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.
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). On 13.8.1961, one of them was a rifleman on an armoured personnel carrier in Eberswalder Strasse, some 100 metres from the sector border; the other was put on duty in various locations in the north of Berlin to dig holes, set up cement posts and put barbed wire up on them.
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".
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.
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." A "sojourn restriction" is used to prevent or dictate the entry of convicted persons in particular places and areas. They can also be obligated to carry out a certain task or to take part in "work education". – In the following weeks, the GDR press reports on the first trials. These are mostly preceded by public smear campaigns carried out by Party officials who stir up the "wrath of the people" against politically undesirable people, who are then deported by court order and compelled to do forced labour.
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.
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.
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?" The Senator for Interior Affairs, Lipschitz, states clearly that every person deliberately damaging or endangering transport systems will be prosecuted vigorously, no matter who is responsible. Following attacks on members of the Soviet occupying force in West Berlin, Lipschitz also appeals to the population to maintain discipline and dignity.
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. The note states: "The Bonn Minister for so-called All-German Affairs, Lemmer, has been active in West Berlin, where he has taken up residence and where provocations of the most various kinds are prepared and where subversive activities against the German Democratic Republic and other socialist countries are initiated. Revanchists, extremists, subversive agents, spies and saboteurs are smuggled into West Berlin from the German Federal Republic."
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. In the letter of 20 July 1961, Ulbricht had, among other things, described his "peace plan". Schweitzer answered by saying he could see that Ulbricht, too, was "sympathetic to the idea of respect for life".
The chairman of the Committee for an Indivisible Germany ("Kuratorium Unteilbares Deutschland), Dr. Schütz, writes a letter to Albert Schweitzer objecting to this phrase: "Do not allow the despisers of peace and the mockers of Christianity and humanity go about misusing your blessing."
The letter from Lambaréné in Africa bears the date 9 August 1961. Albert Schweitzer therefore could not have known anything about the construction of the Wall and the first fatal shots (24 August 1961) – let alone imagined how the press in the GDR would instrumentalise him.
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.
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?" Ulbricht says that "the protective measures of 13 August put a firm stop to the militarist agencies and war provocateurs who wanted to make West Berlin a second Sarajevo". He also says that, with more than two years having passed since the Soviet peace treaty proposal ("Khrushchev ultimatum"), it is no longer possible to postpone the signing of a peace treaty any longer.
Ulbricht says that West Berlin currently has no legal status – either in international or in state law. The former four-power status of Berlin has, according to him, long since ceased to exist. He goes on to claim that West Germany is "among the socially most underdeveloped countries in Europe under the conditions of the American occupation and its militarist-clerical regime".
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."