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Then-and-Now Photos of Communist Berlin

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To mark 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, we revisited the precise locations of 10 memorable photos taken when half of the city lay behind the Iron Curtain.

The Reichstag in 1962, as seen from behind a ragged barbed-wire fence that would become the Berlin Wall. Before the barrier’s construction in 1961, some 3.5 million people — 20 percent of the population of Soviet-administered East Germany — had fled West. Photo: Fortepan/Gyula Nagy

Photo by Amos Chapple/RFE/RL
A group of rain-specked tourists poses next to the beginnings of the Berlin Wall, a few meters east of the Reichstag, in 1962. The historic building, which housed the German parliament from 1894 to 1933, lay in ruins after World War II and was in the process of being rebuilt when this photo was taken. The Bundestag, the federal parliament of a unified Germany, has met there since April 1999, the year that reconstruction – carried out by British architect Norman Foster — was finally completed. It’s now one of Germany’s most popular tourist attractions. Photo: Fortepan/Gyula Nagy
Photo by Amos Chapple/RFE/RL
A postal worker on Karl-Marx-Allee in 1961. Public postboxes like this were a favorite stalking ground for the communist secret police, who furtively shot photographs at such sites to help them track who posted what, and to whom. Photo: Fortepan/Gyula Nagy
Photo by Amos Chapple/RFE/RL
The view from Berlin’s television tower, looking east up Karl-Marx-Allee in 1970. The area was almost completely rebuilt in the Stalinist architectural style after being pummeled into rubble by Allied bombing during World War II. Photo: Fortepan/Gyula Nagy
Photo by Amos Chapple/RFE/RL
A view of the Rotes Rathaus (Red City Hall), seen from the viewing platform of East Berlin’s television tower in 1970. Photo: Fortepan/Gyula Nagy
Photo by Amos Chapple/RFE/RL
The World Clock on Alexanderplatz in 1974. The clock, which displays the time in cities around the world, has become a famous meeting place since its completion in 1969. On November 4, 1989, a crowd of more than half a million people thronged the clock to demonstrate against East Germany’s communist regime. Five days later, the Berlin Wall fell. Photo: Fortepan/Chuckyear Tumblr
Photo by Amos Chapple/RFE/RL
A 5-meter-tall statue of Josef Stalin in 1958, on the street known at the time as Stalinallee (now Karl-Marx-Allee). As part of the Soviet de-Stalinization campaign, the statue was removed and broken into pieces in a stealthy overnight operation by the communist authorities in 1961. A bronze ear of the Soviet dictator was secreted away and is now on display in a nearby cafe. Photo: Fortepan/Anna Gereb
Photo by Amos Chapple/RFE/RL
A woman poses in the center of East Berlin in 1974. From 1949 until 1990, the eastern half of Berlin was ruled by a communist government that was overseen by Moscow. Photo: Fortepan/Chuckyeager Tumblr
Photo by Amos Chapple/RFE/RL
A gun-toting communist “combat group” seals off a boundary between East and West Berlin in preparation for the construction of the Berlin Wall in August 1961. Photo: Creative Commons/Deutsches Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archive) Peter Heinz Junge
Photo by Amos Chapple/RFE/RL
The Palace of the Republic in 1977, with Berlin’s iconic television tower in the background. The low-slung building once hosted the parliament of East Germany’s communist regime. In 2003, Germany’s Bundestag voted to demolish the structure. In its place, the Berlin Palace – a replica of the 15th-century building that once stood on the site — is due to open in 2019. Photo: Creative Commons/Istvan
Photo by Amos Chapple/RFE/RL

About the author: Amos Chapple is a Kiwi photographer who makes news-flavored travel photos and writes for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. He started off at New Zealand’s largest daily paper in 2003. After two years chasing news, he took a full-time position shooting UNESCO World Heritage sites. In 2012, he went freelance but kept up the travel. Since then, he has been published in most major news titles around the world. You can find more of his work on his website, Facebook, and Instagram. This article was also published RFE/RL.

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