20 November 1985

Microsoft Windows 1.0 is released.

Windows 1.0

Windows 1.0
A version of the Microsoft Windows operating system
Windows logo and wordmark - 1985.svg
Screenshot of Microsoft Windows 1.01
Source modelClosed source
Released to
November 20, 1985; 33 years ago (1985-11-20)[1]
Latest release1.04 / April 1987; 32 years ago (1987-04)[1]
Available inEnglish
LicenseCommercial software
Succeeded byWindows 2.0 (1987)
Support status
Unsupported as of December 31, 2001[2]

Windows 1.0 is a graphical personal computer operating environment developed by Microsoft. Microsoft had worked with Apple Computer to develop applications for Apple's January 1984 original Macintosh, the first mass-produced personal computer with a graphical user interface (GUI) that enabled users to see user friendly icons on screen. Windows 1.0 was released on November 20, 1985, as the first version of the Microsoft Windows line. It runs as a graphical, 16-bit multi-tasking shell on top of an existing MS-DOS installation. It provides an environment which can run graphical programs designed for Windows, as well as existing MS-DOS software. Its development was spearheaded by the company founder Bill Gates after he saw a demonstration of a similar software suite known as Visi On at COMDEX.

Despite positive responses to its early presentations and support from a number of hardware and software makers, Windows 1.0 was received poorly by critics. Critics felt Windows 1.0 did not meet their expectations. In particular, they felt that Windows 1.0 put too much emphasis on mouse input at a time when mouse use was not yet widespread; not providing enough resources for new users; and for performance issues, especially on systems with lower computer hardware specifications. Despite these criticisms, Windows 1.0 was an important milestone for Microsoft, as it introduced the Microsoft Windows line.[3] Windows 1.0 was declared obsolete and Microsoft stopped providing support and updates for the system on December 31, 2001.


A Microsoft Windows 1.0 brochure published in January 1986

Microsoft began developing a graphical user interface (GUI) in 1981.[4] The development of Windows began after Microsoft founder Bill Gates saw a demonstration at COMDEX 1982 of VisiCorp's Visi On, a GUI software suite for IBM PC compatible computers.[5] In 1983 Microsoft learned that Apple's own GUI software—based in part on Xerox PARC technology–was much more sophisticated, and decided that its own product would be different.[4]

Microsoft first presented Windows to the public on November 10, 1983.[6] Requiring two floppy disk drives and 192 KB of RAM, Microsoft described the software as a device driver for MS-DOS 2.0. By supporting cooperative multitasking in tiled windows when using well-behaved applications that only used DOS system calls, and permitting non-well-behaved applications to run in a full screen, Windows differed from both Visi On and Apple Computer's Lisa by immediately offering many applications. Unlike Visi On, Windows developers did not need to use Unix to develop IBM PC applications; Microsoft planned to encourage other companies, including competitors, to develop programs for Windows by not requiring a Microsoft user interface in their applications.[7]

Many manufacturers of MS-DOS computers such as Compaq, Zenith, and DEC promised to provide support, as did software companies such as Ashton-Tate and Lotus.[6] After previewing Windows, BYTE magazine stated in December 1983 that it "seems to offer remarkable openness, reconfigurability, and transportability as well as modest hardware requirements and pricing … Barring a surprise product introduction from another company, Microsoft Windows will be the first large-scale test of the desktop metaphor in the hands of its intended users".[7]

From early in Windows' history Gates viewed it as Microsoft's future. He told InfoWorld magazine in April 1984 that "Our strategies and energies as a company are totally committed to Windows, in the same way that we're committed to operating-system kernels like MS-DOS and Xenix. We're also saying that only applications that take advantage of Windows will be competitive in the long run."[8] IBM was notably absent from Microsoft's announcement,[6] and by late 1984, the press reported a "War of the Windows" between Windows, IBM's TopView, and Digital Research's Graphics Environment Manager (GEM).[9] Microsoft had promised in November 1983 to ship Windows by April 1984,[6] but subsequently denied that it had announced a release date, and predicted that Windows would ship by June 1985. During its development and before its windowing system was developed, it was briefly referred to by the codename Interface Manager[10]. Deemphasizing multitasking, the company stated that Windows' purpose, unlike that of TopView, was to "turn the computer into a graphics-rich environment" while using less memory.[9] After Microsoft persuaded IBM that the latter needed a GUI,[4] in April 1987 the two companies announced the introduction of OS/2 and its graphical OS/2 Presentation Manager, which were supposed to ultimately replace both MS-DOS and Windows.[11] In November 1987, Windows 1.0 was succeeded by Windows 2.0. Microsoft supported Windows 1.0 for 16 years, until December 31, 2001 – the longest out of all versions of Windows.[2]

Windows 1.01

Version 1.01, released on November 20, 1985, was the first public release of Windows 1.0.[12]

Windows 1.02

Version 1.02, released in May 1986, was an international release.

Windows 1.03

Version 1.03, released in August 1986, included enhancements that made it consistent with the international release like drivers for European keyboards and additional screen and printer drivers.

Windows 1.04

Version 1.04, released in April 1987, added support for the new IBM PS/2 computers, although no support for PS/2 mice or new VGA graphics modes was provided. [13] However, in May 27 1987, an OEM version was released by IBM, which added VGA support, PS/2 mouse support, MCGA support, and support for the 8514/A display driver.[14][15] IBM released this version on three 3.5 inch 720k floppies, and offered it as part of their "Personal Publishing System" and "Collegiate Kit" bundles.[14]


Multitasking capabilities of Microsoft Windows 1.01 released in 1985, here shown running the MS-DOS Executive and Calculator programs

Windows 1.0 offers limited multitasking of existing MS-DOS programs and concentrates on creating an interaction paradigm (cf. message loop), an execution model and a stable API for native programs for the future. Due to Microsoft's extensive support for backward compatibility, it is not only possible to execute Windows 1.0 binary programs on current versions (albeit only 32-bit) of Windows to a large extent, but also to recompile their source code into an equally functional "modern" application with just limited modifications. Windows 1.0 is often regarded as a "front-end to the MS-DOS operating system", a description which has also been applied to subsequent versions of Windows. Windows 1.0 is an MS-DOS program. Windows 1.0 programs can call MS-DOS functions, and GUI programs are run from .exe files just like MS-DOS programs. However, Windows .exe files had their own "new executable" (NE) file format, which only Windows could process and which, for example, allowed demand-loading of code and data. Applications were supposed to handle memory only through Windows' own memory management system, which implemented a software-based virtual memory scheme allowing for applications larger than available RAM.

Because graphics support in MS-DOS is extremely limited, MS-DOS applications have to go to the bare hardware (or sometimes just to the BIOS) to get work done. Therefore, Windows 1.0 included original device drivers for video cards, a mouse, keyboards, printers and serial communications, and applications were supposed to only invoke APIs built upon these drivers. However, this extended to other APIs such as file system management functions. In this sense, Windows 1.0 was designed to be extended into a full-fledged operating system, rather than being just a graphics environment used by applications. Indeed, Windows 1.0 is a "DOS front-end" and cannot operate without a DOS environment (it uses, for example, the file-handling functions provided by DOS.) The level of replacement increases in subsequent versions. The system requirements for Windows 1.01 constituted CGA/HGC/EGA (listed as "Monochrome or color monitor"), MS-DOS 2.0, 256 KB of memory or greater, and two double-sided disk drives or a hard drive.[1] Beginning with version 1.03, support for Tandy and AT&T graphics modes was added.

MS-DOS Executive file manager.

Windows 1.0 runs a shell program known as the MS-DOS Executive, which is little more than a mouse-able output of the DIR command that does not support icons and is not Y2K-compliant. Other supplied programs are Calculator, Calendar, Clipboard Viewer, Clock, Notepad, Paint, Reversi, Cardfile, Terminal and Write. Windows 1.0 does not allow overlapping windows. Instead all windows are tiled. Only dialog boxes can appear over other windows, but cannot be minimized.


Windows 1.0 was released to mixed reviews. Most critics considered the platform to have future potential, but that Windows 1.0 had not fulfilled expectations. Many reviews criticized its demanding system requirements, especially noting the poor performance experienced when running multiple applications at once, and that Windows encouraged the use of a mouse for navigation, a relatively new concept at the time.[5] The New York Times compared the performance of Windows on a system with 512 KB of RAM to "pouring molasses in the Arctic", and that its design was inflexible for keyboard users due to its dependency on a mouse-oriented interface. In conclusion, the Times felt that the poor performance, lack of dedicated software, uncertain compatibility with DOS programs, and the lack of tutorials for new users made DOS-based software such as Borland Sidekick (which could provide a similar assortment of accessories and multitasking functionality) more desirable for most PC users.[16]

In retrospect, Windows 1.0 was regarded as a flop by contemporary technology publications, who, however, still acknowledged its overall importance to the history of the Windows line.[3][5] Nathaniel Borenstein (who went on to develop the MIME standards) and his IT team at Carnegie Mellon University were also critical of Windows when it was first presented to them by a group of Microsoft representatives. Underestimating the future impact of the platform, he believed that in comparison to an in-house window manager, "these guys came in with this pathetic and naïve system. We just knew they were never going to accomplish anything."[17] The Verge considered the poor reception towards the release of Windows 8 in 2012 as a parallel to Microsoft's struggles with early versions of Windows. In a similar fashion to Windows 1.0 running atop MS-DOS as a layer, Windows 8 offered a new type of interface and software geared towards an emerging form of human interface device on PCs, in this case, a touchscreen (software which, coincidentally, also could not run in overlapping windows, and only "snapped" to the side of the screen), running atop the legacy Windows shell used by previous versions.[5]

A mock version of Windows 1.0 was created by Microsoft as an app for Windows 10 as part of a tie-in with the Netflix show, Stranger Things, aligned with the release of the show's third season which takes place during 1985.[18]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Windows Version History". Support (4.0 ed.). Microsoft. September 23, 2011.
  2. ^ a b "Obsolete Products". Support. Microsoft. July 25, 2011. Archived from the original on August 14, 2005.
  3. ^ a b Cooper, Charles (November 20, 2013). "Windows 1.0: The flop that created an empire". CNET. CBS Interactive.
  4. ^ a b c Alsop, Stewart II (January 18, 1988). "Microsoft Windows: Eclectism in UI" (PDF). P.C. Letter. 4 (2): 6–7.
  5. ^ a b c d Hollister, Sean (November 20, 2012). "Revisiting Windows 1.0: how Microsoft's first desktop gracefully failed". The Verge. Vox Media. Retrieved January 21, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c d Markoff, John (November 21, 1983). "Microsoft Does Windows". InfoWorld. Menlo Park, CA: Popular Computing. 5 (47): 32–36. ISSN 0199-6649. On November 10, in New York, Microsoft announced Windows… Microsoft says it will ship Windows to dealers in April (although a product like Windows is difficult to predict and may take longer), priced between $100 and $250,
  7. ^ a b Lemmons, Phil (December 1983). "Microsoft Windows". BYTE. p. 48.
  8. ^ Caruso, Denise (April 2, 1984). "Company Strategies Boomerang". InfoWorld. pp. 80–83. Retrieved February 10, 2015.
  9. ^ a b Rosch, Winn L. (December 25, 1984). "The Curtain Rises On The War of the Windows". PC Magazine. p. 33. Retrieved October 25, 2013.
  10. ^ Hanson, Rowland. "WINDOWS IS NAMED WINDOWS : BUT WHY?".
  11. ^ "A history of Windows". Microsoft. 2012. Archived from the original on November 17, 2012. On November 20, 1985, two years after the initial announcement, Microsoft ships Windows 1.0.
  12. ^ "Windows - Virtual x86".
  13. ^ "Windows 1". Winhistory.de (in German).
  14. ^ a b "Version 1 for IBM PS/2". win1.krnl386.com. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  15. ^ "IBM PS2 OEM Microsoft Windows 1.04 - 720k". archive.org. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  16. ^ Sandberg-Diment, Erik (February 25, 1986). "Personal Computers; Windows Are Open At Last". The New York Times. Retrieved November 11, 2013.
  17. ^ Brodkin, Jon (2010-11-08). "Windows 1.0 turning 25: First experiences recalled". NetworkWorld. Archived from the original on November 10, 2010. Retrieved November 11, 2013.
  18. ^ Warren, Tom (July 8, 2019). "Microsoft's new Windows 1.11 app is a Stranger Things trip back to 1985". The Verge. Retrieved July 8, 2019.

External links

19 November 1989

Germans begin to tear down the Berlin Wall.

Berlin Wall

Berlin Wall
View from the West Berlin side of graffiti art on the Wall in 1986. The Wall's "death strip", on the east side of the Wall, here follows the curve of the Luisenstadt Canal (filled in 1932).
Berlin-wall-map en.svg
Map of the location of the Berlin Wall, showing checkpoints
General information
Coordinates52°30′58″N 13°22′37″E / 52.516°N 13.377°E / 52.516; 13.377Coordinates: 52°30′58″N 13°22′37″E / 52.516°N 13.377°E / 52.516; 13.377
Construction started13 August 1961
Demolished9 November 1989
Other dimensions
  • Border length around West Berlin: 155 km (96 mi)
  • Border length between West Berlin and East Germany: 111.9 km (69.5 mi)
  • Border length between West and East Berlin: 43.1 km (26.8 mi)
  • Border length through residential areas in East Berlin: 37 km (23 mi)
  • Concrete segment of wall height: 3.6 m (11.8 ft)
  • Concrete segment of wall length: 106 km (66 mi)
  • Wire mesh fencing: 66.5 km (41.3 mi)
  • Anti-vehicle trenches length: 105.5 km (65.6 mi)
  • Contact/signal fence length: 127.5 km (79.2 mi)
  • Column track width: 7 m (7.7 yd)
  • Column track length: 124.3 km (77.2 mi)
  • Number of watch towers: 302
  • Number of bunkers: 20
Technical details
Size155 km (96.3 mi)
Satellite image of Berlin, with the Wall's location marked in yellow
West and East Berlin borders overlaying a current road map (interactive map)

The Berlin Wall (German: Berliner Mauer, pronounced [bɛʁˈliːnɐ ˈmaʊ̯ɐ] (About this soundlisten)) was a guarded concrete barrier that physically and ideologically divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989.[1] Construction of the Wall was commenced by the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany) on 13 August 1961. The Wall cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany, including East Berlin.[2] The barrier included guard towers placed along large concrete walls,[3] accompanied by a wide area (later known as the "death strip") that contained anti-vehicle trenches, "fakir beds", and other defenses. The Eastern Bloc portrayed the Wall as protecting its population from fascist elements conspiring to prevent the "will of the people" in building a socialist state in East Germany.

GDR authorities officially referred to the Berlin Wall as the Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart (German: Antifaschistischer Schutzwall). The West Berlin city government sometimes referred to it as the "Wall of Shame", a term coined by mayor Willy Brandt in reference to the Wall's restriction on freedom of movement.[4] Along with the separate and much longer Inner German border (IGB), which demarcated the border between East and West Germany, it came to symbolize physically the "Iron Curtain" that separated Western Europe and the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War.[5]

Before the Wall's erection, 3.5 million East Germans circumvented Eastern Bloc emigration restrictions and defected from the GDR, many by crossing over the border from East Berlin into West Berlin; from there they could then travel to West Germany and to other Western European countries. Between 1961 and 1989, the Wall prevented almost all such emigration.[6] During this period, over 100,000[5] people attempted to escape, and over 5,000 people succeeded in escaping over the Wall, with an estimated death toll ranging from 136[7] to more than 200[5][8] in and around Berlin.

In 1989, a series of revolutions in nearby Eastern Bloc countries—in Poland and Hungary in particular—caused a chain reaction in East Germany that ultimately resulted in the demise of the Wall.[9] After several weeks of civil unrest, the East German government announced on 9 November 1989 that all GDR citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin. Crowds of East Germans crossed and climbed onto the Wall, joined by West Germans on the other side in a celebratory atmosphere. Over the next few weeks, euphoric people and souvenir hunters chipped away parts of the Wall.[5] The Brandenburg Gate in the Berlin Wall was opened on 22 December 1989. The demolition of the Wall officially began on 13 June 1990 and was completed in November 1991. The "fall of the Berlin Wall" paved the way for German reunification, which formally took place on 3 October 1990.[5]


Post-war Germany

After the end of World War II in Europe, what remained of pre-war Germany west of the Oder-Neisse line was divided into four occupation zones (as per the Potsdam Agreement), each one controlled by one of the four occupying Allied powers: the United States, the United Kingdom, France and the Soviet Union. The capital of Berlin, as the seat of the Allied Control Council, was similarly subdivided into four sectors despite the city's location, which was fully within the Soviet zone.[10]

Within two years, political divisions increased between the Soviets and the other occupying powers. These included the Soviets' refusal to agree to reconstruction plans making post-war Germany self-sufficient, and to a detailed accounting of industrial plants, goods and infrastructure—some of which had already been removed by the Soviets.[11] France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Benelux countries later met to combine the non-Soviet zones of Germany into one zone for reconstruction, and to approve the extension of the Marshall Plan.[5]

Eastern Bloc and the Berlin airlift

Brandenburg Gate in 1945, after the end of World War II

Following the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, the Soviet Union engineered the installation of friendly Communist governments in most of the countries occupied by Soviet military forces at the end of the War, including Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, and the GDR, which together with Albania formed the Comecon in 1949 and later a military alliance, the Warsaw Pact.[citation needed] This bloc of nations was set up by the Soviets in opposition to NATO in the capitalist West in what became the Cold War.[citation needed]

Since the end of the War, the Soviets together with like-minded East Germans created a new Soviet-style regime in the Soviet Zone and later the GDR, on a centrally planned socialist economic model with nationalized means of production, and with repressive police state institutions, under party dictatorship of the SED similar to the party dictatorship of the Soviet Communist Party in the USSR.[citation needed]

At the same time, a parallel regime was established under the strict control of the Western powers in the zones of post-war Germany occupied by them, culminating in foundation of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949,[12] which initially claimed to be the sole legitimate power in all of German, East and West. The material standard of life in the Western zones of Berlin began to improve quickly, and residents of the Soviet Zone soon began leaving for the West in large numbers, fleeing hunger, poverty and repression in the Soviet Zone for a better life in the West. Soon residents of other parts of the Soviet Zone began to escape to the West through Berlin, and this migration, called in Germany "Republikflucht", deprived the Soviet Zone not only of working forces desperately needed for post-war reconstruction, but disproportionately highly educated people, which came to be known as the "Brain Drain".[citation needed]

In 1948, in response to moves by the Western powers to establish a separate, federal system of government in the Western zones, and to extend the Marshall Plan to Germany, the Soviets instituted the Berlin Blockade, preventing people, food, materials and supplies from arriving in West Berlin by land routes through the Soviet zone.[13] The United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and several other countries began a massive "airlift", supplying West Berlin with food and other supplies.[14] The Soviets mounted a public relations campaign against the Western policy change. Communists attempted to disrupt the elections of 1948, preceding large losses therein,[15] while 300,000 Berliners demonstrated for the international airlift to continue.[16] In May 1949, Stalin lifted the blockade, permitting the resumption of Western shipments to Berlin.[17][18]

The German Democratic Republic (the "GDR"; East Germany) was declared on 7 October 1949. On that day, the USSR ended the Soviet military government which had governed the Soviet Occupation Zone (Sowetische Besatzungszone) since the end of the War, and handed over legal power [19] to the Provisorische Volkskammer under the new Constitution of the GDR which came into force that day. However, until 1955, the Soviets maintained considerable legal control over the GDR state, including the regional governments, through the Sowetische Kontrollkommission and maintained a presence in various East German administrative, military, and secret police structures.[20][21] Even after legal sovereignty of the GDR was restored in 1955, the Soviet Union continued to maintain considerable influence over administration and lawmaking in the GDR through the Soviet embassy and through the implicit threat of force which could be exercised through the continuing large Soviet military presence in the GDR, which was used to bloodily repress protests in East Germany in June 1953.[22]

East Germany differed from West Germany (Federal Republic of Germany), which developed into a Western capitalist country with a social market economy and a democratic parliamentary government. Continual economic growth starting in the 1950s fueled a 20-year "economic miracle" ("Wirtschaftswunder"). As West Germany's economy grew, and its standard of living steadily improved, many East Germans wanted to move to West Germany.[23]

Emigration westward in the early 1950s

After the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe at the end of World War II, the majority of those living in the newly acquired areas of the Eastern Bloc aspired to independence and wanted the Soviets to leave.[24] Taking advantage of the zonal border between occupied zones in Germany, the number of GDR citizens moving to West Germany totaled 187,000 in 1950; 165,000 in 1951; 182,000 in 1952; and 331,000 in 1953.[25][26] One reason for the sharp 1953 increase was fear of potential further Sovietization, given the increasingly paranoid actions of Joseph Stalin in late 1952 and early 1953.[27] 226,000 had fled in just the first six months of 1953.[28]

Erection of the inner German border

By the early 1950s, the Soviet approach to controlling national movement, restricting emigration, was emulated by most of the rest of the Eastern Bloc, including East Germany.[29] The restrictions presented a quandary for some Eastern Bloc states, which had been more economically advanced and open than the Soviet Union, such that crossing borders seemed more natural—especially where no prior border existed between East and West Germany.[30]

Up until 1952, the demarcation lines between East Germany and the western occupied zones could be easily crossed in most places.[31] On 1 April 1952, East German leaders met the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in Moscow; during the discussions Stalin's foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov proposed that the East Germans should "introduce a system of passes for visits of West Berlin residents to the territory of East Berlin [so as to stop] free movement of Western agents" in the GDR. Stalin agreed, calling the situation "intolerable". He advised the East Germans to build up their border defenses, telling them that "The demarcation line between East and West Germany should be considered a border—and not just any border, but a dangerous one ... The Germans will guard the line of defence with their lives."[32]

Consequently, the inner German border between the two German states was closed, and a barbed-wire fence erected. The border between the Western and Eastern sectors of Berlin, however, remained open, although traffic between the Soviet and the Western sectors was somewhat restricted. This resulted in Berlin becoming a magnet for East Germans desperate to escape life in the GDR, and also a flashpoint for tension between the United States and the Soviet Union.[5]

In 1955, the Soviets gave East Germany authority over civilian movement in Berlin, passing control to a regime not recognized in the West.[33] Initially, East Germany granted "visits" to allow its residents access to West Germany. However, following the defection of large numbers of East Germans (known as Republikflucht) under this regime, the new East German state legally restricted virtually all travel to the West in 1956.[31] Soviet East German ambassador Mikhail Pervukhin observed that "the presence in Berlin of an open and essentially uncontrolled border between the socialist and capitalist worlds unwittingly prompts the population to make a comparison between both parts of the city, which unfortunately does not always turn out in favour of Democratic [East] Berlin."[34]

Berlin emigration loophole

With the closing of the inner German border officially in 1952,[34] the border in Berlin remained considerably more accessible because it was administered by all four occupying powers.[31] Accordingly, Berlin became the main route by which East Germans left for the West.[35] On 11 December 1957, East Germany introduced a new passport law that reduced the overall number of refugees leaving Eastern Germany.[5]

It had the unintended result of drastically increasing the percentage of those leaving through West Berlin from 60% to well over 90% by the end of 1958.[34] Those caught trying to leave East Berlin were subjected to heavy penalties, but with no physical barrier and subway train access still available to West Berlin, such measures were ineffective.[36] The Berlin sector border was essentially a "loophole" through which Eastern Bloc citizens could still escape.[34] The 3.5 million East Germans who had left by 1961 totalled approximately 20% of the entire East German population.[36]

An important reason that passage between East Germany and West Berlin was not stopped earlier was that doing so would cut off much of the railway traffic in East Germany. Construction of a new railway bypassing West Berlin, the Berlin outer ring, commenced in 1951. Following the completion of the railway in 1961, closing the border became a more practical proposition. (See History of rail transport in Germany.)

Brain drain

The emigrants tended to be young and well-educated, leading to the "brain drain" feared by officials in East Germany.[24] Yuri Andropov, then the CPSU Director on Relations with Communist and Workers' Parties of Socialist Countries, wrote an urgent letter on 28 August 1958, to the Central Committee about the significant 50% increase in the number of East German intelligentsia among the refugees.[37] Andropov reported that, while the East German leadership stated that they were leaving for economic reasons, testimony from refugees indicated that the reasons were more political than material.[37] He stated "the flight of the intelligentsia has reached a particularly critical phase."[37]

By 1960, the combination of World War II and the massive emigration westward left East Germany with only 61% of its population of working age, compared to 70.5% before the war. The loss was disproportionately heavy among professionals: engineers, technicians, physicians, teachers, lawyers and skilled workers. The direct cost of manpower losses to East Germany (and corresponding gain to the West) has been estimated at $7 billion to $9 billion, with East German party leader Walter Ulbricht later claiming that West Germany owed him $17 billion in compensation, including reparations as well as manpower losses.[36] In addition, the drain of East Germany's young population potentially cost it over 22.5 billion marks in lost educational investment.[38] The brain drain of professionals had become so damaging to the political credibility and economic viability of East Germany that the re-securing of the German communist frontier was imperative.[39]

The exodus of emigrants from East Germany presented two minor potential benefits: an easy opportunity to smuggle East German secret agents to West Germany, and a reduction in the number of citizens hostile to the communist regime. Neither of these advantages, however, proved particularly useful.[40]

Construction begins, 1961

Aerial footage of the wall as filmed by the CIA in 1961
East German Combat Groups of the Working Class close the border on 13 August 1961 in preparation for the Berlin Wall construction.
East German construction workers building the Berlin Wall, 20 November 1961.

On 15 June 1961, First Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party and GDR State Council chairman Walter Ulbricht stated in an international press conference, "Niemand hat die Absicht, eine Mauer zu errichten!" (No one has the intention of erecting a wall!). It was the first time the colloquial term Mauer (wall) had been used in this context.[41]

The transcript of a telephone call between Nikita Khrushchev and Ulbricht, on 1 August in the same year, suggests that the initiative for the construction of the Wall came from Khrushchev.[42][43] However, other sources suggest that Khrushchev had initially been wary about building a wall, fearing negative Western reaction. Nevertheless, Ulbricht had pushed for a border closure for quite some time, arguing that East Germany's very existence was at stake.[44]

Khrushchev had become emboldened upon seeing US President John F. Kennedy's youth and inexperience, a weakness against Khrushchev's brutal, undiplomatic aggression. In the 1961 Vienna summit, Kennedy made the error of admitting that the US wouldn't actively oppose the building of a barrier.[45] A feeling of miscalculation and failure was admitted by Kennedy, immediately afterwards, in a candid interview with New York Times columnist James "Scotty" Reston.[46] On Saturday, 12 August 1961, the leaders of the GDR attended a garden party at a government guesthouse in Döllnsee, in a wooded area to the north of East Berlin. There, Ulbricht signed the order to close the border and erect a wall.[5]

At midnight, the police and units of the East German army began to close the border and, by Sunday morning, 13 August, the border with West Berlin was closed. East German troops and workers had begun to tear up streets running alongside the border to make them impassable to most vehicles and to install barbed wire entanglements and fences along the 156 kilometres (97 mi) around the three western sectors, and the 43 kilometres (27 mi) that divided West and East Berlin.[47] The date of 13 August became commonly referred to as Barbed Wire Sunday in Germany.[5]

The barrier was built inside East Berlin or East German territory to ensure that it did not encroach on West Berlin at any point. Generally, the Wall was only slightly inside East Berlin, but in a few places it was some distance from the legal border, most notably at Potsdamer Bahnhof[48] and the Lenné Triangle[49] that is now much of the Potsdamer Platz development.

Later, the initial barrier was built up into the Wall proper, the first concrete elements and large blocks being put in place on 17 August. During the construction of the Wall, National People's Army (NVA) and Combat Groups of the Working Class (KdA) soldiers stood in front of it with orders to shoot anyone who attempted to defect. Additionally, chain fences, walls, minefields and other obstacles were installed along the length of East Germany's western border with West Germany proper. A huge no man's land was cleared to provide a clear line of fire at fleeing refugees.[50]

Immediate effects

US President John F. Kennedy visiting the Berlin Wall on 26 June 1963

With the closing of the East-West sector boundary in Berlin, the vast majority of East Germans could no longer travel or emigrate to West Germany. Berlin soon went from being the easiest place to make an unauthorized crossing between East and West Germany to being the most difficult.[51] Many families were split, while East Berliners employed in the West were cut off from their jobs. West Berlin became an isolated exclave in a hostile land. West Berliners demonstrated against the Wall, led by their Mayor (Oberbürgermeister) Willy Brandt, who strongly criticized the United States for failing to respond. Allied intelligence agencies had hypothesized about a wall to stop the flood of refugees, but the main candidate for its location was around the perimeter of the city. In 1961, Secretary of State Dean Rusk proclaimed, "The Wall certainly ought not to be a permanent feature of the European landscape. I see no reason why the Soviet Union should think it is—it is to their advantage in any way to leave there that monument to communist failure."[50]

United States and UK sources had expected the Soviet sector to be sealed off from West Berlin, but were surprised by how long the East Germans took for such a move. They considered the Wall as an end to concerns about a GDR/Soviet retaking or capture of the whole of Berlin; the Wall would presumably have been an unnecessary project if such plans were afloat. Thus, they concluded that the possibility of a Soviet military conflict over Berlin had decreased.[52]

The East German government claimed that the Wall was an "anti-fascist protective rampart" (German: "antifaschistischer Schutzwall") intended to dissuade aggression from the West.[53] Another official justification was the activities of Western agents in Eastern Europe.[54] The Eastern German government also claimed that West Berliners were buying out state-subsidized goods in East Berlin. East Germans and others greeted such statements with skepticism, as most of the time, the border was only closed for citizens of East Germany traveling to the West, but not for residents of West Berlin travelling to the East.[55] The construction of the Wall had caused considerable hardship to families divided by it. Most people believed that the Wall was mainly a means of preventing the citizens of East Germany from entering or fleeing to West Berlin.[56]

Secondary response

Universal Newsreel of the 1st anniversary of the Berlin Wall

The National Security Agency was the only American intelligence agency that was aware that East Germany was to take action to deal with the brain drain problem. On 9 August 1961, the NSA intercepted an advance warning information of the Socialist Unity Party's plan to close the intra-Berlin border between East and West Berlin completely for foot traffic. The interagency intelligence Berlin Watch Committee assessed that this intercept "might be the first step in a plan to close the border."[57][58] This warning did not reach John F. Kennedy until noon on 13 August 1961, while he was vacationing in his yacht off the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. While Kennedy was angry that he had no advance warning, he was relieved that the East Germans and the Soviets had only divided Berlin without taking any action against West Berlin's access to the West. However, he denounced the Berlin Wall, whose erection worsened the relations between the United States and the Soviet Union.[57][58]

In response to the erection of the Berlin Wall, a retired general, Lucius D. Clay, was appointed by Kennedy as his special advisor and sent to Berlin with ambassadorial rank. Clay had been the Military Governor of the US Zone of Occupation in Germany during the period of the Berlin Blockade and had ordered the first measures in what became the Berlin Airlift. He was immensely popular with the residents of West Berlin, and his appointment was an unambiguous sign that Kennedy would not compromise on the status of West Berlin. Clay and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson arrived at Tempelhof Airport on the afternoon of Saturday, 19 August 1961.[5]

They arrived in a city defended by three Allied brigades—one each from the UK (Berlin Infantry Brigade), the US (Berlin Brigade), and France (Forces Françaises à Berlin). On 16 August, Kennedy had given the order for them to be reinforced. Early on 19 August, the 1st Battle Group, 18th Infantry (commanded by Colonel Glover S. Johns Jr.) was alerted.[59]

On Sunday morning, U.S. troops marched from West Germany through East Germany, bound for West Berlin. Lead elements—arranged in a column of 491 vehicles and trailers carrying 1,500 men, divided into five march units—left the Helmstedt-Marienborn checkpoint at 06:34. At Marienborn, the Soviet checkpoint next to Helmstedt on the West German-East German border, US personnel were counted by guards. The column was 160 kilometres (99 mi) long, and covered 177 kilometres (110 mi) from Marienborn to Berlin in full battle gear. East German police watched from beside trees next to the autobahn all the way along.[5]

The front of the convoy arrived at the outskirts of Berlin just before noon, to be met by Clay and Johnson, before parading through the streets of Berlin in front of a large crowd. At 04:00 on 21 August, Lyndon Johnson left West Berlin in the hands of General Frederick O. Hartel and his brigade of 4,224 officers and men. "For the next three and a half years, American battalions would rotate into West Berlin, by autobahn, at three month intervals to demonstrate Allied rights to the city".[60]

The creation of the Wall had important implications for both German states. By stemming the exodus of people from East Germany, the East German government was able to reassert its control over the country: in spite of discontent with the Wall, economic problems caused by dual currency and the black market were largely eliminated. The economy in the GDR began to grow. However, the Wall proved a public relations disaster for the communist bloc as a whole. Western powers portrayed it as a symbol of communist tyranny, particularly after East German border guards shot and killed would-be defectors. Such fatalities were later treated as acts of murder by the reunified Germany.[61]

Structure and adjacent areas

Layout and modifications

The wall overview[62][63]
Length (km) Description
156.40 Bordering around West Berlin within 3.4m and 4.2m in height
111.90 Concrete walls
44.50 Metal mesh fence (along death strip)
112.70 Cross attachment in Potsdam
43.70 Cross attachment along the border of East and West Berlin
0.50 Remains of house fronts, land mansion bricks[clarification needed]
58.95 Wall-shaped front wall with a height of 3.40 m
68.42 Expanded metal fence with a height of 2.90 m as a "front barrier"
16100 Light strip
113.85 Limit signal and barrier fence (GSSZ)
127.50 Contact and signal fence
124.30 Border patrol
Actual number Descriptions
186 Observation towers (302 in West-Berlin)[clarification needed]
31 Implementing agencies
259 Dog runs
20 Bunkers
East Berlin "death strip" of the Berlin Wall, as seen from the Axel Springer AG Building, 1984.
This section of the Wall's "death strip" featured Czech hedgehogs, a guard tower and a cleared area, 1977.
The top of the Wall was lined with a smooth pipe, intended to make it more difficult to scale. The areas just outside the wall, including the sidewalk, are de jure Eastern Bloc territory. 1984.
Structure of the Berlin Wall.
Position and course of the Berlin Wall and its border control checkpoints (1989).

The Berlin Wall was more than 140 kilometres (87 mi) long. In June 1962, a second, parallel fence was built some 100 metres (110 yd) farther into East German territory. The houses contained between the fences were razed and the inhabitants relocated, thus establishing what later became known as the death strip. The death strip was covered with raked sand or gravel, rendering footprints easy to notice, easing the detection of trespassers and also enabling officers to see which guards had neglected their task;[64] it offered no cover; and, most importantly, it offered clear fields of fire for the Wall guards.

Through the years, the Berlin Wall evolved through four versions:[65]

  • Wire fence and concrete block wall (1961)
  • Improved wire fence (1962–1965)
  • Improved concrete wall (1965–1975)
  • Grenzmauer 75 (Border Wall 75) (1975–1989)

The "fourth-generation Wall", known officially as "Stützwandelement UL 12.11" (retaining wall element UL 12.11), was the final and most sophisticated version of the Wall. Begun in 1975[66] and completed about 1980,[67] it was constructed from 45,000 separate sections of reinforced concrete, each 3.6 metres (12 ft) high and 1.2 metres (3.9 ft) wide, and cost DDM16,155,000 or about US$3,638,000.[68] The concrete provisions added to this version of the Wall were done to prevent escapees from driving their cars through the barricades.[69] At strategic points, the Wall was constructed to a somewhat weaker standard, so that East German and Soviet armored vehicles could easily break through in the event of war.[69]

The top of the wall was lined with a smooth pipe, intended to make it more difficult to scale. The Wall was reinforced by mesh fencing, signal fencing, anti-vehicle trenches, barbed wire, dogs on long lines, "beds of nails" (also known as "Stalin's Carpet") under balconies hanging over the "death strip", over 116 watchtowers,[70] and 20 bunkers with hundreds of guards. This version of the Wall is the one most commonly seen in photographs, and surviving fragments of the Wall in Berlin and elsewhere around the world are generally pieces of the fourth-generation Wall. The layout came to resemble the inner German border in most technical aspects, except that the Berlin Wall had no landmines nor spring-guns.[64] Maintenance was performed on the outside of the wall by personnel who accessed the area outside it either via ladders or via hidden doors within the wall.[71] These doors could not be opened by a single person, needing two separate keys in two separate keyholes to unlock.[72]

As was the case with the inner German border, an unfortified strip of Eastern territory was left outside the wall.[73] This outer strip was used by workers to paint over graffiti and perform other maintenance on the outside of the wall [73] Unlike the inner German border, however, the outer strip was usually no more than four meters wide, and, in photos from the era, the exact location of the actual border in many places appears not even to have been marked. Also in contrast with the inner German border, little interest was shown by East German law enforcement in keeping outsiders off the outer strip; sidewalks of West Berlin streets even ran inside it.[73]

Despite the East German government's general policy of benign neglect, vandals were known to have been pursued in the outer strip, and even arrested. In 1986, defector and political activist Wolfram Hasch and four other defectors were standing inside the outer strip defacing the wall when East German personnel emerged from one of the hidden doors to apprehend them. All but Hasch escaped back into the western sector. Hasch himself was arrested, dragged through the door into the death strip, and later convicted of illegally crossing the de jure border outside the wall.[74] Graffiti artist Thierry Noir has reported having often been pursued there by East German soldiers.[75] While some graffiti artists were chased off the outer strip, others, such as Keith Haring, were seemingly tolerated.[76]

Surrounding municipalities

Besides the sector-sector boundary within Berlin itself, the Wall also separated West Berlin from the present-day state of Brandenburg. The following present-day municipalities, listed in counter-clockwise direction, share a border with former West Berlin:

Official crossings and usage

A You Are Leaving sign at a border of the American sector
Road sign delimiting the British zone of occupation in Berlin, 1984

There were nine border crossings between East and West Berlin. These allowed visits by West Berliners, other West Germans, Western foreigners and Allied personnel into East Berlin, as well as visits by GDR citizens and citizens of other socialist countries into West Berlin, provided that they held the necessary permits. These crossings were restricted according to which nationality was allowed to use it (East Germans, West Germans, West Berliners, other countries). The best known was the vehicle and pedestrian checkpoint at the corner of Friedrichstraße and Zimmerstraße (Checkpoint Charlie), which was restricted to Allied personnel and foreigners.[77]

Several other border crossings existed between West Berlin and surrounding East Germany. These could be used for transit between West Germany and West Berlin, for visits by West Berliners into East Germany, for transit into countries neighbouring East Germany (Poland, Czechoslovakia, Denmark), and for visits by East Germans into West Berlin carrying a permit. After the 1972 agreements, new crossings were opened to allow West Berlin waste to be transported into East German dumps, as well as some crossings for access to West Berlin's exclaves (see Steinstücken).

Four autobahns connected West Berlin to West Germany, including Berlin-Helmstedt autobahn, which entered East German territory between the towns of Helmstedt and Marienborn (Checkpoint Alpha), and which entered West Berlin at Dreilinden (Checkpoint Bravo for the Allied forces) in southwestern Berlin. Access to West Berlin was also possible by railway (four routes) and by boat for commercial shipping via canals and rivers.[5][65][78]

Non-German Westerners could cross the border at Friedrichstraße station in East Berlin and at Checkpoint Charlie. When the Wall was erected, Berlin's complex public transit networks, the S-Bahn and U-Bahn, were divided with it.[67] Some lines were cut in half; many stations were shut down. Three western lines traveled through brief sections of East Berlin territory, passing through eastern stations (called Geisterbahnhöfe, or ghost stations) without stopping. Both the eastern and western networks converged at Friedrichstraße, which became a major crossing point for those (mostly Westerners) with permission to cross.[78][79]


Travel orders to go to Berlin as used by U.S. forces in the 1980s.

West Germans and citizens of other Western countries could generally visit East Germany, often after applying for a visa[80] at an East German embassy several weeks in advance. Visas for day trips restricted to East Berlin were issued without previous application in a simplified procedure at the border crossing. However, East German authorities could refuse entry permits without stating a reason. In the 1980s, visitors from the western part of the city who wanted to visit the eastern part had to exchange at least DM 25 into East German currency at the poor exchange rate of 1:1. It was forbidden to export East German currency from the East, but money not spent could be left at the border for possible future visits. Tourists crossing from the west had to also pay for a visa, which cost DM 5; West Berliners did not have to pay this fee.[79]

West Berliners initially could not visit East Berlin or East Germany at all—all crossing points were closed to them between 26 August 1961 and 17 December 1963. In 1963, negotiations between East and West resulted in a limited possibility for visits during the Christmas season that year (Passierscheinregelung). Similar, very limited arrangements were made in 1964, 1965 and 1966.[79]

In 1971, with the Four Power Agreement on Berlin, agreements were reached that allowed West Berliners to apply for visas to enter East Berlin and East Germany regularly, comparable to the regulations already in force for West Germans. However, East German authorities could still refuse entry permits.[79]

East Berliners and East Germans could not, at first, travel to West Berlin or West Germany at all. This regulation remained in force essentially until the fall of the Wall, but over the years several exceptions to these rules were introduced, the most significant being:

  • Elderly pensioners could travel to the West starting in 1965
  • Visits of relatives for important family matters
  • People who had to travel to the West for professional reasons (for example, artists, truck drivers, musicians, writers, etc.)[citation needed]

For each of these exceptions, GDR citizens had to apply for individual approval, which was never guaranteed. In addition, even if travel was approved, GDR travellers could exchange only a very small amount of East German Marks into Deutsche Marks (DM), thus limiting the financial resources available for them to travel to the West. This led to the West German practice of granting a small amount of DM annually (Begrüßungsgeld, or welcome money) to GDR citizens visiting West Germany and West Berlin to help alleviate this situation.[79]

Citizens of other East European countries were in general subject to the same prohibition of visiting Western countries as East Germans, though the applicable exception (if any) varied from country to country.[79]

Allied military personnel and civilian officials of the Allied forces could enter and exit East Berlin without submitting to East German passport controls, purchasing a visa or being required to exchange money. Likewise, Soviet military patrols could enter and exit West Berlin. This was a requirement of the post-war Four Powers Agreements. A particular area of concern for the Western Allies involved official dealings with East German authorities when crossing the border, since Allied policy did not recognize the authority of the GDR to regulate Allied military traffic to and from West Berlin, as well as the Allied presence within Greater Berlin, including entry into, exit from, and presence within East Berlin.[79]

The Allies held that only the Soviet Union, and not the GDR, had authority to regulate Allied personnel in such cases. For this reason, elaborate procedures were established to prevent inadvertent recognition of East German authority when engaged in travel through the GDR and when in East Berlin. Special rules applied to travel by Western Allied military personnel assigned to the military liaison missions accredited to the commander of Soviet forces in East Germany, located in Potsdam.[79]

Allied personnel were restricted by policy when travelling by land to the following routes:

Transit between West Germany and West Berlin
  • Road: the Helmstedt–Berlin autobahn (A2) (checkpoints Alpha and Bravo respectively). Soviet military personnel manned these checkpoints and processed Allied personnel for travel between the two points. Military personnel were required to be in uniform when traveling in this manner.
  • Rail: Western Allied military personnel and civilian officials of the Allied forces were forbidden to use commercial train service between West Germany and West Berlin, because of GDR passport and customs controls when using them. Instead, the Allied forces operated a series of official (duty) trains that traveled between their respective duty stations in West Germany and West Berlin. When transiting the GDR, the trains would follow the route between Helmstedt and Griebnitzsee, just outside West Berlin. In addition to persons traveling on official business, authorized personnel could also use the duty trains for personal travel on a space-available basis. The trains traveled only at night, and as with transit by car, Soviet military personnel handled the processing of duty train travelers.[79] (See History of the Berlin S-Bahn.)
Entry into and exit from East Berlin

As with military personnel, special procedures applied to travel by diplomatic personnel of the Western Allies accredited to their respective embassies in the GDR. This was intended to prevent inadvertent recognition of East German authority when crossing between East and West Berlin, which could jeopardize the overall Allied position governing the freedom of movement by Allied forces personnel within all Berlin.

Ordinary citizens of the Western Allied powers, not formally affiliated with the Allied forces, were authorized to use all designated transit routes through East Germany to and from West Berlin. Regarding travel to East Berlin, such persons could also use the Friedrichstraße train station to enter and exit the city, in addition to Checkpoint Charlie. In these instances, such travelers, unlike Allied personnel, had to submit to East German border controls.[79]

Defection attempts

NVA soldier Conrad Schumann defecting to West Berlin during the Wall's early days in 1961.

During the years of the Wall, around 5,000 people successfully defected to West Berlin. The number of people who died trying to cross the Wall, or as a result of the Wall's existence, has been disputed. The most vocal claims by Alexandra Hildebrandt, Director of the Checkpoint Charlie Museum and widow of the Museum's founder, estimated the death toll to be well above 200.[7][8] A historic research group at the Center for Contemporary Historical Research (ZZF) in Potsdam has confirmed at least 140 deaths.[8] Prior official figures listed 98 as being killed.

The East German government issued shooting orders (Schießbefehl) to border guards dealing with defectors, though such orders are not the same as "shoot to kill" orders. GDR officials denied issuing the latter. In an October 1973 order later discovered by researchers, guards were instructed that people attempting to cross the Wall were criminals and needed to be shot:

"Do not hesitate to use your firearm, not even when the border is breached in the company of women and children, which is a tactic the traitors have often used".[81]

Oct. 7, 1961. Four-year-old Michael Finder of East Germany is tossed by his father into a net held by residents across the border in West Berlin. The father, Willy Finder, then prepares to make the jump himself.

Early successful escapes involved people jumping the initial barbed wire or leaping out of apartment windows along the line, but these ended as the Wall was fortified. East German authorities no longer permitted apartments near the Wall to be occupied, and any building near the Wall had its windows boarded and later bricked up. On 15 August 1961, Conrad Schumann was the first East German border guard to escape by jumping the barbed wire to West Berlin.[82]

On 22 August 1961, Ida Siekmann was the first casualty at the Berlin Wall: she died after she jumped out of her third floor apartment at 48 Bernauer Strasse.[83] The first person to be shot and killed while trying to cross to West Berlin was Günter Litfin, a twenty-four-year-old tailor. He attempted to swim across the Spree to West Berlin on 24 August 1961, the same day that East German police had received shoot-to-kill orders to prevent anyone from escaping.[84]

Another dramatic escape was carried out on April 1963 by Wolfgang Engels, a 19-year-old civilian employee of the Nationale Volksarmee (NVA). Engels stole a Soviet armored personnel carrier from a base where he was deployed and drove it right into the Wall. He was fired at and seriously wounded by border guards. But a West German policeman intervened, firing his weapon at the East German border guards. The policeman removed Engels from the vehicle, which had become entangled in the barbed wire.[85]

Memorial to the Victims of the Wall, with graffiti, 1982.

East Germans successfully defected by a variety of methods: digging long tunnels under the Wall, waiting for favorable winds and taking a hot air balloon, sliding along aerial wires, flying ultralights and, in one instance, simply driving a sports car at full speed through the basic, initial fortifications. When a metal beam was placed at checkpoints to prevent this kind of defection, up to four people (two in the front seats and possibly two in the boot) drove under the bar in a sports car that had been modified to allow the roof and windscreen to come away when it made contact with the beam. They lay flat and kept driving forward. The East Germans then built zig-zagging roads at checkpoints. The sewer system predated the Wall, and some people escaped through the sewers,[86] in a number of cases with assistance from the Unternehmen Reisebüro.[87] In September 1962, 29 people escaped through a tunnel to the west. At least 70 tunnels were dug under the wall; only 19 were successful in allowing fugitives—about 400 persons—to escape. The East Germany authorities eventually used seismographic and acoustic equipment to detect the practice.[88][89] In 1962, they planned an attempt to use explosives to destroy one tunnel, but this was not carried out as it was apparently sabotaged by a member of the Stasi.[89]

An airborne escape was made by Thomas Krüger, who landed a Zlin Z 42M light aircraft of the Gesellschaft für Sport und Technik, an East German youth military training organization, at RAF Gatow. His aircraft, registration DDR-WOH, was dismantled and returned to the East Germans by road, complete with humorous slogans painted on it by airmen of the Royal Air Force, such as "Wish you were here" and "Come back soon".[citation needed]

If an escapee was wounded in a crossing attempt and lay on the death strip, no matter how close they were to the Western wall, Westerners could not intervene for fear of triggering engaging fire from the 'Grepos', the East Berlin border guards. The guards often let fugitives bleed to death in the middle of this ground, as in the most notorious failed attempt, that of Peter Fechter (aged 18) at a point near Zimmerstrasse in East Berlin. He was shot and bled to death, in full view of the Western media, on 17 August 1962.[90] Fechter's death created negative publicity worldwide that led the leaders of East Berlin to place more restrictions on shooting in public places, and provide medical care for possible "would-be escapers".[91] The last person to be shot and killed while trying to cross the border was Chris Gueffroy on 6 February 1989, while the final person to die in an escape attempt was Winfried Freudenberg who was killed when his homemade natural gas-filled balloon crashed on 8 March 1989.

The Wall gave rise to a widespread sense of desperation and oppression in East Berlin, as expressed in the private thoughts of one resident, who confided to her diary "Our lives have lost their spirit… we can do nothing to stop them."[92]

Concerts by Western artists and growing anti-Wall sentiment

Every stone bears witness to the moral bankruptcy of the society it encloses

— Margaret Thatcher commenting about the wall, West Berlin, 1982[93]

David Bowie, 1987

On 6 June 1987, David Bowie, who earlier for several years lived and recorded in West Berlin, played a concert close to the Wall. This was attended by thousands of Eastern concertgoers across the Wall,[94] followed by violent rioting in East Berlin. According to Tobias Ruther, these protests in East Berlin were the first in the sequence of riots that led to those of November 1989.[95][96] Although other factors were probably more influential in the fall of the Wall,[94] upon his death, the German Foreign Office tweeted "Good-bye, David Bowie. You are now among #Heroes. Thank you for helping to bring down the #wall."[97]

Bruce Springsteen, 1988

On 19 July 1988, 16 months before the Wall came down, Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band, played Rocking the Wall, a live concert in East Berlin, which was attended by 300,000 in person and broadcast delayed on television. Springsteen spoke to the crowd in German, saying: "I'm not here for or against any government. I've come to play rock 'n' roll for you in the hope that one day all the barriers will be torn down".[98] East Germany and its FDJ youth organization were worried they were losing an entire generation. They hoped that by letting Springsteen in, they could improve their sentiment among East Germans. However, this strategy of "one step backwards, two steps forwards" backfired and the concert only made East Germans hungrier for more of the freedoms that Springsteen epitomized. While John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan delivered their famous speeches from the safety of West Berlin, Springsteen's speaking out against the Wall in the middle of East Berlin added to the euphoria.[98]

David Hasselhoff, 1989

On 31 December 1989, American TV actor and pop music singer David Hasselhoff was the headlining performer for the Freedom Tour Live concert, which was attended by over 500,000 people on both sides of the Wall. The live concert footage was directed by music video director Thomas Mignone and aired on broadcast television station Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen ZDF throughout Europe. During shooting film crew personnel pulled people up from both sides to stand and celebrate on top of the wall. Hasselhoff sang his number one hit song "Looking For Freedom" on a platform at the end of a twenty-meter steel crane that swung above and over the Wall adjacent to the Brandenburg Gate.[99]

"Ich bin ein Berliner" and "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this Wall."

Complete speech by Ronald Reagan at the Brandenburg Gate, 12 June 1987. Famous passage begins at 11:10 into this video.

On 26 June 1963, 22 months after the erection of the Berlin Wall, U.S. President John F. Kennedy visited West Berlin. Speaking from a platform erected on the steps of Rathaus Schöneberg for an audience of 450,000 he declared in his Ich bin ein Berliner speech the support of the United States for West Germany and the people of West Berlin in particular:

Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was civis romanus sum ["I am a Roman citizen"]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is "Ich bin ein Berliner!"... All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words "Ich bin ein Berliner!"

The message was aimed as much at the Soviets as it was at Berliners and was a clear statement of U.S. policy in the wake of the construction of the Berlin Wall. The speech is considered one of Kennedy's best, both a significant moment in the Cold War and a high point of the New Frontier. It was a great morale boost for West Berliners, who lived in an exclave deep inside East Germany and feared a possible East German occupation.

In a speech at the Brandenburg Gate commemorating the 750th anniversary of Berlin[100] on 12 June 1987, U.S. President Ronald Reagan challenged Mikhail Gorbachev, then the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, to tear down the Wall as a symbol of increasing freedom in the Eastern Bloc:

We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this Wall![101]

Fall of the Berlin Wall

The fall of the communist government in neighboring Poland's 1989 Polish legislative election in June played a role in the fall of the Berlin Wall. Also in June 1989 the Hungarian government began dismantling the electrified fence along its border with Austria (with Western TV crews present), and then, in September, more than 13,000 East German tourists escaped through Hungary to Austria.[102] This set up a chain of events. The Hungarians prevented many more East Germans from crossing the border and returned them to Budapest. These East Germans flooded the West German embassy and refused to return to East Germany.[103]

St. Nicholas Church in Leipzig has become a famous symbol of the reunification of Germany.[104]

The East German government responded by disallowing any further travel to Hungary, but allowed those already there to return to East Germany.[9] This triggered similar events in neighboring Czechoslovakia. This time, however, the East German authorities allowed people to leave, provided that they did so by train through East Germany. This was followed by mass demonstrations within East Germany itself.[104] Despite the policy of state atheism in East Germany, Christian pastor Christian Führer regularly met with his congregation at Leipzig's St. Nicholas Church for prayer since 1982.[104][105] Over the next seven years, the Church grew, despite authorities barricading the streets leading to it, and after church services, peaceful candlelit marches took place.[104] The secret police issued death threats and even attacked some of the marchers, but the crowd still continued to gather.[104] Protest demonstrations spread throughout East Germany in September 1989. Initially, protesters were mostly people wanting to leave to the West, chanting "Wir wollen raus!" ("We want out!"). Then protestors began to chant "Wir bleiben hier!" ("We are staying here!"). This was the start of what East Germans generally call the "Peaceful Revolution" of late 1989.[106] The protest demonstrations grew considerably by early November. The movement neared its height on 4 November, when half a million people gathered to demand political change, at the Alexanderplatz demonstration, East Berlin's large public square and transportation hub.[107] On 9 October 1989, the police and army units were given permission to use force against those assembled, but this did not deter the church service and march from taking place, which gathered 70,000 people.[104][105] Many of those people started to cross into West Berlin,[citation needed] without a shot being fired.[104]

The longtime leader of East Germany, Erich Honecker, resigned on 18 October 1989 and was replaced by Egon Krenz that day. Honecker had predicted in January of that year that the Wall would stand for 50 or 100 more years[103][dead link] if the conditions that had caused its construction did not change.

The wave of refugees leaving East Germany for the West kept increasing. By early November refugees were finding their way to Hungary via Czechoslovakia, or via the West German Embassy in Prague. This was tolerated by the new Krenz government, because of long-standing agreements with the communist Czechoslovak government, allowing free travel across their common border. However this movement of people grew so large it caused difficulties for both countries. To ease the difficulties, the politburo led by Krenz decided on 9 November to allow refugees to exit directly through crossing points between East Germany and West Germany, including between East and West Berlin. Later the same day, the ministerial administration modified the proposal to include private, round-trip, travel. The new regulations were to take effect the next day.[108]

Günter Schabowski, the party boss in East Berlin and the spokesman for the SED Politburo, had the task of announcing the new regulations. However, he had not been involved in the discussions about the new regulations and had not been fully updated.[109] Shortly before a press conference on 9 November, he was handed a note announcing the changes, but given no further instructions on how to handle the information. These regulations had only been completed a few hours earlier and were to take effect the following day, so as to allow time to inform the border guards. But this starting time delay was not communicated to Schabowski.[44] At the end of the press conference, Schabowski read out loud the note he had been given. A reporter, ANSA's Riccardo Ehrman,[110] asked when the regulations would take effect. After a few seconds' hesitation, Schabowski replied, "As far as I know, it takes effect immediately, without delay".[44] After further questions from journalists, he confirmed that the regulations included the border crossings through the Wall into West Berlin, which he had not mentioned until then.[111] He repeated that it was immediate in an interview with American journalist Tom Brokaw.[112] (In 2009 Ehrman said that a GDR official who was a personal friend had actually specifically requested that Ehrman ask about the travel law during the press conference, but Schabowski called that absurd.[110])

Excerpts from Schabowski's press conference were the lead story on West Germany's two main news programs that night—at 7:17 p.m. on ZDF's heute and at 8 p.m. on ARD's Tagesschau. As ARD and ZDF had broadcast to nearly all of East Germany since the late 1950s and had become accepted by the East German authorities, the news was broadcast there as well simultaneously. Later that night, on ARD's Tagesthemen, anchorman Hanns Joachim Friedrichs proclaimed, "This 9 November is a historic day. The GDR has announced that, starting immediately, its borders are open to everyone. The gates in the Wall stand open wide."[44][109]

After hearing the broadcast, East Germans began gathering at the Wall, at the six checkpoints between East and West Berlin, demanding that border guards immediately open the gates.[109] The surprised and overwhelmed guards made many hectic telephone calls to their superiors about the problem. At first, they were ordered to find the "more aggressive" people gathered at the gates and stamp their passports with a special stamp that barred them from returning to East Germany—in effect, revoking their citizenship. However, this still left thousands of people demanding to be let through "as Schabowski said we can".[44] It soon became clear that no one among the East German authorities would take personal responsibility for issuing orders to use lethal force, so the vastly outnumbered soldiers had no way to hold back the huge crowd of East German citizens. Finally, at 10:45 p.m. on 9 November, Harald Jäger, the commander of the Bornholmer Straße border crossing yielded, allowing for the guards to open the checkpoints and allowing people through with little or no identity checking.[113] As the Ossis swarmed through, they were greeted by Wessis waiting with flowers and champagne amid wild rejoicing. Soon afterward, a crowd of West Berliners jumped on top of the Wall, and were soon joined by East German youngsters.[114] The evening of 9 November 1989 is known as the night the Wall came down.[115]

Another border crossing to the south may have been opened earlier. An account by Heinz Schäfer indicates that he also acted independently and ordered the opening of the gate at Waltersdorf-Rudow a couple of hours earlier.[116] This may explain reports of East Berliners appearing in West Berlin earlier than the opening of the Bornholmer Straße border crossing.[citation needed]

Thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, The Guardian collected short stories from 9 November 1989 by five German writers who reflect on the day. In this, Kathrin Schmidt remembers comically: 'I downed almost an entire bottle of schnapps'.[117]


Little is left of the Wall at its original site, which was destroyed almost in its entirety. Three long sections are still standing: an 80-metre-long (260 ft) piece of the first (westernmost) wall at the Topography of Terror, site of the former Gestapo headquarters, halfway between Checkpoint Charlie and Potsdamer Platz; a longer section of the second (easternmost) wall along the Spree River near the Oberbaumbrücke, nicknamed East Side Gallery; and a third section that is partly reconstructed, in the north at Bernauer Straße, which was turned into a memorial in 1999. Other isolated fragments, lampposts, other elements, and a few watchtowers also remain in various parts of the city.

  • The former leadership in the Schlesischen Busch in the vicinity of the Puschkinallee—the listed, twelve-meter high watchtower stands in a piece of the wall strip, which has been turned into a park, near the [118]
  • The former "Kieler Eck" (Kiel Corner) on Kieler Strasse in Mitte, close to the Berlin-Spandau Schifffahrtskanal—the tower is protected as a historic monument and now surrounded on three sides by new buildings. It houses a memorial site named after the Wallopfer Günter Litfin, who was shot at in August 1961. The memorial site, which is run by the initiative of his brother Jürgen Liftin, can be viewed after registration.
  • The former management office at Nieder Neuendorf, in the district of Hennigsdorf of the same name—here is the permanent exhibition on the history of the border installations between the two German states.
  • The former management station at Bergfelde, today the district of Hohen Neuendorf—The tower is located in an already reforested area of the border strip and is used together with surrounding terrain as a nature protection tower by the Deutschen Waldjugend.
  • The only one of the much slimmer observation towers (BT-11) in the Erna-Berger-Strasse also in Mitte—however, was moved by a few meters for construction work and is no longer in the original location; There is an exhibition about the wall in the area of the Potsdamer Platz in planning.

Nothing still accurately represents the Wall's original appearance better than a very short stretch at Bernauer Straße associated with the Berlin Wall Documentation Center.[119] Other remnants are badly damaged by souvenir seekers. Fragments of the Wall were taken and some were sold around the world. Appearing both with and without certificates of authenticity, these fragments are now a staple on the online auction service eBay as well as German souvenir shops. Today, the eastern side is covered in graffiti that did not exist while the Wall was guarded by the armed soldiers of East Germany. Previously, graffiti appeared only on the western side. Along some tourist areas of the city centre, the city government has marked the location of the former Wall by a row of cobblestones in the street. In most places only the "first" wall is marked, except near Potsdamer Platz where the stretch of both walls is marked, giving visitors an impression of the dimension of the barrier system.[citation needed]

After the fall of Berlin Wall, there were initiatives that they want to preserve the death strip walkways and redevelop it into a hiking and cycling area, known as Berliner Mauerweg. It is part of the initiative by Berlin Senate since 2005.[citation needed]

Cultural differences

For many years after reunification, people in Germany talked about cultural differences between East and West Germans (colloquially Ossis and Wessis), sometimes described as Mauer im Kopf (The wall in the head). A September 2004 poll found that 25 percent of West Germans and 12 percent of East Germans wished that East and West should be separated again by a "Wall".[120] A poll taken in October 2009 on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Wall indicated, however, that only about a tenth of the population was still unhappy with the unification (8 percent in the East; 12 percent in the West). Although differences are still perceived between East and West, Germans make similar distinctions between North and South.[121]

A 2009 poll conducted by Russia's VTsIOM, found that more than half of all Russians do not know who built the Berlin Wall. Ten percent of people surveyed thought Berlin residents built it themselves. Six percent said Western powers built it and four percent thought it was a "bilateral initiative" of the Soviet Union and the West. Fifty-eight percent said they did not know who built it, with just 24 percent correctly naming the Soviet Union and its then-communist ally East Germany.[122]

Wall segments around the world

Segment of the Berlin wall in the Sanctuary of Fátima, Portugal

Not all segments of the Wall were ground up as the Wall was being torn down. Many segments have been given to various institutions in the world. They can be found, for instance, in presidential and historical museums, lobbies of hotels and corporations, at universities and government buildings, and in public spaces in different countries of the world.[123]

Remains of the Berlin wall, still in its original spot, 2016

50th anniversary commemoration

On 13 August 2011, Germany marked the 50th anniversary of East Germany beginning the erection of the Berlin Wall. Chancellor Angela Merkel joined with President Christian Wulff and Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit at the Bernauer Straße memorial park to remember lives and liberty. Speeches extolled freedom and a minute of silence at noon honored those who died trying to flee to the West. "It is our shared responsibility to keep the memory alive and to pass it on to the coming generations as a reminder to stand up for freedom and democracy to ensure that such injustice may never happen again," entreated Mayor Wowereit. "It has been shown once again: Freedom is invincible at the end. No wall can permanently withstand the desire for freedom", proclaimed President Wulff.[124][125][126][127]

Related media


Documentary films specifically about the Berlin Wall include:

  • The Tunnel (December 1962), an NBC News Special documentary film
  • The Road to the Wall (1962), a documentary film
  • Something to Do with the Wall (1991), a documentary about the fall of the Berlin Wall by Ross McElwee and Marilyn Levine, originally conceived as a commemoration of the 25th anniversary of its construction.[128]
  • Rabbit à la Berlin (2009), a documentary film, directed by Bartek Konopka, told from point of view of a group of wild rabbits that inhabited the zone between the two walls

Feature films

Fictional films featuring the Berlin Wall have included:

  • The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965), a Cold War classic set on both sides of The Wall, from the eponymous book by John le Carré, directed by Martin Ritt
  • The Boy and the Ball and the Hole in the Wall (1965), Spanish-Mexican co-production[129]
  • Funeral in Berlin (1966), a spy movie starring Michael Caine, directed by Guy Hamilton
  • Casino Royale (1967), a film featuring a segment centred on a house apparently bisected by the Wall.
  • The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz (1968), a Cold War spy farce about an Olympic athlete who defects, directed by George Marshall
  • Berlin Tunnel 21 (1981), a made-for-TV movie about a former American officer leading an attempt to build a tunnel underneath The Wall as a rescue route.
  • Night Crossing (1982), a British-American drama film starring John Hurt, Jane Alexander, and Beau Bridges, based on the true story of the Strelzyk and Wetzel families, who on 16 September 1979, attempted to escape from East Germany to West Germany in a homemade hot air balloon, during the days of the Inner German border-era.
  • The Soldier (1982), a renegade KGB team put nuclear weapons in Saudi Arabia to force America to make the Israelis pull out of the West Bank, or the bomb will make 50% of the world's oil radioactive for decades. The title character has a team break into a missile silo in Smith Center, Kansas to obtain independent launch capability, then he and an Israeli security agent drive an automobile from West Germany "over the Berlin Wall into East Germany", where he informs the KGB agents that if the nuke goes off in Saudi Arabia, his team in Kansas will nuke Moscow.
  • The Innocent (1993), a film about the joint CIA/MI6 operation to build a tunnel under East Berlin in the 1950s, directed by John Schlesinger
  • The Tunnel (2001), a dramatization of a collaborative tunnel under the Wall, filmed by Roland Suso Richter
  • Bridge of Spies (2015), Frederic Pryor, in which an American economics graduate student, visits his German girlfriend in East Berlin just as the Berlin Wall is being built. He tries to bring her back into West Berlin, but is stopped by Stasi agents and arrested as a spy.


Some novels specifically about the Berlin Wall include:

  • John le Carré, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963), classic Cold War spy fiction
  • Len Deighton, Berlin Game (1983), classic Cold War spy fiction
  • , The Day Before the Berlin Wall: Could We Have Stopped It? – An Alternate History of Cold War Espionage,[130] 2010 – based on a legend told in Berlin in the 1970s
  • John Marks' The Wall (1999) [131] in which an American spy defects to the East just hours before the Wall falls
  • Marcia Preston's West of the Wall (2007, published as Trudy's Promise in North America), in which the heroine, left behind in East Berlin, waits for news of her husband after he makes his escape over the Berlin Wall[132]
  • Peter Schneider's The Wall Jumper, (1984; German: Der Mauerspringer, 1982), the Wall plays a central role in this novel set in Berlin of the 1980s


Music related to the Berlin Wall includes:

Visual art

Artworks related to the Berlin Wall include:

The Day the Wall Came Down (1996) by Veryl Goodnight, a statue depicting horses leaping over actual pieces of the Berlin Wall
  • In 1982, the West-German artist  [de] created about 500 artworks along the former border strip around West-Berlin as part of his work series Border Injuries. On one of his actions he tore down a large part of the Wall,[136] installed a prepared foil of 3x2m in it, and finished the painting there before the border soldiers on patrol could detect him. This performance was recorded on video.[137] His actions are well-documented both in newspapers from that time and in recent scientific publications.[138]
  • The Day the Wall Came Down, 1996 and 1998 sculptures by Veryl Goodnight, which depict five horses leaping over actual pieces of the Berlin Wall.


Video games related to the Berlin Wall include:

  • The Berlin Wall (1991), a video game
  • SimCity 3000 (1999), a video game featuring a scenario taking place at the end of the Cold War, wherein the player is given five years within the game to demolish the Wall and re-unite East and West Berlin; the longer it takes to complete the goal, the more riots take place in the city.
  • The Call of Duty: Black Ops (2010) "First Strike" downloadable content pack includes a multiplayer map (called ("Berlin Wall") that takes place at the Berlin Wall
  • The introductory video to the Civilization VI video game expansion "Rise and Fall" depicts a woman striking the wall with a sledgehammer.
  • In April 2018 game publisher Playway S.A. announced that Polish game studio K202 is working on The Berlin Wall video game, projected to be released in November 2019.[139]

See also



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  • Childs, David, (1991) Germany in the Twentieth Century, (From pre-1918 to the restoration of German unity), Batsford, Third edition. ISBN 0-7134-6795-9
  • Childs, David, (1987) East Germany to the 1990s Can It Resist Glasnost?, The Economist Intelligence Unit. ISBN 0-85058-245-8, 978-0-85058-245-1. Worldcat.org
  • Dale, Gareth (2005). Popular Protest in East Germany, 1945–1989: Judgements on the Street. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-7146-5408-9.
  • Dowty, Alan (1989). Closed Borders: The Contemporary Assault on Freedom of Movement. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-04498-0.
  • Gaddis, John Lewis (2005). The Cold War: A New History. Penguin Press. ISBN 978-1-59420-062-5.
  • Harrison, Hope Millard (2003). Driving the Soviets Up the Wall: Soviet-East German Relations, 1953–1961. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-09678-0.
  • Catudal, Honoré M. (1980). "Kennedy and the Berlin Wall Crisis". West Berlin: Berlin Verlag. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  • Hertle, Hans-Hermann (2007). "The Berlin Wall". Bonn: Federal Centre for Political Education. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  • Kennedy, John F. "July 25, 1961 speech". Archived from the original on 29 April 2009. Retrieved 20 October 2009.
  • Loescher, Gil (2001). The UNHCR and World Politics: A Perilous Path. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-829716-1.
  • Maclean, Rory (1992). "Stalin's Nose: Across the Face of Europe". London: HarperCollins. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  • Miller, Roger Gene (2000). To Save a City: The Berlin Airlift, 1948–1949. Texas A&M University Press. ISBN 978-0-89096-967-0.
  • Mynz, Rainer (1995). "Where Did They All Come From? Typology and Geography of European Mass Migration In the Twentieth Century; European Population Conference Congress European de Démographie". United Nations Population Division. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  • Pearson, Raymond (1998). The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Empire. Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-312-17407-1.
  • Schneider, Peter (2005). "The Wall Jumper". London: Penguin Classics. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  • Schulte, Bennet (2011). The Berlin Wall. Remains of a Lost Border. (Die Berliner Mauer. Spuren einer verschwundenen Grenze). Berlin: be.bra verlag. ISBN 978-3-8148-0185-8.
  • Taylor, Frederick. The Berlin Wall: 13 August 1961 – 9 November 1989. Bloomsbury 2006[ISBN missing]
  • Thackeray, Frank W. (2004). Events that changed Germany. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-313-32814-5.
  • Friedrich, Thomas (1996). Wo die Mauer War/Where was the Wall?. Harry Hampel (photos). Berlin: Nicolai. ISBN 978-3-87584-695-9.
  • Turner, Henry Ashby (1987). The Two Germanies Since 1945: East and West. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-03865-1.
  • Wettig, Gerhard (2008). Stalin and the Cold War in Europe. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-0-7425-5542-6.
  • Luftbildatlas. Entlang der Berliner Mauer. Karten, Pläne und Fotos. Hans Wolfgang Hoffmann / Philipp Meuser (eds.) Berlin 2009. ISBN 978-3-938666-84-5
  • Sarotte, Mary Elise(2014) Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall, New York: Basic Books, 2014
  • Sarotte, Mary Elise, 1989: The Struggle to Create Post-Cold War Europe (Second Edition) Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014
  • Crozier, Brian (1999). The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Empire. Forum. pp. 170–171. ISBN 978-0-7615-2057-3.

Further reading

  • Hockenos, Paul (2017). Berlin calling: a story of anarchy, music, the Wall, and the birth of the new Berlin. New York: The New Press. ISBN 978-1-62097-195-6. OCLC 959535547.

External links

18 November 1755

The Corsican Constitution is voted.

Corsican Constitution

The first Corsican Constitution was drawn up in 1755 for the short-lived Corsican Republic independent from Genoa beginning in 1755 and remained in force until the annexation of Corsica by France in 1769. It was written in Tuscan Italian the language of elite culture and people in Corsica at the time.[1]

It was drafted by Pasquale Paoli , and inspired by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who, commissioned by the Corsicans wrote "Projet de constitution pour la Corse," in 1763. [2]

The second Corsican Constitution was drawn up in 1794 for the short-lived (1794–96) Anglo-Corsican Kingdom and introduced universal suffrage for property owners. It was also considered a highly democratic constitution for its time.


  1. ^ Blackwood, Robert J. & Tufi, Stefania (2015). The Linguistic Landscape of the Mediterranean: French and Italian Coastal Cities. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 130. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Linguistic_Landscape_of_the_Mediterr.html?id=SGmkCgAAQBAJ
  2. ^ Carrington, Dorothy (July 1973). "The Corsican constitution of Pasquale Paoli (1755–1769)". The English Historical Review. 88 (348): 481–503. doi:10.1093/ehr/lxxxviii.cccxlviii.481. JSTOR 564654.

External links

17 November 2012

At least 50 schoolchildren are killed in an accident at a railway crossing near Manfalut, Egypt.

Manfalut railway accident

Manfalut railway accident
Date17 November 2012 (2012-11-17)
Coordinates27°19′N 30°58′E / 27.317°N 30.967°E / 27.317; 30.967
OperatorEgyptian National Railways
Incident typeLevel crossing accident
Accident location (Manfalut)
Accident location (Manfalut) is located in Egypt
Accident location (Manfalut)
Accident location (Manfalut)
Location in Egypt
Coordinates: 27°19′N 30°58′E / 27.317°N 30.967°E / 27.317; 30.967

The Manfalut railway accident occurred on 17 November 2012 when a school bus, which was carrying about 70 school children between four and six years old, was hit by a train on a rail crossing near Manfalut, Egypt, 350 km (230 miles) south of the Egyptian capital Cairo.[1] At least 50 children and the bus driver died in the crash,[2] and about 17 people were injured.[3] Witnesses reported that barriers at the crossing were not closed when the crash occurred.[4]

After the crash, a number of people began searching along the tracks to find the remains of their children and victims they knew.[1] Additionally, schoolbags and schoolbooks were scattered across the tracks.[2] Police did not arrive until two hours after the accident, and by the time the first ambulance came, most of the children were dead.[3] Afterwards, the families of the victims protested at the crash site.[5]

The Egyptian minister of transportation, Mohammad Rashad Al Matini, and the head of the railways authority resigned after the accident.[1][4] President Mohamed Morsi pledged to hold those responsible accountable. The crossing worker, who was allegedly asleep, has been detained,[5] and Ibrahim El-Zaafrani, the secretary-general of the relief committee of the Arab Doctors Union, said that 10,000 Egyptian pounds (about $1,600)[6] will be awarded to families of the dead and 5,000 pounds (about $800) to families of the injured.[3]


  1. ^ a b c "Egypt bus crash kills 50 children near Manfalut". BBC News. 17 November 2012. Archived from the original on 18 November 2012. Retrieved 17 November 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Scores of schoolchildren die in Egypt crash". Al Jazeera. 17 November 2012. Archived from the original on 18 November 2012. Retrieved 17 November 2012.
  3. ^ a b c "Protesters demand Assiut governor resign over fatal bus-train collision". Ahram Online. 17 November 2012. Archived from the original on 18 November 2012. Retrieved 17 November 2012.
  4. ^ a b "Train slams into school bus in Egypt, killing 48 children, injuring 27 others". Haaretz. Cairo. Reuters. 18 November 2012. Archived from the original on 20 November 2012. Retrieved 18 November 2012.
  5. ^ a b "Dozens Killed, Mostly Children, in Egypt Crash". The New York Times. 17 November 2012. Archived from the original on 18 November 2012. Retrieved 18 November 2012.
  6. ^ Mohamed Fadel Fahmy (18 November 2012). "Bus, train crash in Egypt kills 51 -- mostly children". CNN. Archived from the original on 19 November 2012. Retrieved 18 November 2012.

16 November 1945

UNESCO is founded.


Emblem of the United Nations.svg
UNESCO logo English.svg
Formation4 November 1946; 73 years ago (1946-11-04)
TypeUnited Nations specialised agency
Legal statusActive
HeadquartersParis, France
Audrey Azoulay
Parent organization
United Nations Economic and Social Council
A coloured voting box.svg Politics portal

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO;[1] French: Organisation des Nations unies pour l'éducation, la science et la culture) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) based in Paris, France. Its declared purpose is to contribute to promoting international collaboration in education, sciences, and culture in order to increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom proclaimed in the United Nations Charter.[2] It is the successor of the League of Nations' International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation.[3]

UNESCO has 193 member states and 11 associate members.[4] Most of its field offices are "cluster" offices covering three or more countries; national and regional offices also exist.

UNESCO pursues its objectives through five major programs: education, natural sciences, social/human sciences, culture and communication/information. Projects sponsored by UNESCO include literacy, technical, and teacher-training programs, international science programs, the promotion of independent media and freedom of the press, regional and cultural history projects, the promotion of cultural diversity, translations of world literature, international cooperation agreements to secure the world's cultural and natural heritage (World Heritage Sites) and to preserve human rights, and attempts to bridge the worldwide digital divide. It is also a member of the United Nations Development Group.[5]

UNESCO's aim is "to contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information".[6] Other priorities of the organization include attaining quality Education For All and lifelong learning, addressing emerging social and ethical challenges, fostering cultural diversity, a culture of peace and building inclusive knowledge societies through information and communication.[7]

The broad goals and objectives of the international community—as set out in the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)—underpin all UNESCO strategies and activities.


UNESCO and its mandate for international cooperation can be traced back to a League of Nations resolution on 21 September 1921, to elect a Commission to study feasibility.[8][9] This new body, the International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation (ICIC) was indeed created in 1922. On 18 December 1925, the International Bureau of Education (IBE) began work as a non-governmental organization in the service of international educational development.[10] However, the onset of World War II largely interrupted the work of these predecessor organizations.

After the signing of the Atlantic Charter and the Declaration of the United Nations, the Conference of Allied Ministers of Education (CAME) began meetings in London which continued from 16 November 1942 to 5 December 1945. On 30 October 1943, the necessity for an international organization was expressed in the Moscow Declaration, agreed upon by China, the United Kingdom, the United States and the USSR. This was followed by the Dumbarton Oaks Conference proposals of 9 October 1944. Upon the proposal of CAME and in accordance with the recommendations of the United Nations Conference on International Organization (UNCIO), held in San Francisco in April–June 1945, a United Nations Conference for the establishment of an educational and cultural organization (ECO/CONF) was convened in London 1–16 November 1945 with 44 governments represented. The idea of UNESCO was largely developed by Rab Butler, the Minister of Education for the United Kingdom, who had a great deal of influence in its development.[11] At the ECO/CONF, the Constitution of UNESCO was introduced and signed by 37 countries, and a Preparatory Commission was established.[12] The Preparatory Commission operated between 16 November 1945, and 4 November 1946—the date when UNESCO's Constitution came into force with the deposit of the twentieth ratification by a member state.[13]

The first General Conference took place from 19 November to 10 December 1946, and elected Dr. Julian Huxley to Director-General.[14] The Constitution was amended in November 1954 when the General Conference resolved that members of the Executive Board would be representatives of the governments of the States of which they are nationals and would not, as before, act in their personal capacity.[15] This change in governance distinguished UNESCO from its predecessor, the ICIC, in how member states would work together in the organization's fields of competence. As member states worked together over time to realize UNESCO's mandate, political and historical factors have shaped the organization's operations in particular during the Cold War, the decolonization process, and the dissolution of the USSR.

Among the major achievements of the organization is its work against racism, for example through influential statements on race starting with a declaration of anthropologists (among them was Claude Lévi-Strauss) and other scientists in 1950[16] and concluding with the 1978 Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice.[17] In 1956, the Republic of South Africa withdrew from UNESCO saying that some of the organization's publications amounted to "interference" in the country's "racial problems."[18] South Africa rejoined the organization in 1994 under the leadership of Nelson Mandela.

UNESCO's early work in the field of education included the pilot project on fundamental education in the Marbial Valley, Haiti, started in 1947.[19] This project was followed by expert missions to other countries, including, for example, a mission to Afghanistan in 1949.[20] In 1948, UNESCO recommended that Member States should make free primary education compulsory and universal.[21] In 1990, the World Conference on Education for All, in Jomtien, Thailand, launched a global movement to provide basic education for all children, youths and adults.[22] Ten years later, the 2000 World Education Forum held in Dakar, Senegal, led member governments to commit to achieving basic education for all by 2015.[23]

UNESCO's early activities in culture included, for example, the Nubia Campaign, launched in 1960.[24] The purpose of the campaign was to move the Great Temple of Abu Simbel to keep it from being swamped by the Nile after construction of the Aswan Dam. During the 20-year campaign, 22 monuments and architectural complexes were relocated. This was the first and largest in a series of campaigns including Mohenjo-daro (Pakistan), Fes (Morocco), Kathmandu (Nepal), Borobudur (Indonesia) and the Acropolis (Greece). The organization's work on heritage led to the adoption, in 1972, of the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.[25] The World Heritage Committee was established in 1976 and the first sites inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1978.[26] Since then important legal instruments on cultural heritage and diversity have been adopted by UNESCO member states in 2003 (Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage[27]) and 2005 (Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions[28]).

An intergovernmental meeting of UNESCO in Paris in December 1951 led to the creation of the European Council for Nuclear Research, which was responsible for establishing the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)[29] later on, in 1954.

Arid Zone programming, 1948–1966, is another example of an early major UNESCO project in the field of natural sciences.[30] In 1968, UNESCO organized the first intergovernmental conference aimed at reconciling the environment and development, a problem which continues to be addressed in the field of sustainable development. The main outcome of the 1968 conference was the creation of UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme.[31]

In the field of communication, the "free flow of ideas by word and image" has been in UNESCO's constitution from its beginnings, following the experience of the Second World War when control of information was a factor in indoctrinating populations for aggression.[32] In the years immediately following World War II, efforts were concentrated on reconstruction and on the identification of needs for means of mass communication around the world. UNESCO started organizing training and education for journalists in the 1950s.[33] In response to calls for a "New World Information and Communication Order" in the late 1970s, UNESCO established the International Commission for the Study of Communication Problems,[34] which produced the 1980 MacBride report (named after the Chair of the Commission, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Seán MacBride).[35] The same year, UNESCO created the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), a multilateral forum designed to promote media development in developing countries.[36][37] In 1991, UNESCO's General Conference endorsed the Windhoek Declaration on media independence and pluralism, which led the UN General Assembly to declare the date of its adoption, 3 May, as World Press Freedom Day.[38] Since 1997, UNESCO has awarded the UNESCO / Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize every 3 May. In the lead up to the World Summit on the Information Society in 2003 (Geneva) and 2005 (Tunis), UNESCO introduced the Information for All Programme.

UNESCO admitted Palestine as a member in 2011.[39][40] Laws passed in the United States in 1990 and 1994 mean that it cannot contribute financially to any UN organisation that accepts Palestine as a full member.[41] As a result, it withdrew its funding which accounted for about 22% of UNESCO's budget.[42] Israel also reacted to Palestine's admittance to UNESCO by freezing Israeli payments to the UNESCO and imposing sanctions to the Palestinian Authority,[43] stating that Palestine's admittance would be detrimental "to potential peace talks".[44] Two years after they stopped paying their dues to UNESCO, US and Israel lost UNESCO voting rights in 2013 without losing the right to be elected; thus, the US was elected as a member of the Executive Board for the period 2016–19.[45]


UNESCO offices in Brasília

UNESCO implements its activities through the five programme areas: education, natural sciences, social and human sciences, culture, and communication and information.

  • Education: UNESCO supports research in comparative education; and provide expertise and fosters partnerships to strengthen national educational leadership and the capacity of countries to offer quality education for all. This includes the

UNESCO does not accredit institutions of higher learning.[46]

The UNESCO transparency portal has been designed to enable public access to information regarding Organization's activities, such as its aggregate budget for a biennium, as well as links to relevant programmatic and financial documents. These two distinct sets of information are published on the IATI registry, respectively based on the IATI Activity Standard and the IATI Organization Standard.

There have been proposals to establish two new UNESCO lists. The first proposed list will focus on movable cultural heritage such as artifacts, paintings, and biofacts. The list may include cultural objects, such as the Jōmon Venus of Japan, the Mona Lisa of France, the Gebel el-Arak Knife of Egypt, The Ninth Wave of Russia, the Seated Woman of Çatalhöyük of Turkey, the David (Michelangelo) of Italy, the Mathura Herakles of India, the Manunggul Jar of the Philippines, the Crown of Baekje of South Korea, The Hay Wain of the United Kingdom and the Benin Bronzes of Nigeria. The second proposed list will focus on the world's living species, such as the Komodo Dragon of Indonesia, the Panda of China, the Bald eagle of North American countries, the Aye-aye of Madagascar, the Asiatic Lion of India, the Kakapo of New Zealand, and the Mountain tapir of Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.[63][64]


UNESCO and its specialized institutions issue a number of magazines.

The UNESCO Courier magazine states its mission to "promote UNESCO's ideals, maintain a platform for the dialogue between cultures and provide a forum for international debate." Since March 2006 it is available online, with limited printed issues. Its articles express the opinions of the authors which are not necessarily the opinions of UNESCO. There was a hiatus in publishing between 2012 and 2017.[65]

In 1950, UNESCO initiated the quarterly review Impact of Science on Society (also known as Impact) to discuss the influence of science on society. The journal ceased publication in 1992.[66] UNESCO also published Museum International Quarterly from the year 1948.

Official UNESCO NGOs

UNESCO has official relations with 322 international non-governmental organizations (NGOs).[67] Most of these are what UNESCO calls "operational"; a select few are "formal".[68] The highest form of affiliation to UNESCO is "formal associate", and the 22 NGOs[69] with formal associate (ASC) relations occupying offices at UNESCO are:

Abbr Organization
IB International Baccalaureate
CCIVS Co-ordinating Committee for International Voluntary Service
EI Education International
IAU International Association of Universities
IFTC International Council for Film, Television and Audiovisual Communication
ICPHS International Council for Philosophy and Humanistic Studies which publishes Diogenes
ICSU International Council for Science
ICOM International Council of Museums
ICSSPE International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education
ICA International Council on Archives
ICOMOS International Council on Monuments and Sites
IFJ International Federation of Journalists
IFLA International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions
IFPA International Federation of Poetry Associations
IMC International Music Council
IPA International Police Association
INSULA International Scientific Council for Island Development
ISSC International Social Science Council
ITI International Theatre Institute
IUCN International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources
IUTAO International Union of Technical Associations and Organizations
UIA Union of International Associations
WAN World Association of Newspapers
WFEO World Federation of Engineering Organizations
WFUCA World Federation of UNESCO Clubs, Centres and Associations

Institutes and centres

The institutes are specialized departments of the organization that support UNESCO's programme, providing specialized support for cluster and national offices.

Abbr Name Location
IBE International Bureau of Education Geneva[70]
UIL UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning Hamburg[71]
IIEP UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning Paris (headquarters) and Buenos Aires and Dakar (regional offices)[72]
IITE UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education Moscow[73]
IICBA UNESCO International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa Addis Ababa[74]
IESALC UNESCO International Institute for Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean Caracas[75]
MGIEP Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development New Delhi[76]
UNESCO-UNEVOC UNESCO-UNEVOC International Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training Bonn[77]
UNESCO-IHE UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education Delft[78]
ICTP International Centre for Theoretical Physics Trieste[79]
UIS UNESCO Institute for Statistics Montreal[80]


UNESCO awards 22 prizes[81] in education, science, culture and peace:

Inactive prizes

International Days observed at UNESCO

International Days observed at UNESCO is provided in the table given below[82]

Date Name
27 January International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust
13 February World Radio Day
21 February International Mother Language Day
8 March International Women's Day
20 March International Francophonie Day
21 March International Day of Nowruz
21 March World Poetry Day
21 March International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
22 March World Day for Water
23 April World Book and Copyright Day
30 April International Jazz Day
3 May World Press Freedom Day
21 May World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development
22 May International Day for Biological Diversity
25 May Africa Day / Africa Week
5 June World Environment Day
8 June World Oceans Day
17 June World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought
9 August International Day of the World's Indigenous People
12 August International Youth Day
23 August International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition
8 September International Literacy Day
15 September International Day of Democracy
21 September International Day of Peace
28 September International Day for the Universal Access to Information
2 October International Day of Non-Violence
5 October World Teachers' Day
2nd Wednesday in October International Day for Disaster Reduction
17 October International Day for the Eradication of Poverty
20 October World Statistics Day
27 October World Day for Audiovisual Heritage
2 November International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists[83]
10 November World Science Day for Peace and Development
3rd Thursday in November World Philosophy Day
16 November International Day for Tolerance
19 November International Men's Day
25 November International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women
29 November International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People
1 December World AIDS Day
10 December Human Rights Day
18 December International Migrants Day

Member states

As of January 2019, UNESCO has 193 member states and 11 associate members.[84] Some members are not independent states and some members have additional National Organizing Committees from some of their dependent territories.[85] UNESCO state parties are the United Nations member states (except Liechtenstein, United States[86] and Israel[87]), as well as Cook Islands, Niue and Palestine.[88][89] The United States and Israel left UNESCO on 31 December 2018.[90]

Governing bodies


There has been no elected UNESCO Director-General from Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central and North Asia, Middle East, North Africa, East Africa, Central Africa, South Africa, Australia-Oceania, and South America since inception.

The Directors-General of UNESCO came from West Europe (5), Central America (1), North America (2), West Africa (1), East Asia (1), and East Europe (1). Out of the 11 Directors-General since inception, women have held the position only twice. Qatar, the Philippines, and Iran are proposing for a Director-General bid by 2021 or 2025. There have never been a Middle Eastern or Southeast Asian UNESCO Director-General since inception. The ASEAN bloc and some Pacific and Latin American nations support the possible bid of the Philippines, which is culturally Asian, Oceanic, and Latin. Qatar and Iran, on the other hand, have fragmented support in the Middle East. Egypt, Israel, and Madagascar are also vying for the position but have yet to express a direct or indirect proposal. Both Qatar and Egypt lost in the 2017 bid against France.

The list of the Directors-General of UNESCO since its establishment in 1946 is as follows:[91]

Name Country Term
Audrey Azoulay  France 2017–present
Irina Bokova  Bulgaria 2009–2017
Koïchiro Matsuura  Japan 1999–2009
Federico Mayor Zaragoza  Spain 1987–99
Amadou-Mahtar M'Bow  Senegal 1974–87
René Maheu  France 1961–74; acting 1961
Vittorino Veronese  Italy 1958–61
Luther Evans  United States 1953–58
John Wilkinson Taylor  United States acting 1952–53
Jaime Torres Bodet  Mexico 1948–52
Julian Huxley  United Kingdom 1946–48

General Conference

This is the list of the sessions of the UNESCO General Conference held since 1946:[92]

Session Location Year Chaired by from
39th Paris 2017 Zohour Alaoui[93]  Morocco
38th Paris 2015 Stanley Mutumba Simataa[94]  Namibia
37th[95] Paris 2013 Hao Ping  China
36th Paris 2011 Katalin Bogyay  Hungary
35th Paris 2009 Davidson Hepburn  Bahamas
34th Paris 2007 George N. Anastassopoulos  Greece
33rd Paris 2005 Musa Bin Jaafar Bin Hassan  Oman
32nd Paris 2003 Michael Omolewa  Nigeria
31st Paris 2001 Ahmad Jalali  Iran
30th Paris 1999 Jaroslava Moserová  Czech Republic
29th Paris 1997 Eduardo Portella  Brazil
28th Paris 1995 Torben Krogh  Denmark
27th Paris 1993 Ahmed Saleh Sayyad  Yemen
26th Paris 1991 Bethwell Allan Ogot  Kenya
25th Paris 1989 Anwar Ibrahim  Malaysia
24th Paris 1987 Guillermo Putzeys Alvarez  Guatemala
23rd Sofia 1985 Nikolai Todorov  Bulgaria
22nd Paris 1983 Saïd Tell  Jordan
4th extraordinary Paris 1982
21st Belgrade 1980 Ivo Margan  Yugoslavia
20th Paris 1978 Napoléon LeBlanc  Canada
19th Nairobi 1976 Taaita Toweett  Kenya
18th Paris 1974 Magda Jóború  Hungary
3rd extraordinary Paris 1973
17th Paris 1972 Toru Haguiwara  Japan
16th Paris 1970 Atilio Dell'Oro Maini  Argentina
15th Paris 1968 William Eteki Mboumoua  Cameroon
14th Paris 1966 Bedrettin Tuncel  Turkey
13th Paris 1964 Norair Sisakian  Soviet Union
12th Paris 1962 Paulo de Berrêdo Carneiro  Brazil
11th Paris 1960 Akale-Work Abte-Wold  Ethiopia
10th Paris 1958 Jean Berthoin  France
9th New Delhi 1956 Abul Kalam Azad  India
8th Montevideo 1954 Justino Zavala Muñiz  Uruguay
2nd extraordinary Paris 1953
7th Paris 1952 Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan  India
6th Paris 1951 Howland H. Sargeant  United States
5th Florence 1950 Stefano Jacini  Italy
4th Paris 1949 Edward Ronald Walker  Australia
1st extraordinary Paris 1948
3rd Beirut 1948 Hamid Bey Frangie  Lebanon
2nd Mexico City 1947 Manuel Gual Vidal  Mexico
1st Paris 1946 Léon Blum  France

Executive Board

Term Group I
(9 seats)
Group II
(7 seats)
Group III
(10 seats)
Group IV
(12 seats)
Group V(a)
(13 seats)
Group V(b)
(7 seats)

 United Kingdom



 South Korea
 Sri Lanka

 Ivory Coast
 South Africa





 Dominican Republic
 El Salvador
 Saint Kitts and Nevis
 Trinidad and Tobago





 United Kingdom
 United States

 Czech Republic
 North Macedonia


 Papua New Guinea
 South Korea


 United Arab Emirates

Offices and headquarters

The Garden of Peace, UNESCO headquarters, Paris. Donated by the Government of Japan, this garden was designed by American-Japanese sculptor artist Isamu Noguchi in 1958 and installed by Japanese gardener Toemon Sano.

UNESCO headquarters are located at Place de Fontenoy in Paris, France.

UNESCO's field offices across the globe are categorized into four primary office types based upon their function and geographic coverage: cluster offices, national offices, regional bureaus and liaison offices.

Field offices by region

The following list of all UNESCO Field Offices is organized geographically by UNESCO Region and identifies the members states and associate members of UNESCO which are served by each office.[98]


Arab States

Asia and Pacific

Europe and North America

Latin America and the Caribbean

Carondelet Palace, Presidential Palace – with changing of the guards. The Historic Center of Quito, Ecuador, is one of the largest, least-altered and best-preserved historic centers in the Americas.[99] This center was, together with the historic centre of Kraków in Poland, the first to be declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO on 18 September 1978.


New World Information and Communication order

UNESCO has been the centre of controversy in the past, particularly in its relationships with the United States, the United Kingdom, Singapore and the former Soviet Union. During the 1970s and 1980s, UNESCO's support for a "New World Information and Communication Order" and its MacBride report calling for democratization of the media and more egalitarian access to information was condemned in these countries as attempts to curb freedom of the press. UNESCO was perceived as a platform for communists and Third World dictators to attack the West, in contrast to accusations made by the USSR in the late 1940s and early 1950s.[102] In 1984, the United States withheld its contributions and withdrew from the organization in protest, followed by the United Kingdom in 1985.[103] Singapore withdrew also at the end of 1985, citing rising membership fees.[104] Following a change of government in 1997, the UK rejoined. The United States rejoined in 2003, followed by Singapore on 8 October 2007.[105]


Israel was admitted to UNESCO in 1949, one year after its creation. Israel has maintained its membership since 1949. In 2010, Israel designated the Cave of the Patriarchs, Hebron and Rachel's Tomb, Bethlehem as National Heritage Sites and announced restoration work, prompting criticism from the Obama administration and protests from Palestinians.[106] In October 2010, UNESCO's Executive Board voted to declare the sites as "al-Haram al-Ibrahimi/Tomb of the Patriarchs" and "Bilal bin Rabah Mosque/Rachel's Tomb" and stated that they were "an integral part of the occupied Palestinian Territories" and any unilateral Israeli action was a violation of international law.[107] UNESCO described the sites as significant to "people of the Muslim, Christian and Jewish traditions", and accused Israel of highlighting only the Jewish character of the sites.[108] Israel in turn accused UNESCO of "detach[ing] the Nation of Israel from its heritage", and accused it of being politically motivated.[109] The Rabbi of the Western Wall said that Rachel's tomb had not previously been declared a holy Muslim site.[110] Israel partially suspended ties with UNESCO. Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon declared that the resolution was a "part of Palestinian escalation". Zevulun Orlev, chairman of the Knesset Education and Culture Committee, referred to the resolutions as an attempt to undermine the mission of UNESCO as a scientific and cultural organization that promotes cooperation throughout the world.[111][112]

On 28 June 2011, UNESCO's World Heritage Committee, at Jordan's insistence, censured[clarification needed] Israel's decision to demolish and rebuild the Mughrabi Gate Bridge in Jerusalem for safety reasons. Israel stated that Jordan had signed an agreement with Israel stipulating that the existing bridge must be dismantled for safety reasons; Jordan disputed the agreement, saying that it was only signed under U.S. pressure. Israel was also unable to address the UNESCO committee over objections from Egypt.[113]

In January 2014, days before it was scheduled to open, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, "indefinitely postponed" and effectively cancelled an exhibit created by the Simon Wiesenthal Center entitled "The People, The Book, The Land: The 3,500-year relationship between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel." The event was scheduled to run from 21 January through 30 January in Paris. Bokova cancelled the event after representatives of Arab states at UNESCO argued that its display would "harm the peace process".[114] The author of the exhibition, Professor Robert Wistrich of the Hebrew University's Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism, called the cancellation an "appalling act," and characterized Bokova's decision as "an arbitrary act of total cynicism and, really, contempt for the Jewish people and its history." UNESCO amended the decision to cancel the exhibit within the year, and it quickly achieved popularity and was viewed as a great success.[115]

On January 1, 2019, Israel formally left UNESCO in pursuance of the US withdrawal over the perceived continuous anti-Israel bias.

Occupied Palestine Resolution

On 13 October 2016, UNESCO passed a resolution on East Jerusalem that condemned Israel for "aggressions" by Israeli police and soldiers and "illegal measures" against the freedom of worship and Muslims' access to their holy sites, while also recognizing Israel as the occupying power. Palestinian leaders welcomed the decision.[116] While the text acknowledged the "importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its walls for the three monotheistic religions", it referred to the sacred hilltop compound in Jerusalem's Old City only by its Muslim name "Al-Haram al-Sharif", Arabic for Noble Sanctuary. In response, Israel denounced the UNESCO resolution for its omission of the words "Temple Mount" or "Har HaBayit," stating that it denies Jewish ties to the key holy site.[116][117] After receiving criticism from numerous Israeli politicians and diplomats, including Benjamin Netanyahu and Ayelet Shaked, Israel froze all ties with the organization.[118][119] The resolution was condemned by Ban Ki-moon and the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, who said that Judaism, Islam and Christianity have clear historical connections to Jerusalem and "to deny, conceal or erase any of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim traditions undermines the integrity of the site.[120][121] Al-Aqsa Mosque is also Temple Mount, whose Western Wall is the holiest place in Judaism."[122] It was also rejected by the Czech Parliament which said the resolution reflects a "hateful anti-Israel sentiment",[123] and hundreds of Italian Jews demonstrated in Rome over Italy's abstention.[123] On 26 October, UNESCO approved a reviewed version of the resolution, which also criticized Israel for its continuous "refusal to let the body's experts access Jerusalem's holy sites to determine their conservation status."[124] Despite containing some softening of language following Israeli protests over a previous version, Israel continued to denounce the text.[125] The resolution refers to the site Jews and Christians refer to as the Temple Mount, or Har HaBayit in Hebrew, only by its Arab name — a significant semantic decision also adopted by UNESCO's executive board, triggering condemnation from Israel and its allies. U.S. Ambassador Crystal Nix Hines stated: "This item should have been defeated. These politicized and one-sided resolutions are damaging the credibility of UNESCO."[126]

In October 2017, the United States and Israel announced they would withdraw from the organization, citing in-part anti-Israel bias.[127][128]


Palestinian youth magazine controversy

In February 2011, an article was published in a Palestinian youth magazine in which a teenage girl described one of her four role-models as Adolf Hitler. In December 2011, UNESCO, which partly funded the magazine, condemned the material and subsequently withdrew support.[129]

Islamic University of Gaza controversy

In 2012, UNESCO decided to establish a chair at the Islamic University of Gaza in the field of astronomy, astrophysics, and space sciences,[130] fueling controversy and criticism. Israel bombed the school in 2008 stating that they develop and store weapons there, which Israel restated in criticizing UNESCO's move.[131][132]

The head, Kamalain Shaath, defended UNESCO, stating that "the Islamic University is a purely academic university that is interested only in education and its development".[133][134][135] Israeli ambassador to UNESCO Nimrod Barkan planned to submit a letter of protest with information about the university's ties to Hamas, especially angry that this was the first Palestinian university that UNESCO chose to cooperate with.[136] The Jewish organization B'nai B'rith criticized the move as well.[137]


On 16 and 17 February 2012, UNESCO held a conference entitled "The Media World after WikiLeaks and News of the World."[138] Despite all six panels being focused on WikiLeaks, no member of WikiLeaks staff was invited to speak. After receiving a complaint from WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson, UNESCO invited him to attend, but did not offer a place on any panels.[citation needed] The offer also came only a week before the conference, which was held in Paris, France. Many of the speakers featured, including David Leigh and Heather Brooke, had spoken out openly against WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange in the past.[139] WikiLeaks released a press statement on 15 February 2012 denouncing UNESCO which stated, "UNESCO has made itself an international human rights joke. To use 'freedom of expression' to censor WikiLeaks from a conference about WikiLeaks is an Orwellian absurdity beyond words."[140]

Che Guevara

In 2013, UNESCO announced that the collection "The Life and Works of Ernesto Che Guevara" became part of the Memory of the World Register. US Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen condemned this decision, saying that the organization acts against its own ideals:[141]

This decision is more than an insult to the families of those Cubans who were lined up and summarily executed by Che and his merciless cronies but it also serves as a direct contradiction to the UNESCO ideals of encouraging peace and universal respect for human rights.

UN Watch also condemned this selection by UNESCO.[142]

Listing Nanjing Massacre documents

In 2015, Japan threatened to halt funding for UNESCO over the organization's decision to include documents relating to the 1937 Nanjing massacre in the latest listing for its "Memory of the World" program.[143] In October 2016, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida confirmed that Japan's 2016 annual funding of ¥4.4 billion had been suspended although denied any direct link with the Nanjing document controversy.[144]

US withdrawals

The United States withdrew from UNESCO in 1984, citing the "highly politicized" nature of the organisation, its ostensible "hostility toward the basic institutions of a free society, especially a free market and a free press," as well as its "unrestrained budgetary expansion," and poor management under then Director General Amadou-Mahter M'Bow of Senegal.[145]

On 19 September 1989, former U.S. Congressman Jim Leach stated before a Congressional subcommittee:[146]

The reasons for the withdrawal of the United States from UNESCO in 1984 are well-known; my view is that we overreacted to the calls of some who wanted to radicalize UNESCO, and the calls of others who wanted the United States to lead in emasculating the UN system. The fact is UNESCO is one of the least dangerous international institutions ever created. While some member countries within UNESCO attempted to push journalistic views antithetical to the values of the west, and engage in Israel bashing, UNESCO itself never adopted such radical postures. The U.S. opted for empty-chair diplomacy, after winning, not losing, the battles we engaged in… It was nuts to get out, and would be nuttier not to rejoin.

Leach concluded that the record showed Israel bashing, a call for a new world information order, money management, and arms control policy to be the impetus behind the withdrawal; he asserted that before departing from UNESCO, a withdrawal from the IAEA had been pushed on him.[146] On 1 October 2003, the U.S. rejoined UNESCO.[145]

On 12 October 2017, the United States notified UNESCO that it will again withdraw from the organization on 31 December 2018 and will seek to establish a permanent observer mission beginning in 2019. The Department of State cited "mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO."[127] Israel praised the withdrawal decision as "brave" and "moral."[145]

The United States has not paid over $600 million in dues[147] since it stopped paying its $80 million annual UNESCO dues when Palestine became a full member in 2011. Israel and the US were among the 14 votes against the membership out of 194 member countries.[148]

Turkish–Kurdish conflict

On May 25, 2016, the noted Turkish poet and human rights activist Zülfü Livaneli resigned as Turkey's only UNESCO goodwill ambassador. He highlighted human rights situation in Turkey and destruction of historical Sur district of Diyarbakir, the largest city in Kurdish-majority southeast Turkey, during fighting between the Turkish army and Kurdish militants as the main reasons for his resignation. Livaneli said: "To pontificate on peace while remaining silent against such violations is a contradiction of the fundamental ideals of UNESCO."[149]


In 1981, UNESCO and the UN celebrated the Atatürk Centennial, despite his involvement in the Greek genocide and in suppressing the Dersim rebellion.

Products and services

  • UNESDOC[150] – Contains over 146,000 UNESCO documents in full text published since 1945 as well as metadata from the collections of the UNESCO Library and documentation centres in field offices and institutes.

Information processing tools

UNESCO develops, maintains and disseminates, free of charge, two interrelated software packages for database management (CDS/ISIS [not to be confused with UK police software package ISIS]) and data mining/statistical analysis (IDAMS).[151]

  • CDS/ISIS – a generalised information storage and retrieval system. The Windows version may run on a single computer or in a local area network. The JavaISIS client/server components allow remote database management over the Internet and are available for Windows, Linux and Macintosh. Furthermore, GenISIS allows the user to produce HTML Web forms for CDS/ISIS database searching. The ISIS_DLL provides an API for developing CDS/ISIS based applications.
  • OpenIDAMS – a software package for processing and analysing numerical data developed, maintained and disseminated by UNESCO. The original package was proprietary but UNESCO has initiated a project to provide it as open-source.[152]
  • IDIS – a tool for direct data exchange between CDS/ISIS and IDAMS

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