News & Information

Rss Feed

A City Torn Apart: Photos and Videos of the Berlin Wall

From families separated to East German soldiers leaping over barbed wire to freedom, the images and videos in the CIA's A City Torn Apart: Building of the Berlin Wall publication give a unique glimpse into moments of oppression, courage and care during the 1961 Berlin Crisis.

The poignant pictures and videos in this collection depict the Soviet Union’s swift and intensified occupation of East Berlin in August 1961. Closing access to the West and constructing the Berlin Wall marked a pivotal turning point in the Cold War. These materials, previously available only on DVD, are now on CIA's Flickr stream and YouTube channel [external link disclaimer].

A City Torn Apart consists of maps, timelines, declassified documents, analysis, photos and videos that reveal intimate details of the five-month Berlin Crisis of 1961. The collection is the result of a partnership between the CIA’s Historical Collections Division and the National Archives.

These primary sources will be valuable to teachers, scholars, and students. For example, below is a set of images and captions showing the story of a family separated by the building the Berlin Wall.

A Family Divided

On August 12, one day before West Berlin was surrounded by barbed wire, the man in the pictures below flew into West Berlin. His wife was planning on following him several days later after their young son completed his holiday camp.


The couple meets at the fence between East and West Berlin. The guard indulgently allowed them to talk; when he turned away, the mother quickly hands their son over to his father


Having made her decision, the mother wipes away her tears, knowing that she may never see her son grow up.

Berlin3-small.jpg With a goodbye bouquet and clinging hands, the man and woman acknowledge that they might never see each other again and that the young boy may never really know his mother or understand the sacrifice she made for his freedom.


Browse the Collection

On the Historical Collections page, you can download pdf files of the booklet and declassified documents. View the collection’s photos on CIA's Flickr stream and its videos on the CIA YouTube channel [external link disclaimer].

To receive a printed copy of A City Torn Apart: Building of the Berlin Wall with an interactive DVD, use our comment form to send us your name and mailing address; be sure to include the title A City Torn Apart: Building of the Berlin Wall.

Posted: Feb 01, 2013 12:51 PM
Last Updated: Feb 14, 2013 02:42 PM