Fifty Years Later, The Berlin Wall Goes Digital

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Fifty years ago today, Berliners woke up to find that overnight a six-foot-high barbed-wire fence had sealed off West Berlin to those living in the East. Over the next three decades, some 5,000 people would risk their lives trying to get over or under the wall into the West; more than 100 were killed.

The bizarre and cruel history of the German Democratic Republic can defy comprehension. How did the wall go up so quickly? What was it like that Sunday morning? What was it like for the next 28 years? More readily accessible in our memories are the words of American presidents (Kennedy: Ich bin ein Berliner; Reagan: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!) and the images of people celebrating on the wall when it fell in 1989.

The 20th-century wall was a concrete thing in the most literal sense. Today, its physical bits are dispersed around the world. But the wall lives on digitally. For those looking to understand or even in some small, vicarious way experience the its legacy, the Internet provides in abundance. Here are a few places online where people have put to use a range of multimedia tools to preserve footage, photos, and memories of the wall.

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Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

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