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 in order to keep East Germans from feeling 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 thus when it fell it was celebrated around the world.
The Berlin Wall stretched over a hundred miles. It ran not only through the center of Berlin, but also wrapped around West Berlin, entirely cutting West Berlin off from the rest of East Germany.
The wall itself went through four major transformations during its 28-year history. The Berlin Wall started out as a barbed-wire fence with concrete posts, but just a few days after the first fence was placed, it was quickly replaced with a sturdier, more permanent structure made out of concrete blocks, topped with barbed wire.
By the time the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, there was almost a 100-metre No Man's Land, an additional inner wall, soldiers patrolling with dogs, a raked ground that showed footprints, anti-vehicle trenches, electric fences, massive light systems, watchtowers, bunkers, and minefields.
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.
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. Then suddenly, on the evening of November 9, 1989, an announcement made by East German government official Günter Schabowski blundered by stating, "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 huge 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.
After the Berlin Wall came down, East and West Germany reunified into a single German state on October 3, 1990.