West German children interact with East German border guards after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
Stephen Jaffe/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In pictures: The rise and fall of the Berlin Wall

Updated 12:02 AM ET, Sat November 9, 2019

West German children interact with East German border guards after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
Stephen Jaffe/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In the early 1960s, East German officials had a problem on their hands: In the years since the end of World War II, millions of their citizens had fled the communist state for neighboring West Germany.

Their answer? A barrier that would slice through Berlin, sealing off East Germany -- and East Germans -- from the West.

On August 13, 1961 citizens awoke to find a makeshift barricade of barbed wire and cinder blocks slicing through their city. Over the next three decades, it evolved into a 28 mile (45 kilometer) concrete wall fortified with watchtowers, electric fences, and armed guards.

The wall symbolized the deep ideological divide between the Soviet bloc and the West at the height of the Cold War.

But as the 19