1. Iron Curtain

    Germany Marks 50th Anniversary of Berlin Wall

    BERLIN, GERMANY - AUGUST 13:  Digintaries, including (from L to R, starting at 4th from R) German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Bundestag President Norbert Lammert, President Christian Wulff and Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit, observe a moment of slience before wreaths during a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the construction of the Berlin Wall at the Bernauer Strasse memorial on August 13, 2011 in Berlin, Germany. The Berlin Wall, equipped with watch towers, armed guards and trip-wire triggered machine guns, was originally built in 1961 by the communist authorities of East Germany in order to stop East Germans from fleeing into West Berlin. At least 136 people died trying to do so until the Wall came down in 1989.  (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

    Sean Gallup / Getty Images

    It was 50 years ago that the Soviet-controlled Eastern Bloc began construction of the Berlin Wall. Germany is commemorating the anniversary with solemn ceremonies, including a memorial for those who died trying to climb the wall to escape the Iron Curtain. At noon, Berlin observed a minute of silence in memory of the victims. Buses and trains stopped for the tribute. The Berlin Wall was erected in 1961 on the orders of East German leader Walter Ulbricht to stop a population exodus. At that time, about 2.5 million people had fled East Germany in 12 years. Momentous events in 1989 led to the fall of the wall and the reunification of Germany.

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