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Digital Archive International History Declassified

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Berlin Wall

Documents on the history of the Berlin Wall, beginning with the conditions in Berlin and East Germany following WWII and the history of the wall's construction in 1961, and followed by the 1971 Four Power Negotiations on the status of Berlin, and the final tearing down of the Wall in 1989. See also the End of the Cold War. (Image,  Berlin Wall between Mitte and Kreuzberg, Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-F078996-0006)

  • January 02, 1953

    CPSU CC Resolution Approving the Deployment of Border Guards along the Eastern Border of the GDR

    CPSU CC Resolution Approving the Deployment of Border Guards along the Eastern Border of the GDR

  • March 18, 1953

    Draft Instructions for General Vasilii Chuikov and Vladimir Semyonov regarding GDR Control of Borders

    Draft instructions of the Soviet leadership to its representatives in East Germany, advising that the SED requests for East German control of the border with West Germany are "unacceptable and grossly simplistic."

  • July 01, 1953

    Telephonogram from Miroshnichenko and Lunkov to Semenov, [early July 1953]

    On 17 June, the Soviet military had stopped all cross-sector travel, causing widespread resentment among many East Germans who worked in the Western sectors or crossed them on their way to work. Under pressure from the East German population in the days following the uprising, SED leaders and local Soviet High Commission officials urged Semenov, then in Moscow for the Extraordinary CPSU Plenum, to normalize the traffic situation in Berlin. Semenov, following Molotov’s orders, informed Ulbricht that the question of free movement across the sector border “must be decided by the [German] comrades themselves, taking the situation into account.” On 7 July, tram and metro traffic between the sectors in Berlin was restored.

  • July 04, 1953

    Telephonogram from Soviet High Commission Officials Miroshnichenko and Lun'kov to High Commisioner V. Semenov

    Miroshnichenko and Lun'kov consider it expedient to ease travel for commuters between east and west Berlin by improving public transport.

  • July 04, 1953

    Telephonogram from Miroshnichenko and Lun’kov to Soviet High Commissioner V. Semyonov Regarding Inter-zone Travel

    Telegram describing discontent of the German population living in East Berlin at the disruption caused by the restrictions imposed on intra-zones travel as a result of the events of 17 June 1953. The telegram recommends actions to be taken to improve the movement of people across the Berlin border.

  • September 25, 1953

    Draft Instructions to Chuikov and Semyonov

    In March 1953, Moscow had declined Ulbricht’s request for tightening up the sector border in Berlin, then the major loophole in the SED leadership’s efforts to seal off East Germany. In the aftermath of the demonstrations and unrest in Berlin, the SED leadership apparently tried to reintroduce the idea of increased “border security” in Berlin. Eager to salvage whatever was left of its political position as a champion of German unity, Moscow again held such measures as politically “disadvantageous” and “unacceptable.” Certainly, the Kremlin was also aware of the continued widespread resentment among the Berlin and GDR population which made any more restrictive measures a risky undertaking. Instead, the Soviets urged the SED to increase its “fight against hostile elements” in West Berlin—an issue that would become more and more the focus of Soviet attitude on Berlin.

  • November, 1958

    East German Ministry of State Security, 'New Methods of Operation of Western Secret Services'

    Assessment by the Stasi of changes to operations made by the main Western secret services in response to Khrushchev's November 1958 diplomatic note to the United States, Britain, and France demanding an end to the occupation of West Berlin.

  • November 30, 1960

    Record of Meeting of Comrade N.S. Khrushchev with Comrade W. Ulbricht

    Ulbricht explains the economic situation in the GDR and East Berlin in the context of the Berlin Crisis, and proposals for East German economic development. Ulbricht and Khrushchev discuss the possibility of political and economic peace negotiations with the FDR and the three Western powers.

  • January 18, 1961

    Letter from Ulbricht to Khrushchev

    Ulbricht writes to Khrushchev regarding proposals for a peace treaty/ non-aggression pact to resolve the West Berlin issue. He also discusses further plans for economic development in the GDR to "catch up" with West Germany.

  • January 30, 1961

    Letter from Khrushchev to Ulbricht, in Response to Ulbricht's Previous Letter Regarding a Peace Treaty

    Khrushchev writes to Ulbricht discussing negotiations with Kennedy and other Western powers with both German states.

  • May 19, 1961

    Letter from Ambassador Pervukhin to Foreign Minister Gromyko on the German Problem

    Ambassador Pervukhin reports to Russian Foreign Minister Gromyko on the position of the East German government regarding the possibility of a peace treaty between the Soviet Union and East Germany and a resolution to the ambiguous status of Berlin. The report also discusses the possibility of enforcing better border controls between east and west Berlin in order to "close 'the door to the West.'"

  • June, 1961

    Letter from Ulbricht to Khrushchev

    Ulbricht writes to Khrushchev discussing a peace treaty with Western powers. He mentions that the Bonn government threatens to repeal its trade treaty with the GDR if the peace treaty is concluded with both German states, and the economic problem this would pose for the GDR.

  • June 20, 1961

    Free Europe Committee Proposal to Exploit Berlin Crisis

    FEC Directors C. D. Jackson and Whitney Debevoise discuss with State Department officials their ideas on using RFE to pressure the Soviets during the Berlin Crisis

  • July 04, 1961

    Letter from Ambassador Pervukhin to Foreign Minister Gromyko on the Peace Treaty with East Germany

    Ambassador Pervukhin sends the views of the Soviet embassy in East Germany regarding the negotiation of a peace treaty between East Germany and the Soviet Union. It notes that "the most difficult issues which will arise after signing a peace treaty are the practical exercise by [the] GDR organs of effective control over the links between West Berlin and the FRG and the establishment of a regime over the movement of the population between West and Democratic Berlin."

  • August 01, 1961

    Notes on the Conversation of Comrade N.S. Khrushchev with Comrade W. Ulbricht on 1 August 1961

    Transcription of a meeting in Moscow between Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and East German leader Walter Ulbricht on August 1, 1961. They discuss plans to close the border between East and West Berlin. The document shows Khrushchev’s and Ulbricht’s deliberations about the reasons for sealing the border in Berlin, the timing for sealing the border and some of the difficulties they expected to arise therefrom.

  • August 03, 1961

    Khrushchev's Speech at the Opening of the Meeting of Moscow Conference, 3-5 August 1961

    Khrushchev makes the opening statement to the secretaries of the CC's of Communist and Workers' Parties of Socialist Countries at a conference in Moscow. The purpose of the conference is to discuss the preparation and conclusion of a German peace treaty.

  • August 03, 1961

    Walter Ulbricht's Speech at the Moscow Conference, 3-5 August 1961

    Ulbricht speaks at the Moscow Conference of Secretaries of the Central Committees of the Communist and Workers' Parties of Socialist Countries for the Exchange of Opinions on Questions Concerning the Preparation and Conclusion of a German Peace Treaty.

  • August 05, 1961

    Record of a Conversation between Deputy Secretary Huang Zhen and the Polish Ambassador to China

    Huang Zhen and Jerzy Knothe discuss the socialist bloc's foreign policy coordination.

  • September 15, 1961

    Letter from Ulbricht to Khrushchev on Closing the Border Around West Berlin

    Ulbricht writes to Khrushchev regarding the closing of the border between east and west Berlin.

  • September 28, 1961

    Letter from Khrushchev to Ulbricht Regarding the Situation in Berlin

    Khrushchev response to Ulbricht's 15 September letter regarding the closing of the border between east and west Berlin. He notes that since the Western powers were tending toward negotiation rather than confrontation over the crisis, "such steps which could exacerbate the situation, especially in Berlin, should be avoided."