1963, 'West Meets East.' Two Brothers Separated By The Berlin Wall Finally See Each Other Again After 'Border Pass Agreement' (Colorized)

January 30, 2021

Refugees Were Flooding West Berlin Before The Wall Went Up

Two years after the Berlin all went up to keep the citizens of East Germany from fleeing to the West, there was a brief change in the relations between the two halves of Berlin. On December 20, 1963, the Berlin Wall opened for the first time and allowed thousands of Berliners from the west to travel to East Berlin and visit their friends and family.

Lasting for 18 days until January 1964, the brief change in the rules was only applied to those from West Berlin. No one from the East was allowed to make the trip. Still, it was a happy occasion for those men and women who hadn't seen hide nor hair of their relatives since the wall went up in earnest.

This opening of the Berlin Wall, no matter how brief, provided a brief respite from the ramping up of the Cold War and the constant fear of being shot in an attempt to escape to the West.

source: jecinci

Prior to the construction of the wall in 1961, thousands of refugees from East Berlin were crossing into West Berlin creating a massive immigration problem. President Kennedy wasn't excited about the wall, but he felt that it was better than going to war over the immigration issue. As the wall went up people had to choose where they'd live without knowing if they'd ever be able to see their friends and family again. The West may have offered freedom but it was a freedom without family, while the East offered a better chance to live with your family but came with the possibility of death for anyone who tried to leave.

It wasn't unheard of for someone to escape from East Germany. People jumped out of windows near the wall and jumped over, and one guy even flew a hot air balloon over the Wall. That was in 1979, so let's back up to 1962 when the two fellows in this photo were able to embrace for the first time in years.

Merry Christmas (Wall Is Over)

source: magnum

Negotiations between East and West Berlin resulted in a Christmas reprieve in 1963. Agreement was reached stating that from December 20 to January 5, 1964, West Berliners could apply for one-day visas that allowed them to visit their relatives on the other side of the wall. In just over two weeks more than 170,000 one day visas were issued to the people of West Berlin. There were no passes granted to people living in East Berlin.

CNN reports that around 2 million West Berlin residents applied for holiday passes, meaning that the people were able to score passes only received one. There were no two day holidays in East Berlin, at least not in 1963.