The Berlin Wall was constructed by the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in 1961 in an attempt to cordon off the allied sector of West Berlin, occupied by the French, Americans, and British. It stood until 1989, when it fell along with the rest of the Iron Curtain. It is often used as an example of extreme isolationism, and was a serious diplomatic blow to relations between Soviet countries and the rest of the world.
After the Second World War, Germany was occupied by the Allied Control Council while it stabilized and was rebuilt. As part of the occupation arrangement, the Soviet Union was given control over a sector of Germany which came to be known as East Germany, while the non-communist powers controlled West Germany. Berlin, a major city in Germany, was located in East Germany, and the city itself was also split up by the major powers.
The split of Berlin resulted in an island in the midst of the sea of East Germany, a situation which made all sides in the situation uncomfortable. The East Germans feared that the Western powers might attempt a takeover or liberation of East Germany, while the Western powers feared for the citizens and workers stationed in Berlin.
Access to Berlin had been restricted before, most notably in 1948 when several Western nations were forced to stage the Berlin Airlift, an ambitious plan to get food and supplies into West Berlin. Numerous East Germans saw West Berlin as an island of safety, and many defected to West Berlin in the search for a better life. The East Germans realized that they were losing control and citizens, and in the small hours of August 13th they began to build the Berlin Wall, a blockade around West Berlin.
The Berlin Wall shut off access to West Berlin for East Germans. It also made it difficult for people to get out of West Berlin by establishing a series of checkpoints. Extensive diplomatic negotiations surrounded the Berlin Wall, and several famous political figures, including US President Kennedy spoke about the Berlin Wall. In 1963, Kennedy made a famous speech, expressing solidarity with the people of West Berlin and stating that West Berlin was an island of democracy and freedom in a sea of communism.
The Berlin Wall claimed numerous lives, with the first death at the wall occurring in 1961 when Ida Siekmann jumped out of a third story window to get to West Germany. In 1989, with the fall of communism, citizens on both sides of the wall cooperated to tear it down, opening the 192 streets that had been closed by the construction of the Berlin Wall. The felling of the Berlin Wall was a monumental historic event, and is often used as a symbol of the decline of communism.