Interesting Berlin Wall Facts
Interesting Berlin Wall Facts

28 Interesting Berlin Wall Facts

Karin Lehnardt
By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published August 26, 2019
  • While over 5,000 people safely escaped over the Berlin Wall, at least 140 people died in the attempt.[12]
  • Just nine months before the wall was torn down, 20-year-old Chris Gueffroy was shot to death during his attempt to escape. Today there is a memorial in Berlin honoring Gueffroy as the last person killed trying to climb the Berlin Wall.[12]
  • Out of the estimated 10,000 people who tried to escape over the Berlin Wall, about 5,000 made it. Most used bribes and forged documents to leave.[14]
  • On July 19, 1988, Bruce Springsteen performed a concert at the Berlin Wall for East Berlin. Speaking in German, the rocker told the crowd that he was there to play rock n' roll, and he hoped that, one day, all barriers would be torn down. Historians note the concert fueled sentiment in East Berlin for change.[3]
  • The Berlin Wall (1961–1989) was a symbol of the Cold War and a physical manifestation of what was called the "Iron Curtain" between democracy and communism.[2]
  • The west side of the Berlin Wall was covered in graffiti, while the East side was not.[2]
  • The East German government claimed that the wall was to keep the "fascists" out of their sector, but, in reality, it was mainly to stop mass defections (especially from the intelligentsia) from communist East Berlin to West Berlin.[12]
  • The Berlin Wall stretched about 100 miles (160 km) around the western parts of Berlin. It was built without regard to the people who lived there, and many families were separated.[12]
  • Wall Sickness Fact
    The Berlin Wall left some people plagued by a sense of imprisonment, even decades after it fell
  • Many East Germans who lived by the wall have been diagnosed with "Wall Sickness," or "Mauerkrankheit;"  they still suffer from anxiety and uneasiness.[4]
  • The Berlin Wall had 29 checkpoints where approved vehicles, trains, garbage trucks, and boats could cross from one side to the other. The most famous checkpoint was Checkpoint Charlie, which was near the center of Berlin.[1]
  • Over 600 East German border guards defected from the East to the West across the Berlin Wall.[14]
  • The Berlin Wall was actually two walls. Known as the "death strip," the space between the two concrete walls was filled with trenches, watchtowers, patrol dogs, flood lights, and guns.[12]
  • East German acrobat Horst Klein made one of the most notable escapes from East Berlin. He used a high-tension cable (think tightrope) 60 feet above the heads of the guards to cross over the wall. He fell off the wire, but luckily he landed in West Berlin.[13]
  • Coworkers Peter Strelzyk and Gunter Wetzel escaped East Berlin in an untested hot air balloon they built. The flame on the balloon went out during their flight; fortunately they crashed in West Berlin.[13]
  • After Joachim Neumann, a civil engineering student, escaped East Berlin by pretending to be a Swiss tourist, he spent the next five months digging a tunnel from West to East Berlin. He ultimately helped his girlfriend and 57 other people escape.[13]
  • Many small people, who in many small places do many small things, can alter the face of the world.

    - East Side Gallery, Berlin, 1990.

  • Friends Michael Becker and Holger Bethke shot a steel cable attached to an arrow across the wall. They ziplined across the border. Later, Bethke and his brother learned to fly a plane and rescued their younger brother, Egbert, from East Germany.[13]
  • After the Berlin Wall "fell" on November 9, 1989, official demolition didn't start until June 13, 1990. In the meantime, Germans who chipped away the wall and sold the pieces were known as "wall woodpeckers" or "mauerspecthe."[9]
  • Parts of the Berlin Wall are on display throughout the world. For example, one section is on display in the men's room of the Main Street Casino in Las Vegas, and another piece is in the Vatican gardens. Pieces of the Wall are also still for sale on eBay.[5]
  • In 1987, U.S. President Ronald Reagan famously challenged Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev to "Tear down this wall."[12]
  • The formal reunification of East and West Berlin did not happen until October 3, 1990, almost a year after the wall's physical fall.[5]
  • The complete physical demolition of the Berlin Wall was not complete until 1992.[2]
  • East German border guard Conrad Schumann made one of the most daring escapes over the Berlin Wall in 1972 when he jumped over the border.[8]
  • Berlin Wall Jumper Fact
    Schumann suffered from depression later in life and hanged himself in his orchard

  • While David Hasselhoff's single "Looking for Freedom" was at Number 1 in the German charts in 1989, he says that it's a myth that he helped bring down the wall.[5]
  • The mass exodus of East Berlin's educated was known as "brain drain." Alarmed at the loss of talent, East Berlin officials and the Soviet Union decided to build the Berlin Wall.[11]
  • When East German troops shot 18-year-old Peter Fetcher as he tried to cross the Berlin Wall, he fell and was caught in the barbed wire. He bled to death as the world media watched and as police tried to throw him bandages.[11]
  • In 1963, an East German soldier named Wolfgang Engels stole a tank and crashed through the Berlin Wall. Though he was shot twice, he made it to other side of the wall.[7]
  • For the 28 years the Berlin Wall stood, thousands of wild rabbits flourished in what was known as the "death strip." The destruction of the wall, sadly, decimated the rabbit colony, and many of the rabbits that managed to survive migrated to West Berlin.[10]
  • Berlin Wall Rabbits
    Rabbits aren't the first things that come to mind when you mention the Berlin Wall

  • British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had deep misgivings about a unified Germany, and she pleaded with Mikhail Gorbachev not to let the wall fall.[6]

Suggested for you


Trending Now

Load More