The building of the Berlin Wall in August 1961 divided families and neighborhoods in what had been the capital of Germany. The Wall represents a uniquely squalid, violent, and ultimately futile, episode in the post-war world. Life was changed overnight in Berlin. Streets, subway lines, bus lines, tramlines, canals and rivers were divided. Family members, friends, lovers, schoolmates, work colleagues and others were abruptly separated. In some cases, children had been visiting their grandparents on the other side of the border and were suddenly cut off from their parents.
West Berliners could not visit East Berlin or East Germany. All crossing points were closed to them between 26 August 1961 and 17 December 1963. West Berlin was an island completely surrounded by East Germany. When Germany was split, the Soviet Union took the Eastern part, but obviously the allies didn’t want to give up the entire capital city to them. The Berlin Blockade occurred in 1948-1949 when the Soviets blocked all access to West Berlin in an attempt to basically get the allies to give their part of the city up. During this time the only way in was via the air and the allies had to supply the West Berliners with food and other necessities by airplane. In one year they flew over 200,000 flights.
Up until 1953, the lines between East Germany and the western occupied zones could be easily crossed in most places. Then the inner border of East Germany closed. Berlin became the main route by which East Germans left for the West. The Berlin sector border was essentially a “loophole” through which East Bloc citizens could still escape. The 3.5 million East Germans that had left by 1961 totaled approximately 20% of the entire East German population. The loss was disproportionately heavy among professionals—engineers, technicians, physicians, teachers, lawyers and skilled workers.