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The History and Meaning of the Berlin Wall
This November marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. On November 9, 1989, as the shaky East German communist government resigned, the Berlin Wall came tumbling down. Large crowds formed on both sides of the Wall. East and West Berliners climbed on top, and then people began using sledgehammers and pickaxes to cut holes in it. Large numbers of East and West Berliners started to move back and forth through the Wall, capturing the spirit of a freedom to move without political barriers standing in the way.
It is worth recalling how and why the Berlin Wall was constructed in the first place, and what it meant for an individual to be viewed as the property of the state in the stream of 20th-century political events.
Barb Wire and Bricks Stop People From “Voting With Their Feet”
On August 10, 1961, Nikita S. Khrushchev, the premier of the Soviet Union, attended a birthday party in Moscow for Sergei S. Verentsov, the Soviet marshal in charge of the missile program of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Khrushchev informed the celebrating assembly of leading Soviet military and political dignitaries that something momentous was about to occur.
“We are going to close Berlin,” Khrushchev announced. “We’ll just put up serpentine barbed wire and the West will stand there like dumb sheep. And while they’re standing there, we’ll finish a wall.” The crowd broke into an enthusiastic applause.
The city of Berlin had been divided into four Allied occupation zones at the end of the Second World War in Europe. The eastern half of the city was the Soviet zone. The western half was divided into American, British, and French zones, surrounded by the Soviet zone of occupation in eastern Germany. The closest British or American zone of occupation in western Germany was 110 miles to the west. The Soviets had established a “people’s republic” in their zone — the German Democratic Republic, with East Berlin as its capital.
Between the late 1940s and 1961, more than 4 million East Germans and East Berliners took advantage of the relative ease of crossing from the Soviet zone in Berlin to one of the Western zones to “vote with their feet” not to live in the “workers’ paradise” that Moscow had been generous enough to impose upon them. This mass exodus was a huge embarrassment to both the Soviet and the East German governments. It also represented a major loss in skilled labor and in many of the professional occupations.
The Soviets had been almost completely successful in keeping secret that West Berlin was to be sealed. On Saturday, August 12, 1961, 1,573 East Germans crossed the line separating East and West Berlin and registered as refugees desiring to live in the West. They were the last group to be allowed to freely depart. The Soviets stretched barbed wire across the Brandenburg Gate facing the Western zones in the center of the city. And at 2:30 on the morning of August 13, the border between East and West Berlin was closed.
“Successes” and “Failures” of the Wall
Two days later, on August 15, work began on the Berlin Wall it was made of brick and concrete and took two years to complete. When finished, it was 28 miles long and nine feet high, with barbed wire at the top. East German guards armed with machine guns fired upon any who attempted to cross it. There was also a 200-yard area leading up to the Wall covered with land mines and patrolled by police dogs.
Yet, in spite of this, during the 28 years of the Wall’s existence, between 1961 and 1989, an estimated 5,000 people managed to escape either over, under, or through the Wall. Some escaped through the sewer system under the Wall. Others dug tunnels — the longest one was 500 feet long, through which 57 people made their getaway to West Berlin in 1964.
One woman sewed Soviet military uniforms for three male friends, who drove through one of the Wall’s border checkpoints with her crammed under the front seat. An archer used an arrow to shoot a cable over the Wall from a building in East Berlin and slid along it to freedom.
Some constructed hot-air balloons and crude flying machines using bicycle motors to power their flight over the Wall. Others swam across canals or rivers that separated parts of East and West Berlin.
The Costs of Trying to Escape to Freedom
There also emerged a smuggling business that ran ads in West German newspapers. One such company, Aramco, with headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, gave out press releases referring to their “most modern technical methods.” The company’s prices were not that unreasonable: $10,000 to $12,000 per person, with “quantity discounts” for families, payable into a numbered account in a Swiss bank. If an escape attempt failed, the company refunded most of the money to the person financially sponsoring the breakout.
The East German government issued “wanted” posters on the East Berlin side of Checkpoint Charlie, offering 500,000 East German marks for the director of Aramco, Hans Ulrich Lenzlinger (about $25,000 at the black market exchange rate in the 1970s). The “wanted” posters negatively referred to him as a “trader in people.” In February 1979, someone collected the bounty on Lenzlinger’s head, after he was shot repeatedly in the chest and killed at his home in Zurich.
He was not the only victim of escape attempts. During those 28 years of the Wall’s existence, 80 people lost their lives trying to get to the western side of the Wall. And more than 100 others lost their lives trying to escape along other points of the highly fortified East German border with West Germany.
One of the most inhuman border killings happened in August 1962. Peter Fechter, an 18-year-old bricklayer, was shot and wounded while attempting to climb over the Wall. For 50 minutes he begged for help as he slowly bled to death in sight of soldiers and journalists looking over the Wall from one of the western border checkpoints. Only after he died did the East German guards retrieve his body.
The Berlin Wall came to symbolize the Cold War and its division of the world into halves, one half still relatively free and the other half under the most brutal and comprehensive tyranny ever experienced by man in modern history. Nothing was supposed to cross the Iron Curtain of barb wire fences, landmined farm fields, and machine-gun watchtowers that cut across central Europe from the Baltic to the Adriatic Sea, without the permission of the Marxist masters in Moscow.
The Wall vs. the Right to Move
What the Berlin Wall epitomized was the 20th-century idea of the individual as the property of the state. Behind that Wall the East German government told the people where to live and work, what goods they could consume, and what enjoyments and entertainments they would be permitted. The state determined what they read and watched and said. And they could not leave the country — either for a visit or forever — unless it served the goals and interests of their political masters. And if anyone attempted to leave without permission, he could be shot and left to die, alone and helpless, with others forced to stand by as horrified observers.
In the 19th century, the great triumph of classical liberalism had been the abolition of the last of the ancient restrictions on the right of the individual to his life, liberty, and honestly acquired property. This had included the right of people to freely travel without undue government interference or control.
In earlier times, not only the physical difficulties of transportation prevented men from widely moving from one region or continent to another. Matching these physical barriers were the legal barriers of taxes, tolls, passports, and serfdom, which bound the vast majority of people to the land owned by the privileged and titled political castes.
Classical liberals and classical economists of the early 19th century argued for the removal of such restraints on people’s freedom. The guiding principle was that a man has a property right in himself, that he owns himself. As the British classical economist John R. McCulloch expressed it in the 1820s:
Of all the species of property which a man can possess, the faculties of his mind and the powers of his body are the most particularly his own and these he should be permitted to enjoy, that is, to use and exert, at his discretion … in any way, not injurious to others, [as] he considers most beneficial for himself.
A logical extension of the right of self-ownership over one’s mind and body and its use to further his personal and peaceful purposes was the right to move to where he believed he could best improve his circumstances. As the 19th century progressed, the various restrictions on the freedom to move were removed. Passports were virtually eliminated throughout the major countries of Europe and North America, and legal barriers to both emigration and immigration were almost completely abolished in these same nations.
Tens of millions of people, on their own personal account and with private funding, left their places of birth in pursuit of better lives and fortunes in countries and on continents of their own choice. Free movement of people matched the increasingly free trade in goods and capital. About 65 million people took advantage of this greater freedom of movement between 1840 and 1914, before the First World War began.
Modern Barriers to the Freedom to Move
But with the coming of the First World War, governments reinstituted passport and other restrictions on the freedom of movement. With the rise of the totalitarian ideologies in the years following the end of the First World War, the freedom to move was increasingly abolished. Communism, fascism, and Nazism all worked from the premise that the individual was subordinate to and lived and worked only for the advancement of the interests of the state. As an “object” owned by government, the individual stayed put or was forcibly removed to some other location under the brutal orders of the political authority.
Even outside the totalitarian systems of the 20th century, barriers to migration have been logical extensions of the emergence and growth of the interventionist-welfare state. When the government influences the direction of production, has responsibility for both the amount and types of employment in the society, and is the paternalistic administrator of a redistribution of wealth and income for retirement, health care, unemployment, housing, and education, it is inevitable that the same government will be concerned about and responsible for the amount, types, and demographics of any individuals or groups desiring to move into a country under that government’s jurisdiction.
The growth and development of the regulated economy, in other words, has provided the rationale for barriers to free migration. They stand as legal and political walls far higher than the Berlin Wall in preventing people from passing freely and unmolested from one part of the world to another. The passport that each and every one of us is forced to apply for and carry on our person whenever traveling outside the territorial jurisdiction of our own country, and which we must present upon our attempt to return to our own land, clearly shows that we are all in fact subjects under — not citizens above — the political authorities controlling our lives.
The German free market economist Wilhelm Röpke once pointed out in an article titled “Barriers to Migration” (1950):f
Modern nationalism and collectivism have, by the restriction of migration, perhaps come nearest to the “servile state.”… Man can hardly be reduced more to a mere wheel in the clockwork of the national collectivist state than being deprived of the freedom to move… Feeling that he belongs now to his nation, body and soul, we will be more easily subdued to the obedient state serf which nationalist and collectivist governments demand.
It has become a cliché that the world, every day, becomes a little smaller. Methods of global transportation improve the quality of travel and reduce the time between any two points around the world. Computer technology — the internet and email — has made virtually everything written, said, or photographed a simple and almost instantaneous “click” away. The expanding worldwide network of business, trade, and capital markets is increasingly making the globe a single market for commerce and culture.
On this 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, we should remember all that it represented as a symbol of tyranny under which the individual was marked with the label: property of the state. He not only was controlled in everything he did and publicly said, but his every movement was watched, commanded, or restricted.
Freedom in all its forms — to speak, write, associate, and worship as we want to pursue any occupation, profession, or private enterprise that inclination and opportunity suggests to us and to visit, live, and work where our dreams and desires lead us to look for a better life — is a precious thing.
The history of the Berlin Wall and the collectivist ideology behind it should remind us of how important a loss any of our freedoms can be, as we determine in what direction — toward greater individual liberty and free enterprise or more government command and control — we wish our country and the world to move in the 21st century.
Berlin Wall History
Torrential downpours filled the preceding days, but this August day is clear and hot. There is nothing disturbing about the sight of cranes and concrete slabs quietly resting near the edge of the city. As darkness falls, it seems like a thousand other evenings.
At midnight, Saturday, August 13, 1961, East German soldiers begin sealing off the city. First, they string miles of jagged barbed wire (bought inconspicuously from West Berlin firms). This wire will soon be replaced by a much more ominous and lasting presence&mdashthe Berlin Wall.
The Berlin Wall curls through Europe's third largest city. The Wall is a motionless concrete snake raising ten to thirteen feet high. It winds and bends through Berlin, crossing streets and backyards. If straightened, the Berlin Wall would measure nearly one hundred miles long.
Behind the Wall, a hundred yards into Communist East Germany, is another concrete barrier almost as formidable&mdashthe leveled area between&mdashflat, desolate and dangerous. This is a "no-man's land," which is constantly patrolled by armed guards and unrestrained dogs, covered by automatically triggered machine guns, and in some places sown with land mines. Some 285 elevated watch towers thrust up ominously above "no man's land," punctuating this scene of dread.
The Eastern side of the Wall is especially smooth and clean. The rounded top edge is difficult to grasp. Weak spots are constantly being improved, upgraded, reinforced, and rebuilt. The entire edifice is meticously maintained. The creation of the Berlin Wall comes about because of a panicked country desperate to retain its citizens who are fleeing at an astonishing rate. Even after the erection of the Wall, a few still manage to slip by, going over the five-foot thick wall, under it, around it, and a few even crashed through it.
Not until November 9, 1989, did the people of both East and West Berlin together dance along the top of the Berlin Wall. Reunited families and friends sing and embrace, cheering, "The Wall is gone!" People suddenly feel freedom along this deep, shivering scar from the Cold War.
Berliners from both sides fill the streets, like eager kids at a carnival, glimpsing wide-eyed at their neighbors' foreign land. They drink champagne. They rejoice through the night. They heal old wounds.
With hammers, chisels, fingernails and an overwhelming sense of hope, Germans from East and West begin tearing down the Wall, creating new openings. "The Wall is Gone!" From this rubble rises a new symbol for tomorrow, an icon for future generations, the Berlin Wall. dismantled.
One year after the November 9, 1989, fall of the Berlin Wall, artist Edwina Sandys, granddaughter of Winston Churchill, introduced her Breakthrough sculpture to a crowd of 7,000 people gathered on the campus of Westminster College. The 11-foot-high by 32-foot-long structure, perhaps the most important monument to be constructed on American soil since the Vietnam War Memorial, began as a dream in the mind of its sculptor.
With the support of Westminster College and patron Richard Mahoney, Sandys and her husband, Richard Kaplan, met with of officials in East Berlin in February 1990. Upon arrival in Berlin, the couple realized their plans to secure large portions of the wall would be costly, as 4-foot-wide sections were selling at a cost of $60,000 to $200,000. This obstacle, however, was solved when officials, impressed by the idea of a Berlin Wall monument being erected near the site of Churchill's 1946 "Iron Curtain" speech, allowed Sandys to choose eight sections as a gift to the College. Sandys chose her sections from an area near the Brandenburg Gate, frequented by artists, because of the dramatic color of the graffiti. The repeated use of the word "Unwahr," within the sections, which in German means "lies" or "untruths" also appealed to her.
On November 9, 1990, after a nine-month effort, the Breakthrough sculpture stood appropriately in the foreground of the National Churchill Museum. Former President Ronald Reagan, Senator John Ashcroft and German Minister Plenipotentiary Fritjof von Nordenskjoeld, Sandys introduced her sculpture to the assembled crowd. Forty-four years after her grandfather warned of an "iron curtain," the wide open doors of "Breakthrough" provided a concrete image of the newly realized freedom in Eastern Europe. The ceremonies concluded with a benediction by the Rev. Dr. William B. Huntley Jr., college chaplain.
History is a look backward, a reconciliation of times and lives gone by. We face the glowing view before us. It is a vast an unknown landscape. It is the stuff of dreams. Blue-sky sails just out of view. Pass through the wall&mdashexperience your own "breakthrough."
As you do, touch the wall and in your hand is the past and the future. Let your fingers wander slowly across its battered surface. You can feel the balance of our lives. You can feel the struggles and the triumphs, the grief and the joy, the hope and the fulfillment. You can feel the distant tremor of tomorrow's history gently unfolding in the palm of your hand.
&ldquoLeave the past to history especially as I propose to write that history myself.&rdquo
Berlin Wall - History
The life in the West was much better than in the East after 1948. West Germany including West Berlin had got financial help through the Marshallplan from the USA. In East Germany a communist system was established and many people had to suffer under repressions of the Communist party.
In May 1952 the open border (Zonengrenze) between East and West Germany was closed by the East German government.
In the years after 1952 it became more difficult and dangerous to escape to the West over this border.
However, the sectorial borders between East and West Berlin were not closed. Many East German citizen went to East Berlin and from there to West Berlin. Once arrived in West Berlin they stayed there or were fled out to West Germany.
East Germany lost too many skilled workers in these years.
Another big problem were the two currencies in Germany and especially in Berlin. West German DM had been exchanged into East German DM at a rate of 1:4 (1 DM West = 4 DM Ost) in West Berlin.
People with West German DM could get goods very cheaply in the Eastern part of Berlin.
Fall Of The Berlin Wall
By 1989, communism in Eastern Europe was crumbling. On November 9 th of that year, a spokesman for East Germany’s Communist Party announced that as of midnight, people in East Berlin could freely cross into West Berlin. Upon hearing this, crowds of people showed up at the checkpoints on the eastern side of the Berlin Wall. That weekend, more than two million people from East Berlin visited West Berlin. But for many East Berliners, simply being able to visit West Berlin was not enough. They wanted the Berlin Wall gone. Hence, many came to the wall bearing picks and hammers, which they used to try and tear the wall down. Eventually, cranes and bulldozers showed up to pull the wall down, section after section. The fall of the Berlin Wall symbolically marked the end of the Iron Curtain that divided Europe, as well as the end of the Cold War.
‘Let there be light’: The fall of the Berlin Wall and how fear dies
The Berlin Wall, which as of Monday has been down for longer than it was up — 10,316 days — was a brilliant expression of the power of oppression.
It was vast, 96 miles long. It was frightening, laced with mines, dotted with soldiers trained to shoot without asking questions. It was also far more effective than any solely physical barrier because it produced what East Germans called “the wall in the head,” the omnipresent belief that there was no escape, no hope.
So it struck Germans on both sides as nothing short of miraculous when the massive construction of concrete, bricks, barbed wire and electrified fence collapsed in what seemed like an instant.
I was The Washington Post’s Berlin bureau chief in 1989 when the barrier that had divided communist East Germany from capitalist West Germany since 1961 finally fell. The history books say the wall opened on one strange night in November of that year, but that’s not quite right. It was really a process that took several months, a process that consisted of the physical deconstruction of the wall, countless changes in people’s daily routines, and a mental shift — which was perhaps the biggest hurdle of all.
Early one December morning, I was the first motorist queued to pass through Checkpoint Charlie from East to West. While reporting a story in East Berlin, I had overstayed my visa (reporters were required to get out of the communist East by midnight or face arrest). Lacking the papers I would have needed to book a hotel room legally, I’d kept on reporting through the night, and now, as dawn approached, I could once again cross the border back into the West.
As the 6 a.m. reopening of the city’s internal border approached, the East German guard who stood between me and a return to the West painstakingly set up his desk and went through his morning ritual of opening the gates. Finally, the Vopo — the Volkspolizei, or people’s police, guards who never smiled and always managed to unnerve — flipped on the fluorescent bulb that hung over his traffic lane.
“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ ” he said, breaking into a big smile.
I sat there in stunned silence. The fearsome Vopo had cracked a joke.
He laughed at his own wit. He looked to me for a reaction.
The internal calculations that become second nature in a police state took me a few seconds to run. Was this a trick? Do I laugh and get accused of disrespecting the people’s police? Do I stare straight ahead and risk incurring the wrath of the all-powerful Volkspolizei? Eventually, with a slight, nervous grin, I looked him in the eye, something I’d once been warned against doing by a much sterner East German officer who’d caught me driving on a highway that was off-limits to westerners.
The border guard repeated his joke. This time, I allowed myself to smile along with him. He didn’t even bother to check inside my trunk. Breaking a zillion rules, he just waved me through. The wall, the one he’d spent his working life defending, the one outside his booth and the one inside our heads, was gone.
In those weeks of startling change, every day brought new experiences. A few border crossings later, I was returning to the West after spending a day in an East German school where teachers were suddenly on their own, trying to figure out whether they still had to teach the once strictly required classes on communist ideology. I had tucked away deep in my luggage a piece of contraband, an East German high school history textbook, 800 pages detailing every action of each Communist Party Congress in the country’s 40-year history. No party materials could cross the border — every time I’d tried before, the guards had confiscated everything.
This time, the guard found my book and chuckled as he flipped through it. “You can keep that,” he said. “No one needs those anymore.”
In those first weeks after the wall was semiofficially opened, the East German regime tried to maintain its separation and independence from the West, but the people knew what their government would take seven months to figure out: The game was up. In the final days before all border controls between the two Germanys were lifted, a few Vopo guards still insisted on checking travel documents. When one threatened to turn back a foreign visitor, the tourist loudly told a friend, “Don’t worry, he’s history in 10 days.”
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").  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,  and a wooden beam dated from approximately 1192.  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.  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.  1237 is considered the founding date of the city.  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.  In 1307, they formed an alliance with a common external policy, their internal administrations still being separated.  
In 1415, Frederick I became the elector of the Margraviate of Brandenburg, which he ruled until 1440.  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").   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.  Officially, the Berlin-Cölln palace became permanent residence of the Brandenburg electors of the Hohenzollerns from 1486, when John Cicero came to power.  Berlin-Cölln, however, had to give up its status as a free Hanseatic city. In 1539, the electors and the city officially became Lutheran. 
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.  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.  With the Edict of Potsdam in 1685, Frederick William offered asylum to the French Huguenots. 
By 1700, approximately 30 percent of Berlin's residents were French, because of the Huguenot immigration.  Many other immigrants came from Bohemia, Poland, and Salzburg. 
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,  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". 
In 1740, Frederick II, known as Frederick the Great (1740–1786), came to power.  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.  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.  In 1815, the city became part of the new Province of Brandenburg. 
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.  In 1871, Berlin became capital of the newly founded German Empire.  In 1881, it became a city district separate from Brandenburg. 
20th to 21st centuries Edit
In the early 20th century, Berlin had become a fertile ground for the German Expressionist movement.  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.  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.  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. 
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.  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.  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.  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. 
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.  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.  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  (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. 
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.  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.  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.  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. 
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. 
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.  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. 
Berlin has an oceanic climate (Köppen: Cfb)  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.   This type of climate features moderate summer temperatures but sometimes hot (for being semicontinental) and cold winters but not rigorous most of the time.  
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. 
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.  Annual precipitation is 570 millimeters (22 in) with moderate rainfall throughout the year. Snowfall mainly occurs from December through March.  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).  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. 
|Climate data for Berlin (Schönefeld), 1981–2010 normals, extremes 1957–present|
|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  and Weather Atlas |
|Climate data for Berlin (Tempelhof), elevation: 48 m or 157 ft, 1971–2000 normals, extremes 1878–present|
|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 |
|Source 2: KNMI |
|Climate data for Berlin (Dahlem), 58 m or 190 ft, 1961–1990 normals, extremes 1908–present [note 2]|
|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 |
|Source 2: Berliner Extremwerte |
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.  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.
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.   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.  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. 
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  in an area of 891.1 km 2 (344.1 sq mi).  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.  As of 2019 [update] the functional urban area was home to about 5.2 million people.  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).  
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. 
|Residents by Citizenship (31 December 2019) |
|Total registered residents||3,769,495|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||12,291|
|Other Middle East and Asia||88,241|
|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,  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.  The last decade experienced an influx from various Western countries and some African regions.  A portion of the African immigrants have settled in the Afrikanisches Viertel.  Young Germans, EU-Europeans and Israelis have also settled in the city. 
In December 2019, there were 777,345 registered residents of foreign nationality and another 542,975 German citizens with a "migration background" (Migrationshintergrund, MH),  meaning they or one of their parents immigrated to Germany after 1955. Foreign residents of Berlin originate from about 190 different countries.  48 percent of the residents under the age of 15 have migration background.  Berlin in 2009 was estimated to have 100,000 to 250,000 unregistered inhabitants.  Boroughs of Berlin with a significant number of migrants or foreign born population are Mitte, Neukölln and Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. 
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 ]
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,  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. 
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. 
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.  About 2.7% of the population identify with other Christian denominations (mostly Eastern Orthodox, but also various Protestants).  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.  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,  while in 2016, the newspaper Der Tagesspiegel estimated that about 350,000 Muslims observed Ramadan in Berlin.  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.   Between 1992 and 2011 the Muslim population almost doubled. 
About 0.9% of Berliners belong to other religions. Of the estimated population of 30,000–45,000 Jewish residents,  approximately 12,000 are registered members of religious organizations. 
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.  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,  ten synagogues,  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.  The total annual state budget of Berlin in 2015 exceeded €24.5 ($30.0) billion including a budget surplus of €205 ($240) million.  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.  
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.  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. 
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.  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. 
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.  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. 
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.  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  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.  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% .  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. 
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. 
Research and development have economic significance for the city.  Several major corporations like Volkswagen, Pfizer, and SAP operate innovation laboratories in the city.  The Science and Business Park in Adlershof is the largest technology park in Germany measured by revenue.  Within the Eurozone, Berlin has become a center for business relocation and international investments.  
|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|
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.  In 2015, Berlin generated the most venture capital for young startup companies in Europe. 
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. 
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,  Europe's largest digital publisher  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. 
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  and Berlin Chemie are major pharmaceutical companies in the city.
Tourism and conventions Edit
Berlin had 788 hotels with 134,399 beds in 2014.  The city recorded 28.7 million overnight hotel stays and 11.9 million hotel guests in 2014.  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.  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),  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,  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. 
Berlin is an important center in the European and German film industry.  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.  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.
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.  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. 
According to Monocle, Berlin occupies the position of the 6th-most-livable city in the world.  Economist Intelligence Unit ranks Berlin number 21 of all global cities.  Berlin is number 8 at the Global Power City Index. 
In 2019, Berlin has the best future prospects of all cities in Germany, according to HWWI and Berenberg Bank.  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.  
Berlin's transport infrastructure is highly complex, providing a diverse range of urban mobility.  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).  In 2013, 1.344 million motor vehicles were registered in the city.  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.
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.  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  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. 
|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. 
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.  Previously set to open in 2012, after extensive delays and cost overruns, it opened for commercial operations in October 2020.  The planned initial capacity of around 27 million passengers per year  is to be further developed to bring the terminal capacity to approximately 55 million per year by 2040. 
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.  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.
Berlin is well known for its highly developed bicycle lane system.  It is estimated Berlin has 710 bicycles per 1000 residents. Around 500,000 daily bike riders accounted for 13% of total traffic in 2010.  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).  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. 
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
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. 
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.
Berlin has a long history of discoveries in medicine and innovations in medical technology.  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. 
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.  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.
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.  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.  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. 
The Französisches Gymnasium Berlin, which was founded in 1689 to teach the children of Huguenot refugees, offers (German/French) instruction.  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  and 8 teach Classical Greek. 
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.  A record number of 175,651 students were enrolled in the winter term of 2015/16.  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  students, the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin (HU Berlin) with 35,000  students, and the Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin) with 35,000  students. The Charité Medical School has around 8,000 students.  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.   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.  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.
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.  In 2012, around 65,000 professional scientists were working in research and development in the city. 
Berlin is one of the knowledge and innovation communities (KIC) of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).  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. 
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. 
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.  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.   The diversity and vivacity of the metropolis led to a trendsetting atmosphere.  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. 
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.  In 2005, Berlin was named "City of Design" by UNESCO and has been part of the Creative Cities Network ever since.  
Galleries and museums Edit
As of 2011 [update] Berlin is home to 138 museums and more than 400 art galleries.   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.  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,  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. 
The Jewish Museum has a standing exhibition on two millennia of German-Jewish history.  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. 
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. 
The cityscape of Berlin displays large quantities of urban street art.  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.  The Berlin Wall itself has become one of the largest open-air canvasses in the world.  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.  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.  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.  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.   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,  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.   The Karneval der Kulturen (Carnival of Cultures), a multi-ethnic street parade, is celebrated every Pentecost weekend.  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.   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.  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  it is housed in the Berliner Philharmonie near Potsdamer Platz on a street named for the orchestra's longest-serving conductor, Herbert von Karajan.  Simon Rattle is its principal conductor.  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.  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". 
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.  Berlin is well known for its offerings of vegetarian  and vegan  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.  
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.   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. 
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.  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.
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.  It was the home of the captive-born celebrity polar bear Knut.  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. 
The Tiergarten park in Mitte, with landscape design by Peter Joseph Lenné, is one of Berlin's largest and most popular parks.  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.  Tempelhofer Feld, the site of the former city airport, is the world's largest inner-city open space. 
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. 
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. 
Berlin has established a high-profile as a host city of major international sporting events.  The city hosted the 1936 Summer Olympics and was the host city for the 2006 FIFA World Cup final.  The IAAF World Championships in Athletics was held in the Olympiastadion in 2009.  The city hosted the Basketball Euroleague Final Four in 2009 and 2016.  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. 
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.  The Mellowpark in Köpenick is one of the biggest skate and BMX parks in Europe.  A Fan Fest at Brandenburg Gate, which attracts several hundred-thousand spectators, has become popular during international football competitions, like the UEFA European Championship. 
In 2013 around 600,000 Berliners were registered in one of the more than 2,300 sport and fitness clubs.  The city of Berlin operates more than 60 public indoor and outdoor swimming pools.  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. 
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 football club Hertha BSC.  The team represented Berlin as a founding member of the Bundesliga, Germany's highest football league, in 1963. Other professional team sport clubs include:
The fall of the Berlin Wall
Erected in 1961, the Berlin Wall divided the former German capital for almost three decades. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was a pivotal moment, not just in the Cold War but in the history of modern Europe. It was brought about by political reforms inside the Soviet bloc, escalating pressure from the people of eastern Europe and ultimately, confusion over an East German directive to open the border.
In June 1987, United States president Ronald Reagan visited Italy for a multilateral economic summit. On his way home, Reagan stopped briefly in West Germany to speak at a ceremony commemorating the 750th anniversary of Berlin.
This ceremony was held near the Brandenburg Gate, one of Berlin’s main entrance points since the late 1700s. Since the construction of the Berlin Wall, however, the Brandenburg Gate had been closed. A lectern and red carpet were positioned outside the gate, as Secret Service agents erected panes of bulletproof glass to protect Reagan from snipers in East Berlin.
Reagan welcomed the 45,000 people present – as well as “those listening throughout Eastern Europe, [to whom] I extend my warmest greetings and the goodwill of the American people”. He turned his attention to the Soviet Union, highlighting Moscow’s commitment to huge nuclear arsenals as it struggled to feed its people. Reagan also focused on Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s recent reforms, dubbed glasnost and perestroika, questioning whether they were genuine moves toward change or a token effort to appease critics.
‘Tear down this wall’
Then, in perhaps the best-known quote of the entire Cold War, Reagan directly challenged Gorbachev:
“There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace … if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalisation… Come here to this gate. Mr Gorbachev – open this gate! Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
Despite being broadcast around Europe and the United States, Reagan’s speech failed to generate much interest. Most dismissed it as more of Reagan’s anti-Soviet sabre rattling, his stock in trade. Several of Reagan’s advisors had wanted the “tear down this wall” challenge removed from the speech, fearing it was too confrontational and might damage his growing relationship with Gorbachev. The phrase was retained, however.
It would soon prove prophetic. Within a few months of Reagan’s address in Berlin, the ideological foundations of the Berlin Wall had begun to crumble.
Soviet bloc crumbles
By the start of 1989, the tide of history was turning against communism in Europe. Subjected to internal pressures and protests, the Soviet bloc began to crumble from within.
Socialist governments behind the Iron Curtain came under tremendous internal pressure to liberalise and reform. The people of eastern Europe took to the streets, urging their own leaders to mirror Gorbachev’s reformism and relax their grip on government, economy and society.
Poland and Hungary had already adopted political and social reforms that would have been unthinkable just a few years earlier. In East Germany, the frontier of European communism and the epicentre of Cold War division, the Berlin Wall held firm – but this was not to last.
East Germany remains defiant
By early 1989, the tide of anti-communist sentiment sweeping through Europe had reached East Germany. The results of local government elections in May 1989 ignited significant public unrest: the ruling coalition of communist and socialist parties won 98.5 per cent of the vote and almost all of the seats, a clear sign the election had been rigged.
This political corruption, along with the country’s parlous economic condition and oppressive social conditions, triggered another exodus from East Germany. Some East Germans applied for legitimate exit visas, while others arranged to flee the country illegally.
In August, when the Hungarian government opened its borders with Austria, East Germans took advantage of this new Fluchtweg (‘escape route’) to the West. Thousands of East Germans went on holidays to Hungary, never to return. When East Berlin moved to block the flow of refugees, it triggered protests every Monday evening in several cities.
As the weeks passed, these protests grew in size and intensity. On one day in November 1989, around 500,000 people gathered in East Berlin where they were addressed by local celebrities, actors and intellectuals. Among the slogans chanted by the crowd included “Wir vollen raus!” (‘We want out’), “Wir sind ein Volk!” (‘We are one people’) and “Vierzig Jahre sind genug!” (’40 years is enough’).
Facing a popular revolution, the East German government began to buckle. On October 18th Erich Honecker, who had led the Soviet bloc state for more than 18 years, resigned under pressure from his own ministers.
On November 9th, the government responded to public pressure and announced plans to open up designated checkpoints in Berlin. When implemented, any East German wishing to pass through the Berlin Wall would be free to do so.
The border opens
This order was scheduled to come into effect on November 17th – but due to a communications mix-up, it was reported as being effective immediately. Thousands of civilians massed at critical points along the Berlin Wall, demanding that Grepo guards honour the government’s promise and open the gates.
Uncertain of their orders and under pressure from the crowd, the guards relented and threw open the barriers. Thousands of East Germans streamed across the border. Others scaled the wall and embraced Berliners from the other side, sitting atop the structure and drinking beer and champagne.
That evening, people on both sides began attacking the wall, first with graffiti and peace slogans and then with tools. Individuals and small groups dubbed ‘wall woodpeckers’ began attacking the structure with picks and sledgehammers. Some were after souvenirs of the Berlin Wall others simply wanted to participate in its destruction.
The fall of the Berlin Wall led news bulletins around the globe. Images of the Berlin Wall being climbed, defaced and dismantled were beamed into millions of homes worldwide.
Few leaders missed the significance of the event. Margaret Thatcher called it “a great day for freedom… you see the joy on people’s faces and you see what freedom means to them”. George Bush, who succeeded Reagan as US president in January, attributed the demise of the Berlin Wall “to the people themselves” but refused to gloat, declaring that he would not “dance on the wall”.
Mikhail Gorbachev said very little publicly but his political advisor, Anatoly Chernyaev, wrote that “the entire era in the history of the socialist system is over”. East German troops began demolishing the wall in early 1990.
Today, three sections of the original Berlin Wall remain standing as memorials, while most of its original 155-kilometre long course is marked by brickwork, plaques and smaller memorials.
1. The Berlin Wall was a symbol of Cold War division for more than 25 years. In 1987 Ronald Reagan visited Berlin and famously challenged Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall”.
2. The political changes that swept through Europe in the late 1980s saw the socialist government in East Germany come under significant pressure from its own people.
3. In October 1989 Erich Honecker resigned as East German leader and the new government promised to open checkpoints. The Berlin Wall was breached on November 9th, due to a misunderstanding.
4. This led to Germans on both sides scaling the wall, defacing it with graffiti and attacking it with picks and sledgehammers.
5. The fall of the Berlin Wall was covered extensively around the world. Western leaders hailed it as a victory by the German people, who had chosen freedom over division. The wall was quickly dismantled, paving the way for German reunification.
Television coverage of citizens demolishing sections of the Wall on November 9 was soon followed by the East German regime announcing ten new border crossings, including the historically significant locations of Potsdamer Platz, Glienicker Brücke, and Bernauer Straße. Crowds gathered on both sides of the historic crossings waiting for hours to cheer the bulldozers that tore down portions of the Wall to reinstate ancient roads. While the Wall officially remained guarded at a decreasing intensity, new border crossings continued for some time, including the Brandenburg Gate on December 22, 1989. Initially the East German military attempted to repair damage done by “Wall peckers,” but gradually these attempts ceased and guards became more lax, tolerating the demolitions and unauthorized border crossings through holes in the Wall.
West Germans and West Berliners were allowed visa-free travel starting December 23. Until that point, they were only able to visit East Germany and East Berlin under restrictive conditions that involved applying for a visa several days or weeks in advance and the obligatory exchange of at least 25 Deutsche Marks per day of their planned stay, which hindered spontaneous visits. Thus, in the weeks between November 9 and December 23, East Germans could actually travel more freely than Westerners.
On June 13, 1990, the East German military officially began dismantling the Wall, beginning in Bernauer Straße and around the Mitte district. From there, demolition continued through Prenzlauer Berg/Gesundbrunnen, Helligensee, and throughout the city of Berlin until that December. Various military units dismantled the Berlin/Brandenberg border wall, completing the job in November 1991. Virtually every road that was severed by the Berlin Wall was reconstructed and reopened by August 1, 1990.
On July 1, the day East Germany adopted West German currency, all de jure border controls ceased, although the inter-German border was meaningless for some time before that. The fall of the Wall marked the first critical step towards German reunification, which formally concluded a mere 339 days later on October 3, 1990, with the dissolution of East Germany and the official reunification of the German state along the democratic lines of the West German government.
The story of Berlin Wall in pictures, 1961-1989
West Berlin citizens hold a vigil atop the Berlin Wall in front of the Brandenburg Gate on November 10, 1989, the day after the East German government opened the border between East and West Berlin.
Erected in the dead of night on August 13, 1961, the Berlin Wall (known as Berliner Mauer in German) was a physical division between West Berlin and East Germany. Its purpose was to keep disaffected East Germans from fleeing to the West.
When the Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989, its destruction was nearly as instantaneous as its creation. For 28 years, the Berlin Wall had been a symbol of the Cold War and the Iron Curtain between Soviet-led Communism and the democracies of the West. When it fell, it was celebrated around the world.
On August 13, 1961, East Germany closed its borders with the west. Here, East German soldiers set up barbed wire barricades at the border separating East and West Berlin. West Berlin citizens watch the work.
At the end of World War II, the Allied powers divided conquered Germany into four zones. As agreed at the Potsdam Conference, each was occupied by either the United States, Great Britain, France, or the Soviet Union. The same was done with 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.
A young East Berliner erects a concrete wall that was later topped by barbed wire at a sector border in the divided city August 18, 1961. East German police stand guard in the background as another worker mixed cement.
Within a short period of time after the war, living conditions in West Germany and East Germany became distinctly different. With the help and support of its occupying powers, West Germany set up a capitalist society.
The economy experienced such rapid growth that it became known as the “economic miracle”. With hard work, individuals living in West Germany were able to live well, buy gadgets and appliances, and travel as they wished.
Nearly the opposite was true in East Germany. The Soviet Union had viewed their zone as a spoil of war. They had pilfered factory equipment and other valuable assets from their zone and shipped them back to the Soviet Union.
When East Germany became its own country in 1949, it was under the direct influence of the Soviet Union, and a Communist society was established. The economy of East Germany dragged and individual freedoms were severely restricted.
Tracks of the Berlin elevated railroad stop at the border of American sector of Berlin in this air view on August 26, 1961. Beyond the fence, communist-ruled East Berlin side, the tracks have been removed.
Outside of Berlin, East Germany had been fortified in 1952. By the late 1950s, many people living in East Germany wanted out. No longer able to stand the repressive living conditions, they would head to West Berlin. Although some of them would be stopped on their way, hundreds of thousands made it across the border.
Once across, these refugees were housed in warehouses and then flown to West Germany. Many of those who escaped were young, trained professionals. By the early 1960s, East Germany was rapidly losing both its labor force and its population.
Between 1949 and 1961, it’s estimated that nearly 2.7 million people fled East Germany. The government was desperate to stop this mass exodus. The obvious leak was the easy access East Germans had to West Berlin. With the support of the Soviet Union, there had been several attempts to simply take over West Berlin.
Although the Soviet Union even threatened the United States with the use of nuclear weapons over this issue, the United States and other Western countries were committed to defending West Berlin.
Desperate to keep its citizens, East Germany knew that something needed to be done. Famously, two months before the Berlin Wall appeared, Walter Ulbricht, Head of the State Council of the GDR (1960–1973) said, “Niemand hat die Absicht, eine Mauer zu errichten”. These iconic words mean, “No one intended to build a wall”. After this statement, the exodus of East Germans only increased. Over those next two months of 1961, nearly 20,000 people fled to the West.
Formidable concrete walls took shape at the seven crossing points between East and West Berlin on December 4, 1961. The new walls were seven feet high and five feet thick. Only small passages for traffic were left open. In center of the Bornholmer Bridge (French/Russian sector border), behind steel tank traps, a big sign showing the East German emblem hammer and compass.
Rumors had spread that something might happen to tighten the border of East and West Berlin. No one was expecting the speed—nor the absoluteness—of the Berlin Wall. Just past midnight on the night of August 12–13, 1961, trucks with soldiers and construction workers rumbled through East Berlin.
While most Berliners were sleeping, these crews began tearing up streets that entered into West Berlin. They dug holes to put up concrete posts and strung barbed wire all across the border between East and West Berlin. Telephone wires between East and West Berlin were also cut and railroad lines were blocked.
Berliners were shocked when they woke up that morning. What had once been a very fluid border was now rigid. No longer could East Berliners cross the border for operas, plays, soccer games, or any other activity.
No longer could the approximately 60,000 commuters head to West Berlin for well-paying jobs. No longer could families, friends, and lovers cross the border to meet their loved ones. Whichever side of the border one went to sleep on during the night of August 12, they were stuck on that side for decades.
East German VOPO, a quasi-military border policeman using binoculars, standing guard on one of the bridges linking East and West Berlin, in 1961.
The total length of the Berlin Wall was 91 miles (155 kilometers). It ran not only through the center of Berlin, but also wrapped around West Berlin, entirely cutting it off from the rest of East Germany. The wall itself went through four major transformations during its 28-year history. It started out as a barbed-wire fence with concrete posts.
Just days later, on August 15, it was quickly replaced with a sturdier, more permanent structure. This one was made out of concrete blocks and topped with barbed wire.
The first two versions of the wall were replaced by the third version in 1965. This consisted of a concrete wall supported by steel girders. The fourth version of the Berlin Wall, constructed from 1975 to 1980, was the most complicated and thorough. It consisted of concrete slabs reaching nearly 12-feet high (3.6 meters) and 4-feet wide (1.2 meters). It also had a smooth pipe running across the top to hinder people from scaling it.
By the time the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, there was a 300-foot No Man’s Land and an additional inner wall. Soldiers patrolled with dogs and a raked ground showed footprints. The East Germans also installed anti-vehicle trenches, electric fences, massive light systems, 302 watchtowers, 20 bunkers, and even minefields.
Over the years, propaganda from the East German government would say that the people of East Germany welcomed the Wall. In reality, the oppression they suffered and the potential consequences they faced kept many from speaking out to the contrary.
Under the eye of a communist “people’s policeman”, East Berlin workers with a power shovel destroy one of a number of cottages and one-family houses along a sparsely settled stretch of the east-west Berlin boundary in October of 1961.
Although most of the border between East and West consisted of layers of preventative measures, there were little more than a handful of official openings along the Berlin Wall. These checkpoints were for the infrequent use of officials and others with special permission to cross the border.
The most famous of these was Checkpoint Charlie, located on the border between East and West Berlin at Friedrichstrasse. Checkpoint Charlie was the main access point for Allied personnel and Westerners to cross the border. Soon after the Berlin Wall was built, Checkpoint Charlie became an icon of the Cold War. It has frequently been featured in movies and books set during this time period.
A young girl in the Eastern Sector looks through barbed wire into Steinstucken, Berlin, in October of 1961.
The Berlin Wall did prevent the majority of East Germans from emigrating to the West, but it did not deter everyone. During the history of the Berlin Wall, it is estimated that about 5,000 people made it safely across. Some early successful attempts were simple, like throwing a rope over the Berlin Wall and climbing up.
Others were brash, like ramming a truck or bus into the Berlin Wall and making a run for it. Still, others were suicidal as some people jumped from the upper-story windows of apartment buildings that bordered the Berlin Wall.
In September 1961, the windows of these buildings were boarded up and the sewers connecting East and West were shut off. Other buildings were torn down to clear space for what would become known as the Todeslinie, the “Death Line” or “Death Strip.”
This open area allowed a direct line of fire so East German soldiers could carry out Shiessbefehl, a 1960 order that they were to shoot anyone trying escape. Twenty-nine people were killed within the first year. As the Berlin Wall became stronger and larger, the escape attempts became more elaborately planned.
Some people dug tunnels from the basements of buildings in East Berlin, under the Berlin Wall, and into West Berlin. Another group saved scraps of cloth and built a hot air balloon and flew over the Wall.
Unfortunately, not all escape attempts were successful. Since the East German guards were allowed to shoot anyone nearing the eastern side without warning, there was always a chance of death in any and all escape plots. It is estimated that somewhere between 192 and 239 people died at the Berlin Wall.
Blocking the church – Two East Germans work on a huge 15 foot wall, placing pieces of broken glass on the top to prevent East Berliners from escaping.
One of the most infamous cases of a failed attempt occurred on August 17, 1962. In the early afternoon, two 18-year-old men ran toward the Wall with the intention of scaling it. The first of the young men to reach it was successful. The second one, Peter Fechter, was not.
As he was about to scale the Wall, a border guard opened fire. Fechter continued to climb but ran out of energy just as he reached the top. He then tumbled back onto the East German side. To the shock of the world, Fechter was just left there. The East German guards did not shoot him again nor did they go to his aid.
Fechter shouted in agony for nearly an hour. Once he had bled to death, East German guards carried off his body. He became the 50th person to die at the Berlin Wall and a permanent symbol of the struggle for freedom.
A refugee runs during an attempt to escape from the East German part of Berlin to West Berlin by climbing over the Berlin Wall on October 16, 1961.
The fall of the Berlin Wall happened nearly as suddenly as its rise. There had been signs that the Communist bloc was weakening, but the East German Communist leaders insisted that East Germany just needed a moderate change rather than a drastic revolution. East German citizens did not agree.
Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev (1985–1991) was attempting to save his country and decided to break off from many of its satellites. As Communism began to falter in Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia in 1988 and 1989, new exodus points were opened to East Germans who wanted to flee to the West.
In East Germany, protests against the government were countered by threats of violence from its leader, Erich Honecker. In October 1989, Honecker was forced to resign after losing support from Gorbachev. He was replaced by Egon Krenz who decided that violence was not going to solve the country’s problems. Krenz also loosened travel restrictions from East Germany.
Picture taken in June 1968 of the Berlin Wall and East Berlin (Soviet sector).
Suddenly, on the evening of November 9, 1989, East German government official Günter Schabowski blundered by stating in an announcement, “Permanent relocations can be done through all border checkpoints between the GDR [East Germany] into the FRG [West Germany] or West Berlin”.
People were in shock. Were the borders really open? East Germans tentatively approached the border and indeed found that the border guards were letting people cross.
Very quickly, the Berlin Wall was inundated with people from both sides. Some began chipping at the Berlin Wall with hammers and chisels. There was an impromptu and massive celebration along the Berlin Wall, with people hugging, kissing, singing, cheering, and crying.
The Berlin Wall was eventually chipped away into smaller pieces (some the size of a coin and others in big slabs). The pieces have become collectibles and are stored in both homes and museums. There is also now a Berlin Wall Memorial at the site on Bernauer Strasse. After the Berlin Wall came down, East and West Germany reunified into a single German state on October 3, 1990.
Typical of East Berlin measures to halt the escape of refugees to the west are these bricked-up windows in an apartment house along the city’s dividing line October 6, 1961. The house, on the South side of Bernauerstrasse, is in East Berlin.
Aerial view of Berlin border wall, seen in this 1978 picture.
East German border guards carry away a refugee who was wounded by East German machine gun fire as he dashed through communist border installations toward the Berlin Wall in 1971.
East Berlin laborers work on “Death Strip” which communist authorities created on their side of the border in the divided city on October 1, 1961. A double barbed wire fence marks the border, with West Berlin at right. In this view of the area laborers level rubble of houses which, just days before, stood on the site close to the border. Buildings along the 25-mile dividing line were evacuated and razed by Berlin reds to eliminate one means of escape used by East Berliners to jump to the west.
Dying Peter Fechter is carried away by East German border guards who shot him down when he tried to flee to the west in this August 17, 1962 photo. Fechter was lying 50 minutes in no-man’s land before he was taken to a hospital where he died shortly after arrival.
View from top of the old Reichstag building of the Brandenburg Gate, which marks the border in this divided city. The semi-circled wall around the Brandenburg Gate was erected by East German Vopos on November 19, 1961.
The Brandenburg Gate is shrouded in fog as a man looks from a watchtower over the Wall to the Eastern part of the divided city on November 25, 1961. The tower was erected by the West German police to observe the Inner-German border.
East German border guard Conrad Schumann leaps into the French Sector of West Berlin over barbed wire on August 15, 1961. More info about this picture.
West German construction workers have a chat in West Berlin, April 18, 1967 beside the wall separating the city.
East German border guards carry away a 50 year old refugee, who was shot three times by East German border police on September 4, 1962, as he dashed through communist border installations and tried to climb the Berlin wall in the cemetery of the Sophien Church.
A woman and child walk beside a section of the Berlin Wall.
Reverend Martin Luther King, American civil rights leader, invited to Berlin by West Berlin Mayor Willy Brandt, visits the wall on September 13, 1964, at the border Potsdamer Platz in West Berlin.
A mass escape of 57 people in October 1964 from East Berlin through a tunnel to the cellar of a former bakery in “Bernauer Street”, West Berlin. Picture of the tunnel exit.
A graffiti-covered section of the wall close to the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin in 1988. Sign reads: “Attention! You are now leaving West Berlin”
(1 of 3) Two East Berliners jump across border barriers on the Eastern side of border checkpoint at Chaussee Street in Berlin in April of 1989. They were stopped by gun wielding East German border guards and arrested while trying to escape into West Berlin. People in the foreground, still in East Berlin, wait for permits to visit the West.
(2 of 3) Two East Berlin refugees are taken away by border guards after a thwarted escape attempt at Berlin border crossing Chausseestreet, in this April 1989 picture.
(3 of 3) An East Berlin border guard, cigarette in mouth, points his pistol to the scene where two East Germans were led away after failing to escape to the west at Berlin border crossing Chausseestrasse. Eyewitnesses reported the guard also fired shots.
A general view of the overcrowded East Berlin Gethsemane Church on October 12, 1989. About 1,000 East Germans took part in a prayer service here for imprisoned pro-democracy protesters. The church was the focus of protests in the final days of the wall.
An unidentified East German border guard gestures toward some demonstrators, who who threw bottles on the eastern side of newly-erected barriers at the Checkpoint Charlie crossing point on October 7, 1989.
East and West Berliners mingle as they celebrate in front of a control station on East Berlin territory, on November 10, 1989, during the opening of the borders to the West following the announcement by the East German government that the border to the West would be open.
East Berliners get helping hands from West Berliners as they climb the Berlin Wall which divided the city for decades, near the Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate) on November 10, 1989.
A man hammers away at the Berlin Wall on November 12, 1989 as the border barrier between East and West Germany was torn down.
West Berliners crowd in front of the Berlin Wall early November 11, 1989 as they watch East German border guards demolishing a section of the wall in order to open a new crossing point between East and West Berlin, near the Potsdamer Square.
East and West German Police try to contain the crowd of East Berliners flowing through the recent opening made in the Berlin wall at Potsdamer Square, on November 12, 1989.
Decades later, the Berlin Wall is a memory, pieces of it scattered around the world. Here, some original pieces of the wall are displayed for sale at the city of Teltow near Berlin, on November 8, 2013
(Photo credit: AP / Getty Images/ Text: Jennifer Rosenberg).