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.
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.
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). And it confirms a plan ("Transition from the 1st to the 2nd Stage") for systematically extending the border security measures. Finally, the SED chief of propaganda, Albert Norden, receives a special task: as a response to Willy Brandt’s appeal to all officers not to be made fools of and not to shoot at their own compatriots (see 16.8.1961), Norden is to make sure that, in the People’s Police and National People’s Army, "groups, platoons or companies hand in written declarations saying that they have completely understood what is at stake and that anyone violating the laws of our German Democratic Republic will be called to order – if necessary, by the use of firearms."
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). The number of border crossings is reduced from twelve to seven: four for West Berliners (Chausseestrasse, Invalidenstrasse, Oberbaum Bridge and Sonnenallee), two for residents of West Germany (Bornholmer Strasse and Heinrich-Heine-Strasse) and one for non-German nationals, members of the diplomatic corps and Allies (corner of Friedrichstrasse and Zimmerstrasse). The interior ministry also gives instructions that West Berliners have to remain 100 metres back from the Wall.
The Kennedy administration sees restricting the freedom of movement of members of the Allied powers to only one checkpoint as "serious". A US State Department official says in an interview: "No one, as the British have often emphasised, is prepared to go to war over a stamp, but, on the other hand, (…) we have to be on our guard against the salami tactics of the Soviets and the East Germans, the tactics of eating away at or undermining the Western position in this matter. And at some point or other, one has to decide where one stands."
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. At a press conference, the chancellor says: "I am extremely impressed by two things: first, by the outstanding attitude of the Berlin people, and secondly I am very impressed that such a zone of – how should I call it? – silence or death, however you want to name it – has been put through the middle of this big city."
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.
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. That would fulfil one of the most essential elements of the demand for a "Free City". Of course, at the expense of the Germans, though not the Germans to whom the Americans gave their guarantee. But this development would be no more than the consequence of past omissions: the price for failing for too long to make the effort to clarify and normalise things through negotiations, and for relying on the strength of our allies instead of our own political opportunities …"
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. (…) We will sign a peace treaty this year whether Bonn takes part or not. We have pointed out that we will exercise our rights to sovereignty, which we will then possess without restrictions. That means that our territory and our air space will not be able to be touched by anyone who has not signed appropriate treaties with our government. August 13 should have taught those who up to now have not believed in our steadfastness and resolution that no one can intimidate or blackmail us. (…) The victory achieved by the move towards peace on August 13 will bring further victories in its wake."