Fascinating Photos of Berlin in the 1980s

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Between 1961 and 1989, the Berlin Wall divided East and West Germany and prevented the mass defection that took place after World War II. It also acted as a symbolic partition between democracy and Communism during the Cold War period. The wall was erected in the middle of the night, but it was torn down just as quickly 28 years later, leading to Germany’s reunification. Chris John Dewitt captured the dark period in the country’s history when the wall stood like an eyesore. The photographer snapped images of both sides, but during a trip to the East, he quickly learned how restrictive even taking a picture would be:

When I got there I began taking pictures, but was very quickly stopped by two young policemen. It took some while to work out what it was I shouldn’t have been photographing. It wasn’t the site of the Reich Chancellery, they replied to my questions, or even the wall. It was because in the distance, poking up from the other side of the wall, the Reichstag building could be seen. One mustn’t photograph buildings on the other side of the wall they said. The fact that I could go there on the Western side and take as many pictures of it as I liked made no difference. That was the rule which I must obey whilst on DDR soil.

Dewitt’s Tumblr is a fascinating time capsule. We’ve singled out several evocative snapshots of Berlin during the 1980s in our gallery.

Photo credit: Chris John Dewitt

“A Berlin Wall graffito for Valentine’s Day.”

Photo credit: Chris John Dewitt

“Slesische Strasse October 1982. Near the corner with Cuvrystrasse.”

Photo credit: Chris John Dewitt

“French soldiers patrolling the Berlin Wall jogging along and singing. Note the pipe and moustache on one man…very French!”

Photo credit: Chris John Dewitt

“Berlin Bethaniendamm 1985. The famous ‘Wall Men’ graffiti.”

Photo credit: Chris John Dewitt

“Alexanderplatz 1990”

Photo credit: Chris John Dewitt

“Bags of Wall shards for sale near Checkpoint Charlie. Vendor’s dog on super-secret guard duty. Berlin 1990.”

Photo credit: Chris John Dewitt

“Berlin Wall March 1986. Stresemannstraße.”

Photo credit: Chris John Dewitt

“The Berlin Wall. A viewing platform built by the West to allow West Berliners and tourists to look over into East Berlin.”

Photo credit: Chris John Dewitt

“Experimental monorail view no.2. August 1986.”

Photo credit: Chris John Dewitt

“The East Berlin authorities were taking no chances with this building being so close to the wall. All the windows are barred, and a guard tower sits a few meters away, to prevent any escapes to the West. 1982.”