Factbox - What was the Berlin Wall?

Wed Aug 10, 2011 8:05am EDT
 
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(Reuters) - Following are key facts about the Berlin Wall, which was erected beginning in the early hours of August 13, 1961 and breached on November 9, 1989.

WHY DID EAST GERMANY NEED A WALL?

-- Faced with growing numbers of its citizens and skilled workers leaving the repressive state, East Germany's leaders feared a threat to their existence. Between the end of World War Two in 1945 and 1961, some three million people moved to the West from Soviet-occupied East Germany and East Berlin.

-- The 1,378-km (856-mile) frontier between East and West Germany, from the Baltic to Bavaria, had been sealed for a decade. That left Berlin a unique valve between them because of its special status under the four occupying powers - the United States, France and Britain as well as the Soviet Union.

WHO BUILT THE WALL?

-- Hardline East German leader Walter Ulbricht gave the order to build after winning backing from Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. The government entrusted the top-secret "Operation Rose" building project to Erich Honecker, who was to succeed Ulbricht as head of state 10 years later.

HOW WAS THE WALL BUILT?

-- Shortly after midnight on August 13, the government ordered more than 40,000 East German soldiers and police to seal off all but 13 crossing points to West Berlin with barbed wire. The operation surrounded the 155-km (96-mile) perimeter of West Berlin, using more than 10,000 km (6,000 miles) of barbed wire.

-- The first concrete elements and large square blocks were used first on August 15, 1961. Within the next months the first generation of the Berlin Wall was build up: a wall consisting of concrete elements and square blocks   Continued...

 
<p>A general view shows the Berlin Wall memorial site in Bernauer Strasse, June 16, 2011. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch</p>