Remembering The Berlin Wall, 50 Years On

  • Original parts of the Berlin Wall stand at the site of a construction company in Teltow, Berlin, on Aug. 11, 2011. Saturday is the 50th anniversary of the construction of the wall, which divided the eastern and western parts of the city.
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    Original parts of the Berlin Wall stand at the site of a construction company in Teltow, Berlin, on Aug. 11, 2011. Saturday is the 50th anniversary of the construction of the wall, which divided the eastern and western parts of the city.
    Markus Schreiber
  • An East German worker lays some of the first stone blocks of the wall shortly after the border between East and West Berlin was sealed in August 1961.
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    An East German worker lays some of the first stone blocks of the wall shortly after the border between East and West Berlin was sealed in August 1961.
    AP
  • East German workers assemble a wall of concrete blocks in the French sector of East Berlin on Aug. 15, 1961.
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    East German workers assemble a wall of concrete blocks in the French sector of East Berlin on Aug. 15, 1961.
    Eddie Worth/AP
  • A boy sitting on the shoulders of another child peers over the wall at Liesen Street in West Berlin on Aug. 23, 1961.
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    A boy sitting on the shoulders of another child peers over the wall at Liesen Street in West Berlin on Aug. 23, 1961.
    Werner Kreusch/AP
  • An East German couple is turned away from the border after trying to cross into West Berlin on Aug. 13, 1961. To stem the flow of refugees to the West, East Germany closed the border to all citizens and residents, except those with a special police permit.
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    An East German couple is turned away from the border after trying to cross into West Berlin on Aug. 13, 1961. To stem the flow of refugees to the West, East Germany closed the border to all citizens and residents, except those with a special police permit.
    Edwin Reichert/AP
  • A man runs after climbing over the wall from East Berlin to West Berlin on Oct. 16, 1961.
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    A man runs after climbing over the wall from East Berlin to West Berlin on Oct. 16, 1961.
  • President John F. Kennedy delivers his famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" ("I am a Berliner") speech in front of city hall in West Berlin on June 26, 1963.
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    President John F. Kennedy delivers his famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" ("I am a Berliner") speech in front of city hall in West Berlin on June 26, 1963.
    AP
  • Thousands of people line up in East Berlin to apply for passage into the West on Dec. 19, 1963.
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    Thousands of people line up in East Berlin to apply for passage into the West on Dec. 19, 1963.
    AP
  • President Ronald Reagan delivered the famous line "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!' while giving a speech in West Berlin on June 12, 1987.
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    President Ronald Reagan delivered the famous line "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!' while giving a speech in West Berlin on June 12, 1987.
    Ira Schwartz/AP
  • Two East Berlin refugees are taken away by border guards after a thwarted attempt to cross into the West at the Chausseestreet border crossing on April 10, 1989.
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    Two East Berlin refugees are taken away by border guards after a thwarted attempt to cross into the West at the Chausseestreet border crossing on April 10, 1989.
    AP
  • The wall between East and West Germany was torn down after 28 years on Nov. 12, 1989.
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    The wall between East and West Germany was torn down after 28 years on Nov. 12, 1989.
    John Gaps III/AP
  • West Berliners help East Berliners over the wall on Nov. 10, 1989.
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    West Berliners help East Berliners over the wall on Nov. 10, 1989.
    Jockel Finck/AP
  • East German border guards stand at a gap in the Berlin Wall after demonstrators pulled down a segment of it on Nov. 11, 1989.
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    East German border guards stand at a gap in the Berlin Wall after demonstrators pulled down a segment of it on Nov. 11, 1989.
    Lionel Cironneau/AP
  • A West Berliner swings a sledgehammer into the wall on Nov. 12, 1989.
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    A West Berliner swings a sledgehammer into the wall on Nov. 12, 1989.
    John Gaps III/AP
  • Two men from West (left) and East Germany embrace each other after the arrival of a special train at the Helmstedt railway station on Nov. 10, 1989.
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    Two men from West (left) and East Germany embrace each other after the arrival of a special train at the Helmstedt railway station on Nov. 10, 1989.
    Claus Eckert/AP

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The wall between East and West Germany was torn down after 28 years on Nov. 12, 1989 i i

The wall between East and West Germany was torn down after 28 years on Nov. 12, 1989 John Gaps II/AP hide caption

itoggle caption John Gaps II/AP
The wall between East and West Germany was torn down after 28 years on Nov. 12, 1989

The wall between East and West Germany was torn down after 28 years on Nov. 12, 1989

John Gaps II/AP

The Berlin Wall has now been torn down for nearly as long (22 years) as it stood (28 years). Yet it was such a powerful symbol of the Cold War that it still evokes a strong response today, a half-century after it was constructed in the summer of 1961.

Germans will gather this weekend at the spot where the wall stood and reflect on how it shaped their lives and their society. While most of the wall is gone, a section still stands in the center of the city on a street called Bernauer Strasse. When the city was divided, this area was a no-man's land, covered in barbed wire and constantly monitored from watch towers.

NPR's Bilal Qureshi recently visited the street, in what is now one of the city's most fashionable neighborhoods. Trams and bikes glide along in front of renovated apartment buildings. And that no-man's land has been turned into a park.

Qureshi met Stephanie Kespohl, who was visiting with her 12-year-old daughter and her daughter's friend. "Now everything is unified," Kespohl said. "For them, it's one Berlin."

NPR has curated a collection of photos showing the wall from its construction 50 years ago to the graffiti-covered slabs that are resting today in the yard of a Berlin construction company.

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