The Berlin Crisis of 1961

Key learning aims:

  • To be able to explain:
    • the causes, events and results of the construction of the Berlin Wall.
    • Reasons for construction of Berlin Wall (1961);
    • Berlin Wall’s effects on relations between East and West and on Germany;
    • Long term factors and the failure of a negotiated settlement.

Key personalities and themes:

  • The refugee crisis
  • Walther Ulbricbht, Chairman of the State Council of the German Democratic Republic, 1960-73
  • Geneva Conference of 1961 and Kruschev’s ultimatum
  • Kennedy call’s Kruschev’s bluff
  • Kruschev starts building the Wall (12 August 1961)
  • Kennedy’s visit to Berlin, 1963


  1. The Berlin Wall


    • Edexcel, pp. 90-91: The Berlin Crisis: a divided city; pp. 92-93 The Berlin Crisis: the Berlin Wall.
    • See John D. Clare’s page on the Berlin Wall


    • Carry out the card exercises on p. 93 of the Edexcel textbook
    • Write an answer to the C question ‘Why did the USSR build the Berlin Wall in 1961? Explain your answer.’ N.b. What do you need to do to pick up full marks from a C question?
    • Summarise the key consequences of the Berlin Wall crisis
    • Paired task: each pair produces two different headlines for the day after the building of the Berlin Wall
      • One for East Berlin
      • One for West Berlin
  2. Drawing Conclusions
    • Group task: Each group given a grid which has the main crises of 1945-61 including the Berlin Crisis 1948-49, Hungarian Uprising, the U2 Crisis and the Berlin Wall Crisis.
      • Carry out further research on each crisis
      • Decide which was the most serious giving each a rating of 1-5 with 5 being the highest
      • Give a presentation to the rest of the class explaining their decisions.

      For an excellent diagram exercise on this topic see School History

      Also, see the electronic quiz from the same site.

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