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Before the “Antifascistischer Schutzwall” – Extraordinary Photos of Berlin in 1959/1960

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Friedrichstrasse sector border (Later Checkpoint Charlie), Berlin, c. 31 July 1960

Friedrichstrasse sector border (Later Checkpoint Charlie), Berlin, c. 31 July 1960. Looking North along Friedrichstrasse from West Berlin. The cyclist is about to cross Zimmerstrasse, along which ran the white line marking the border when “Checkpoint Charlie” came into being.

Allan Hailstone responsible for most of these photographs of Berlin, took them between 1959 and 1960. It was a time, according to Nikita Khrushchev, when the very existence of West Berlin, the conspicuous capitalist city in the middle of communist East Germany, “stuck like a bone in the Soviet throat”.

In July 1958 the Manchester Guardian reported that although some metropolitan “S. Bahn” trains that belonged to East German railways were occasionally stopping at West Berlin stations (instead of being ordered to run straight through West Berlin on their way from East German Potsdam and Falkensee to East Berlin Mitte and Pankow) these were only isolated exceptions.  Tolls were increasing on the boats using the canals between Berlin and Western Germany – which the Federal Government were spending 25 to 30 million marks (approx 70 million euros today) reimbursing the Berlin city administration a year. In fact the Federal government was spending roughly the equivalent of 2.5 billion euros every year subsidising West Berlin.

The Guardian also reported that there was growing interference with the “Grenzgaengers” – the East Germans who work in West Berling for a living and the West Berliners that travelled to East Berlin. The Communist world was slowly but surely increasing and racking-up the tension between East and West.

the Berlin Wall

Potsdamer Platz, Berlin, c.31 July 1960. In the 1920s Potsdamer Platz, (incidentally where, apparently, the first set of traffic lights in Europe came into use), was the heart of Berlin, alive with shopping, traffic and full of bars, cafés and cinemas. It was reduced to ruins by allied bombing during World War II and then lay lifeless as a no man’s land between the Russian, British and American sectors until the area was completely flattened with the construction of the wall in 1961. Copyright Allan Hailstone.

 

German painters mark British-Russian border line at Potsdamerplatz in Berlin, Aug. 21, 1948. British military police watch from background. (AP Photo) Ref #: PA.8635890 Date: 21/08/1948

German painters mark British-Russian border line at Potsdamerplatz in Berlin, Aug. 21, 1948. British military police watch from background. (AP Photo) Date: 21/08/1948

On 12 July 1961 the Manchester Guardian reported that between 500 and 600 East Germans were now arriving in West Germany every day. Eighteen days later the Observer reported that the East German government, in a public proclamation, had appealed to the population against the mass flight from East Germany which that month had reached unprecedented proportions.

The Observer noted that the appeal made ‘curious reading’ because essentially the East German Government was trying,  “to discourage something it does not admit is happening. The words “flight”, “emigration,” and “refugees” were taboo. Instead the appeal declared that “whoever puts himself in to the fangs of the slave traders and leaves the German Democratic Republic commits treason…”.

 

American entertainer Sammy Davis Jr., takes photographs of the communist built wall as he stands at the borderline of Friedrich Strasse sector border crossing in Berlin, Germany, Jan. 19, 1963. In the background are barriers and part of the wall of the communist checkpoint. Mr. Davis is in Berlin to work on the film remake of "Three Beggars Opera." (AP Photo/Edwin Reichert) A-21198496

American entertainer Sammy Davis Jr., takes photographs of the communist built wall as he stands at the borderline of Friedrich Strasse sector border crossing in Berlin, Germany, Jan. 19, 1963. In the background are barriers and part of the wall of the communist checkpoint. Mr. Davis is in Berlin to work on the film remake of “Three Beggars Opera.” (AP Photo/Edwin Reichert)

The Berliner Mauer or “Antifascistischer Schutzwall” began to be built by the German Democratic Republic on 13 August 1961. The day before, the Daily Mirror in Britain, underneath the headline NOW ARMED REDS POUNCE ON TRAINS, wrote:

Armed Communist police today took over the Berlin tube train route to freedom in a bid to block the growing flood of refugees from East Germany to the West. Equipped with flags and whistles, they rode as guards on the trains. All trains were stopped as they neared the West Berlin frontier.

Two days later on the 14th the same newspaper reported:

Communist tanks, armoured cars and thousands of Red troops and police with tommy-guns tonight hold East Berlin in a grip of steel.
This massive blockade is the East German Government’s answer to its own people, who are quitting the Red Republic in their thousands through the “Freedom Door” of West Berlin.

On the same day the Manchester Guardian wrote:

East German police threw tear-gas bombs last night to break up a crowd of East Germans protesting against the sealing of the East German border with West Berlin. The Communist police also used tear-gas bombs against about two thousand West Berliners who had gathered at the sector border in the Adalbert Strasse. Earlier they turned their water hoses mounted on lorries on a Western crowd that shouted “Down with Ulbricbht.”

About 800 refugees still found loopholes in the East German border blockade and slipped across the sector border into through “secret ways” into the city, through ruins, gardens, back-yards or swimming the river Havel. This brought the total from noon on Saturday to five 0’clock yesterday evening to over four thousand.

The 13th of August 1962 will be an anniversary which marks the final cementation of the German division into parts. It was on August 13, 1961 when the East German communists started to set up a wall between east and West Berlin, thus closing the last big escape hole in the iron curtain between east and West Germany. Since then the reds were busy in reinforcing this Berlin border replacing the first barbed wire-obstacles by brick walls, later setting building up a second wall, which mainly is made of big concrete blocks. While before August 13, 1961 thousands of refugee shad fled into the free west via Berlin daily, now only a few dozen or less succeed in escaping across this border. Here, a view into East Berlin from the (West Berlin) Siegessaule (Victory Column) on July 27, 1962. In front is the Brandenburg Gate, followed by the Marx-Engels Platz, Communist East Berlin’s main parade ground, and the tower of the red city hall. At left is the dome of the old Evange-Lical cathedral (AP Photo/Frye) PA-9275755

The 13th of August 1962 will be an anniversary which marks the final cementation of the German division into parts. It was on August 13, 1961 when the East German communists started to set up a wall between east and West Berlin, thus closing the last big escape hole in the iron curtain between east and West Germany. Since then the reds were busy in reinforcing this Berlin border replacing the first barbed wire-obstacles by brick walls, later setting building up a second wall, which mainly is made of big concrete blocks. While before August 13, 1961 thousands of refugee shad fled into the free west via Berlin daily, now only a few dozen or less succeed in escaping across this border.
Here, a view into East Berlin from the (West Berlin) Siegessaule (Victory Column) on July 27, 1962. In front is the Brandenburg Gate, followed by the Marx-Engels Platz, Communist East Berlin’s main parade ground, and the tower of the red city hall. At left is the dome of the old Evange-Lical cathedral (AP Photo/Frye) PA-9275755

 

Strasse des 17 Juni, West Berlin; Brandenburger Tor, East Berlin, 9 September 1959

Strasse des 17 Juni, West Berlin; Brandenburger Tor, East Berlin, 9 September 1959. Following Germany’s surrender and the end of the war, the governments of East Berlin and West Berlin restored the Brandenburg gate in a joint effort. The holes were patched, but were visible for many years following the war. Vehicles and pedestrians could travel freely through the gate, located in East Berlin, until the Berlin Wall was built, 13 August 1961.

Tempelhof Airport terminal, West Berlin, 3 August 1960

Tempelhof Airport terminal, West Berlin, 3 August 1960. Tempelhof, once one of the biggest airports in the world, was one of Europe’s three iconic pre-World War II airports, the others being London’s now defunct Croydon Airport and the old Paris – Le Bourget Airport. After WW2 it became the centre of the Berlin Airlift of 1948-49. One of the airport’s most distinctive features is its massive, canopy-style roof extending over the tarmac, able to accommodate most contemporary airliners in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s, protecting passengers from the elements. According to wikipedia Tempelhof Airport’s main building was once among the top 20 largest buildings on earth.Tempelhof Airport closed all operations on 30 October 2008.

 

Stalinallee, East Berlin, c. 31 July 1960.

Stalinallee, East Berlin, c. 31 July 1960. The boulevard, now known as Karl-Marx-Allee, was named Stalinallee between 1949 and 1961 (previously Große Frankfurter Straße), and was a flagship building project of East Germany’s reconstruction programme after World War II. It was designed by the architects Hermann Henselmann, Hartmann, Hopp, Leucht, Paulick and Souradny to contain spacious and luxurious workers’ apartments as well as shops, restaurants, cafés, a tourist hotel and an enormous cinema (the International).

 

Stalinallee, East Berlin, c. 31 July 1960.

Stalinallee, East Berlin, c. 31 July 1960.

The Berlin Wall was more than 140 kilometres (87 mi) long. In June 1962, a second, parallel fence was built some 100 metres (110 yd) farther into East German territory. The houses contained between the fences were razed and the inhabitants relocated, thus establishing what later became known as the death strip. The death strip was covered with raked sand or gravel, rendering footprints easy to notice, easing the detection of trespassers and also enabling officers to see which guards had neglected their task; it offered no cover; and, most importantly, it offered clear fields of fire for the Wall guards. The Eastern Bloc, of course, claimed it was build to protect its population from fascist elements conspiring to prevent the “will of the people” in building a socialist state in East German. Obviously, in practice, it served to prevent massive emigration and defecting that had been building since the end of WW2.

Stalinallee, East Berlin, 8 September 1959.

Stalinallee, East Berlin, 8 September 1959. On June 17, 1953 the Stalinallee was the centre of a workers’ uprising. Builders and construction workers demonstrated against the communist government, leading to a national uprising. The rebellion was quashed with Soviet tanks and troops, resulting in the loss of at least 125 lives. The communist propaganda poster refers to the dog Laika sent into space by the USSR.

 

Tauentzienstrasse, West Berlin c.12 September 1959

Tauentzienstrasse, West Berlin c.12 September 1959. In 1902 the first Berlin U-Bahn line (Stammstrecke) ran under the Tauentzienstraße pavement (the present-day U2). In 1960 the street had become part of the commercial centre of West Berlin.

Witzleben S-Bahn, West Berlin, 12 September 1959.

Witzleben S-Bahn, West Berlin, 12 September 1959. The S-Bahn, east and west, was under the control of the East German regime.

 

West Berlin police restrain a demonstrator at Berlin's Bernauer Strasse border point as rioting crowds vent their anger against the Communist-built wall that divides east and west Berlin on the first anniversary of its erection on Aug. 13, 1962. Police reinforcements repeatedly drove the screaming demonstrators back from the wall, which divides Berlin with stone, steel, barbed wire and military fortifications. (AP Photo) PA-3389217

West Berlin police restrain a demonstrator at Berlin’s Bernauer Strasse border point as rioting crowds vent their anger against the Communist-built wall that divides east and west Berlin on the first anniversary of its erection on Aug. 13, 1962. Police reinforcements repeatedly drove the screaming demonstrators back from the wall, which divides Berlin with stone, steel, barbed wire and military fortifications. (AP Photo)

The ruined Reichstag, West Berlin, c. 31 July 1960

The ruined Reichstag, West Berlin, c. 31 July 1960

 

Somewhere near Hitler's bunker, East Berlin, c. 31 July 1960

Somewhere near Hitler’s bunker, East Berlin, c. 31 July 1960

 

Budapester Strasse, West Berlin, c.30 July 1960.

Budapester Strasse, West Berlin, c.30 July 1960.

 

Cafe in East Berlin, 8 September 1959.

Cafe in East Berlin, 8 September 1959.

 

Charlottenburg S-Bahn, West Berlin, 12 September 1959.

Charlottenburg S-Bahn, West Berlin, 12 September 1959.

 

Gendarmenmarkt, East Berlin, 11 September 1959.

Gendarmenmarkt, East Berlin, 11 September 1959.

 

Kaiser Wilhelm Gedaechtniskirche and Tauentzienstrasse, West Berlin, c.12 September 1959.

Kaiser Wilhelm Gedaechtniskirche and Tauentzienstrasse, West Berlin, c.12 September 1959.

 

Kurfuerstendamm, West Berlin, 11 September 1959.

Kurfuerstendamm, West Berlin, 11 September 1959.

 

Kurfuerstendamm, West Berlin, 11 September 1959.

Kurfuerstendamm, West Berlin, 11 September 1959.

 

Kurfuerstendamm, West Berlin, 11 September 1959.

Kurfuerstendamm, West Berlin, 11 September 1959. During the 1920s the Kurfürstendamm was a centre of leisure and nightlife in Berlin, an era that ended with the Great Depression and the Nazi Machtergreifung in 1933. The shops and businesses owned by Jewish tradespeople became the target of several pogroms, culminating in the “Reichskristallnacht” of November 9, 1938. In World War II the boulevard suffered severe damage from air raids and the Battle of Berlin. After the war rebuilding started quickly, and when Berlin was separated into East and West Berlin, the Kurfürstendamm became the leading commercial street of West Berlin.

 

Berlin - Charlottenburg View to Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, 1916 postcard

Berlin – Charlottenburg View to Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, 1916 postcard

 

East Berlin, c.31 July 1960.

East Berlin, c.31 July 1960.

 

friedrichstrasse sector-border later Checkpoint-Charlie Berlin c.31 July 1960.

friedrichstrasse sector-border later Checkpoint-Charlie Berlin c.31 July 1960.

 

Friedrichstrasse Station East Berlin, 12 September-1959.

Friedrichstrasse Station East Berlin, 12 September-1959.

 

Gendarmenmarkt East Berlin 11 September 1959

Gendarmenmarkt East Berlin 11 September 1959

 

Glienicke Bridge Berlin 10th September 1959. The Glienicke Bridge crosses the Havel River connecting the Wannsee district of Berlin with the Brandenburg capital Potsdam. During the Cold War the bridge was used several times for the exchange of captured spies and thus became known as the Bridge of Spies. During the early years of the Cold War, the bridge was mainly used by the Allies as a link between their Berlin sections and the military liaison missions in Potsdam. German residents of the two cities more frequently used the S-Bahn suburban rail to travel between Berlin and Potsdam. On 27 May 1952, East German authorities closed the bridge to citizens of West Berlin and West Germany. The bridge was closed to East German citizens after the construction of the Berlin Wall in August 1961. Only allied personnel were allowed to access the bridge at any time.

Glienicke Bridge Berlin 10th September 1959. The Glienicke Bridge crosses the Havel River connecting the Wannsee district of Berlin with the Brandenburg capital Potsdam. During the Cold War the bridge was used several times for the exchange of captured spies and thus became known as the Bridge of Spies. During the early years of the Cold War, the bridge was mainly used by the Allies as a link between their Berlin sections and the military liaison missions in Potsdam. German residents of the two cities more frequently used the S-Bahn suburban rail to travel between Berlin and Potsdam. On 27 May 1952, East German authorities closed the bridge to citizens of West Berlin and West Germany. The bridge was closed to East German citizens after the construction of the Berlin Wall in August 1961. Only allied personnel were allowed to access the bridge at any time.

 

Kurfuerstendamm, West-Berlin, 11 September 1959.

Kurfuerstendamm, West-Berlin, 11 September 1959.

 

 

Unopened Motorway, West Berlin, 10th September 1959.

Unopened Motorway, West Berlin, 10th September 1959.

Allan Hailstone’s excellent pictures can be seen at his Flickr site here. We also highly recommend his book of London photographs – London Portrait of a City 1950-1962.