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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

      5 December

      The day after the train escape of 5 December 1961: rails are dismantled and barriers are erected on the section of track between Albrechtshof (GDR) and the West Berlin district of Spandau, January 1962
      At around 8.50 p.m., a steam train coming from Oranienburg-Falkensee drives through the last station in the Eastern Zone, Albrechtshof, crosses the border at Finkenkruger Weg and stops in West Berlin territory. more
    • 1961

      6 December

      Willy Brandt during the debate in the German Bundestag on the government statement, 6 December 1961
      In the debate on the government statement, Willy Brandt, the Ruling Mayor of Berlin, who lost the parliamentary elections as candidate for the chancellorship, claims that previous policy on reunification has failed. Brandt says that it is necessary to devote more attention to "the people in the Zone". He says that the upcoming international negotiations would decide "whether the preconditions are there for a different kind of relationship between Germany and the Soviet Union" – which, in his opinion, would ultimately determine whether reunification were possible.
    • 1961

      6 December

      "New regulations for mailed presents" are introduced in the GDR with retrospective effect to 30 November 1961: parcels containing used textiles and shoes are only passed on to the addressee in the GDR if they are accompanied by a disinfection certificate from the West German public health departments in the various Länder. more
    • 1961

      8 December

      View from the West of the Bornholmer Strasse crossing point, photo January 1961
      Boom gates are set up on the eastern side at the seven border crossings from East to West Berlin. A statement by the GDR Interior Ministry says this is "in the interests of regulated border traffic". more
    • 1961

      9 December

    • 1961

      9 December

      At a meeting in Paris, West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer tries to persuade the French president that it is necessary to enter into negotiations with the Soviet Union. more
    • 1961

      10 December

      Memorial cross for Ingo Krüger at the Berlin Reichstag building, photo 2005
      The 21-year-old Ingo Krüger, who has been separated from his fiancée by the building of the Wall, drowns in the icy cold water of the Spree while trying to escape. Seven weeks later, an eyewitness who has since fled to West Berlin talks to RIAS about the fatal escape attempt.


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      Ingo Krüger, born on January 31, 1940, drowned in the Berlin border waters on Dec. 11, 1961 while trying to escape
    • 1961

      11 December

      The Jerusalem District Court begins reading out the reasons for the guilty verdict in the trial against the former SS Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann. On 15 December, Eichmann is condemned to death for crimes against the Jewish people, crimes against humanity and war crimes.


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    • 1961

      13 December

      Thousands of GDR citizens who protested against the building of the Wall or have dared an escape attempt have been under arrest since 13 August 1961. The GDR prisons have rarely been so full. Ever for the GDR State Security there are too many prisoners. more
    • 1961

      14 December

      The war of loudspeakers at the Berlin Wall goes on for several years: a loudspeaker vehicle of the GDR border police in action, photo May 1962
      The war of propaganda at the Wall takes on a new quality. On the eastern side, a "noise offensive" (RIAS) is launched against West Berlin. more
    • 1961

      15 December

      In the final communiqué from the conference of the NATO Council of Ministers, the ministers reaffirm their determination "to protect and defend the liberty of West Berlin and to guarantee its people the conditions for a life in freedom and prosperity." more
    • 1961

      17 December

      "Light at the wall" action - Christmas 1961 at the Brandenburg Gate
      In West Berlin, candles are lit on more than 1,000 Christmas trees along the Wall in the inner city area in the late afternoon. The action "Light at the Wall" is intended to demonstrate the solidarity between all Germans during the Christmas period. more
    • 1961

      22 December

      The American President John F. Kennedy and British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan meet in Bermuda. They agree to undertake steps to renew diplomatic contacts with the Soviet Union in order to "ascertain whether a reasonable basis for negotiation can be found" for negotiations on Berlin.
    • 1961

      31 December

      Heinrich Krone, the chair of the CDU/CSU parliamentary party up to September 1961 and since November Minister for Special Affairs, notes in his diary: "A divided Germany is here to stay. For a long time. The West has resigned itself to a Germany that is divided. more
    • December 1961

      In December 1961, 2,420 refugees from the GDR are registered in West Berlin and West Germany.
    • December 1961

      "The reinforcement of the eastern border barriers along the remaining parts of the sector and zone border was continued by the excavation of communication trenches, the construction of bunkers and the clearing of 'security strips', as well as the erection of observation towers," the West Berlin police write in their monthly report on developments at the sector and zone border in December. Progress report by the West Berlin police for the month of December 1961 (in German)