Berlin Wall Fast Facts

West Berliners crowd in front of the Berlin Wall on 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.

(CNN)Here's some background information about the Berlin Wall, which enclosed West Berlin from 1961 to 1989, in an attempt to prevent East Germans from fleeing to the West. It became a symbol of East/West relations during the Cold War.

The Wall

The Berlin Wall began as a border of barbed wire fencing and evolved into a fortified concrete barrier with armed East German border guards.
      The wall between East and West Berlin was nearly 12 feet high and approximately 27 miles long, with 302 guard towers and 55,000 anti-personnel explosive devices (landmines).
      To prevent attempts to scale the wall or escape by digging underneath, the wall was reinforced with barbed wire, spikes, metal gratings, bunkers and vehicles made into obstacles.
      A wide-open area of dirt and sand, a buffer zone between the two walls, became known as "no man's land" or the "death strip," where guards in watch towers could shoot anyone trying to escape.
      The most famous border crossing was known as Checkpoint Charlie.


      February 4-11, 1945 - In the face of Germany's defeat in World War II, the Allies' Yalta Conference agrees to divide Germany into four zones of occupation: Great Britain, France and the United States occupy the western, northwestern and southern portions, and the Soviet Union occupies the eastern. Berlin, located in Soviet territory, is also divided into east and west zones.
      1949 - The zones occupied by Britain, France and the United States become West Germany (formally known as the Federal Republic of Germany). The Soviet zone becomes East Germany (formally known as the German Democratic Republic). West Germany is a democratic republic. East Germany is a communist country aligned with the Soviet Union.
      1949-1961 - More than 2.7 million East Germans escape to the West. Foreign citizens, West Germans, West Berliners and Allied military personnel are permitted to enter East Berlin, but East Berliners need a special pass to leave.
      August 12, 1961 - East German Communist Party leader Walter Ulbricht signs the order for a barricade separating East and West Berlin.
      August 13, 1961 - East German security forces chief Erich Honeck