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Remembering the Berlin Wall, 25 Years After Its Demise

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Welcome back to Monochromes, a Friday mini-series wherein Curbed delves deep into the internet's photographic annals, resurfacing with an armful of old black-and-white photos of architecture and interior design. Have a find you want to share? Hit up the tipline; we'd love to hear from you.

The Berlin Wall fell twenty-five years ago this Sunday, after dividing East and West Berlin for nearly three decades. There was no forewarning on August 13, 1961, when East German police began to string up miles of barbed wire along the border of the Soviet sector. When they were done they had encircled the American, British and French zones that became known West Berlin. The line of barbed wire grew to a 12-foot-tall concrete barrier, with secondary walls, trenches, electric fences and armed guards in 302 watchtowers. This piece of totalitarian architecture, the most significant symbol of the Cold War, stretched for 96 miles. As it went up so it went down, without warning and almost by accident.

On November 9, 1989, a member of the East German Politburo was reading a new decree about visa requirements between East and West Germany at a press conference. A reporter asked when the new policy would go into effect. Caught off guard by the question the bureaucrat answered, "As far as I know, now—immediately." It was a mistake, but a fortuitous one. Overjoyed, East Berliners began thronging the crossing points. Guards, who had seen the press conference on television, allowed them to cross. Here, a few historic photos of this potent emblem of the Cold War.

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