After the war, parts of Germany occupied by France, Great Britain, and the United States were allowed to merge, forming the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), commonly called West Germany. The eastern part of Germany occupied by the Soviets became the German Democratic Republic (GDR), better known as East Germany.
Berlin, the capital of prewar Germany, had suffered much damage and was situated in East Germany. Subsequently it was divided into four parts — each controlled by the United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. In 1945, West Berlin (controlled by the United States, Britain, and France) became a Western-ruled island until East Germany fell in 1990. This division symbolized the collapse of the German Empire and represented the tension evidenced in the Cold War between communist and free nations in the decades ahead. However, it wasn't until 1961 that a physical barrier — the Berlin Wall — was erected to block free access in both directions. From the time the wall was built until it was torn down in October 1990, following Germany's reunification, about eighty people died attempting to cross from East to West Berlin.