Secrets about the Berlin Wall revealed

Story highlights

  • Thousands of previously classified documents about the wall are released
  • Martin Luther King Jr. went to East Berlin without a passport
  • Intelligence reports detail wall's construction, protection
Martin Luther King Jr. used his American Express card instead of a passport to get past the Berlin Wall.
Now, 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, this little known fact and thousands of previously classified documents have been released.
After an executive order issued by President Barack Obama called for the processing of classified records that are 25 years old or more, the CIA, in conjunction with the National Archives' National Declassification Center, announced it had made public more than 11,000 pages of documents detailing life and death in the shadow of the wall between 1962 and 1986.
To prevent East Germans from getting into West Berlin, the border between West and East Berlin was closed by the Soviets on August 12, 1961.
Called the "Anti-Fascist Protective Rampart" by East Germans, 155 kilometers, or 96 miles, of wall encircled West Berlin, itself a West German island in the heart of East Germany. The central part of the wall that divided West Berlin and East Berlin was 43 km, or 27 miles long.
Intelligence reports and maps included in the document release details on the construction of the wall. What began as guarded barbed wire strung along the border quickly became barbed wire with guard towers and two high concrete walls, one on the inside, one on the outside of a no man's land. This "death strip" was littered with anti-tank barriers, signal wires, beds of spikes, sand --to see footprints, and guard dogs, all under the constant surveillance of armed guards with orders to shoot on sight anyone trying to cross.