunnen, a fountain featuring a mythological group of Tritons, personifications of the four main Prussian rivers, and Neptune on top of it.

The Brandenburg Gate is an iconic landmark of Berlin and Germany it stands as a symbol of eventful European history and of unity and peace. The Reichstag building is the traditional seat of the German Parliament. It was remodeled by British architect Norman Foster in the 1990s and features a glass dome over the session area, which allows free public access to the parliamentary proceedings and magnificent views of the city.

The East Side Gallery is an open-air exhibition of art painted directly on the last existing portions of the Berlin Wall. It is the largest remaining evidence of the city's historical division.

The Gendarmenmarkt is a neoclassical square in Berlin, the name of which derives from the headquarters of the famous Gens d'armes regiment located here in the 18th century. Two similarly designed cathedrals border it, the Französischer Dom with its observation platform and the Deutscher Dom. The Konzerthaus (Concert Hall), home of the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, stands between the two cathedrals.

The Museum Island in the River Spree houses five museums built from 1830 to 1930 and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Restoration and construction of a main entrance to all museums, as well as reconstruction of the Stadtschloss continues. [86] [87] Also on the island and next to the Lustgarten and palace is Berlin Cathedral, emperor William II's ambitious attempt to create a Protestant counterpart to St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. A large crypt houses the remains of some of the earlier Prussian royal family. St. Hedwig's Cathedral is Berlin's Roman Catholic cathedral.

Unter den Linden is a tree-lined east–west avenue from the Brandenburg Gate to the site of the former Berliner Stadtschloss, and was once Berlin's premier promenade. Many Classical buildings line the street, and part of Humboldt University is there. Friedrichstraße was Berlin's legendary street during the Golden Twenties. It combines 20th-century traditions with the modern architecture of today's Berlin.

Potsdamer Platz is an entire quarter built from scratch after the Wall came down. [88] To the west of Potsdamer Platz is the Kulturforum, which houses the Gemäldegalerie, and is flanked by the Neue Nationalgalerie and the Berliner Philharmonie. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, a Holocaust memorial, is to the north. [89]

The area around Hackescher Markt is home to fashionable culture, with countless clothing outlets, clubs, bars, and galleries. This includes the Hackesche Höfe, a conglomeration of buildings around several courtyards, reconstructed around 1996. The nearby New Synagogue is the center of Jewish culture.

The Straße des 17. Juni, connecting the Brandenburg Gate and Ernst-Reuter-Platz, serves as the central east–west axis. Its name commemorates the uprisings in East Berlin of 17 June 1953. Approximately halfway from the Brandenburg Gate is the Großer Stern, a circular traffic island on which the Siegessäule (Victory Column) is situated. This monument, built to commemorate Prussia's victories, was relocated in 1938–39 from its previous position in front of the Reichstag.

The Kurfürstendamm is home to some of Berlin's luxurious stores with the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church at its eastern end on Breitscheidplatz. The church was destroyed in the Second World War and left in ruins. Nearby on Tauentzienstraße is KaDeWe, claimed to be continental Europe's largest department store. The Rathaus Schöneberg, where John F. Kennedy made his famous "Ich bin ein Berliner!" speech, is in Tempelhof-Schöneberg.

West of the center, Bellevue Palace is the residence of the German President. Charlottenburg Palace, which was burnt out in the Second World War, is the largest historical palace in Berlin.

The Funkturm Berlin is a 150-meter-tall (490 ft) lattice radio tower in the fairground area, built between 1924 and 1926. It is the only observation tower which stands on insulators and has a restaurant 55 m (180 ft) and an observation deck 126 m (413 ft) above ground, which is reachable by a windowed elevator.

The Oberbaumbrücke over the Spree river is Berlin's most iconic bridge, connecting the now-combined boroughs of Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg. It carries vehicles, pedestrians, and the U1 Berlin U-Bahn line. The bridge was completed in a brick gothic style in 1896, replacing the former wooden bridge with an upper deck for the U-Bahn. The center portion was demolished in 1945 to stop the Red Army from crossing. After the war, the repaired bridge served as a checkpoint and border crossing between the Soviet and American sectors, and later between East and West Berlin. In the mid-1950s, it was closed to vehicles, and after the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, pedestrian traffic was heavily restricted. Following German reunification, the center portion was reconstructed with a steel frame, and U-Bahn service resumed in 1995.

At the end of 2018, the city-state of Berlin had 3.75 million registered inhabitants [2] in an area of 891.1 km 2 (344.1 sq mi). [1] The city's population density was 4,206 inhabitants per km 2 . Berlin is the most populous city proper in the European Union. In 2019, the urban area of Berlin had about 4.5 million inhabitants. [3] As of 2019 [update] the functional urban area was home to about 5.2 million people. [90] The entire Berlin-Brandenburg capital region has a population of more than 6 million in an area of 30,546 km 2 (11,794 sq mi). [91] [1]

In 2014, the city-state Berlin had 37,368 live births (+6.6%), a record number since 1991. The number of deaths was 32,314. Almost 2.0 million households were counted in the city. 54 percent of them were single-person households. More than 337,000 families with children under the age of 18 lived in Berlin. In 2014 the German capital registered a migration surplus of approximately 40,000 people. [92]

Nationalities Edit

Residents by Citizenship (31 December 2019) [2]
Country Population
Total registered residents 3,769,495
Germany 2,992,150
Turkey 98,940
Poland 56,573
Syria 39,813
Italy 31,573
Bulgaria 30,824
Russia 26,640
Romania 24,264
United States 22,694
Vietnam 20,572
Serbia 20,109
France 20,023
United Kingdom 16,751
Spain 15,045
Greece 14,625
Croatia 13,930
India 13,450
Ukraine 13,410
Afghanistan 13,301
China 13,293
Bosnia and Herzegovina 12,291
Other Middle East and Asia 88,241
Other Europe 80,807
Africa 36,414
Other Americas 27,491
Oceania and Antarctica 5,651
Stateless or Unclear 24,184

National and international migration into the city has a long history. In 1685, after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in France, the city responded with the Edict of Potsdam, which guaranteed religious freedom and tax-free status to French Huguenot refugees for ten years. The Greater Berlin Act in 1920 incorporated many suburbs and surrounding cities of Berlin. It formed most of the territory that comprises modern Berlin and increased the population from 1.9 million to 4 million.

Active immigration and asylum politics in West Berlin triggered waves of immigration in the 1960s and 1970s. Berlin is home to at least 180,000 Turkish and Turkish German residents, [2] making it the largest Turkish community outside of Turkey. In the 1990s the Aussiedlergesetze enabled immigration to Germany of some residents from the former Soviet Union. Today ethnic Germans from countries of the former Soviet Union make up the largest portion of the Russian-speaking community. [93] The last decade experienced an influx from various Western countries and some African regions. [94] A portion of the African immigrants have settled in the Afrikanisches Viertel. [95] Young Germans, EU-Europeans and Israelis have also settled in the city. [96]

In December 2019, there were 777,345 registered residents of foreign nationality and another 542,975 German citizens with a "migration background" (Migrationshintergrund, MH), [2] meaning they or one of their parents immigrated to Germany after 1955. Foreign residents of Berlin originate from about 190 different countries. [97] 48 percent of the residents under the age of 15 have migration background. [98] Berlin in 2009 was estimated to have 100,000 to 250,000 unregistered inhabitants. [99] Boroughs of Berlin with a significant number of migrants or foreign born population are Mitte, Neukölln and Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. [100]

There are more than 20 non-indigenous communities with a population of at least 10,000 people, including Turkish, Polish, Russian, Lebanese, Palestinian, Serbian, Italian, Bosnian, Vietnamese, American, Romanian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Chinese, Austrian, Ukrainian, French, British, Spanish, Israeli, Thai, Iranian, Egyptian and Syrian communities. [ citation needed ]

Languages Edit

German is the official and predominant spoken language in Berlin. It is a West Germanic language that derives most of its vocabulary from the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family. German is one of 24 languages of the European Union, [101] and one of the three working languages of the European Commission.

Berlinerisch or Berlinisch is not a dialect linguistically. It is spoken in Berlin and the surrounding metropolitan area. It originates from a Brandenburgish variant. The dialect is now seen more like a sociolect, largely through increased immigration and trends among the educated population to speak standard German in everyday life.

The most commonly spoken foreign languages in Berlin are Turkish, Polish, English, Arabic, Italian, Bulgarian, Russian, Romanian, Kurdish, Serbo-Croatian, French, Spanish and Vietnamese. Turkish, Arabic, Kurdish, and Serbo-Croatian are heard more often in the western part due to the large Middle Eastern and former-Yugoslavian communities. Polish, English, Russian, and Vietnamese have more native speakers in East Berlin. [102]

Religion Edit

According to the 2011 census, approximately 37 percent of the population reported being members of a legally-recognized church or religious organization. The rest either did not belong to such an organization, or there was no information available about them. [103]

The largest religious denomination recorded in 2010 was the Protestant regional church body—the Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia (EKBO)—a United church. EKBO is a member of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and Union Evangelischer Kirchen (UEK). According to the EKBO, their membership accounted for 18.7 percent of the local population, while the Roman Catholic Church had 9.1 percent of residents registered as its members. [104] About 2.7% of the population identify with other Christian denominations (mostly Eastern Orthodox, but also various Protestants). [105] According to the Berlin residents register, in 2018 14.9 percent were members of the Evangelical Church, and 8.5 percent were members of the Catholic Church. [2] The government keeps a register of members of these churches for tax purposes, because it collects church tax on behalf of the churches. It does not keep records of members of other religious organizations which may collect their own church tax, in this way.

In 2009, approximately 249,000 Muslims were reported by the Office of Statistics to be members of Mosques and Islamic religious organizations in Berlin, [106] while in 2016, the newspaper Der Tagesspiegel estimated that about 350,000 Muslims observed Ramadan in Berlin. [107] In 2019, about 437,000 registered residents, 11.6% of the total, reported having a migration background from one of the Member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. [2] [108] Between 1992 and 2011 the Muslim population almost doubled. [109]

About 0.9% of Berliners belong to other religions. Of the estimated population of 30,000–45,000 Jewish residents, [110] approximately 12,000 are registered members of religious organizations. [105]

Berlin is the seat of the Roman Catholic archbishop of Berlin and EKBO's elected chairperson is titled the bishop of EKBO. Furthermore, Berlin is the seat of many Orthodox cathedrals, such as the Cathedral of St. Boris the Baptist, one of the two seats of the Bulgarian Orthodox Diocese of Western and Central Europe, and the Resurrection of Christ Cathedral of the Diocese of Berlin (Patriarchate of Moscow).

The faithful of the different religions and denominations maintain many places of worship in Berlin. The Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church has eight parishes of different sizes in Berlin. [111] There are 36 Baptist congregations (within Union of Evangelical Free Church Congregations in Germany), 29 New Apostolic Churches, 15 United Methodist churches, eight Free Evangelical Congregations, four Churches of Christ, Scientist (1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 11th), six congregations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an Old Catholic church, and an Anglican church in Berlin. Berlin has more than 80 mosques, [112] ten synagogues, [113] and two Buddhist temples.

City state Edit

Since reunification on 3 October 1990, Berlin has been one of the three city states in Germany among the present 16 states of Germany. The House of Representatives (Abgeordnetenhaus) functions as the city and state parliament, which has 141 seats. Berlin's executive body is the Senate of Berlin (Senat von Berlin). The Senate consists of the Governing Mayor (Regierender Bürgermeister), and up to ten senators holding ministerial positions, two of them holding the title of "Mayor" (Bürgermeister) as deputy to the Governing Mayor. [114] The total annual state budget of Berlin in 2015 exceeded €24.5 ($30.0) billion including a budget surplus of €205 ($240) million. [115] The state owns extensive assets, including administrative and government buildings, real estate companies, as well as stakes in the Olympic Stadium, swimming pools, housing companies, and numerous public enterprises and subsidiary companies. [116] [117]

The Social Democratic Party (SPD) and The Left (Die Linke) took control of the city government after the 2001 state election and won another term in the 2006 state election. [118] Since the 2016 state election, there has been a coalition between the Social Democratic Party, the Greens and the Left Party.

The Governing Mayor is simultaneously Lord Mayor of the City of Berlin (Oberbürgermeister der Stadt) and Minister President of the State of Berlin (Ministerpräsident des Bundeslandes). The office of the Governing Mayor is in the Rotes Rathaus (Red City Hall). Since 2014 this office has been held by Michael Müller of the Social Democrats. [119]

Boroughs Edit

Berlin is subdivided into 12 boroughs or districts (Bezirke). Each borough has several subdistricts or neighborhoods (Ortsteile), which have roots in much older municipalities that predate the formation of Greater Berlin on 1 October 1920. These subdistricts became urbanized and incorporated into the city later on. Many residents strongly identify with their neighborhoods, colloquially called Kiez. At present, Berlin consists of 96 subdistricts, which are commonly made up of several smaller residential areas or quarters.

Each borough is governed by a borough council (Bezirksamt) consisting of five councilors (Bezirksstadträte) including the borough's mayor (Bezirksbürgermeister). The council is elected by the borough assembly (Bezirksverordnetenversammlung). However, the individual boroughs are not independent municipalities, but subordinate to the Senate of Berlin. The borough's mayors make up the council of mayors (Rat der Bürgermeister), which is led by the city's Governing Mayor and advises the Senate. The neighborhoods have no local government bodies.

Twin towns – sister cities Edit

Berlin maintains official partnerships with 17 cities. [120] Town twinning between Berlin and other cities began with its sister city Los Angeles in 1967. East Berlin's partnerships were canceled at the time of German reunification but later partially reestablished. West Berlin's partnerships had previously been restricted to the borough level. During the Cold War era, the partnerships had reflected the different power blocs, with West Berlin partnering with capitals in the Western World and East Berlin mostly partnering with cities from the Warsaw Pact and its allies.

There are several joint projects with many other cities, such as Beirut, Belgrade, São Paulo, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Johannesburg, Mumbai, Oslo, Shanghai, Seoul, Sofia, Sydney, New York City and Vienna. Berlin participates in international city associations such as the Union of the Capitals of the European Union, Eurocities, Network of European Cities of Culture, Metropolis, Summit Conference of the World's Major Cities, and Conference of the World's Capital Cities.

  • Los Angeles, United States (1967)
  • Madrid, Spain (1988)
  • Istanbul, Turkey (1989)
  • Warsaw, Poland (1991)
  • Moscow, Russia (1991)
  • Brussels, Belgium (1992)
  • Budapest, Hungary (1992)
  • Tashkent, Uzbekistan (1993)
  • Mexico City, Mexico (1993)
  • Jakarta, Indonesia (1993)
  • Beijing, China (1994)
  • Tokyo, Japan (1994)
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina (1994)
  • Prague, Czech Republic (1995)
  • Windhoek, Namibia (2000)
  • London, England (2000)

Since 1987, Berlin also has an official partnership Paris, France. Every Berlin borough also established its own twin towns. For example, the borough of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg has a partnership with the Israeli city of Kiryat Yam. [121]

Capital city Edit

Berlin is the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany. The President of Germany, whose functions are mainly ceremonial under the German constitution, has their official residence in Bellevue Palace. [122] Berlin is the seat of the German Chancellor (Prime Minister), housed in the Chancellery building, the Bundeskanzleramt. Facing the Chancellery is the Bundestag, the German Parliament, housed in the renovated Reichstag building since the government's relocation to Berlin in 1998. The Bundesrat ("federal council", performing the function of an upper house) is the representation of the 16 constituent states (Länder) of Germany and has its seat at the former Prussian House of Lords. The total annual federal budget managed by the German government exceeded €310 ($375) billion in 2013. [123]

The relocation of the federal government and Bundestag to Berlin was mostly completed in 1999. However, some ministries, as well as some minor departments, stayed in the federal city Bonn, the former capital of West Germany. Discussions about moving the remaining ministries and departments to Berlin continue. [124] The Federal Foreign Office and the ministries and departments of Defense, Justice and Consumer Protection, Finance, Interior, Economic Affairs and Energy, Labor and Social Affairs, Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, Food and Agriculture, Economic Cooperation and Development, Health, Transport and Digital Infrastructure and Education and Research are based in the capital.

Berlin hosts in total 158 foreign embassies [125] as well as the headquarters of many think tanks, trade unions, nonprofit organizations, lobbying groups, and professional associations. Due to the influence and international partnerships of the Federal Republic of Germany, the capital city has become a significant center of German and European affairs. Frequent official visits and diplomatic consultations among governmental representatives and national leaders are common in contemporary Berlin.

In 2018, the GDP of Berlin totaled €147 billion, an increase of 3.1% over the previous year. [1] Berlin's economy is dominated by the service sector, with around 84% of all companies doing business in services. In 2015, the total labor force in Berlin was 1.85 million. The unemployment rate reached a 24-year low in November 2015 and stood at 10.0% . [127] From 2012 to 2015 Berlin, as a German state, had the highest annual employment growth rate. Around 130,000 jobs were added in this period. [128]

Important economic sectors in Berlin include life sciences, transportation, information and communication technologies, media and music, advertising and design, biotechnology, environmental services, construction, e-commerce, retail, hotel business, and medical engineering. [129]

Research and development have economic significance for the city. [130] Several major corporations like Volkswagen, Pfizer, and SAP operate innovation laboratories in the city. [131] The Science and Business Park in Adlershof is the largest technology park in Germany measured by revenue. [132] Within the Eurozone, Berlin has become a center for business relocation and international investments. [133] [134]

Year [135] 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Unemployment rate in % 15.8 16.1 16.9 18.1 17.7 19.0 17.5 15.5 13.8 14.0 13.6 13.3 12.3 11.7 11.1 10.7 9.8 9.0 8.1 7.8

Companies Edit

Many German and international companies have business or service centers in the city. For several years Berlin has been recognized as a major center of business founders. [136] In 2015, Berlin generated the most venture capital for young startup companies in Europe. [137]

Among the 10 largest employers in Berlin are the City-State of Berlin, Deutsche Bahn, the hospital providers Charité and Vivantes, the Federal Government of Germany, the local public transport provider BVG, Siemens and Deutsche Telekom. [138]

Siemens, a Global 500 and DAX-listed company is partly headquartered in Berlin. Other DAX-listed companies headquartered in Berlin are the property company Deutsche Wohnen and the online food delivery service Delivery Hero. The national railway operator Deutsche Bahn, [139] Europe's largest digital publisher [140] Axel Springer as well as the MDAX-listed firms Zalando and HelloFresh and also have their main headquarters in the city. Among the largest international corporations who have their German or European headquarters in Berlin are Bombardier Transportation, Gazprom Germania, Coca-Cola, Pfizer, Sony and Total.

As of 2018, the three largest banks headquartered in the capital were Deutsche Kreditbank, Landesbank Berlin and Berlin Hyp. [141]

Daimler manufactures cars, and BMW builds motorcycles in Berlin. American electric car manufacturer Tesla is building its first European Gigafactory just outside of the city in Grünheide (Mark). The Pharmaceuticals division of Bayer [142] and Berlin Chemie are major pharmaceutical companies in the city.

Tourism and conventions Edit

Berlin had 788 hotels with 134,399 beds in 2014. [143] The city recorded 28.7 million overnight hotel stays and 11.9 million hotel guests in 2014. [143] Tourism figures have more than doubled within the last ten years and Berlin has become the third-most-visited city destination in Europe. Some of the most visited places in Berlin include: Potsdamer Platz, Brandenburger Tor, the Berlin wall, Alexanderplatz, Museumsinsel, Fernsehturm, the East-Side Gallery, Schloss-Charlottenburg, Zoologischer Garten, Siegessäule, Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer, Mauerpark, Botanical Garden, Französischer Dom, Deutscher Dom and Holocaust-Mahnmal. The largest visitor groups are from Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and the United States.

According to figures from the International Congress and Convention Association in 2015, Berlin became the leading organizer of conferences globally, hosting 195 international meetings. [144] Some of these congress events take place on venues such as CityCube Berlin or the Berlin Congress Center (bcc).

The Messe Berlin (also known as Berlin ExpoCenter City) is the main convention organizing company in the city. Its main exhibition area covers more than 160,000 square meters (1,722,226 sq ft). Several large-scale trade fairs like the consumer electronics trade fair IFA, the ILA Berlin Air Show, the Berlin Fashion Week (including the Premium Berlin and the Panorama Berlin), [145] the Green Week, the Fruit Logistica, the transport fair InnoTrans, the tourism fair ITB and the adult entertainment and erotic fair Venus are held annually in the city, attracting a significant number of business visitors.

Creative industries Edit

The creative arts and entertainment business is an important part of Berlin's economy. The sector comprises music, film, advertising, architecture, art, design, fashion, performing arts, publishing, R&D, software, [146] TV, radio, and video games.

In 2014, around 30,500 creative companies operated in the Berlin-Brandenburg metropolitan region, predominantly SMEs. Generating a revenue of 15.6 billion Euro and 6% of all private economic sales, the culture industry grew from 2009 to 2014 at an average rate of 5.5% per year. [147]

Berlin is an important center in the European and German film industry. [148] It is home to more than 1,000 film and television production companies, 270 movie theaters, and around 300 national and international co-productions are filmed in the region every year. [130] The historic Babelsberg Studios and the production company UFA are adjacent to Berlin in Potsdam. The city is also home of the German Film Academy (Deutsche Filmakademie), founded in 2003, and the European Film Academy, founded in 1988.

Media Edit

Berlin is home to many magazine, newspaper, book, and scientific/academic publishers and their associated service industries. In addition, around 20 news agencies, more than 90 regional daily newspapers and their websites, as well as the Berlin offices of more than 22 national publications such as Der Spiegel, and Die Zeit reinforce the capital's position as Germany's epicenter for influential debate. Therefore, many international journalists, bloggers, and writers live and work in the city.

Berlin is the central location to several international and regional television and radio stations. [149] The public broadcaster RBB has its headquarters in Berlin as well as the commercial broadcasters MTV Europe and Welt. German international public broadcaster Deutsche Welle has its TV production unit in Berlin, and most national German broadcasters have a studio in the city including ZDF and RTL.

Berlin has Germany's largest number of daily newspapers, with numerous local broadsheets (Berliner Morgenpost, Berliner Zeitung, Der Tagesspiegel), and three major tabloids, as well as national dailies of varying sizes, each with a different political affiliation, such as Die Welt, Neues Deutschland, and Die Tageszeitung. The Exberliner, a monthly magazine, is Berlin's English-language periodical and La Gazette de Berlin a French-language newspaper.

Berlin is also the headquarter of major German-language publishing houses like Walter de Gruyter, Springer, the Ullstein Verlagsgruppe (publishing group), Suhrkamp and Cornelsen are all based in Berlin. Each of which publishes books, periodicals, and multimedia products.

According to Mercer, Berlin ranked number 13 in the Quality of living city ranking in 2019. [150]

According to Monocle, Berlin occupies the position of the 6th-most-livable city in the world. [151] Economist Intelligence Unit ranks Berlin number 21 of all global cities. [152] Berlin is number 8 at the Global Power City Index. [153]

In 2019, Berlin has the best future prospects of all cities in Germany, according to HWWI and Berenberg Bank. [154] According to the 2019 study by Forschungsinstitut Prognos, Berlin was ranked number 92 of all 401 regions in Germany. It is also the 4th ranked region in former East Germany after Jena, Dresden and Potsdam. [155] [156]

Transport Edit

Roads Edit

Berlin's transport infrastructure is highly complex, providing a diverse range of urban mobility. [157] A total of 979 bridges cross 197 km (122 mi) of inner-city waterways. 5,422 km (3,369 mi) of roads run through Berlin, of which 77 km (48 mi) are motorways (Autobahn). [158] In 2013, 1.344 million motor vehicles were registered in the city. [158] With 377 cars per 1000 residents in 2013 (570/1000 in Germany), Berlin as a Western global city has one of the lowest numbers of cars per capita. [ citation needed ] In 2012, around 7,600 mostly beige colored taxicabs were in service. [ citation needed ] Since 2011, a number of app based e-car and e-scooter sharing services have evolved.

Rail Edit

Long-distance rail lines connect Berlin with all of the major cities of Germany and with many cities in neighboring European countries. Regional rail lines of the Verkehrsverbund Berlin-Brandenburg provide access to the surrounding regions of Brandenburg and to the Baltic Sea. The Berlin Hauptbahnhof is the largest grade-separated railway station in Europe. [159] Deutsche Bahn runs high speed Intercity-Express trains to domestic destinations like Hamburg , Munich, Cologne, Stuttgart , Frankfurt am Main and others. It also runs an airport express rail service, as well as trains to several international destinations like Vienna, Prague, Zürich , Warsaw, Wrocław, Budapest and Amsterdam.

Intercity buses Edit

Similarly to other German cities, there is an increasing quantity of intercity bus services. The city has more than 10 stations [160] that run buses to destinations throughout Germany and Europe, being Zentraler Omnibusbahnhof Berlin the biggest station.

Public transport Edit

The Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) and the Deutsche Bahn (DB) manage several extensive urban public transport systems. [161]

System Stations / Lines / Net length Annual ridership Operator / Notes
S-Bahn 166 / 16 / 331 km (206 mi) 431,000,000 (2016) DB / Mainly overground rapid transit rail system with suburban stops
U-Bahn 173 / 10 / 146 km (91 mi) 563,000,000 (2017) BVG / Mainly underground rail system / 24h-service on weekends
Tram 404 / 22 / 194 km (121 mi) 197,000,000 (2017) BVG / Operates predominantly in eastern boroughs
Bus 3227 / 198 / 1,675 km (1,041 mi) 440,000,000 (2017) BVG / Extensive services in all boroughs / 62 Night Lines
Ferry 6 lines BVG / Transportation as well as recreational ferries

Travelers can access all modes of transport with a single ticket.

Public transportation in Berlin has a long and complicated history because of the 20th-century division of the city, where movement between the two halves was not served. Since 1989, the transport network has been developed extensively however, it still contains early 20th century traits, such as the U1. [162]

Airports Edit

Berlin is served by one commercial international airport: Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER), located just outside Berlin's south-eastern border, in the state of Brandenburg. It began construction in 2006, with the intention of replacing Tegel Airport (TXL) and Schönefeld Airport (SXF) as the single commercial airport of Berlin. [163] Previously set to open in 2012, after extensive delays and cost overruns, it opened for commercial operations in October 2020. [164] The planned initial capacity of around 27 million passengers per year [165] is to be further developed to bring the terminal capacity to approximately 55 million per year by 2040. [166]

Before the opening of the BER in Brandenburg, Berlin was served by Tegel Airport and Schönefeld Airport. Tegel Airport was within the city limits, and Schönefeld Airport was located at the same site as the BER. Both airports together handled 29.5 million passengers in 2015. In 2014, 67 airlines served 163 destinations in 50 countries from Berlin. [167] Tegel Airport was a focus city for Lufthansa and Eurowings while Schönefeld served as an important destination for airlines like Germania , easyJet and Ryanair. Until 2008, Berlin was also served by the smaller Tempelhof Airport, which functioned as a city airport, with a convenient location near the city center, allowing for quick transit times between the central business district and the airport. The airport grounds have since been turned into a city park.

Cycling Edit

Berlin is well known for its highly developed bicycle lane system. [168] It is estimated Berlin has 710 bicycles per 1000 residents. Around 500,000 daily bike riders accounted for 13% of total traffic in 2010. [169] Cyclists have access to 620 km (385 mi) of bicycle paths including approximately 150 km (93 mi) of mandatory bicycle paths, 190 km (118 mi) of off-road bicycle routes, 60 km (37 mi) of bicycle lanes on roads, 70 km (43 mi) of shared bus lanes which are also open to cyclists, 100 km (62 mi) of combined pedestrian/bike paths and 50 km (31 mi) of marked bicycle lanes on roadside pavements (or sidewalks). [170] Riders are allowed to carry their bicycles on Regionalbahn , S-Bahn and U-Bahn trains, on trams, and on night buses if a bike ticket is purchased. [171]

Rohrpost (pneumatic postal network) Edit

From 1865 until 1976, Berlin had an extensive pneumatic postal network, which at its peak in 1940, totaled 400 kilometers in length. After 1949 the system was split into two separated networks. The West Berlin system in operation and open for public use until 1963, and for government use until 1972. The East Berlin system which inherited the Hauptelegraphenamt, the central hub of the system, was in operation until 1976

Energy Edit

Berlin's two largest energy provider for private households are the Swedish firm Vattenfall and the Berlin-based company GASAG. Both offer electric power and natural gas supply. Some of the city's electric energy is imported from nearby power plants in southern Brandenburg. [172]

As of 2015 [update] the five largest power plants measured by capacity are the Heizkraftwerk Reuter West, the Heizkraftwerk Lichterfelde, the Heizkraftwerk Mitte, the Heizkraftwerk Wilmersdorf, and the Heizkraftwerk Charlottenburg. All of these power stations generate electricity and useful heat at the same time to facilitate buffering during load peaks.

In 1993 the power grid connections in the Berlin-Brandenburg capital region were renewed. In most of the inner districts of Berlin power lines are underground cables only a 380 kV and a 110 kV line, which run from Reuter substation to the urban Autobahn, use overhead lines. The Berlin 380-kV electric line is the backbone of the city's energy grid.

Health Edit

Berlin has a long history of discoveries in medicine and innovations in medical technology. [173] The modern history of medicine has been significantly influenced by scientists from Berlin. Rudolf Virchow was the founder of cellular pathology, while Robert Koch developed vaccines for anthrax, cholera, and tuberculosis. [174]

The Charité complex (Universitätsklinik Charité) is the largest university hospital in Europe, tracing back its origins to the year 1710. More than half of all German Nobel Prize winners in Physiology or Medicine, including Emil von Behring, Robert Koch and Paul Ehrlich, have worked at the Charité. The Charité is spread over four campuses and comprises around 3,000 beds, 15,500 staff, 8,000 students, and more than 60 operating theaters, and it has a turnover of two billion euros annually. [175] The Charité is a joint institution of the Freie Universität Berlin and the Humboldt University of Berlin, including a wide range of institutes and specialized medical centers.

Among them are the German Heart Center, one of the most renowned transplantation centers, the Max-Delbrück-Center for Molecular Medicine, and the Max-Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics. The scientific research at these institutions is complemented by many research departments of companies such as Siemens and Bayer. The World Health Summit and several international health-related conventions are held annually in Berlin.

Telecommunication Edit

Since 2017, the digital television standard in Berlin and Germany is DVB-T2. This system transmits compressed digital audio, digital video and other data in an MPEG transport stream.

Berlin has installed several hundred free public Wireless LAN sites across the capital since 2016. The wireless networks are concentrated mostly in central districts 650 hotspots (325 indoor and 325 outdoor access points) are installed. [176] Deutsche Bahn is planning to introduce Wi-Fi services in long-distance and regional trains in 2017. [ needs update ]

The UMTS (3G) and LTE (4G) networks of the three major cellular operators Vodafone, T-Mobile and O2 enable the use of mobile broadband applications citywide.

The Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute develops mobile and stationary broadband communication networks and multimedia systems. Focal points are photonic components and systems, fiber optic sensor systems, and image signal processing and transmission. Future applications for broadband networks are developed as well.

As of 2014 [update] , Berlin had 878 schools, teaching 340,658 children in 13,727 classes and 56,787 trainees in businesses and elsewhere. [130] The city has a 6-year primary education program. After completing primary school, students continue to the Sekundarschule (a comprehensive school) or Gymnasium (college preparatory school). Berlin has a special bilingual school program in the Europaschule, in which children are taught the curriculum in German and a foreign language, starting in primary school and continuing in high school. [177]

The Französisches Gymnasium Berlin, which was founded in 1689 to teach the children of Huguenot refugees, offers (German/French) instruction. [178] The John F. Kennedy School, a bilingual German–American public school in Zehlendorf, is particularly popular with children of diplomats and the English-speaking expatriate community. 82 Gymnasien teach Latin [179] and 8 teach Classical Greek. [180]

Higher education Edit

The Berlin-Brandenburg capital region is one of the most prolific centers of higher education and research in Germany and Europe. Historically, 67 Nobel Prize winners are affiliated with the Berlin-based universities.

The city has four public research universities and more than 30 private, professional, and technical colleges (Hochschulen), offering a wide range of disciplines. [181] A record number of 175,651 students were enrolled in the winter term of 2015/16. [182] Among them around 18% have an international background.

The three largest universities combined have approximately 103,000 enrolled students. There are the Freie Universität Berlin (Free University of Berlin, FU Berlin) with about 33,000 [183] students, the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin (HU Berlin) with 35,000 [184] students, and the Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin) with 35,000 [185] students. The Charité Medical School has around 8,000 students. [175] The FU, the HU, the TU, and the Charité make up the Berlin University Alliance, which has received funding from the Excellence Strategy program of the German government. [186] [187] The Universität der Künste (UdK) has about 4,000 students and ESMT Berlin is only one of four business schools in Germany with triple accreditation. [188] The Berlin School of Economics and Law has an enrollment of about 11,000 students, the Beuth University of Applied Sciences Berlin of about 12,000 students, and the Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft (University of Applied Sciences for Engineering and Economics) of about 14,000 students.

Research Edit

The city has a high density of internationally renowned research institutions, such as the Fraunhofer Society, the Leibniz Association, the Helmholtz Association, and the Max Planck Society, which are independent of, or only loosely connected to its universities. [189] In 2012, around 65,000 professional scientists were working in research and development in the city. [130]

Berlin is one of the knowledge and innovation communities (KIC) of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). [190] The KIC is based at the Center for Entrepreneurship at TU Berlin and has a focus in the development of IT industries. It partners with major multinational companies such as Siemens, Deutsche Telekom, and SAP. [191]

One of Europe's successful research, business and technology clusters is based at WISTA in Berlin-Adlershof, with more than 1,000 affiliated firms, university departments and scientific institutions. [192]

In addition to the university-affiliated libraries, the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin is a major research library. Its two main locations are on Potsdamer Straße and on Unter den Linden. There are also 86 public libraries in the city. [130] ResearchGate, a global social networking site for scientists, is based in Berlin.

Berlin is known for its numerous cultural institutions, many of which enjoy international reputation. [25] [193] The diversity and vivacity of the metropolis led to a trendsetting atmosphere. [194] An innovative music, dance and art scene has developed in the 21st century.

Young people, international artists and entrepreneurs continued to settle in the city and made Berlin a popular entertainment center in the world. [195]

The expanding cultural performance of the city was underscored by the relocation of the Universal Music Group who decided to move their headquarters to the banks of the River Spree. [196] In 2005, Berlin was named "City of Design" by UNESCO and has been part of the Creative Cities Network ever since. [197] [20]

Galleries and museums Edit

As of 2011 [update] Berlin is home to 138 museums and more than 400 art galleries. [130] [198] The ensemble on the Museum Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is in the northern part of the Spree Island between the Spree and the Kupfergraben. [25] As early as 1841 it was designated a "district dedicated to art and antiquities" by a royal decree. Subsequently, the Altes Museum was built in the Lustgarten. The Neues Museum, which displays the bust of Queen Nefertiti, [199] Alte Nationalgalerie, Pergamon Museum, and Bode Museum were built there.

Apart from the Museum Island, there are many additional museums in the city. The Gemäldegalerie (Painting Gallery) focuses on the paintings of the "old masters" from the 13th to the 18th centuries, while the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery, built by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe) specializes in 20th-century European painting. The Hamburger Bahnhof, in Moabit, exhibits a major collection of modern and contemporary art. The expanded Deutsches Historisches Museum reopened in the Zeughaus with an overview of German history spanning more than a millennium. The Bauhaus Archive is a museum of 20th-century design from the famous Bauhaus school. Museum Berggruen houses the collection of noted 20th century collector Heinz Berggruen, and features an extensive assortment of works by Picasso, Matisse, Cézanne, and Giacometti, among others. [200]

The Jewish Museum has a standing exhibition on two millennia of German-Jewish history. [201] The German Museum of Technology in Kreuzberg has a large collection of historical technical artifacts. The Museum für Naturkunde (Berlin's natural history museum) exhibits natural history near Berlin Hauptbahnhof. It has the largest mounted dinosaur in the world (a Giraffatitan skeleton). A well-preserved specimen of Tyrannosaurus rex and the early bird Archaeopteryx are at display as well. [202]

In Dahlem, there are several museums of world art and culture, such as the Museum of Asian Art, the Ethnological Museum, the Museum of European Cultures, as well as the Allied Museum. The Brücke Museum features one of the largest collection of works by artist of the early 20th-century expressionist movement. In Lichtenberg, on the grounds of the former East German Ministry for State Security, is the Stasi Museum. The site of Checkpoint Charlie, one of the most renowned crossing points of the Berlin Wall, is still preserved. A private museum venture exhibits a comprehensive documentation of detailed plans and strategies devised by people who tried to flee from the East. The Beate Uhse Erotic Museum claims to be the world's largest erotic museum. [203]

The cityscape of Berlin displays large quantities of urban street art. [204] It has become a significant part of the city's cultural heritage and has its roots in the graffiti scene of Kreuzberg of the 1980s. [205] The Berlin Wall itself has become one of the largest open-air canvasses in the world. [206] The leftover stretch along the Spree river in Friedrichshain remains as the East Side Gallery. Berlin today is consistently rated as an important world city for street art culture. [207] Berlin has galleries which are quite rich in contemporary art. Located in Mitte, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, KOW, Sprüth Magers Kreuzberg there are a few galleries as well such as Blain Southern, Esther Schipper, Future Gallery, König Gallerie.

Nightlife and festivals Edit

Berlin's nightlife has been celebrated as one of the most diverse and vibrant of its kind. [208] In the 1970s and 80s the SO36 in Kreuzberg was a center for punk music and culture. The SOUND and the Dschungel gained notoriety. Throughout the 1990s, people in their 20s from all over the world, particularly those in Western and Central Europe, made Berlin's club scene a premier nightlife venue. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, many historic buildings in Mitte, the former city center of East Berlin, were illegally occupied and re-built by young squatters and became a fertile ground for underground and counterculture gatherings. [209] The central boroughs are home to many nightclubs, including the Watergate, Tresor and Berghain. The KitKatClub and several other locations are known for their sexually uninhibited parties.

Clubs are not required to close at a fixed time during the weekends, and many parties last well into the morning or even all weekend. The Weekend Club near Alexanderplatz features a roof terrace that allows partying at night. Several venues have become a popular stage for the Neo-Burlesque scene.

Berlin has a long history of gay culture, and is an important birthplace of the LGBT rights movement. Same-sex bars and dance halls operated freely as early as the 1880s, and the first gay magazine, Der Eigene, started in 1896. By the 1920s, gays and lesbians had an unprecedented visibility. [210] [211] Today, in addition to a positive atmosphere in the wider club scene, the city again has a huge number of queer clubs and festivals. The most famous and largest are Berlin Pride, the Christopher Street Day, [212] the Lesbian and Gay City Festival in Berlin-Schöneberg, the Kreuzberg Pride and Hustlaball.

The annual Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) with around 500,000 admissions is considered to be the largest publicly attended film festival in the world. [213] [214] The Karneval der Kulturen (Carnival of Cultures), a multi-ethnic street parade, is celebrated every Pentecost weekend. [215] Berlin is also well known for the cultural festival Berliner Festspiele, which includes the jazz festival JazzFest Berlin, and Young Euro Classic, the largest international festival of youth orchestras in the world. Several technology and media art festivals and conferences are held in the city, including Transmediale and Chaos Communication Congress. The annual Berlin Festival focuses on indie rock, electronic music and synthpop and is part of the International Berlin Music Week. [216] [217] Every year Berlin hosts one of the largest New Year's Eve celebrations in the world, attended by well over a million people. The focal point is the Brandenburg Gate, where midnight fireworks are centered, but various private fireworks displays take place throughout the entire city. Partygoers in Germany often toast the New Year with a glass of sparkling wine.

Performing arts Edit

Berlin is home to 44 theaters and stages. [130] The Deutsches Theater in Mitte was built in 1849–50 and has operated almost continuously since then. The Volksbühne at Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz was built in 1913–14, though the company had been founded in 1890. The Berliner Ensemble, famous for performing the works of Bertolt Brecht, was established in 1949. The Schaubühne was founded in 1962 and moved to the building of the former Universum Cinema on Kurfürstendamm in 1981. With a seating capacity of 1,895 and a stage floor of 2,854 square meters (30,720 sq ft), the Friedrichstadt-Palast in Berlin Mitte is the largest show palace in Europe.

Berlin has three major opera houses: the Deutsche Oper, the Berlin State Opera, and the Komische Oper. The Berlin State Opera on Unter den Linden opened in 1742 and is the oldest of the three. Its musical director is Daniel Barenboim. The Komische Oper has traditionally specialized in operettas and is also at Unter den Linden. The Deutsche Oper opened in 1912 in Charlottenburg.

The city's main venue for musical theater performances are the Theater am Potsdamer Platz and Theater des Westens (built in 1895). Contemporary dance can be seen at the Radialsystem V. The Tempodrom is host to concerts and circus-inspired entertainment. It also houses a multi-sensory spa experience. The Admiralspalast in Mitte has a vibrant program of variety and music events.

There are seven symphony orchestras in Berlin. The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra is one of the preeminent orchestras in the world [218] it is housed in the Berliner Philharmonie near Potsdamer Platz on a street named for the orchestra's longest-serving conductor, Herbert von Karajan. [219] Simon Rattle is its principal conductor. [220] The Konzerthausorchester Berlin was founded in 1952 as the orchestra for East Berlin. Ivan Fischer is its principal conductor. The Haus der Kulturen der Welt presents exhibitions dealing with intercultural issues and stages world music and conferences. [221] The Kookaburra and the Quatsch Comedy Club are known for satire and stand-up comedy shows. In 2018, the New York Times described Berlin as "arguably the world capital of underground electronic music". [222]

Cuisine Edit

The cuisine and culinary offerings of Berlin vary greatly. Twelve restaurants in Berlin have been included in the Michelin Guide of 2015, which ranks the city at the top for the number of restaurants having this distinction in Germany. [223] Berlin is well known for its offerings of vegetarian [224] and vegan [225] cuisine and is home to an innovative entrepreneurial food scene promoting cosmopolitan flavors, local and sustainable ingredients, pop-up street food markets, supper clubs, as well as food festivals, such as Berlin Food Week. [226] [227]

Many local foods originated from north German culinary traditions and include rustic and hearty dishes with pork, goose, fish, peas, beans, cucumbers, or potatoes. Typical Berliner fare include popular street food like the Currywurst (which gained popularity with postwar construction workers rebuilding the city), Buletten and the Berliner donut, known in Berlin as Pfannkuchen. [228] [229] German bakeries offering a variety of breads and pastries are widespread. One of Europe's largest delicatessen markets is found at the KaDeWe, and among the world's largest chocolate stores is Fassbender & Rausch. [230]

Berlin is also home to a diverse gastronomy scene reflecting the immigrant history of the city. Turkish and Arab immigrants brought their culinary traditions to the city, such as the lahmajoun and falafel, which have become common fast food staples. The modern fast-food version of the doner kebab sandwich which evolved in Berlin in the 1970s, has since become a favorite dish in Germany and elsewhere in the world. [231] Asian cuisine like Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Indian, Korean, and Japanese restaurants, as well as Spanish tapas bars, Italian, and Greek cuisine, can be found in many parts of the city.

Recreation Edit

Zoologischer Garten Berlin, the older of two zoos in the city, was founded in 1844. It is the most visited zoo in Europe and presents the most diverse range of species in the world. [232] It was the home of the captive-born celebrity polar bear Knut. [233] The city's other zoo, Tierpark Friedrichsfelde, was founded in 1955.

Berlin's Botanischer Garten includes the Botanic Museum Berlin. With an area of 43 hectares (110 acres) and around 22,000 different plant species, it is one of the largest and most diverse collections of botanical life in the world. Other gardens in the city include the Britzer Garten, and the Gärten der Welt (Gardens of the World) in Marzahn. [234]

The Tiergarten park in Mitte, with landscape design by Peter Joseph Lenné, is one of Berlin's largest and most popular parks. [235] In Kreuzberg, the Viktoriapark provides a viewing point over the southern part of inner-city Berlin. Treptower Park, beside the Spree in Treptow, features a large Soviet War Memorial. The Volkspark in Friedrichshain, which opened in 1848, is the oldest park in the city, with monuments, a summer outdoor cinema and several sports areas. [236] Tempelhofer Feld, the site of the former city airport, is the world's largest inner-city open space. [237]

Potsdam is on the southwestern periphery of Berlin. The city was a residence of the Prussian kings and the German Kaiser, until 1918. The area around Potsdam in particular Sanssouci is known for a series of interconnected lakes and cultural landmarks. The Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin are the largest World Heritage Site in Germany. [238]

Berlin is also well known for its numerous cafés, street musicians, beach bars along the Spree River, flea markets, boutique shops and pop up stores, which are a source for recreation and leisure. [239]

Berlin has established a high-profile as a host city of major international sporting events. [240] The city hosted the 1936 Summer Olympics and was the host city for the 2006 FIFA World Cup final. [241] The IAAF World Championships in Athletics was held in the Olympiastadion in 2009. [242] The city hosted the Basketball Euroleague Final Four in 2009 and 2016. [243] and was one of the hosts of the FIBA EuroBasket 2015. In 2015 Berlin became the venue for the UEFA Champions League Final.

Berlin will host the 2023 Special Olympics World Summer Games. This will be the first time Germany has ever hosted the Special Olympics World Games. [244]

The annual Berlin Marathon – a course that holds the most top-10 world record runs – and the ISTAF are well-established athletic events in the city. [245] The Mellowpark in Köpenick is one of the biggest skate and BMX parks in Europe. [246] A Fan Fest at Brandenburg Gate, which attracts several hundred-thousand spectators, has become popular during international soccer competitions, like the UEFA European Championship. [247]

In 2013 around 600,000 Berliners were registered in one of the more than 2,300 sport and fitness clubs. [248] The city of Berlin operates more than 60 public indoor and outdoor swimming pools. [249] Berlin is the largest Olympic training center in Germany. About 500 top athletes (15% of all German top athletes) are based there. Forty-seven elite athletes participated in the 2012 Summer Olympics. Berliners would achieve seven gold, twelve silver and three bronze medals. [250]

Several professional clubs representing the most important spectator team sports in Germany have their base in Berlin. The oldest and most popular first division team based in Berlin is the soccer club Hertha BSC. [251] The team represented Berlin as a founding member of the Bundesliga, Germany's highest soccer league, in 1963. Other professional team sport clubs include:

The Fall of the Berlin Wall in Photos: An Accident of History That Changed The World

The Communist regime was prepared for everything “except candles and prayers.” East Germany’s peaceful 1989 revolution showed that societies that don’t reform, die.

BERLIN — When Werner Krätschell, an East German pastor and dissident, heard that the Berlin Wall was open, he did not quite believe it. But he grabbed his daughter and her friend and drove to the nearest checkpoint to see for himself.

It was the night of Nov. 9, 1989. As their yellow Wartburg advanced unimpeded into what had always been an off-limits security zone, Mr. Krätschell rolled down the window and asked a border guard: “Am I dreaming or is this reality?”

“You are dreaming,” the guard replied.

It had long been a dream for East Berliners like Mr. Krätschell to see this towering symbol of unfreedom running like a scar of cement and barbed wire through the heart of their home city ripped open.

And when it finally became reality, when the Cold War’s most notorious armed border opened overnight, and was torn apart in the days that followed, it was not in the end the result of some carefully crafted geopolitical grand bargain.

It was, at the most basic level at least, the wondrous result of human error, spontaneity and individual courage.

“It was not predestined,” said Anne Applebaum, the historian and columnist. “It was not a triumph of good over evil. It was basically incompetence — and chance.”

In the early evening of that fateful November day, a news conference took a historic turn.

Against the backdrop of mass protests and a wave of eastern German refugees that had already fled the country via Hungary and what was then Czechoslovakia, Günter Schabowski, the leader of the East Berlin Communist Party, convened journalists to announce a series of reforms to ease travel restrictions.

When asked when the new rules would take effect, Mr. Schabowski paused and studied the notes before him with a furrowed brow. Then he stumbled through a partially intelligible answer, declaring, “It takes effect, as far as I know. it is now. immediately.”

It was a mistake. The Politburo had planned nothing of the sort. The idea had been to appease the growing resistance movement with minor adjustments to visa rules — and also to retain the power to deny travel.

But many took Mr. Schabowski by his word. After West Germany’s main evening news, popular with East Germans who had long stopped trusting their own state-controlled media, effectively declared the wall open, crowds started heading for checkpoints at the Berlin Wall, demanding to cross.

At one of those checkpoints, a Stasi officer who had always been loyal to the regime, was working the night shift. His name was Lt. Col. Harald Jäger. And his order was to turn people away.

As the crowd grew, the colonel repeatedly called his superiors with updates. But no new orders were forthcoming. At some point he listened in to a call with the ministry, where he overheard one senior official questioning his judgment.

“Someone in the ministry asked whether Comrade Jäger was in a position to assess the situation properly or whether he was acting out of fear,” Mr. Jäger recalled years later in an interview with Der Spiegel. “When I heard that, I’d had enough.”

“If you don’t believe me, then just listen!” he shouted down the line, then took the receiver and held it out the window.

Shortly after, Mr. Jäger defied his superiors and opened the crossing, starting a domino effect that eventually hit all checkpoints in Berlin. By midnight, triumphant easterners had climbed on top of the wall in the heart of the city, popping champagne corks and setting off fireworks in celebration.

Not a single shot was fired. And no Soviet tanks appeared.

That, said Axel Klausmeier, director of the Berlin Wall Foundation, was perhaps the greatest miracle of that night. “It was a peaceful revolution, the first of its kind,” he said. “They were prepared for everything, except candles and prayers.”

Through its history more than 140 people had died at the Berlin Wall, the vast majority of them trying to escape.

There was Ida Siekmann, 58, who became the first victim on Aug. 22, 1961, just nine days after the wall was finished. She died jumping from her third-floor window after the front of her house on Bernauer Strasse had become became part of the border, the front door filled in with bricks.

Peter Fechter, 18, became the most famous victim a year later. Shot several times in the back as he scaled the wall, he fell back onto the eastern side where he lay for over an hour, shouting for help and bleeding to death, as eastern guards looked on and western cameras whirled.

The youngest victim was 15-month-old Holger H., who suffocated when his mother tried to quiet him while the truck his family was hiding in was being searched on Jan. 22, 1971. The parents made it across before realizing that their baby was dead.

For the first half of 1989, it was still nearly impossible to get out of East Germany: The last killing at the wall took place in February that year, the last shooting, a close miss, in April.

The Soviets had squashed an East German uprising in June 1953 and suppressed similar rebellions in Hungary in 1956 and Prague in 1968.

In June 1989, just five months before the Berlin Wall fell, the Communist Party of China committed a massacre against democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square.

How did the Berlin Wall fall?

In the next two decades, conditions within East Berlin continued to worsen as the Soviet Union’s economy sank deeper and deeper into turmoil, with major food shortages becoming common.

By the 1980s, protests were forming across the Soviet-led “Communist Bloc”.

Hungarians successfully tore down 150 miles of barbed wire from across their border with Austria.

Polish activists successfully pushed for the reinstatement of their trade union party, Solidarity, and captured seats in parliament with it.

Two million people across Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia formed a human chain that stretched for 370 miles as they demanded independence.

With Czechoslovakia and Hungary now providing escape routes for those trapped in East Germany, the Soviet’s hold on it was loosening. As the pressure continued to build, the Berlin Wall was bound to eventually fall.

Bizarrely, the wall ultimately came down in part because of a simple bureaucratic error.

On 9 November 1989, an announcement was scheduled regarding fairly minor changes to Berlin Wall’s emigration policy.

A mere five days after half a million people in East Berlin had staged a furious protest, the idea was to quell the public’s tempers by loosening the rules a little, making it easier for East Germans to travel between East and West.

However, the press conference occurred before the spokesperson had a chance to read rule changes in full. Consequently, he announced that citizens could now move freely across the border, and that this change would take effect immediately.

While this wasn’t accurate, it was broadcast live on television before it could be retracted, prompting thousands of East Berliners to sweep toward the border.

Faced with such a sudden mass of people, the guards were told to stand down and allow them through.

Thousands poured through the wall, and now-famous photos show how Germans celebrated around it, scaled it and chipped away at it with whatever tools they could find.

The wall was then completely destroyed within the next two years, with East and West Germany officially reunified in 1990.


After World War II ended, Germany was divided into four zones, one zone for each of the main Allied countries: France, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union. [4] Its capital Berlin was also divided into four zones, so that it was an enclave, like an island inside the Soviet zone. On May 8, 1949, the French, United Kingdom and US zones were made into West Germany (Federal Republic of Germany, Bundesrepublik Deutschland, BRD) and West Berlin. The Soviet zones were made into East Germany and East Berlin. East Germany (German Democratic Republic, Deutsche Demokratische Republik, DDR) was founded on October 7, 1949. [5] Europe, Germany and Berlin were divided by an iron curtain.

After Germany split into West and East Germany on May 8, 1949, 2.6 million East Germans left to go to West Germany. In Berlin alone, 3.6 million people fled to the west. [6] To stop this, on August 13, 1961, the Communist government of East Germany built a wall separating East and West Berlin.

The wall was built to keep the country's people in. But the Soviets and East German government said it was to keep capitalism out. They said that West Germany refused to recognize East Germany as an independent country because they wanted to take over North-East Germany just like Hitler took over Poland.

People still tried to escape even though the Berlin Wall was there. They used many methods to get around the guards and barbed wire on the Berlin Wall.

In the late 1980s, Mikhail Gorbachev said that the Soviet Union would not use the Red Army to stop the people of Eastern and Middle Europe from changing their government. After he said that, several countries began to change the way they governed their people. Hungary opened its border and people from East Germany began moving to the west through Hungary. In October 1989 mass demonstrations against the government in East Germany began. The long-time leader, Erich Honecker, resigned and was replaced by Egon Krenz a few days later. Honecker had predicted in January 1989 that the wall would stand for a "hundred more years" if the conditions which had caused its construction did not change. This did not turn out to be true.

In November, 1989, the Central Committee of East Germany decided to make it easier for East Germans to pass through the wall. A mistake by the press officer meant the border was opened several hours before it should have been. Millions of East German citizens celebrated the opening of the wall. Many collected souvenirs with chisels and some television stations filmed people hitting the wall with sledge hammers.

This image of people in West Berlin hitting the wall is often said to be East Berliners breaking out. This is not true. The eastern side of the wall had no graffiti on it. All pictures of people chipping away at the wall show people hitting graffiti covered walls. Less than one year after the Berlin Wall was broken down, Germany again became one country.

Satellite image of Berlin. The yellow line is where the Wall was.

Where the Berlin Wall was inside Berlin (Checkpoints, or places that people could cross the wall, are shown).

Panel at the border of the sector boundary in Berlin

Same panel, other side (original)

In the 28 years of its existence, between 125 and 206 people were killed when trying to cross the Berlin Wall. [7] At least 800 more people were killed outside Berlin, trying to cross from East Germany to the west.

The East Germans did not record all of the deaths, so the real number of how many people died may never be known.

Those people who were caught alive in an attempt to flee, had to go to jail for at least five years. The first victim of the Wall was Ida Siekmann. She was fatally injured after jumping out of the window of her apartment. She fell onto the pavement on the west side. The first victim of the Wall to be shot at was Günter Litfin. He was 24 years old and was shot by police, near the railway station of Berlin Friedrichstrasse, when he tried to get into the West. This was on 24 August, 1961, only eleven days after the border had been closed.

Peter Fechter bled to death in the death strip, on 17 August, 1962. This led to a public outcry. American troops watched him, but could not help him. The East-German border policemen, who had wounded him, did not help him either.

In 1966, two children, aged ten and thirteen years, were killed in the border strip. This is unusual because the East German border police had orders to not shoot on pregnant women, children or mentally ill people.

On 6 February, 1989, border guards shot and killed Chris Gueffroy as he tried to cross the wall. He was the last person to be killed by border guards. On 8 March, 1989, Winfried Freudenberg died after falling from a gas balloon. He was the last person to die trying to cross the Berlin Wall and escape into West Berlin.

The Berlin wall eventually started to fall once people rioted. Many jumped on top of the wall, and even crowded against it. This caused the wall to collapse in some areas, and more people could get through to the refugee camps that were set up on the other side. "Tear down this wall!" was a speech made by United States President Ronald Reagan to Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev to destroy the wall. The speech was made at the Brandenburg Gate near the Berlin Wall on June 12, 1987. It was made to honor the 750th anniversary of Berlin. [8] His speech and its fallout might have aided in the wall's demolition.

By late 1989 the GDR was suffering from many problems such as a struggling economy, and large-scale protests. The Hungarian regime had collapsed and was dismantling its border fences with Austria by August 1989. Since the Warsaw Pact allowed citizens to travel within the Soviet bloc, many East German tourists fled to the west via Hungary. When the Hungarian government refused the GDR's demand to stop defectors, East Germany banned all travel to Hungary prompting demonstrations and protest. This began the GDR's isolation within the bloc.

Erich Honecker, leader of the GDR since 1971, was forced to resign on October 18, 1989. He was replaced by Egon Krenz after a unanimous vote by the politburo. Under Krenz's regime, East Germans could still escape to Hungary via Czechoslovakia.

The number of defectors grew and caused tensions between East Germany and Czechoslovakia. The Krenz regime decided to allow people to leave directly to the west through border checkpoints in East Berlin. This prompted many East Germans, who learned about it broadcast from West German media, to go to the border crossings and demand to be let through immediately.

Border guards at each checkpoint told the people to go back home as they had no orders that the wall would open that night. As time passed, the number of people arriving at the checkpoint was increasing and the guards were becoming alarmed. They began taking the more aggressive people aside and stamped their passports with a special stamp that allowed them access to West Berlin however, the people were not aware that they were effectively revoking their East German citizenship and were shocked to be refused entry back into the GDR. The Chief Guard of the checkpoint frantically telephoned his superiors hoping to get answers as to why so many people thought that the wall was to open. By 22:45, it was clear that the outnumbered and overwhelmed border guards would not use their weapons to suppress the crowds. The Chief Guard surrendered and ordered the gates to West Berlin to be opened. The crowds of East Berliners were met with crowds of West Berliners in a happy scene as the Berlin wall had just fallen.

Many people even climbed up onto the wall by the Brandenburg Gate in protest and began to chisel away at the wall. The GDR authorities responded to this initially by blasting the people with water cannons this proved to be ineffective. The East German army later climbed up onto the wall to prevent others from standing on the wall. The government began demolishing the wall the next day. The fall of the wall destroyed the SED, the ruling party of the GDR, and caused many of its officials to resign. The German Democratic Republic would cease to exist less than a year later reuniting with the Federal Republic of Germany on October 3, 1990.

The wall was changed and added to several times. It was not really a wall, but a collection of walls and fences and other devices. This is what the border fence was made of, starting from the east, going west

    wall or wire fence, 2–3 meters high
  1. Signalling system in the floor, which would cause an alarm to be sounded when touched
  2. Contact wire fence with barbed wire fence. Taller than a man.
  3. (Not in all places) Kennels for dogs. With German Shepherd Dogs or other trained dogs.
  4. (Not in all places) Equipment and trenches to stop vehicles and tanks. These systems would be removed (if the West paid for the removal). Most were replaced later.
  5. Streets to get replacements and reinforcements in.
  6. Watchtowers (in 1989 there were 302 of them). Including searchlights
  7. death strip. This was an area in which all of the buildings were torn down, with nowhere to hide. Sometimes there were strips of sand where footprints could be detected.
  8. Metallic fence, then the border itself:
  9. Concrete wall, 3.75 metres in height. Very hard to climb.

The whole was done in an a zone of between 30 and 500 m wide. The official (civil border) began before the first fence. Entering the installation required a special permit. The real border was about one or two metres in front of the concrete wall, so that the whole of the wall complex was inside East Germany (only the East Berlin part of the wall was inside East Berlin).

The border between East Germany and West Germany was also heavily defended with fences and mines. East Germans needed a special permit to live close to the border.


Several hundred East Germans escaped through a secret tunnel network under the Berlin Wall. In 1962, around a dozen elderly East Germans dug their way out of Berlin through what was later dubbed the "Senior Citizens Tunnel." Over two nights in 1964, 57 people escaped through another tunnel, which became known as "Tunnel 57." It was the largest mass escape in the Berlin Wall's history.

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