It’s August 1961. Overnight, East German forces have laid out lines of barbed wire across Berlin, physically dividing the East and West sectors and preventing East Germans from leaving the Communist State. The city descends into a state of confusion, many people believe it is just a temporary measure… but it is not; it is the start of the Berlin Wall.
Many homes now lie on the new “border line” separating East and West. On Bernauer Strasse – a major thoroughfare through Berlin – families are faced with an agonizing decision: whether or not to flee. While their apartments lie just inside East Berlin, the pavement, literally outside, is in the West
With word that East German forces are storming through the buildings, preventing anyone from leaving, one family is photographed frantically escaping from their first floor apartment.
In this iconic photo we see 16 year-old Elke Rosin (facing us) and her family in the midst of making their bid for freedom. Her mother is to the left; her father is in the window, desperately passing down their possessions. The two figures to the right are simply two passers-by, keen to help.
As East German forces continue to lock down the building, in the nick of time Elke’s father jumps from the apartment window – the family escaped to the West.
Days later the windows of these buildings are bricked up. If Elke and her family had not decided to flee in that small window of opportunity they would have been trapped behind the Iron Curtain for 28 years.
Eventually “border buildings” like these were completely demolished, and the rubble used to make the formal Berlin Wall.