Just as the post-World War II haze started to settle, Germany began erecting the Berlin Wall, a barrier which divided both the city and, ideologically, the entire nation for nearly 30 years on Aug. 13, 1961.
In honor of the event's 50th anniversary, LIFE.com is taking a look back at a divided Germany, courtesy of photographer Paul Schutzer. Schutzer's haunting images provide a glimpse into the wall's impact on the everyday lives of German citizens.
You can view Schutzer's full gallery here.
Take a look at a sample of Schutzer's shots below. All photos and captions are courtesy of LIFE.com.
In the early 1960s, the great LIFE photographer Paul Schutzer went to Berlin to chronicle the construction and the effect on everyday lives of the then-brand-new Berlin Wall. What he saw, and what he photographed, provides a chilling glimpse into an era both eerily familiar, and profoundly alien. Pictured: Shadowy silhouettes of seven West Berliners waving to their relatives on the other side of the Wall.
American (foreground) and East German forces face one another across the newly built Wall. The ostensible reason East Germany built the wall was as an "anti-fascist shield" to discourage a military invasion and the incursion of spies from the West. But the explanation was seen as laughable by most in the West, as West Berliners were still allowed to cross over to East Berlin even after the Wall went up--at first.
A West German woman looks out over the Berlin Wall, reflected in her window. Ultimately, the real reason the Soviets and East Germans built the Wall was that, because of the unique nature of Berlin's governance -- three Allies and the Soviet Union held roughly equal control over the four quarters of the city -- Berlin had become the major crossing point for Eastern Bloc citizens fleeing Soviet-style repression and control. An estimated 20 percent of the East German population had fled to the West by the time the Wall was built.
"In the same way that children everywhere reflect their elders in playing house, 'war' or cops-and-robbers," LIFE observed when this picture ran in an October 1961 issue, "these Berlin youngsters were making innocent mockery of a grim grownup preoccupation. When Paul Schutzer encountered them in a vacant lot just in the West Berlin side of the Zimmerstrasse border, Peter Friedrich, 5 (left), and Jurgen Bottcher, 8, were busily rearranging blocks of rubble into a replica of the Berlin wall while Katrin Kuhl, 4, was engrossed in calking the cracks with 'mortar' made of loose sand. Their model was close by -- the real Berlin Wall shows only a few yards behind them. Completing their own wall was enough of a game for the young Berliners. They hand not yet gone on to choose up sides."
A little West Berliner tries to open a sealed door of a house that has become, in effect, part of the Wall.