After World War II, the victorious Allies controlled Germany. The former capital city of Berlin was divided among the four powers: the Soviet Union controlled the eastern section of the city, and the Western Allies (the United States, France, and Great Britain) controlled three smaller sections in the western half of Berlin. The Soviets and the Western Allies could not agree on many policies for governing the city, as each wanted to impose their respective governmental system on Berlin. Refugees began flowing from east to west as economic conditions in East Berlin deteriorated.

On August 13, 1961, East German soldiers began building a wall dividing the city in two. While the wall stood, several people died trying to cross over it from East to West, most of them shot by East German guards. The wall remained until November 9, 1989, when an SED spokesman's statement about travel restrictions spurred crowds of East Germans to push through checkpoints into West Berlin. Almost all of the wall was demolished after it opened in 1989, but parts remain around the city, most notably at the East Side Gallery near U-Bahnhof Warschauer Strasse.