The Berlin Wall is one of the world’s most famous, well, walls …
It stood for nearly 30 years, dividing East and West Berlin and remains an iconic symbol of the Cold War. It was the physical manifestation of the Iron Curtain, keeping family members apart and those in the East blocked off from the democratic capitalist West Berlin. When it fell nearly 30 years ago cheers broke out not only in Berlin, but also throughout the world.
But there are a few things you may not know about this infamous wall! Check out the first three of the top ten most curious facts about the Berlin Wall here via the History Channel.
1. The fall of the Wall was by mistake
The Berlin Wall fell on the evening of November 9, 1989. But it wasn’t supposed to happen until November 10th! East German politician Günter Schabowski mistakenly announced in a press conference that the restrictions on travel visa would be lifted. When a reporter asked when he responded, “Immediately, without delay.” In actuality, the policy was supposed to be announced the next morning, accompanied by a lengthy visa application process.
His erroneous statement brought thousands of East Berliners to the streets, confronting the Wall face to face. The chief officer at the Bornholmer Street checkpoint, Harald Jäger was at a loss. The frustrated (and growing) group of people became too much for him and rather than wait for instructions from his superiors he simply opened to crossing then and there. The rest soon followed.
2. The Berlin Wall didn’t go up until 15 years after the Cold War began
Many people think that the Berlin Wall went up right as the war began. In reality, 15 years passed before construction began. Between 1949 and 1961, more than 2 million East Germans fled to the West – most of them skilled workers and professionals. And while East Germany originally requested a wall be built in 1953, the Soviet Union didn’t grant the request until 1961. By this time roughly 1,000 people per day were moving to the West. Residents of East Berlin woke up early August 13, 1961 to find a barbed wire fence installed on the border, which would began to be fortified with concrete just days later.
3. The Berlin Wall was actually the Berlin Walls
There were in fact two walls that made up the infamous border. The 43-km long barrier consisted of two parallel walls that were separated with a “death strip” up to 145 meters wide. This area made it virtually impossible to cross the Wall, with hundreds of watchtowers, huge stretches of anti-vehicle trenches, guard dog runs, floodlights and trip-wire machine guns in the way.