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The Rise and Fall of the Berlin Wall Because of dissatisfaction with the economic and political conditions forced collectivization of agriculture repression of private trade supply gaps an increasing number of people left the GDR From January to the beginning of August 1961 about 160000 refugees were counted Also the international political situation was tense On November 27 1958 the Soviets Khrushchev had delivered their Berlin ultimatum demanding that the western allies should withdraw their troops from West Berlin and that West Berlin should become a Free City within six months On February 17 1959 the threat of settling a separate peace treaty between the USSR the GDR followed The meeting between US President Kennedy and the Prime Minister of the USSR Khrushchev on June 34 1961 in Vienna ended without any noticeable results Generally measures of the government of the GDR were expected with the aim of preventing people from leaving the GDR At an international press conference on June 15 1961 Walter Ulbricht the leader of the east German communist party SED and President of the Privy Council answered to the question of a journalist I understand your question as follows there are people in West Germany who want us to mobilize the construction workers of the GDR to build a wall I am not aware of any such plans No one has the intention of constructing a wall Early in the morning of Sunday August 13 1961 the GDR began under the leadership of Erich Honecker to block off East Berlin and the GDR from West Berlin by means of barbed wire and antitank obstacles Streets were torn up and barricades of paving stones were erected Tanks gathered at crucial places The subway and local railway services between East and West Berlin were interrupted Inhabitants of East Berlin and the GDR were no longer allowed to enter West Berlin amongst them 60000 commuters who had worked in West Berlin so
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