Berlin was divided into four zones during the Cold War (1949–1990). The Soviets controlled the eastern section, and the Western powers were in the western part of the city. The Berlin Wall (1961–1989) had a profound impact on both sides of the city.
Even before the construction of the Berlin Wall, West Berliners felt extremely isolated. Their sense of isolation stemmed from the fact that West Berlin was located in the heart of East Germany—an island of capitalism surrounded by a sea of communism. Also, the Soviets had attempted to starve West Berlin into submission during the blockade of Berlin (1948–49). The erection of the Berlin Wall heightened West Berliners' sense of isolation.
For East Germans, the Berlin Wall had even more serious repercussions. Some 2.5 million East Germans had fled to West Germany in the decade before 1961. They went to the West through East Berlin because the long frontier with West Germany was heavily fortified. Immigration to West Germany became almost impossible after 1961, and about 200 people died trying to escape into the West through the Berlin Wall. East Germans had far fewer economic opportunities and much less freedom than West Germans.
While it stood, the Berlin Wall was both a tangible and a symbolic reminder of the division of both Berlin and Germany.