29 August 1961
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. Roland Hoff receives a fatal head wound and sinks. In West Berlin, where the incident has been observed, the identity of the dead man remains unknown for a long time.
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. They include a bill on the defence of the GDR, a bill on the introduction of compulsory military service, the expulsion of people on the German-German border and the fortification of the inner-city sector border against tank advances.
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.
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. The houses opposite, at numbers 81-87 on Sebastianstrasse, are in West Berlin, but the pavement, which the residents are still allowed to use, belongs to the Soviet sector.
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.
In West Berlin, the ruling mayor, Willy Brandt, responds to recent remarks by Nikita Khrushchev. The Kremlin leader had talked about the Berlin question in an interview with the American journalist Drew Pearson. For Brandt, it is clear that Khrushchev still wants to cut off West Berlin from the rest of West Germany and neutralise the influence of the Western protecting powers. Brandt once more expressly calls on the West Berliners to remain calm and not to allow the sector border to become a constant site of incidents that could be exploited by the Eastern side to the disadvantage of West Berlin.
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.
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. – In his answering letter, however, Kennedy stresses the readiness of the Americans to negotiate: "Because we are sure of ourselves and our resolve, I do not share the view that we should reject negotiations because this could be interpreted as a sign of our weakness."
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: "It is already more than clear that nobody is going to fight for Berlin," the paper says. "We are going to negotiate about Berlin. (...) What would be fatal for the United Kingdom would be if a humiliating diplomatic defeat for the West could be laid at our door by American opinion. I foresee a real danger of this, if we let it be seen that we are not going to fight for Berlin."
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." In the SED’s main organ, "Neues Deutschland", the historians E. Engelberg, Jürgen Kuczynski and H. Scheel write a letter to Walter Ulbricht defending the construction of the Wall as "unavoidable". The success of 13 August, they write, will bring about "the yet greater success" of the signing of the peace treaty this year.