It was a summery Sunday when leaders of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), or East Germany, closed the last gap in the inner-German border. Nearly 50 years ago, on Aug. 13, 1961, workers began erecting the wall that cut through the middle of Berlin.
To commemorate the day, SPIEGEL ONLINE has prepared a multimedia special. This week and next, we will provide a handful of reports, background stories and photos on the construction of the most important symbol of the Cold War between the West and the Soviet Bloc, the Berlin Wall.
The wall didn't just divide Berlin, it also split an entire nation. Tens of thousands of people lived within close distance of the border area, with the security barrier, barbed wire and cement walls in sight. Many of these small towns and villages have changed dramatically during the two decades since German reunification. Bridges now cross rivers that were exclusion zones during GDR times. Trains now whiz through areas once patrolled by soldiers, and areas once blighted by a cement barriers blocking both freedom and a view have been opened to reveal panoramic vistas.
Photographer Jürgen Ritter took hundreds of photos of cities, villages and natural reserves along the border zone while the border still existed, then returned after reunification. SPIEGEL ONLINE has collected the most striking images in an interactive feature.
To navigate the graphic, simply click on the red balloons on the map above the border site. A window will open with a before and after image of the site. Drag the slider back and forth for a dramatic glimpse of life before and after the wall.
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