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Germany in the UK: The Secret Life of the Berlin Wall

Updated: Feb 27, 2021

Between 1961 and 1989, the Berlin wall was more than just a geographical border. It was a monolith that separated friends, families, lovers – but it also divided a continent, a way of life, and two very different competing visions of the world. In the ‘city of spies,’ double lives and double crossing are the norm, as hopes for a brave new socialist world begin to fall apart. 

Photo: Bundesarchiv via Wikimedia Commons

This BBC documentary, originally aired in 2009, presents a harrowing and very human account of a city caught between worlds, and an insight into the innumerable personal histories forever shaped by division. The Secret Life of the Berlin Wall chooses to focus not so much on the politics of the era, but instead brings vividly to life the intimate and deeply personal stories of everyday East Berliners living through extraordinary times – an angle which makes the programme all the more compelling.

We hear from the repentant former security official, the prominent and later vilified Bohemian-turned-informant, the woman who smuggled herself for love into the West only to discover her partner had another family there. The Berlin wall no longer stands, but for many people today, the memories are still very real. 

The Secret Life of the Berlin Wall is available to watch on BBC iPlayer until 28 November 2020. Run time: 90 minutes.


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