After World War II, Germany was divided between East and West. The West, with the help of the US and Britain, flourished and modernized. The East, under the influence of the Soviet Union, struggled. About 3.6 million East Germans, 20% of the population, fled between 1945 and 1961.
East Germany, known as the German Democratic Republic (GDR) or Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR), didn't want the rest of its citizens to leave for the richer West, so in August 1961 it built barriers to keep its people in. The official GDR line: It wanted to keep "decadent, immoral westerners out."
The back side of the East Side Gallery was initially kept white, and it has become a popular graffiti canvas. The city recently repainted that side white to play a video exhibit about the fall of the wall for the 30th anniversary in November 2019.
On the back side of Berlin's East Side Gallery is an open-air exhibit commemorating the 30th anniversary of the fall of the wall. And on the Spree River is a light exhibit called "What is here now, what once was here."
Light artist Rainer Walter Gottemeier installed 50 neon rod buoys and numerous flashing signal rescue lamps to symbolize the border between Kreuzberg in the former West Berlin and Friedrichshain in the former East.
These photos were produced as part of the Goethe-Institut's Close-Up journalists' exchange program and Wunderbar Together-The Year of German-American Friendship. More information can be found at www.goethe.de/nahaufnahmeand at #GoetheCloseUp and #WunderbarTogether.