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Berlin's Top 10 : Moments in History

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At Checkpoint Charlie

  1. 1685: Edict of Potsdam

    Berlin’s history as a cultural capital began in 1685, when the far-sighted Great Elector announced in the Edict of Potsdam that around 20,000 Huguenots would be taken in by Berlin. Many were excellent craftsmen and scientists, who, having fled Catholic France because of their Protestant beliefs, brought a new age of cultural ascendancy to the provincial town.

    Statue of the Great Elector
  2. 1744: Frederick the Great

    Although “Old Fritz”, as Frederick the Great was nicknamed, preferred the isolation of Sanssouci to the bustle of Berlin, in 1740 he began to transform the city into a new metropolis. In particular, the “Forum Fridericianum” in Unter den Linden brought new splendours to the town, and masterpieces such as the national opera house helped transform Berlin into one of the most important European cities.

  3. 1928: Golden Twenties

    Between 1919 and 1933, Berlin flourished culturally and became an important metropolis. Film, theatre, cabaret shows and thousands of restaurants and bars transformed the town into an international centre of entertainment. In the realms of fine art and architecture, too, Berlin set new standards.

  4. 1945: Surrender

    Signed in Berlin-Karlshorst on 8 May 1945, Germany’s unconditional surrender marked more than the end of World War II. The previous Jewish population of 161,000 had virtually disappeared and Berliners called their city “the empire’s fields of rubble”.

  5. 1953: Workers’ Uprising in East Germany

    On 17 June 1953, construction workers in Frankfurter Allee demonstrated against an increase in the average rate of production. Soviet tanks suppressed the rebellion while, in West Berlin, the uprising was interpreted as a demonstration for German unification.

  6. 1961: Building of the Wall

    The building of the Berlin Wall, which commenced during the night of 12 August 1961, was, after the surrender of 1945, the second most traumatic event for many Berliners. Many families were torn apart by the concrete wall and more than 100 people were to be killed over the following 30 years at the border dividing East and West.

  7. 1963: “I am a Berliner”

    No other politician was as enthusiastically received in Berlin as the US President John F. Kennedy. On 17 July 1963, in front of Rathaus Schöneberg, he declared to the cheering crowd: “I am a Berliner”. Berliners had forgiven the US for staying silent when the Wall was built. Kennedy confirmed once more that the Western Allies would stand by Berlin and support the town, just as they had done during the blockade of 1948–9, when the US and Britain air-lifted food to the “island” of West Berlin.

  8. 1968: The late Sixties

    During the late 1960s, West Berlin students transformed Germany. Rudi Dutschke and others propounded political change, free love and a reappraisal of Germany’s Nazi past. The movement came to an untimely end when Dutschke was assassinated in April 1968.

  9. 1989: Fall of the Wall

    The fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 heralded a new dawn. For the first time in 30 years, Berliners from both halves of the divided city were able to visit each other. The town celebrated all along Ku’damm and in front of the Brandenburg Gate. When the Wall was built, Willy Brandt, then governing mayor of West Berlin, had promised: “Berlin will survive!” He was right.

    Celebrations after the Fall of the Berlin Wall
  10. 1991: Berlin becomes the capital of Germany

    In 1991, Berlin was officially declared the capital of the reunified Federal Republic of Germany. Allied Forces left the city during 1994, but it was only when the Bundestag, the German parliament, moved here from Bonn on 19 April 1999 that Berlin became the “real” capital. Today, all the main ministries, the Bundesrat (upper house), and the Chancellor’s and the President’s offices are based in Berlin.

    1991: Berlin becomes the capital
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