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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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    • 1 August

      1961

      The head commentator on GDR television, Karl-Eduard von Schnitzler, describes West Berlin as a "construct" "in which dozens of organisations try nothing but (...) to create unrest, sow mistrust against the government and (...) to prevent improvements to life by all evil means at their disposal."
    • 1 August

      1961

      As of 1 August, the commander of American troops in Europe, General Bruce C. Clarke, tightens the regulations regarding free time and holidays for the US soldiers stationed in Germany. General Clarke: "If we have to go to war one fine morning, we can’t be ringing up every guesthouse in Germany because of our soldiers." [Quoted from Catudal 1981, p. 220]
    • 1 August

      1961

      In a telephone discussion lasting over two hours, the Soviet party and state leader Nikita Khrushchev and the Chairman of the GDR State Council, Walter Ulbricht, talk about the economic situation in the GDR. The “sealing of the border” is, however, also discussed. Transcription of a discussion between Comrade N. S. Khrushchev and Comrade Walter Ulbricht, 1 August 1961 (in German)
    • 2 August

      1961

      In the period from 2.8.1961, 8 a.m., to 3.8.1961, 8 a.m., 1,322 refugees are registered in the Marienfelde refugee centre in Berlin.
    • 2 August

      1961

      The People’s Police launches a campaign against "cross-border commuters" (German: "Grenzgänger"): it takes away identity cards from commuters in areas near the border, tightens controls at border railway stations, forces commuters to get off trains and puts them under temporary arrest.
    • 3 August

      1961

      In the period from 3.8.1961, 8 a.m., to 4.8.1961, 8 a.m., 1,100 refugees are registered in the Marienfelde refugee centre in Berlin.
    • 3 August

      1961

      The three Western city commanders protest to the Soviet city commander about the measures taken by the East Berlin City Council to make it more difficult for East Berliners and GDR citizens ("cross-border commuters"; German: "Grenzgänger") with jobs in West Berlin to get to their workplaces. They say the measures violate the right to full freedom of movement in Berlin, contradict agreements to this effect and are to be considered as "absolutely reprehensible" in human terms.
    • 3 August

      1961

      The Soviet Union sends the West German government a memorandum on the issue of a peace treaty with Germany and the normalisation of the situation in West Berlin. The document is a response to the memorandum of the West German government from 12 July 1961. The memorandum says that, if the West German government refuses to take part in a peace treaty by the end of 1961, it will lose what may be the last chance to take a decisive step towards re-establishing German unity.
    • 3 August

      1961

      In Moscow, a three-day summit of the Warsaw Pact states begins (3 to 5 August 1961). In the official communiqué, the participants declare their determination to conclude a peace treaty either with both German states or just with the GDR. more
    • 4 August

      1961

      In the period from 4.8.1961, 8.00 a.m., to 5.8.1961, 8 a.m., 1,155 refugees are registered in the Marienfeld refugee centre in Berlin.
    • 4 August

      1961

      The East Berlin City Council orders the registration of all East Berlin residents who work in West Berlin. These so-called "cross-border commuters" [German: Grenzgänger] are to pay, retrospectively to August 1, rent, rates for electricity, water and gas, and public fees in West German marks. People who refuse to comply are punished by imprisonment and fines according to the economic crime statutes.
    • 5 August

      1961

      In the period from 5.8.1961, 8.00 a.m., to 6.8.1961, 8 a.m., 1,283 refugees are registered in the Marienfelde refugee centre in Berlin.
    • 5 August

      1961

      From 5 to 7 August, the foreign ministers of the three Western Powers meet in Paris and discuss their Berlin policy, partly in the presence of the German foreign minister, Heinrich von Brentano. The aim is to come up with a joint reaction to the Soviet threats, but the four ministers cannot agree on anything going beyond "The Three Essentials". more
    • 6 August

      1961

      In an interview on German television, the West German minister for All-German Affairs, Ernst Lemmer, describes as a lie the accusation by the GDR that the West German government is involved in human trafficking. Lemmer says that a regime that cannot keep its people in their native country has failed dismally. more
    • 6 August

      1961

      After Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin’s space flight on 12 April 1961, the second Soviet cosmic spaceship "Vostok 2" is launched into orbit around the earth at 9.00 a.m. Moscow time. Cosmonaut Major Gherman Stepanovich Titov orbits the globe seventeen times, covering more than 700,000 km by the time he lands on 7 August. more
    • 7 August

      1961

      Over the weekend of 6/7 August, the Marienfelde refugee centre registers 3,268 refugees.
    • 7 August

      1961

      In the morning, Ulbricht reports to the SED Politburo on the results of the Warsaw Pact conference in Moscow from 3 to 5 August in an extraordinary meeting. The SED Politburo sets the date of the closure of the border for the 12/13 August. more
    • 7 August

      1961

      Colonel Ernest von Pawel, the head of the US military mission in Potsdam, reports to the US headquarters in Heidelberg that the National People’s Army has mobilised four divisions.
    • 7 August

      1961

      In a radio and television address, Nikita Khrushchev reacts to John F. Kennedy’s speech of 25 July 1961 with a sabre-rattling speech. "If the leaders of the USA are aware what a war involving thermo-nuclear weapons means, why are they making the atmosphere so white-hot in the way President Kennedy did in his speech?", Khrushchev asks rhetorically. It was obvious, he says, "that a third world war, if it were to break out, would not remain limited to a duel between the two superpowers, the Soviet Union and the United States of America. more
    • 8 August

      1961

      In the period from 8.8.1961, 8 a.m. to 9.8.1961, 8 a.m., 1,741 refugees are registered at the Marienfelde reception centre in Berlin.
    • 8 August

      1961

      From 10 a.m. to 2.30 p.m., the SED Politburo gathers in East Berlin for its regular Tuesday meeting. The economy of the GDR, it resolves, "has to become independent of West German deliveries by the end of 1961". Moreover, because there is a danger that the NATO could decide on a trade embargo against the GDR if a peace treaty were signed with the GDR, the question of "how to render ineffective the embargo of NATO assisted by the capitalists" should be investigated.
    • 8 August

      1961

      According to "Spiegel" magazine, both the West German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) and the Allied secret services are reporting to their governments that there are large movements of troops by road and rail in the GDR; two days later, the BND warns the West German government: measures to stem the flow of refugees are to be expected soon in Berlin (Spiegel 34/66; Zolling/Bahnsen 1967, p. 120). more
    • 8 August

      1961

      Following the meeting of foreign ministers in Paris, the Permanent Council of NATO stresses its determination, as already set out in the declaration of 16 December 1958 and reiterated in the final communiqué of 10 May 1961, "to preserve the freedom of West Berlin and its people". Final communiqué of the meeting of the NATO Council of Ministers in Oslo, 8-10 May 1961 (in German)
    • 8 August

      1961

      The American Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, who announces the willingness of the United States to fly six more divisions to Europe "if the Soviets were to provoke a serious war crisis", asks the members of NATO’s Permanent Council what they are prepared to do to strengthen the alliance. more
    • 8 August

      1961

      In the evening, French President Charles de Gaulle receives the American Secretary of State Dean Rusk. The different standpoints on negotiations with the Soviets on Berlin clash sharply with one another. more
    • 9 August

      1961

      In the period from 9.8.1961, 8 a.m. to 10.8.1961, 8 a.m., 1,926 refugees are registered at the Marienfelde refugee centre in Berlin.
    • 9 August

      1961

      The People’s Police and transport police step up their controls in suburban trains and underground trams to West Berlin and arrest numerous people suspected of wanting to flee. Statement by Gerhard Diekmann, refugee, 25 years old, unmarried, worker in a GDR state-owned company, 14 August 1961 (in German)
    • 9 August

      1961

      In strict secrecy, preparations begin at the highest level for the deployment of armed forces on 13 August. more
    • 9 August

      1961

      The newspaper "Neues Deutschland" publishes the "first regulation on the implementation of the city council decision of 4 August 1961 on payments in democratic Berlin by people who have work in West Berlin". more
    • 9 August

      1961

      In Paris, US Secretary of State Dean Rusk and other members of the American negotiating delegation report to the ambassadors of the United States in European countries on the results of the meeting of foreign ministers and the stance of the US government on the Berlin issue. more
    • 9 August

      1961

      Moscow: Colonel Oleg Penkovsky, an officer in the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Soviet military secret service (GRU) in the general staff of the Soviet army, who also works as a spy for the American and British secret services, receives information on the imminent "establishment of border controls" in Berlin, as Khrushchev puts it. more
    • 9 August

      1961

      West Berlin: the (US) "Berlin Watch Committee", the coordinating committee of the American secret services working in Berlin, discusses possible measures to which the GDR might resort to stop the stream of refugees. more
    • 10 August

      1961

      In the period from 10.8.1961, 8 a.m. to 11.8.1961, 8 a.m., 1,709 refugees are registered in the Marienfelde refugee centre in Berlin.
    • 10 August

      1961

      In East Berlin, Walter Ulbricht receives the Marshal of the Soviet Union, I. S. Konev. In this way, the news becomes public that Konev - instead of Colonel-General I. I. Jacubovski - has been appointed the new supreme commander of the Group of Soviet Forces in the GDR. Konev is an experienced general from the Second World War and was involved in the conquest of Prague and Berlin.
    • 10 August

      1961

      Walter Ulbricht gives a speech to the employees of the Oberspree cable factory. He uses it to describe how West Germany is carrying out a campaign of revenge against the GDR, Poland, the CSSR and the Soviet Union on a scale that could be compared only with the warmongering of Goebbels and Hitler’s psychological preparations for war. more
    • 10 August

      1961

      At around 4.30 p.m., Marshal Konev gives a reception for the representatives of the Allied military missions in the headquarters of the Soviet Armed Forces in Wünsdorf near Zossen. more
    • 10 August

      1961

      In the evening, the parliamentary advisory committee of the Volkskammer (People's Parliament) meets to discuss the Volkskammer resolution scheduled for the next day. more
    • 10 August

      1961

      At a press conference in Washington, the American president, John Kennedy, voices his concern about the growing stream of refugees from the GDR, but does not insist on the right to freedom of movement in all of Berlin. more
    • 11 August

      1961

      In the period from 11.8.1961, 8 a.m. to 12.8.1961, 8 a.m., 1,532 refugees are registered in the Marienfelde refugee centre in Berlin.
    • 11 August

      1961

      A sitting of the GDR Volkskammer: the acting chairman of the Council of Ministers, Willi Stoph, explains that the Council considers "it necessary to continue to implement appropriate measures to combat human trafficking, headhunting and sabotage in order to ensure the state order and maintain the planned establishment of socialism and the protection of the peaceful work and life of our citizens in the GDR and especially in its capital." more
    • 11 August

      1961

      At 6 p.m., the Minister for State Security, Erich Mielke, informs the enlarged leadership group at the Ministry about the planned "measure" at a briefing. It is given the code name "Action Rose". more
    • 12 August

      1961

      In the period from 12.8.1961, 8 a.m. to 13.8.1961, 8 a.m., around 2,400 refugees are registered in the Marienfelde refugee centre in Berlin.
    • 12 August

      1961

      In a telegram to the US embassy in Bonn, the American Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, voices his concern about the possibility of a rebellion in the GDR: a new "17 June". more
    • 12 August

      1961

      In West Germany, this weekend marks the start of the final phase of the election campaign for the Bundestag elections. The SPD has named Willy Brandt as its candidate for chancellor against Konrad Adenauer. more
    • 12 August

      1961

      In the afternoon, under strict surveillance, printing houses in East Berlin already print leaflets with the resolution, which has not yet formally been taken, of the Council of Ministers as approved by the SED Politburo.
    • 12 August

      1961

      Walter Ulbricht, as Chairman of the Council of State, Chairman of the National Council of Defence and Party leader, has invited the members of the Council of Ministers and the Council of State to the guest house of the Council of Ministers on Lake Dölln, some 80 kilometres from Berlin, for a "gathering" at 4 p.m.. more
    • 12 August

      1961

    • 12 August

      1961

      It is not until 2001 that it becomes known what the West German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) reported on this day. As the "Spiegel" reported on 6.8.2001, the following information arrived at the BND headquarters in Pullach from East Berlin: "On 11.8.1961, a conference of the Party Secretaries of the partisan publishing houses and other party officials took place in the Central Committee of the SED. Here, among other things, it was announced that: more
    • 13 August

      1961

      Torn-up street at the Brandenburg Gate, 13 August 1961
      People’s Police seal off the borders to the Soviet sector. From the early morning, streets in the middle of Berlin are ripped up, pieces of asphalt and paving stones are piled up to form barricades, concrete posts are driven into the ground and barbed-wire barriers are erected. more
    • 13 August

      1961

      People’s Police officer and West Berliners at the barbed wire, 13 August 1961
      The Ruling Mayor of Berlin, Willy Brandt, inspects the measures taken to seal off the border. At 9.15 a.m., Brandt chairs a special sitting of the West Berlin Senate. At the same time, the western city commanders have met in the Allied city command centre in the Berlin district of Dahlem. At the special sitting of the Senate, which is attended by the chief of police as well, the Senator for Internal Affairs, Joachim Lipschitz, gives a progress report. more
    • 13 August

      1961

      Tanks as a second line of security to prevent East Berliners breaking through to the sector border, 13 August 1961
      Despite the sealing-off operation, from Saturday midday to Sunday afternoon, 4 p.m., 800 refugees still register in West Berlin.
    • 13 August

      1961

      Barbed-wire barrier on Bernauer Strasse: People’s Police keep East Berliners in check, 13 August 1961
      The "Journal der Handlung" ("Journal of the Operation"), a logbook on the operation kept by the East Berlin People’s Police, describes in minute detail the resistance, the rage and the despair of people, particularly in the eastern part of the city, and records the protests ("provocations") in the western part. Berlin People’s Police headquarters – Journal der Handlung, 13 August 1961 (in German)
    • 13 August

      1961

      In Bonn, West German Chancellor has been kept abreast of the sealing-off operation in Berlin since the early morning. After meeting with State Secretary Hans Globke and the Chairman of the CDU parliamentary group, Heinrich Krone, the Chancellor makes his first statement on the situation to a RIAS radio reporter in the late afternoon. more
    • 13 August

      1961

      In the evening in Washington, US Secretary of State Dean Rusk issues a statement made in consultation with President Kennedy. The main sentence is: "Present reports indicate that the measures undertaken so far are directed against the residents of East Berlin and East Germany and not against the Allied position in West Berlin or the access routes to West Berlin." more
    • 14 August

      1961

      Not all East Berliners accept this treatment meekly: a so-called provocateur is led off.
      Around 15,000 armed personnel from the People’s Police, border police and combat troops are deployed at the sector border in the morning; in the background, some 7,000 soldiers from the National People’s Army are in readiness as a second line of security and large units from the Soviet army as a third line. more
    • 14 August

      1961

      In the morning, the SED Politburo comes together for an extraordinary meeting and decides on the next steps in the sealing-off operation. Because of the "demonstrations and continual provocations" at the Brandenburg Gate, the border crossing there is to be "temporarily" closed to West Berliners. At 2 p.m., the chief of the East Berlin People’s Police gives the order to this effect. more
    • 14 August

      1961

      In protest against the arbitrary measures introduced in the East, work and traffic in West Berlin come to a standstill from 2 p.m. to 2.15 p.m. at the initiative of the German Confederation of Trade Unions (DGB).
    • 14 August

      1961

      In East Berlin and the GDR, the factories remain fairly calm; according to a report by the Free German Trade Union Federation (FDGB), there are 36 walkouts altogether in the 3rd quarter of 1961. Thirty-six walkouts in the IIIrd quarter of 1961 listed according to factories, districts and unions, 14 August 1961 (in German)
    • 14 August

      1961

      In Bonn, Foreign Minister Heinrich von Brentano receives the ambassadors of the three Western Powers at 10 a.m.. They are waiting for decisions from their government headquarters. During the day, the foreign minister receives a telegram from Willy Brandt, calling on the West German government to take the initiative. more
    • 14 August

      1961

      At a meeting with the Western city commanders, the Mayor of Berlin, Franz Amrehn, expresses his disappointment that no Western countermeasures were noticeable. more
    • 14 August

      1961

      In the evening, West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer opens the final phase of the Bundestag election campaign in Regensburg, launching sharp personal attacks on Willy Brandt; he alludes to the latter’s change of name in discriminatory fashion by calling him "Mr Brandt alias Frahm". more
    • 14 August

      1961

      In Washington, President Kennedy and his administration, including the State Department and the Pentagon, are busying themselves with the events in Berlin. Kennedy’s national security adviser, McGeorge Bundy, states soberly that this "border-closure episode" had to happen sooner or later. more
    • 14 August

      1961

      In Paris, the Allied supreme commander, General Lauris Norstad, has called a special meeting of the NATO council. Gebhard von Walter, then permanent representative of West Germany at NATO, remembers: "No decision was taken. The members of the NATO council reacted in a fairly reserved way and not really in a manner to inspire confidence. But Norstad reserved the right to make suggestions to President Kennedy. more
    • 14 August

      1961

      In a television interview, the French foreign minister, Couve de Murville, says: "What the East German authorities – that is, in reality the Soviet Union – have decided with regard to the connections between East and West Berlin is certainly very serious."
    • 14 August

      1961

      On Sunday, the British Foreign Office in London refused to make any comment and did not want to confirm that the East German action was a serious violation of existing Allied agreements. But today, a Foreign Office spokesman describes the obstruction of traffic between West and East Berlin as illegal. He says it goes against the Four Power status of the city. more
    • 14 August

      1961

      In an open letter, the author Günter Grass calls on the chairwoman of the GDR Writers’ Association, Anna Seghers, to raise her voice and speak out "against the tanks, against the same barbed wire, produced again and again in Germany, that once gave the concentration camps barbed-wire security." Open letter from Günter Grass to Anna Seghers, 14 August 1961 (in German)
    • 14 August

      1961

      Press comments in the West

      Die Welt: "It was early on Sunday morning. A West German radio station broadcast the first reports on the new closing-off measures introduced by the Ulbricht regime in the heart of Berlin; announced that the only remaining escape route from the 'German Workers’ and Peasants’ State’, which tens of thousands had used in the past few weeks, had been blocked off by armed force. We were still sitting, numbed and shocked, in front of our loudspeakers, when the announcer continued: 'And now we have our popular programme: 'Lively Tunes on the Weekend’. Modern hits and older ones followed, foxtrot, Charleston and cha-cha-cha. (…) For just one day, one tiny day, we would have liked a respite from light music in view of the German tragedy now taking place in Berlin." more
    • 14 August

      1961

      GDR press

      The commentator in "Neues Deutschland" hails the "clear situation": "Since dawn on Sunday, there is order and a clear situation on the borders of the German Democratic Republic, especially on the border to the western sectors of Berlin. (…) Children are now protected from child-stealers; families are protected from the blackmailing snoopers of the human trafficking headquarters; businesses are protected from the head-hunters; people are protected from the monsters, order from the violators of order, the industrious from the indolent and speculators, the calm and security of our citizens from the Cold War exponents." more
    • 15 August

      1961

      The 19-year-old GDR policeman Conrad Schumann flees to West Berlin over the barbed-wire entanglement at the sector border at the corner of Bernauer Strasse and Ruppiner Strasse.
      "Leap into freedom", Bernauer Strasse/Berlin, 15 August 1961: The escape of border policeman Conrad Schumann
      Account given by GDR riot squad policeman Conrad Schumann of his flight to West Berlin on 15 August 1961, 16 August 1961 (in German)
    • 15 August

      1961

      A demonstration of "state power". Deployment of troops and water cannon in front of the Brandenburg Gate. At the Invalidenstrasse border crossing (Sandkrug Bridge) and several other central road border crossings, pioneer units of the People's Police place cement slabs (1.20 x 1.40 m) like those used in house building over the entire width of the street as a barricade.

      At 8 a.m., the "Top Alarm Level" is given for the entire West Berlin police force and riot squad "Top Alarm Level" means non-stop around-the-clock duty for all officers; rest breaks are organised within the individual task forces.
    • 15 August

      1961

      In the "Journal der Handlung" ("Journal of Events"), the East Berlin People's Police (Volkspolizei) record the reactions of East and West Berliners to the closing of the border. Protests in the western part of the city and resistance and escape attempts in the eastern part are all noted. The records show that information about escapes is provided to the People's Police by West Berliners as well. Berlin People's Police headquarters - Information Dept. - Journal der Handlung, 15 August 1961 (in German)
    • 15 August

      1961

      The SED Politburo meets from 10 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. and decides: "1. The measures to temporarily secure the borders to West Berlin have been largely completed. It is now necessary to work out a plan for the further extension of border security in a second stage. Those tasked with this plan are: Comrade Maron, Comrade Honecker, Comrade Hoffmann. 2. Drafting of an exact plan for the transition to a regular system of border security. This plan is to be drafted by Comrades Seifert, Beater and Riedel by Monday, 21.8.1961." MINUTES NO. 44/61 of the meeting of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the SED on Tuesday in the chamber of the Politburo, 15 August 1961 (in German)
    • 15 August

      1961

      Special meeting of the West German cabinet in Bonn: countermeasures are discussed. But after the meeting, the government spokesman announces that the West German government "will not do anything that could lead to unforeseeable consequences, despite the ongoing provocations." more
    • 15 August

      1961

      On 15 August 1961, at the request of their governments, the American, English and French city commanders protest against the "illegal" sealing-off measures. Allied liaison officers take the statements of protest to the Soviet city commander, Colonel A. I. Soloviev, in the Karlshorst district of Berlin. The letter does not contain the demand to stop the closure and remove the barbed wire. Letter from the Western city commanders of Berlin, Major General Albert Watson II, Brigadier General Jean Lacomme and Major General Sir Rohan Delacombe, to the Soviet commander in Berlin, Colonel Andrei I. Soloviev, 15 August 1961 (in German)
    • 15 August

      1961

      In response to the announcement by West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer at an election rally in Regensburg the previous evening that he was considering pulling out of the inter-zone trade agreement with the GDR as a countermeasure, the GDR Council of Ministers threatens that such a move could endanger the access routes to and from West Berlin: "It is obvious that with such a step, the West German government would also be delivering a blow to West Berlin."
    • 15 August

      1961

      At a press conference, high-ranking officials explain to American journalists - foreign correspondents are excluded - the stance of the Kennedy administration on the closing of the sector border and announce three basic rules for the future negotiating position of the USA: more
    • 15 August

      1961

      In the evening, official Allied spokespeople announce that troop movements of the Soviet Army have been detected around Berlin. They say that Soviet armed forces have been brought up 'to the West Berlin border'. (Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 16.8.1961)
    • 15 August

      1961

      In contrast with widespread fears in the Kennedy administration (see 12.8.1961), American intelligence services present an assessment saying that there is little likelihood of a rebellion by the people of the GDR at the present time. Stability of East Germany in the Berlin crises, 15. August 1961
    • 15 August

      1961

      Western press commentaries

      Under the title "Caught in a Trap", Conrad Ahlers, in the "Frankfurter Rundschau", laments that the West has been caught by surprise. He writes that the fact that Western foreign ministers still have no concept for negotiations with the Soviet Union gave cause for concern. more
    • 16 August

      1961

      As so many people have swum to West Berlin over the Teltow Canal, on this Wednesday People's Police set up searchlights and machine guns there. The same happens at Lake Griebnitz. In the evening, West Berlin police notice that hollow concrete blocks have been deposited behind the wall of concrete slabs put up at the Sandkrug Bridge the day before.
    • 16 August

      1961

      The GDR's Free German Federation of Trade Unions signals its agreement with the sealing-off of the border and the "voluntary" commitment of factory collectives to produce more; however, it says that there are a number of "unclear issues" among the workers: more
    • 16 August

      1961

      In Bonn, West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer receives the Soviet ambassador, Smirnov. According to the official communiqué, the Chancellor assures him "that the West German government is not undertaking any steps that make relations between West Germany and the USSR difficult and worsen the international situation." more
    • 16 August

      1961

      The newspaper "Bild" has the headline: "The East is taking action - what is the West doing? The West is doing nothing! US President remains silent ..., Macmillan goes hunting ... - ... and Adenauer scolds Brandt."
    • 16 August

      1961

      Spokespeople for the Western Allies deny a report saying that Marshal Koniev had already told the Allies on August 10 about the sealing-off operation planned for August 13. (Headline of the "Kurier am Abend", which comes out in the afternoon: "Marshal Koniev had told the Western Powers!" Such rumours, say the spokespeople, are "irresponsible and totally fictional".
    • 16 August

      1961

      From 4 p.m. to 5.15 p.m., there is a demonstration at the Schöneberg Town Hall, attended by around 300,000 people. Public authorities and large businesses such as Siemens, Osram, AEG, Borsig and many others allow their workers to take part; in some cases, the entire workforces of several factories turn up. more
    • 16 August

      1961

      A planned meeting of the NATO Council in Paris is cancelled. A NATO spokesman says that the NATO Council does not want to take the initiative in the Berlin question as it is up to the member states involved – that is, the three Western Powers and West Germany – to make applications that would then have to be approved by the NATO Council. He says, however, that Berlin is not part of NATO’s area.
    • 16 August

      1961

      The "Fachvereinigung Draht", West Germany’s main trade association of wire manufacturers, says that no barbed wire has been delivered to East Germany from West Germany as part of inter-zonal trade in the past five years. In confirmation of this, the Federal Statistics Office says that no approvals for deliveries of barbed wire to the GDR have been granted for years. It says barbed wire has only been delivered twice in the past twelve years: at the end of 1955 and the beginning of 1956. The two shipments, it says, made up 30 tonnes worth altogether 24,000 marks. (Industriekurier, 17.8.1961)
    • 16 August

      1961

      The German Confederation of Trade Unions calls on the West Berliners to boycott the suburban train system. Within a week, passenger numbers drop by 80 percent.
    • 16 August

      1961

      The authors Günter Grass and Wolfgang Schnurre write an open letter to the members of the East German Writers’ Association. more
    • 16 August

      1961

      Western press commentaries

      The "Neue Zürcher Zeitung" writes: "So far, Bonn has not given any indications of what kind of reaction there will be to the measures taken by the regime of the Soviet zone in Berlin. (…) From the fanfares that were nonetheless blown on all sides throughout Monday came only words – strong words and even the strongest words of protest, which were doubtless completely appropriate in the face of what happened on Sunday – but only words all the same." more
    • 16 August

      1961

      GDR press

      "Neues Deutschland" notes with satisfaction: "Three days after our justified measures, it has become apparent that they have been understood very well. People everywhere are beginning to understand that the balance of power has to be considered and that it is time to agree to negotiations. (…) The peace-monitoring activities of our security forces on the borders of the GDR thus go towards accelerating negotiations. We banked on this effect, and we therefore welcome it now with all our heart."
    • 17 August

      1961

      A gang of bricklayers puts two rows of hollow blocks on top of the Wall on Sandkrug Bridge (Invalidenstrasse border crossing) to make it higher; it is now 1.70 metres high. At the Brandenburg Gate and in the surrounding area, additional barricades of cement blocks and barbed wire are set up. Houses on Harzer Strasse (Treptow) with exits facing West Berlin are walled or nailed up. Staff headquarters of the Berlin People’s Police – Information Department – "Journal der Handlung", 17 August 1961 (in German)
    • 17 August

      1961

      Once again, several People’s Police flee to West Berlin. They tell RIAS about the alert they received on the night between 12-13 August, and their impressions and feelings while on duty at the border in recent days.
    • 17 August

      1961

      The British ambassador in West Germany, Christopher Steel, states in Berlin: "Whatever happens in East Berlin, we’ll stick by West Berlin." – British troops set up iron posts around the Soviet memorial in their sector in Strasse des 17. Juni and then fence it off with barbed wire. more
    • 17 August

      1961

      The Protestant Church in Germany writes identical telegrams to Walter Ulbricht and the East Berlin mayor Friedrich Ebert, requesting them "to meet the elementary human needs and rights of members of one and the same people by liberally granting passes, travel approval and residency permits, and to remove the separation of one half of Germany from the other. We believe that fulfilling this request of ours will help people to live in peace with one another."
    • 17 August

      1961

      The author Stephan Hermlin responds to the open letter from Günter Grass and Wolfdietrich Schnurre and defends the barbed wire and tanks. more
    • 17 August

      1961

      The worker who had dared to interrupt Walter Ulbricht’s speech in the Oberspree cable factory on 10 August 1961 and demand free elections speaks to RIAS about his experiences during the meeting and the personal consequences of his interjections. The 33-year-old metalworker Kurt Wismach fled to West Berlin in the night of 13 August 1961.
    • 17 August

      1961

      In Moscow, the three Western Powers submit protest notes objecting to the sealing-off measures in Berlin. They describe the restriction of freedom of movement in Berlin as a "flagrant and particularly serious violation of the Four-Power status of the city and consider the measures to be "illegal".

      They say the sealing-off of East Berlin would go towards increasing the existing tensions and dangers. In conclusion, the notes say, the three governments were expecting the Soviet government to put "an end to these illegal measures". Attentive observers remark that the notes do not contain a direct demand to rescind the GDR’s actions. Note from the governments of France, Great Britain and the United States to the USSR government, 17 August 1961 (in German) weniger anzeigen
    • 17 August

      1961

      Paris: After a meeting of the French Defence Council chaired by President Charles de Gaulle, it is announced that decisions have been taken to reinforce both infantry forces and the air force both in Germany and on French territory.
    • 17 August

      1961

      Press comments – West

      Under the headline "Disappointment among the people of Berlin", the "Neue Zürcher Zeitung" reports on the mood in West and East Berlin: "In West Berlin, especially in the industrial plants in the districts of Neukölln, Wedding and Reinickendorf, the absence of counter-measures by the Western Powers and West Germany against the annexation of East Berlin is causing growing bitterness. more
    • 17 August

      1961

      GDR press

      Commentary in "Neues Deutschland": "Since Sunday, posts have marked the border in Berlin. These posts protect the people of the GDR, because these posts offer the people of the GDR the best protection from the West German militarists. (…) The security measures around Berlin without a doubt represent a considerable strengthening of the GDR."
    • 18 August

      1961

      Potsdam Square is walled off overnight. At 1.25 a.m., six crane trucks unload cement slabs in Potsdam Square, the kind that until now have only been set up at border crossings as solid barriers. more
    • 18 August

      1961

      In the "Journal der Handlung", the East Berlin People's Police keeps a meticulous record of the resistance and escape attempts by people in the eastern part of the city and notes the protests in the western part. Staff headquarters of the People’s Police – Information Department – Journal der Handlung, 18 August 1961 (in German)
    • 18 August

      1961

      To the moral indignation of the border police and People’s Police, the SED’s Berlin district administration comes up with an "operative plan" that envisages the sending of authors and artists to the border. Operative plan for a cultural programme for the forces of the National People’s Army deployed to secure the capital, 18 August 1961 (in German)
    • 18 August

      1961

      Leaflet written by Reichsbahn director Otto Arndt
      The West Berliners continue their boycott of the metropolitan train service, supported by the German Confederation of Trade Unions. Demonstrators stand at numerous train stations, carrying protest posters with slogans such as: "Not a pfennig more for Ulbricht! Stop the East controlling our trains! The train driver pays for the barbed wire!" – more
    • 18 August

      1961

      In a radio and television address, Walter Ulbricht defends the sealing-off measures of 13 August, citing what he calls indications of an open attack, civil war and military provocations by West Germany against the GDR. more
    • 18 August

      1961

      Title page of the newspaper Das Parlament of 23 August 1961
      Bonn: At a special session of the Bundestag, West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer delivers a governmental statement in which he denounces the sealing-off measures as a brutal violation of human rights and the Four-Power status of Berlin. The ruling mayor of Berlin, Willy Brandt, calls for a Western initiative to take the violation of human rights in Berlin to the United Nations. more
    • 18 August

      1961

      East Berlin: The Soviet city commander in Berlin, Colonel A. J. Soloviev, answers the written protests of the three Western city commanders of 15.8.1961, rejecting them as a "completely inappropriate" intervention in affairs of the GDR government. Letter from the Soviet city commander of Berlin to the Western city commanders, 18 August 1961 (in German)
    • 18 August

      1961

      Moscow: The Soviet Union responds to the submission on 17 August 1961 of the Western notes of protest against the sealing-off measures in Berlin with three identical notes. They state that the Soviet government "entirely" supports the steps taken by GDR government. more
    • 18 August

      1961

      London: A spokesman for the British Defence Ministry announces that, in view of the Berlin crisis, Great Britain has decided to reinforce its armed forces in Germany by sending an additional division – about 12,500 men.
    • 18 August

      1961

      Washington: The Press Secretary of the White House, Pierre Salinger, announces that Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, as representative of the US president, will be travelling to Germany today – accompanied by General Lucius D. Clay, the US military commander for Germany and the hero of the Berlin Airlift of 1948/49. more
    • 18 August

      1961

      Western press comments

      In his commentary piece, "Action Boomerang" in the "Deutsche Zeitung", Johannes Gross singles out Willy Brandt for particular criticism: "Willy Brandt himself said several times that protests were not enough and called for decisive action. What should be done is something he did not say – to this day, he has not made any suggestion. more
    • 19 August

      1961

      Together with some other people, the 47-year-old driver Rudolf Urban lowers himself down on a rope from his apartment in the eastern part of Berlin on Bernauer Strasse onto the pavement in the West, takes a fall and suffers a multiple fracture of the lower leg. On 17 September 1961 he dies in hospital as a result of the accident. Staff headquarters of the Berlin People’s Police – Information Department – Journal der Handlung, 19 August 1961 (in German)
    • 19 August

      1961

      From West Berlin police reports: "The border barricades in the SOS and SOZ were extended further. – From 18.8.1961, 11.15 p.m., to 19.8.1961, 5.30 a.m., cement walls were built between Potsdam Square and Hindenburg Square and between Clara Zetkin Strasse (Dorotheen Strasse) and Reichstagsufer in the Soviet Occupied Zone (SOZ). Members of the People’s Police began adding barbed wire to the walls at around 10 p.m.. – In N4 and N 58, all exits to the Western sector and the cellar windows of houses situated directly on the sector border have been walled or nailed up. Passengers say that the northern exit of the Bernauer Strasse underground train station has also been walled up."
    • 19 August

      1961

      London: A Defence Ministry spokesman announces that Great Britain will send 16 tanks and 18 armoured trucks to reinforce the British garrison in Berlin. – The British prime minister, Harold Mcmillan, who seems to be enjoying a carefree holiday in Scotland, is in favour of negotiations with the Soviet Union, opposes counter-measures in general, and sees his country’s own little military gesture in an ironic light. more
    • 19 August

      1961

      West Berlin: In the afternoon, following talks with Konrad Adenauer in Bonn, the American vice president Lyndon B. Johnson, accompanied by General Lucius D. Clay, arrives in West Berlin. The two men are greeted by hundreds of thousands of people. In a speech, Johnson stresses the American guarantee for West Berlin: more
    • 20 August

      1961

      The sealing-off measures are continued; the construction of a wall running through the middle of Berlin progresses further, and escape becomes more and more difficult. In the evening, an "aimed shot" ("Zielschuß") is fired at an escapee at the Wilhelmsruh train station. Staff headquarters of the Berlin People’s Police – Information Department – Journal der Handlung, 20 August 1961 (in German)
    • 20 August

      1961

      From West Berlin police reports: "In the night from 20 to 21.8.1961, 150 members of Free German Youth (FDJ) began putting up a second fence at a distance of three metres from the zone border in Staaken (SOZ) along Nennhauser Damm and Finkenkruger Weg. While nine layers of barbed wire have already been set up from Brunsbütteler Damm to the Staaken railway station, there are only cement posts erected on the rest of the section to Finkenkruger Weg. Four armoured personnel carriers have been deployed to protect the workers." – Four members of the People’s Police registered as refugees in West Berlin. At 12 midnight, the "highest alarm level" of the West Berlin police is ended after altogether six days.
    • 20 August

      1961

      West Berlin: Second day of the visit by US Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson. Six motorised convoys of the US army with troop reinforcements, some 1,500 men, arrive in the city. In the afternoon, four convoys set off on a lap around the city; they are met with frenetic cheering from several hundred thousand people on their route.
    • 20 August

      1961

      Western press comments

      In the "Süddeutsche Zeitung", Hermann Proebst accuses West German politicians of holding on to illusions for too long ("Woe to Those Who Deceive Themselves"): more
    • 21 August

      1961

      Following the walling-up of entrances and cellar and apartment windows belonging to houses situated directly on the border to West Berlin, the first forced evacuations from apartments begin. Residents are compelled to pack their furniture and load it into removal vans. Staff headquarters of the Berlin People’s Police – Information Department – Journal der Handlung, 21 August 1961 (in German)
    • 21 August

      1961

      From West Berlin police reports: On 21.8.1961, at around 1 p.m., four British tanks, each with an infantry platoon, deployed on the zone border near Staaken between the bases B 4 and B 6 at a distance of between 60 and 500 metres from the border. This measure was taken because border fortification operations were carried out in the SOZ under the protection of five armoured reconnaissance vehicles. more
    • 22 August

      1961

      Death during an escape attempt: At around 7 a.m., the 58-year-old Ida Siekmann, having thrown some of her personal belongings down on to the street, jumps from a window of her third-storey apartment in Bernauer Strasse and is killed.
    • 22 August

      1961

      The entrance to the Versöhnungskirche (Church of Reconciliation) in Bernauer Strasse is walled up. It is one of the churches whose services had been attended up to then by both East and West Berliners. Staff headquarters of the Berlin People’s Police – Information Department – Journal der Handlung, 22 August 1961 (in German)
    • 22 August

      1961

      SED Politburo: At 10 a.m., the Politburo assembles for a meeting lasting more than ten hours. It confirms the measures limiting opportunities for West Berliners to visit, which the Interior Ministry will announce in the course of the day (see below). more
    • 22 August

      1961

      East Berlin: The GDR interior ministry issues three announcements. As of 23.8.1961, 1.00 a.m, West Berliners are only allowed to enter the eastern sector with valid residency permits, which are to be issued in two branches of the German travel agency (of the GDR) in West Berlin (in the Zoo and Westkreuz train stations). more
    • 22 August

      1961

      The Kennedy administration sees restricting the freedom of movement of members of the Allied powers to only one checkpoint as "serious". more
    • 22 August

      1961

      West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer visits West Berlin. On Bernauer Strasse, in Potsdam Square and at the Brandenburg Gate, he informs himself about the sealing-off measures and takes part in a Senate meeting. The fact that he has not put in an appearance in Berlin until nine days after the border was closed off draws harsh criticism; but the Allies, it would seem, have "advised against" an earlier visit. more
    • 22 August

      1961

      Boycott of the suburban train service: In the evening, a crowd of 500 people clashes with train passengers in the hall of Bahnhof Zoo. They shower abuse on the passengers, block their way or even take away their tickets. A police task force has to intervene to restore order.
    • 22 August

      1961

      Western press comments

      Under the title "Recognition of the Closure?", the "Westdeutsches Tageblatt" (Dortmund) writes: "Gradually, the development to which the Berlin Crisis of 1961 will probably lead is becoming apparent: de-facto recognition of the hermetic sealing-off of West Berlin from the East to put an end to the stream of refugees. more
    • 22 August

      1961

      GDR press

      Under the headline "The New Situation", the paper "Neues Deutschland" writes: "They were just wanting to go all out in this "Zone" to avert the peace treaty and to keep the way open for a war of revenge. They wanted to take their interference to new extremes so they could begin an open attack on the GDR, begin with civil war and military provocations, at the start of autumn. Suddenly they were given a mighty blow on their human-trafficker paws. A worker and peasant state showed its strength and resolve. (…) more
    • 23 August

      1961

      At 11.05 am, a 30-year-old worker who was given the job of placing flower bowls on the Wall at the Brandenburg Gate escapes to the western part of Berlin protected by a truck.
    • 23 August

      1961

      As a response to the ban on approaching the Wall that had been imposed the day before, American, British and French armed forces in all sectors begin patrols along the sector border with tanks and artillery in the afternoon. The movements of the Allies are recorded in great detail by the People’s Police. Staff headquarters of the Berlin People’s Police – Information department – Journal der Handlung, 23 August 1961 (in German)
    • 23 August

      1961

      The East Berlin mayor, Friedrich Ebert, writes to the West Berlin Senate, asking it to "give the German Travel Agency (Editor’s note: of the GDR) the opportunity of setting up two branches in West Berlin for accepting applications to enter democratic Berlin and for issuing permits to the applicants". Such a procedure, he writes, would save the citizens of West Berlin "unnecessary running around". – The letter goes unanswered.
    • 23 August

      1961

      The three Western city commanders condemn the measures announced by the GDR the day before as "illegal". Ruling Mayor Brandt makes it clear that the Senate on the West Berlin side will not tolerate any institutions that carry out orders by GDR authorities. more
    • 23 August

      1961

      The state executive board of the Berlin SPD reacts to the sometimes violent closure of SPD offices in East Berlin by Combat Groups over the previous days, and disbands the eight district organisations of the SPD in East Berlin with immediate effect to protect its followers. The resolution ends with the words: "We thank everyone. We forget no one. We forget nothing."
    • 23 August

      1961

      Under the headline "The Magnificent Spirit of Our Youth Association", "Neues Deutschland" publishes the report of the central council of the FDJ (Free German Youth) to the SED Politburo on the military rallies ("Kampfappelle") that were held on 18 August among the basic units of the FDJ. The immediate task that the SED Politburo sets the FDJ under the slogan "The Fatherland is calling – protect the socialist republic!" is to recruit as many young men aged 18 to 23 as possible for the National People’s Army. more
    • 23 August

      1961

      In the afternoon, the SED Politburo in Stalinallee in East Berlin inspects a military rally of the Berlin "Combat Groups of the Working Class". In a speech, Walter Ulbricht describes the "Bonn methods of preparing aggression" against the GDR using the catchword "right of self-determination" as being identical with those employed by Hitler and Goebbels. more
    • 24 August

      1961

      Günter Litfin: born on Jan. 19, 1937, shot dead in the Berlin border waters on Aug. 24, 1961 while trying to escape (photo: ca. 1960)
      The first would-be escapee is shot dead in Berlin: While attempting to escape to West Berlin via the Humboldt Harbour – which many people have succeeded in doing on previous days – Günter Litfin, a 24-year-old tailor’s apprentice, is killed by an officer of the People’s Police. more
    • 24 August

      1961

      On the West Berlin side, checkpoint tents are set up at the seven border crossings, in which people entering from East Berlin are examined by police or civilian officials from the Senate administration departments. more
    • 24 August

      1961

      From West Berlin police reports: "On 24.8.1961 at around 7.30 p.m., 1 Sov. Jeep with 1 officer and 1 bus with Sov. soldiers entered West Berlin via the sector border crossing Friedrichstrasse/Zimmerstrasse to change guard at the Russian memorial. During their trip through Kreuzberg and Schöneberg they were accompanied by a growing number of mostly young moped, motorbike and car drivers. At the roundabout Yorckstrasse/Bülowstrasse/Goebenstrasse, these latter obstructed the Sov. vehicles. Police radio car patrols were able to drive back persons who were already trying to tip over the jeep and allow the trip to continue."
    • 24 August

      1961

      Suburban train boycott: As a result of the boycott, the number of passengers drops by 90 percent: from 500,000 before 13 August to around 50,000.
    • 24 August

      1961

      Washington: In an analysis of the steps and tactics that are to be expected of the Soviets with regard to Berlin, the CIA concludes that further drastic measures are not likely in the immediate future and that Khrushchev will probably wait and see what effect the measures of August 13 have, while sticking to his objective of either forcing concessions from the West in negotiations or unilaterally signing a peace treaty with the GDR. Secret Sovjet Tactics in the Berlin crises - Special National Intelligence Estimate Number 11-10-6, 24. August 1961
    • 24 August

      1961

      In the Allied commandant’s office, an order is prepared – in agreement with the Senate – that is issued the next day (BKO of 25.8.1961): the establishment and running of offices in the territory of West Berlin for issuing permits for citizens of West Berlin to enter the Soviet sector is forbidden.
    • 24 August

      1961

      Willy Brandt gives a radio and television address in which he explains the reasons for this decision: "First, the issuing of permits to enter the eastern sector is in itself illegal. But what is much more serious is the attempt to become operative on West Berlin territory by order from the East. more
    • 25 August

      1961

      The barriers between West Berlin and the surrounding area of Brandenburg ("Aussenring") continue to be extended, with the first barbed-wire barricade being reinforced by a second and sometimes even third barbed-wire fence. Houses near the border are evacuated and razed to the ground. The initial contours of a "death strip" take shape – for example, on the zone border in the south of Berlin between Kleinmachnow and Zehlendorf, and in the north near Reinickendorf.
    • 25 August

      1961

      Two sergeants in the East Berlin People’s Police who flee to West Berlin today talk about their deployment on 13 August and the following days – and about the "order to shoot" (Schiessbefehl). more
    • 25 August

      1961

      In the afternoon, a border policeman escapes to Neukölln before the eyes of a RIAS reporter. The reporter interviews the escapee directly after his "jump over the Wall".
    • 25 August

      1961

      Three members of the GDR marine border police manage to escape over the Baltic Sea. While on patrol, they take over a speedboat, travel to the harbour in Travemünde and request political asylum.
    • 25 August

      1961

      The GDR Council of Ministers puts into force a regulation on "sojourn restrictions". It stipulates that a "sojourn restriction" can be imposed "if it is in the common interest to keep people away from certain areas and locations or if public safety and law and order is threatened." more
    • 25 August

      1961

      The Allied command centre in West Berlin issues its order, prepared the previous day, banning the "establishment and running of offices for issuing permits to enter the Soviet sector of Berlin" in the western sectors of the divided city.
    • 25 August

      1961

      West Berlin plainclothes police officers begin to inspect all people coming from the eastern sector. The aim is to prevent "undesirable persons", particularly SED propagandists and agents, from entering West Berlin.
    • 25 August

      1961

      In view of the continuing attacks on GDR-operated rail traffic in West Berlin, the West Berlin tabloid "Nachtdepesche" asks: "Attacks on the Suburban Train Service! Is Pankow to Blame?" more
    • 25 August

      1961

      At a press conference in West Berlin, the German Minister for All-German Affairs, Ernst Lemmer, rejects Soviet attacks on himself and his ministry. Lemmer’s statement is a response to the Soviet note to the US government of 23 August 1961. more
    • 25 August

      1961

      Albert Schweitzer, 11 November 1955
      The central SED newspaper, "Neues Deutschland", publishes a handwritten letter by Albert Schweitzer to SED leader Walter Ulbricht. In it, Schweitzer thanks Ulbricht for a letter congratulating him on being awarded an honorary doctorate by the Charité of the East Berlin Humboldt University. more
    • 25 August

      1961

      In the morning, West German Economics Minister Ludwig Erhard opens the "Radio, Television and Phono Exhibition". In his speech, the minister gives a statement of the government’s position on Berlin. He says that it should become clear in Berlin, across all parties, that all Germans stand up for justice and freedom.
    • 25 August

      1961

      SED leader Walter Ulbricht gives a speech in the sports hall of the Central Club of Youth and Athletes in Stalinallee in East Berlin: "What is the future in Berlin?" more
    • 25 August

      1961

      British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan notes in his diary: "There is actually nothing illegal in the East Germans stopping the flow of refugees and putting themselves behind a still more rigid iron curtain. It certainly is not a very good advertisement for the benefits of Communism – but it is not (I believe) a breach of any of our agreements."
    • 26 August

      1961

      In a report to the CPSU Central Committee about the situation in Berlin, the Soviet Defence Ministry refers to the killing of Günter Litfin two days previously. The report says that, owing to this incident, Soviet representatives in East Berlin have given SED leaders and high-ranking GDR officers instructions "not to allow any actions that could lead to an escalation of the situation". Report of the USSR Ministry of Defence to the CPSU Central Committee, 26 August 1961 (in German)
    • 26 August

      1961

      To prevent further escapes, a barbed-wire net is set up in Gleimstrasse in the north of Berlin as an additional barrier alongside the Wall and barbed-wire fences.
    • 26 August

      1961

      A West German citizen reports on the dejected mood he observed during a visit to the GDR and East Berlin.
    • 26 August

      1961

      A police constable who is an officer trainee at the Police Academy in Halle manages to escape to West Berlin. A few days later, he talks to RIAS about the mood among border police, the implementation of the "order to shoot" and the negative attitude of people in the GDR to the border police.
    • 26 August

      1961

      Despite the ban imposed the previous day by the Allies, permit offices of the GDR Interior Ministry open at 8.00 a.m. at the train stations Zoologischer Garten and Westkreuz belonging to the Deutsche Reichsbahn (GDR state railway). more
    • 26 August

      1961

      In uniform responses, the Western Powers sharply reject the Soviet memorandum of 23 August 1961 as a "barely concealed threat of aggression against Allied air routes to and from Berlin". They add that restrictions on their free access to Berlin by the Soviet government or its East German regime will have "very serious consequences". Reply of the Western powers to the memorandum of the Soviet Union of 23 August 1961 (in German)
    • 26 August

      1961

      The ambassadors of the USA, France and Great Britain send notes of protest to the Soviet ambassador in East Berlin, Mikhail Pervuchin, criticising, among other things, the allocation of only one border crossing to Allied personnel in Berlin ("Checkpoint Charlie") as a violation of Allied agreements. Messages of protest by ambassadors of the Western powers in West Germany to the Soviet ambassador in East Berlin, 26 August 1961 (in German)
    • 26 August

      1961

      In a memorandum to the US government, the GDR protests at the transferral of American troops to West Berlin "by the improper use of GDR transport routes". It states that the "provocative march by the US combat group through the sovereign territory of the GDR" complicated the existing situation. It goes on to say that such provocations could force the GDR "to do everything to rule out any abuse of its territory for purposes endangering peace."
    • 26 August

      1961

      In an address broadcast by RIAS, the West German Minister for All German Affairs, Ernst Lemmer, again vehemently rejects the accusations, contained in the Soviet note of 23 August 1961, that he was the "transport minister for provocateurs, revanchists, extremists, subversive agents and spies of all kinds". He says that the West German government is keeping "the political door open for reunification, despite barbed wire and guard towers. This can only be achieved by guaranteeing the right to self-determination for all Germans." RIAS address by West German minister Ernst Lemmer, 26 August 1961 (in German)
    • 27 August

      1961

      In the GDR, around 20,000 "voluntary helpers" are enlisted to bring in the rain-sodden harvest. The situation in rural areas is not serious only because of the bad weather, however, but mainly owing to forced collectivisation. A farmer from a collective farm (known in the GDR as "Landwirtschaftliche Produktionsgenossenschaften" or "LPGs" [Agricultural Production Cooperatives]), who has fled today (Sunday) to West Berlin, talks a few days later about his former work and the situation in his village.
    • 27 August

      1961

      The West Berlin Senator for Construction, Schwedler, opens the new underground line G. The line runs from Spichernstrasse to Leopoldplatz and is officially put into operation on 28 August. In a RIAS interview, the senator stresses the special importance of the new line after the division of the city.
    • 27 August

      1961

      Western press comments

      The West Berlin newspaper "Der Tag" writes that, although the closure of the offices issuing passes for East Berlin at first appeared unpopular to many West Berliners, the move had been necessary to avoid "a whole network of Soviet-zone offices being established on West Berlin territory, thus by hook or by crook creating conditions for a so-called 'free city'". The "Tagesspiegel" draws attention to the fact that the Senate had already rejected the opening of such offices in West Berlin on 23 August.
    • 27 August

      1961

      Eastern press comments

      On its title page, the central SED organ "Neues Deutschland" focuses on the closure of the pass offices in West Berlin. The headlines run: "Brandt-police forbid visits to democratic Berlin – West Berliners brutally terrorised – Gangs of thugs say: 'Kill everyone who wants to visit the eastern sector!' – West Berliners locked in again by Brandt". more
    • 28 August

      1961

      The chief of the East Berlin People’s Police gives instructions that the order issued by the Interior Minister to keep people back at a distance of 100 metres from the border is to be enforced rigorously: more
    • 28 August

      1961

      A GDR People’s Policeman who has fled to West Berlin talks about his deployment on the border since August 13 and the mood in his unit. He says he had the order to shoot at deserters, but not at civilians; the Combat Group units, he says, had different commands. People’s Policeman Burghardt A.’s account of his escape to West Berlin on 28 August 1961, 6 September 1961 (in German)
    • 28 August

      1961

      In Bonn, West German Foreign Minister Heinrich von Brentano gives his views on the current developments in Berlin. His remarks come in reaction to the criticism levelled by the Social Democratic opposition (SPD) and parts of the press that the West German government is lacking a coherent policy on Germany.
    • 28 August

      1961

      Western press comments

      In West Berlin, the daily "Die Welt" reports on the increased censorship of mail in East Berlin. more
    • 29 August

      1961

      Memorial stone set up in the memory of Roland Hoff in the Berlin district of Lichterfelde – on the bank that he did not reach. The name of the dead man remained unknown in the West for a long time. Photograph taken in 2004
      At about 2 p.m., 27-year-old Roland Hoff jumps into the Teltow Canal between Teltow and Lichterfelde in the south of Berlin in a bid to escape to West Berlin. When he reaches the middle of the canal, he is fired at by border police. more
    • 29 August

      1961

      The SED Politburo decides on measures in connection with "issues of defending the GDR"; these measures are implemented gradually during the weeks and months that follow. more
    • 29 August

      1961

      A Potsdam border policeman who has escaped to the West speaks in a RIAS interview about the practical implementation of the "order to shoot" among border police units.
    • 29 August

      1961

      Wall and death strip through the middle of a street: Sebastianstrasse in the Berlin district of Kreuzberg
      In the Berlin district of Kreuzberg, Sebastianstrasse is cut through by a wall; the street becomes a "death strip". The houses at numbers 1-3 on Sebastianstrasse belong to East Berlin; the windows on the ground floor are already walled up. more
    • 29 August

      1961

      In the southwest of Berlin, between the Dreilinden checkpoint and the Zehlendorf cloverleaf junction, GDR Pioneers clear the woods and create a "death strip" of the kind that had previously only been seen on the German-German border.
    • 29 August

      1961

      In West Berlin, the ruling mayor, Willy Brandt, responds to recent remarks by Nikita Khrushchev. more
    • 29 August

      1961

      The West Berlin Senator for Interior Affairs, Lipschitz, speaks about the control measures that have been introduced by the Senate on the sector border and the related visiting bans that have been imposed on unwelcome visitors (such as Karl-Eduard von Schnitzler, Friedrich Karl Kaul etc.) from East Berlin and the GDR.
    • 29 August

      1961

      In a letter to US President John F. Kennedy, West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer calls for non-military counter-measures – mainly, economic sanctions - as a reaction to the building of the Wall. He is not much in favour of negotiations with the Soviet Union. more
    • 29 August

      1961

      An assessment by the London Foreign Office shows what the British government finds most important after the construction of the Wall: negotiation without suffering a loss of face in the case of a diplomatic defeat or being able to be accused of weak compliance: more
    • 29 August

      1961

      Eastern press comments

      In the "Tribüne", the daily newspaper of the FDGB (Free German Trade Union Federation), John Heartfield defends the closure of the borders as a necessary step towards securing peace. He expresses his gratitude to Walter Ulbrich "for the security measures that have been put in place to protect the first German worker-and-peasant state." more
    • 30 August

      1961

      "Wanted" notice for the capture of the presumed murderer of Roland Hoff, 30 August 1961
      The West Berlin chief of police offers a reward of 10,000 marks for information leading to the capture of the person who had killed a so far unidentified escapee (Roland Hoff) the day before. more
    • 30 August

      1961

      The central SED organ, "Neues Deutschland", reacts with wrathful indignation during the next few days, vilifying the dead Wall victims Günter Litfin and Roland Hoff as "criminals" and "shady figures". more
    • 30 August

      1961

      In the newspaper "Märkische Zeitung", unnamed "comrades" from a group designated only as a "unit of the German Border Police on the national border of the GDR to West Berlin in the area Teltow/Kleinemachnow" also write an open letter to "Brandt, Stumm, Lemmer and Co. (inciters of the front-city mood), in what is still West Berlin", confirming that "anyone infringing the national border of our GDR will lose hair, teeth or their lives." “Our state border is inviolable – Formal statement by a unit of the German Border Police,” Märkische Volkszeitung, 6 September 1961 (in German)
    • 30 August

      1961

      On Chausseestrasse in East Berlin, the 50-year-old doctor Wilhelm P. hangs himself. According to a report by the East Berlin People’s Police, "Dr. P.’s wife said he suffered heavy depression. The dead man was strongly Western-oriented; his son went to school in West Berlin and P. was convinced that he was going to have his practice taken away from him."
    • 30 August

      1961

      West German President Heinrich Lübke and the Ruling Mayor of Berlin, Willi Brandt, look down from the Reichstag at the barriers on the sector border, 30 August 1961
      West German President Heinrich Lübke visits West Berlin. After prolonged talks with the Ruling Mayor, Heinrich Lübke looks at the situation of the refugees in the Marienfelde Reception Centre. After this, the President takes a long tour along the sector border.
    • 30 August

      1961

      Barely 24 hours after the fatal shots were fired, another escapee swims across the Teltow Canal. Guards open fire again, but this time the escape attempt is successful.
    • 30 August

      1961

      Certificate for taking part in the FDJ (Free German Youth) military musters
      So far, 51,422 young people have followed the Free German Youth Campaign "The Fatherland Calls – Protect Our Socialist Republic" and "volunteered" to serve in the National People’s Army of the GDR. A young lathe operator from Hennigsdorf, who has succeeded in fleeing to West Berlin with his wife, talks about the pressure that was used.
    • 30 August

      1961

      A waitress from Chemnitz talks about the mood of near panic on 13 August. She relates how holiday-makers hastily left the FDGB (Free German Trade Union Federation) holiday home in which she was working, taking all their belongings with them.
    • 30 August

      1961

      A RIAS reporter gives a bird’s-eye report from a helicopter about the destruction of the cityscape caused by the "death strip" that has dissected Berlin. The flight goes along the sector border from Rudow to the Brandenburg Gate.
    • 30 August

      1961

      In a progress report to the CPSU Central Committee, the Soviet defence ministry gives information on the movement of American troops from West Germany to West Berlin, saying they might be carrying atomic ammunition with them. more
    • 30 August

      1961

      General Lucius C. Clay arrives in Germany on 15 September 1961 as the personal envoy of John F. Kennedy
      In Washington, US President John F. Kennedy announces that he will send General Lucius D. Clay as his personal envoy to Berlin on 15 September.
    • 30 August

      1961

      Eastern press reactions

      Under the headline "Yesterday with Siemens – today with us", the SED central organ "Neues Deutschland" publishes interviews with former "Grenzgänger" (cross-border commuters) who worked at Siemens in West Berlin until 13 August. more
    • 31 August

      1961

      Every day, successful escapes from East to West Berlin continue to be made. After the shots that have been fired at escapees above ground, underground escape methods through wastewater and stormwater drains are seen as less risky. more
    • 31 August

      1961

      Two construction workers who have escaped to West Berlin relate how they were taken away from their construction sites in Zehdenick to Berlin to build the Wall, and talk about the mood among the Wall builders.
    • 31 August

      1961

      On the second day of his visit to West Berlin, West German President Heinrich Lübke speaks at an improvised rally in front of the Schöneberg Town Hall. He assures the West Berliners that all Germans are behind them. more
    • 31 August

      1961

      The West Berlin Mayor Franz Amrehn announces the formation of two Senate special commissions. These commissions are to ensure that West Berlin soon overcomes the negative educational, scientific, social and economic consequences of 13 August. West Berlin is to develop into a new centre of education, science and business in the years to come.
    • 31 August

      1961

      The West Berlin Senate announces that the salaries of West Berlin "cross-border commuters" who work in East Berlin will no longer be changed into West German marks as of 1 September. This affects around 13,000 West Berliners, of whom more than half work for the East German railway, the Reichsbahn. The Senate says that it can no longer be expected to "take money from the state budget for an exchange that brings the state of Berlin only worthless East German marks."
    • 31 August

      1961

      The East Berlin head of the Evangelical Church in Germany, Dr. Kurt Scharf, possesses a permit to allow him to carry out his duties in West Berlin. On his return to East Berlin, his permit and his GDR identity card are confiscated from him at the sector border, and he is forbidden to return to his residence in East Berlin. As the chairman of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), the authorities say, he is the head of an "illegal organisation that is inimical to peace". more
    • 31 August

      1961

      The SED leadership has the GDR flag with hammer and sickle hoisted on the Brandenburg Gate, the symbol for German unity. more
    • 31 August

      1961

      A top-secret CIA study examines "reactions to possible US measures in the Berlin crisis". more
    • 31 August

      1961

      Eastern press reactions

      Under the headline "Aunty Frieda and peace, or: Citizens of the German Democratic Republic and trips to the West", the SED central organ "Neues Deutschland" publishes a fictitious letter. more
    • August 1961

      In their monthly summary of activities in August, the West Berlin police report on the closing of the border, the sealing-off of sector crossings, the closing of underground and suburban railway stations, the interruptions to suburban railway transport and the reactions of both the West Berliners and the Allies. Progress report by the West Berlin police for the month of August 1961 (in German)
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