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Chronicle 1961

In the night of the 12 to the 13 of August, Walter Ulbricht, as SED (Socialist Unity Party of Germany (Ger.: Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands)) party leader and Chairman of the National Defence Council of the GDR, (German Democratic Republic [East Germany]. (Ger.: Deutsche Demokratische Republik or DDR)) gave the order to seal off the sector border in Berlin. Having obtained the agreement of the Soviet Union a few days previously, and with the support of the Soviet troops in the GDR, the regime closed off the last route for escape from the Party dictatorship: in the early morning of August 13, border police started ripping up streets in the middle of Berlin, pieces of asphalt and paving stones were piled up to form barricades, concrete posts were driven into the ground and barbed-wire barriers erected. more
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    • 1961

      3 October

      An entire village flees from the GDR to West Germany: the residents of Böseckendorf in the Harz Mountains set off to cross the border in the night of 2-3 October. Sixteen families with 22 children, altogether 53 people, make it safely to Duderstadt in West Germany. more
    • 1961

      4 October

      On 4 October 1961, Bernd Lünser jumps to his death from the roof of this house on Bernauer Strasse: he misses the rescue sheet held by the West Berlin fire brigade
      In the evening of 4 October, in Bernauer Strasse, the 22-year-old Bernd Lünser wants to lower himself into the western part of Berlin using a clothesline. But his intention to escape is noticed. Border policemen open fire. For the first time, West Berlin police give covering fire to an escapee; a border policeman is injured in the hail of bullets. more
    • 1961

      5 October

      Work continues on extending the barriers and on building a 100-metre-wide "death strip" on Berlin's "Outer Ring".


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    • 1961

      5 October

      Rally in memory of Udo Düllick on the sector border in the Kreuzberg district, Spreeufer, 7 October 1961
      Another escape attempt in Berlin ends in death. The 25-year-old Udo Düllick, who is forced to dive under water after being shot at by border police, drowns in the cold waters of the Spree between the Berlin districts of Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg, near Oberbaum Bridge. more
    • 1961

      5 October

      The decision by the American government to support the West Berlin broadcaster RIAS with 300,000 dollars meets with a mixed response: more
    • 1961

      6 October

      Border police destroy an allotment area to create space to shoot freely (taken Sept./October 1961)
      With the order 76/61, the GDR Minister for National Defence, Army General Heinz Hoffmann, issues "regulations regarding the use of firearms for the Border Command of the National People's Army". more
    • 1961

      9 October

    • 1961

      12 October

      Installation of Y-shaped brackets on the Wall (Kreuzberg district, Leuschnerdamm), October 1961
      US President John F. Kennedy, when answering the question of whether he would again reject the use of force to stop the building of the Wall or whether he would now take a different decision, tells a press conference: "As you know, East Berlin and East Germany have been effectively under the control of the Soviet Union since 1947 and 1948. There was no Four-Power control; they (the Soviets) controlled this territory. more
    • 1961

      12 October

      Border police shoot dead the West German journalist Kurt Lichtenstein on the German-German border near Zicherie in the Gifhorn district. Lichtenstein, who works for the "Westfälishe Rundschau" newspaper, had gone a few metres into GDR territory to do a report.
    • 1961

      12 October

      In West Berlin, armed GDR policemen enter West Berlin territory in the district of Reinickendorf in the early hours of morning, surrounding a house on the border where they suspect that a border policeman who has escaped during the night is hiding. A West Berlin police patrol is called in to help. It negotiates with the border police and persuades them to withdraw. The head of police in Reinickendorf gives an account of the incident to a RIAS reporter and speaks about police protection of West Berlin.


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    • 1961

      13 October

      Nine GDR escapees use a truck to try to flee to West Berlin in the south of Berlin on the border to Zehlendorf. The truck gets stuck in the border installations; the passengers of the vehicle have to continue their escape on foot. Border police fire a hail of bullets at the escapees - but no one is hit and all of them reach West Berlin.


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    • 1961

      14 October

      Werner Probst: born on June 18, 1936, shot dead in the Berlin border waters on Oct. 14, 1961 while trying to escape (date of photo not known)
      While trying to swim from the eastern bank of the Spree at Schilling Bridge to the West Berlin side, 25-year-old Werner Probst is discovered by border police, who fire at him. He dives under water and swims on. He is fatally hit by a bullet after already reaching the ladder on the West Berlin quayside. Werner Probst, born on June 18, 1936, shot dead on October 14, 1961, in the Spree River near the Schilling Bridge
    • 1961

      14 October

      Walled-up windows of houses on Bernauer Strasse, 18 October 1961
      In Bernauer Strasse, more windows of houses on the border are walled up; on the roofs, barbed wire and wire obstacles are set up, and former street crossings are also blocked off with cement slabs one metre wide and two metres high.
    • 1961

      16 October

      On the evening RIAS news show "Die Zeit im Funk", RIAS journalist Hans-Peter Herz talks with a border policeman who has escaped to West Berlin about his reasons for leaving the GDR and the mood in his unit and among the general public.


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    • 1961

      16 October

      News broadcast by the "Studio am Stacheldraht" at the Wall near the Wollankstrasse Station, 20 October 1961
      One main objective of the "Studio am Stacheldraht" ("Studio at the Barbed Wire") - mobile loudspeaker stations, set up on 16 October 1961, that broadcast information from the western part of Berlin into the eastern sector - is to persuade border police not to shoot at escapees. more
    • 1961

      17 October

      In Moscow, the XXII party conference of the CPSU begins. It lasts for ten days. In his statement, party leader Nikita Khrushchev says the date for signing a peace treaty would no longer be important if the Western Allies showed their willingness "to regulate the German problem". more
    • 1961

      17 October

      In a speech to the British House of Lords, Foreign Minister Lord Home gives assurances that all plans of his government to solve the German problem are based on the premise that "the Germans, like every other people, have the right to self-determination." more
    • 1961

      18 October

      Award of the flag for quartered units to the 1st Border Brigade
      The GDR Interior Minister awards the "Flag for Garrisoned Units" to the 1st Border Brigade, responsible for the Berlin sector border. The flag, according to the award certificate, "is the symbol of honour, bravery and fame. It reminds every fighter and commander of his sacred duty to serve the German Democratic Republic with devotion and to protect it with courage and the readiness for self-sacrifice."
    • 1961

      22 October

      US soldiers escort a civilian vehicle over the border crossing at Checkpoint Charlie, October 1961
      On 22 October, the deputy head of the US Mission in Berlin, Edwin A. Lightner, is stopped for a border check by the People’s Police. He is dressed in civilian clothing and wants to attend a theatre performance in East Berlin. The Americans regard this control by the GDR as an affront and an attack on Allied rights. more
    • 1961

      23 October

      The soldiers of the 1st Motorised Infantry Division of the GDR National People's Army appeal to all members of the West German Bundeswehr to "clarify fronts" and to decide what side of the barricade they stand on: more
    • 1961

      23 October

      Piled-up cement slabs block off a former crossing between the districts of Mitte (East Berlin) and Wedding (West Berlin), 18 October 1961
      To "contain or prevent further cross-border operations" by the GDR border police, the West Berlin sector and zone border guards are equipped with submachine guns and tear-gas grenades. Every tear-gas operation launched by the eastern side and the use of smoke-puff charges can now be responded to in kind. more
    • 1961

      24 October

      While the XXII party conference is still going on, the Soviet Union explodes a 50-megatonne atomic bomb. The detonation of the super-bomb triggers worldwide protests. At this time, the Soviet Union still does not have the type of missile necessary for transporting such a bomb.


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    • 1961

      25-28 October

    • 1961

      30 October

      The war of loudspeakers: a loudspeaker car of the border police employed to disrupt broadcasts by the "Studio am Stacheldraht", 29 October 1961
      In the war of loudspeakers at the sector border, the following announcement by the "GDR organs" is made to the East Berliners: "Dear Berliners! We request you to move on. Don't make it difficult for our border security organs to do their responsible work. more
    • 1961

      31 October

      Conversation between East and West Berliners over the Wall – the border police don’t intervene (taken 21 September 1961)
      The Wall is a daily meeting place for Berliners from East and West: acquaintances, friends, relations, grandmothers, daughters, sons and grandchildren try to keep in contact by waving and calling to one another despite the ban imposed weeks ago.


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    • October 1961

      In October 1961, 5,366 refugees from the GDR are registered in West Berlin and West Germany.
    • Eastern press comments

      In the paper "Berliner Zeitung" of 5 October 1961, the daily paper of the SED's Berlin district administration, Frank-Joachim Herrmann comments under the headline "The Clock Has Been Reset": "The reality of two German states is coming more and more to determine the way of thinking on the Western side. Many newspapers on the Rhine are sounding the death knell of Bonn's strongman tactics in frustration. And our republic, whose imminent fall was prophesied by those bankruptees twelve years ago, is growing, blossoming and thriving. It is prevailing. And in the near future, its character will have prevailed to the benefit of the working people against the antiquated, stubborn disorder of West Germany."
    • Western press comments

      Under the title "The End of the Illusions", Richard Thelenius comments in the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" of 30 September/1 October on the current situation regarding policy on Germany. "The so-called reunification policy of Bonn is, in accordance with its inner untruthfulness, not a policy at all but a conglomeration of tactical propaganda phrases used to obscure any chance of at least somehow negotiating with the other side on conceivable paths to reunification." more
    • October 1961

      Barbed wire is installed on top of the Wall (Kreuzberg district, Prinzenstrasse), October 1961
      "The border barriers in the Soviet Occupied Sector and in the Soviet Occupied Zone were further reinforced by the construction of walls and barbed-wire fences, as well as the excavation of trenches," the West Berlin police write in their monthly report about developments at the sector and zone border in October. Progress report by the West Berlin police for the month of October 1961 (in German)
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