Potsdamer Platz in 1975
If you are interested in seeing what this photo would look like if taken in 2009, please see Umschauen's photo taken in the exact same location, here. His photo duplicates the wide angle in this shot.
The previous photo in my photo-stream is a close-up of the blocked off Potsdamer Platz subway (S-Bahn) entrance seen in this photo.
Potsdamer Platz was a wasteland in November 1975. The wall shown above is the third generation of the wall which began to be constructed during 1965. The one of which we normally think, the fourth and final version, began to be constructed in 1975 and finished in 1980. Earlier versions were not as secure so they evolved until the fourth generation was in place. Below I will provide links to photos of the various versions of the wall and the buildings visible in my photo above.
Before the Wall
In 1959 the wall did not yet exist. There were only different “sectors” (Soviet, US, UK, and French). To cross from the East to West sectors, or vice versa, people were sometimes (not every person every time) required to show identification. A photo taken by Allhails at that time showing the East German police (Vopo – short for “Volks Polizei”) checking ID as people enter or exit the Potsdamer Platz S-Bahn station which was located within the Soviet sector.
Here is another picture from Allhails 1959-1960 set taken from the Soviet sector looking back at West Berlin. You can see the S-Bahn sign and the role of the white iron-pipe fence visible in the photo above before the wall was built. As seen here Postdamer Platz still functioned as an intersection in 1960.
A reverse shot from the photo mentioned above taken from the café in West Berlin looks back across what is shortly to become the “death-strip” or no-man’s-land. In it you can see some of the buildings (including Haus Vaterland and what is to become in the 21st century the Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety at 128-130 Stresemannstrasse) visible in my photo in 1975.
There is a great shot from 1960 of Haus Vaterland and the base of the memorial to Karl Liebknecht. Both are visible in the photo shown on this page, however you may need to check the notes as the memorial is just a black square from this distance.
According to Wikipedia through the years, the Berlin Wall evolved through four versions:
1. Wire fence (1961)
2. Improved wire fence (1962–1965)
3. Concrete wall (1965–1975)
4. Grenzmauer 75 (Border Wall 75) (1975–1989)
The Wire Fence (1961)
The initial roll-out of the fence/wall on August 13, 1961 was mainly barbed wire. Here you can see the East German (DDR) setting up the fence while West Berliners stand by watching. The odd thing here, for me at least, is how those from the West seem amused by the whole affair.
In addition to the barbed wire, streets were torn up and barricades erected to stop those in the east from fleeing in their vehicles as can be seen here.
It soon became apparent that barbed wire and guards alone were insufficient. If anyone had any doubts it was made painfully clear (to the DDR) on August 15, 1961 when Hans Conrad Schumann, an East German guard leapt to freedom as seen here.. Sadly, if you read the Wikipedia article, all did not end happily for Herr Schumann.
Improved wire fence 1962-1965
Allhails photo of Potsdamer Platz taken in 1962 shows how the original wire wall was improved by adding a concrete wall with barbed wire one top. This photo shows two of the structures in my 1975 photo: Haus Vaterland and the building at 128-130 Stresemannstr. You will see the U-Bahn entrance shown in the 1960 photo mentioned above now stands in the middle of the “death strip” and has been consequently sealed.
Another difference between 1975 and 1962 is that until 1971 Haus
Vaterland was in the Soviet sector. If you look closely at this 1962 photo you can see the wall (center of photo in the distance) comes down
what is today Stresemannstrasse and then turns south to wrap around
Haus Vaterland and includes the structure in no-man’s-land. By 1975
the wall cuts across in front of Haus Vaterland probably over top of
the U-Bahn entrance shown in 1960 and 1962.