Demonstration by West Berliners (August 16, 1961)
In his appeal to U.S. President John F. Kennedy on August 13, 1961, West Berlin mayor Willy Brandt warned that a “crisis of confidence” would ensue if the Western Powers continued to remain passive in the face of the forced division of East and West Berlin. It took 20 hours for the city’s Western military governors to react to the building of the Wall and to send military patrols to the zonal borders; 40 hours passed before a complaint was filed with the Soviet military governor; and it was only after 72 hours that the Western Allies officially registered protest with Moscow. On August 16, 1961, a mass demonstration organized by the Berlin Senate drew approximately 300,000 West Berliners to the square in front of Schöneberg City Hall, where demonstrators expressed their dismay over both the construction of the Wall and the apparent passivity of the Western Powers. The banner held by demonstrators refers to the Western Allies' statement of protest; it reads, "To the Western Powers: You Don't Stop Tanks with Pieces of Paper."