The Berlin Wall, 1961

New Words

psychological: in the mind.

Nuclear weapons: atomic and hydrogen bombs and ICBMs – inter-continental ballistic missiles.



Berlin Wall web sites:


Daily Past - pretend newspaper article

Berlin Wall Online

A Soviet view

  Film clip



•    The Berlin Wall



- Giles Hill on the Berlin Wall




1.   Growing tension

Kennedy tried to get tough on Communism.  


He financed the forces fighting the Communists in Vietnam and Laos,


In 1961 he helped an invasion of Cuba (see page 8).


2.   Refugees


East Germany was poor and under strict rule.  


West Berlin was wealthy and free.   Many East Germans worked in West Berlin, and saw this.  


By 1961, 3 million had fled to the west through Berlin.   As the Cold War tension grew, more left, fearing that the border would be closed – by August 1961, the flow was 1,800 a day.  


This was an embarrassment to Russia, which claimed that Communism was better.  


Also, many who left were skilled workers.


3.   Sabotage

The Russians claimed that the Americans used West Berlin for spying and sabotage (see Source B).



The Berlin Wall


At the Vienna summit of June 1961, Khrushchev again demanded that the Americans leave West Berlin.   Kennedy’s refused – and on 25 July increased America’s spending on weapons.  


On 13 August, Khrushchev closed the border between east and west Berlin – and built a wall.   The West was taken by surprise - the Communists regarded it as a propaganda success.



é  Source B

The Berlin Wall, 1962

Source A

The Americans use West Berlin as a base for recruiting spies, sabotage and starting riots.    The wall will keep East Germany safe.

The Russian explanation of the Wall, 1961.   Read also: an English textbook for pupils.  





























There were FIVE results of the Berlin Wall:

·      Berlin was split in two.   Hundreds of East Berliners died trying to cross it.

·      America complained, but did not try to take it down – it was not worth a war.  

·  Tension grew: both sides started nuclear testing.

·      The West became more anti-communist (see Source C).

·       The Wall became a symbol in the West of Communist tyranny.


Source C

There are many people in the world who really don’t understand what is the great issue between the free world and the communist world.

               Let them come to Berlin!


There are some who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the communists.

               Let them come to Berlin!


All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin

And therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words Ich bin ein Berliner' ['I am a Berliner'].

President Kennedy, 1963.

(Although he meant this to mean: 'I am a Berliner', he should have said in German: 

'Ich bin Berliner'.  Outside Berlin, a Berliner - ein Berliner - is a German pastry; 

some people joke that he actually said: 'I am a jelly doughnut').  



Did you know?

The Wall became a symbol of the Cold War.   In 1963 Kennedy visited Berlin, using the wall as a propaganda tool against the Communists.