The Berlin Wall, for twenty-eight years, separated friends, families, and a nation. A lot of suffering began for Germany when World War II commenced, but by the end of the war Germany was in the mists of a disaster waiting to happen. After WWII was over Germany was divided into four parts. The United States, Great Britain, and France controlled the three divisions that were formed in the Western half; and the Eastern half was controlled by the Soviet Republic. The Western divisions eventually united to make a federal republic, while the Eastern divisions became communist.
Even though Berlin lay deep within the Soviet sector, the Allies thought it best to divide this capital. Therefore Berlin was also divided into four parts. The Soviet Union was in control of the eastern half of Germany. The Soviet Union made East Berlin the capital of East Germany. The other three counties were each in control of a small part of what was to be West Germany. These three countries decided that they would come together to form one country out of their three divided parts. Those three divided parts formed West Germany.
After all the land was divided the Soviet Union controlled East Germany. Just like the Soviet Union, the economy in East Germany was struggling to get back on its feet after the war. While West Berlin became a lively urban area like many American cities, East Berlin became what many thought of as a Mini-Moscow. In East Germany there was literary almost nothing. The shelves in the stores were practically bare, and what was there was not in very good quality. At first, the divisions between East and West Berlin were uncertain. There was nothing that divided the city.
For more than ten years after the official split of the city, East Berlin saw a major emigration of East Germans, unhappy with the communist system. Emigration was easy. With nothing physical to separate East and West Berlin, migration from totalitarianism to democracy was as easy for East Berliners as changing houses. The Soviet Union went against their promises to the people of East Germany, and made East Germany a Communist country. This decision by the Soviet Union separated East Germany even more from the rest of Europe.
East Germany was now all by itself, and by the summer of 1952 the border between East and West Germany was closed; only in Berlin was the border was still open. On June 17, 1953 the workers of East Germany were fed up, and they started a riot. By noon the riots had escalated and the workers from East Germany were marching through the Brandenburg Gate into West Germany with intension to combine with workers from West Germany. All of this came to an end when the Soviet Union called in tanks, and other troops, to take care of the riots.
The Soviet tanks shot into the crowds of people killing many, and injuring many others, they even shot into the crowds in West Germany that were rioting. The people of East Germany realized that they were trapped in East Germany, and if they wanted out they would have to risk their lives in doing so. In the late 1950s approximately 8,000 to 10,000 people from East Germany left and each day they would move further and further west. Many of these people were from East Berlin, and the government of East Germany knew that they couldnt afford to loose all of these people.
Their economy was suffering already, and with the loss of so many people the economy would be hopeless. Many of the people that were leaving were skilled trades men, or members of professions. There were many escape tunnels dug under the wall. The tunnel system was an unexpected resistance movement dug by hundreds of East Berlin students with thousands more willing to help. The first successful tunnel was in an East Berlin Graveyard. Mourners brought flowers to a grave and then dropped out of sight. More than half of the emigrants between 1949 and 1961 were under the age of 24.
For people under 60 years old, lawful emigration was not easy. Legal processes were lengthy and difficult, and they were eventually successful in discouraging the young people from leaving the country. However, emigration for the elderly was no problem since they had no big role in the growth of the Communist State. East Germany did not have any ideas on how to stop all the people from leaving in groups, until a person came up with an idea to build a wall so high, and so booby-trapped that no one would try to get over the wall. This idea, thought up by some unknown person, became the infamous Berlin Wall.
Winston Churchill named this barrier the Iron Curtain. The Berlin Wall was built on August 13, 1961. Walter Ulbricht, who was the German Communist leader under the command of Stalin, organized the construction of a large wall to be built in order to restrain illegal emigration from the East to the West. They tore up the streets to use the paving stones to build the wall. It stunned people from both East and West Germany. Workers from East Germany that worked in West Germany were separated from their family that night, and they were separated for years. The Berlin Wall was 96 miles long.
It consisted of 67 miles of concrete segment wall which was four meters high, 42 miles of wire mesh fencing, 65 miles of anti-vehicle trenches, and 79 miles of contact or signal fence. There were 302 watchtowers, and 20 bunkers. Behind the wall was a trench to stop vehicles. After that was a patrol track with a corridor for watchdogs, watch towers, and bunkers. Behind all of that was a second wall. This area of no man’s land cut off one hundred-ninety two streets. Checkpoint Charley was the main crossing point for the American sector of West Berlin. It was six hundred-eighty feet west of the Brandenburg Gate.
Many people are mistaken and think that it only divided East and West Germany. The wall did not only divide Berlin through the center and all around the outer part of the city, it was built on the border between West and East Germany, from the Baltic Sea southward through the center of Germany all the way to Hildburghausen. From there it went east toward the border of Czechoslovakia. While the Wall was being built, the West began protests and speeches that prohibited the complete isolation of East Berlin. The United States, in particular, was opposed to the establishment of the Wall.
President John F. Kennedy was essential to the cause, declaring his moral commitment with the infamous words: ” As a free man, I take pride in the words – Ich bin ein Berliner (I am a Berliner)” Unfortunately for East Berliners, however, Western involvement did not go much beyond protests and speeches. When building the wall, houses were both torn down and replaced with mined strips and watchtowers, or they were sealed to prevent escapes. Even a Huguenot cemetery with entrances on each side of the sector border was closed off, and West Berliners were not allowed to visit family graves in East Berlin.
At this time the people of Berlin knew it was more than just their worst nightmare, it was reality. The people of East Germany were trapped in East Germany. There was no way to see relatives or anything on the west side of the wall. The people of West Germany were granted permission to go to the East side of the wall, but they could not take anything with them. They were allowed to stay for only a week, and they could only do this a couple times each year. As I talked to my German roommate who lived in West Germany, he told me about all of the hardships that the people in East Germany went through.
He visited East Germany and he told me about all of the hassle he had to go through just to see friends and family. He said he believes it is as bad as being in prison. He also told me that no one could trust anybody. He said best friends would be torn apart because they didnt know if the other could have been a spy. He told me that he heard that 1 out of every 6. 5 citizens of Berlin were spies, and if someone was caught talking about the government they would be severely punished. The people of East Germany knew there was nothing they could do, so they tried to live their lives as best they could.
Occasionally someone would try to get through to the west, and would either be shot, arrested, or sometimes make the escape to freedom. In all around 5000 people made it to the west, around 3200 were arrested trying, around 160 were shot in killed trying, and around 120 were shot and injured by trying to make that escape to freedom. Years past and nothing changed, the East Germans still had no freedom. At the brink of nuclear war, the United States and the Soviet Union reached a deadlock, but the Berlin Wall remained, representing the remaining Cold War related tension between the two countries.
In the mid 1980s there was a beginning of change in the relationship of East and West Germany. Finally, in November of 1989, emigration barriers finally dropped in November 1989, which allowed free passage between East and West Berlin. Soon after the free passage was allowed the Berlin Wall was taken down. The entire wall was taken down except for the areas of historical meaning, such as the part in front of the parliament of Berlin and the places with graffiti artwork. The collapse of the Berlin Wall signified the true end of the Cold War and its terrifying era. The Cold War was coming to a gradual end.
Mikhail Gorbachev, who was then the leader of the Soviet Union, said that his country, and the world, was in need of reform. After Gorbachev got his point across to many people, and even many government officials, the end of the Cold War was in close sight. By September 10, 1989 the Hungarian government had opened the border for the East German refugees. This was a big step for the East Germans freedom. On October 6, 1989 East Germany celebrated its 40th anniversary of statehood. Then just two days later thousands took the streets shouting no more violence! and join us join us.