The Berlin Wall Falls and USSR Dissolves – Initially, Department of State officials and Bush’s foreign policy team were reluctant to speak publicly about German “reunification” due to fear that hard-liners in both the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and the Soviet Union would stymie reform.
Although changes in the GDR leadership and encouraging speeches by Gorbachev about nonintervention in Eastern Europe boded well for reunification, the world was taken by surprise when, during the night of November 9, 1989, crowds of Germans began dismantling the Berlin Wall—a barrier that for almost 30 years had symbolized the Cold War division of Europe.
By October 1990, Germany was reunified, triggering the swift collapse of the other East European regimes. People celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall. Thirteen months later, on December 25, 1991, Gorbachev resigned and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics dissolved. President Bush and his chief foreign policy advisers were more pro-active toward Russia and the former Soviet republics after the collapse of the Communist monolith than while it was teetering.
- In a series of summits during the next year with the new Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Bush pledged $4.5-billion to support economic reform in Russia, as well as additional credit guarantees and technical assistance.
- The two former Cold War adversaries lifted restrictions on the numbers and movement of diplomatic, consular, and official personnel.
They also agreed to continue the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty negotiations (START), begun before the collapse of the Soviet Union, which set a goal of reducing their strategic nuclear arsenals from approximately 12,000 warheads to 3,000-3,500 warheads by 2003.
- 1 When did the Berlin Wall fall and why?
- 2 Who took down the Berlin Wall?
- 3 Why did Russia build the Berlin Wall?
- 4 Who built the Berlin Wall and why?
- 5 How did people escape the Berlin Wall?
- 6 How did Russia get East Germany?
- 7 What countries were involved in the Berlin Wall?
- 8 Why did crowds tear down the wall after the gates were opened?
Why did the Berlin Wall get knocked down?
Image source, Getty Images World events often move fast, but it is hard to match the pace and power of change in 1989. It culminated in one of the most famous scenes in recent history – the fall of the Berlin Wall. The wall came down partly because of a bureaucratic accident but it fell amid a wave of revolutions that left the Soviet-led communist bloc teetering on the brink of collapse and helped define a new world order.
When did the Berlin Wall fall and why?
Berlin Wall On August 13, 1961, the Communist government of the German Democratic Republic (GDR, or East Germany) began to build a barbed wire and concrete “Antifascistischer Schutzwall,” or “antifascist bulwark,” between East and West Berlin. The official purpose of this Berlin Wall was to keep so-called Western “fascists” from entering East Germany and undermining the socialist state, but it primarily served the objective of stemming mass defections from East to West.
The Berlin Wall stood until November 9, 1989, when the head of the East German Communist Party announced that citizens of the GDR could cross the border whenever they pleased. That night, ecstatic crowds swarmed the wall. Some crossed freely into West Berlin, while others brought hammers and picks and began to chip away at the wall itself.
To this day, the Berlin Wall remains one of the most powerful and enduring symbols of the Cold War.
Who took down the Berlin Wall?
O n June 12, 1987 — more than 25 years after the Berlin Wall first divided the city’s East and West — U.S. President Ronald Reagan gave a famous speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, challenging his Soviet counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev by declaring, “Mr.
Why did Russia build the Berlin Wall?
Key Terms – Checkpoint Charlie The name given by the Western Allies to the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War. Inner German border The border between the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany) and the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, West Germany) from 1949 to 1990.
- Not including the similar but physically separate Berlin Wall, the border was 866 miles long and ran from the Baltic Sea to Czechoslovakia.
- German Democratic Republic A state in the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War period.
- From 1949 to 1990, it administered the region of Germany occupied by Soviet forces at the end of World War II.
The Berlin Wall was a barrier that divided Germany from 1961 to 1989. Constructed by the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany) starting on August 13, 1961, the Wall completely cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin until government officials opened it in November 1989.
- Its demolition officially began on June 13, 1990 and was completed in 1992.
- The barrier included guard towers placed along large concrete walls, which circumscribed a wide area (later known as the “death strip”) that contained anti-vehicle trenches, “fakir beds,” and other defenses.
- The Eastern Bloc claimed that the Wall was erected to protect its population from fascist elements conspiring to prevent the “will of the people” in building a socialist state in East Germany.
In practice, the Wall prevented the massive emigration and defection that had marked East Germany and the communist Eastern Bloc during the post-World War II period. The Berlin Wall was officially referred to as the “Anti-Fascist Protective Wall” by GDR authorities, implying that the NATO countries and West Germany in particular were considered “fascists” by GDR propaganda.
The West Berlin city government sometimes referred to it as the “Wall of Shame”—a term coined by mayor Willy Brandt—while condemning the Wall’s restriction on freedom of movement. Along with the separate and much longer Inner German border (IGB), which demarcated the border between East and West Germany, it came to symbolize a physical marker of the “Iron Curtain” that separated Western Europe and the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War.
Before the Wall’s erection, 3.5 million East Germans circumvented Eastern Bloc emigration restrictions and defected from the GDR, many by crossing over the border from East Berlin into West Berlin. From there, they could travel to West Germany and other Western European countries. Berlin Wall: Photograph of the Berlin Wall taken from the West side. The Wall was built in 1961 to prevent East Germans from fleeing and stop an economically disastrous migration of workers. It was a symbol of the Cold War, and its fall in 1989 marked the approaching end of the war.
- With the closing of the East-West sector boundary in Berlin, the vast majority of East Germans could no longer travel or emigrate to West Germany.
- Berlin soon went from the easiest place to make an unauthorized crossing between East and West Germany to the most difficult.
- Many families were split, and East Berliners employed in the West were cut off from their jobs.
West Berlin became an isolated exclave in a hostile land. West Berliners demonstrated against the Wall, led by their Mayor Willy Brandt, who strongly criticized the United States for failing to respond. Allied intelligence agencies had hypothesized about a wall to stop the flood of refugees, but the main candidate for its location was around the perimeter of the city.
- In 1961, Secretary of State Dean Rusk proclaimed, “The Wall certainly ought not to be a permanent feature of the European landscape.
- I see no reason why the Soviet Union should think it is to their advantage in any way to leave there that monument to communist failure.” United States and UK sources expected the Soviet sector to be sealed off from West Berlin, but were surprised how long they took to do so.
They considered the Wall an end to concerns about a GDR/Soviet retaking or capture of the whole of Berlin; the Wall would presumably have been an unnecessary project if such plans were afloat. Thus, they concluded that the possibility of a Soviet military conflict over Berlin had decreased.
- The East German government claimed that the Wall was an “anti-fascist protective rampart” intended to dissuade aggression from the West.
- Another official justification was the activities of Western agents in Eastern Europe.
- The Eastern German government also claimed that West Berliners were buying state-subsidized goods in East Berlin.
East Germans and others greeted such statements with skepticism, as most of the time the border was closed for citizens of East Germany traveling to the West but not for residents of West Berlin travelling East. The construction of the Wall caused considerable hardship to families divided by it.
- Most people believed that the Wall was mainly a means of preventing the citizens of East Germany from entering or fleeing to West Berlin.
- During the years of the Wall, around 5,000 people successfully defected to West Berlin.
- The number of people who died trying to cross the Wall or as a result of the Wall’s existence has been disputed.
The most vocal claims by Alexandra Hildebrandt, Director of the Checkpoint Charlie Museum and widow of the Museum’s founder, estimated the death toll to be well above 200. The East German government issued shooting orders to border guards dealing with defectors, though these are not the same as “shoot to kill” orders.
- GDR officials denied issuing the latter.
- In an October 1973 order later discovered by researchers, guards were instructed that people attempting to cross the Wall were criminals and needed to be shot: “Do not hesitate to use your firearm, not even when the border is breached in the company of women and children, which is a tactic the traitors have often used.” Early successful escapes involved people jumping the initial barbed wire or leaping out of apartment windows along the line, but these ended as the Wall was fortified.
East German authorities no longer permitted apartments near the Wall to be occupied, and any building near the Wall had its windows boarded and later bricked up. On August 15, 1961, Conrad Schumann was the first East German border guard to escape by jumping the barbed wire to West Berlin.
On 22 August 1961, Ida Siekmann was the first casualty at the Berlin Wall: she died after she jumped out of her third floor apartment at 48 Bernauer Strasse. The first person to be shot and killed while trying to cross to West Berlin was Günter Litfin, a 24-year-old tailor. He attempted to swim across the Spree Canal to West Germany on August 24, 1961, the same day that East German police received shoot-to-kill orders to prevent anyone from escaping.
East Germans successfully defected by a variety of methods: digging long tunnels under the Wall, waiting for favorable winds and taking a hot air balloon, sliding along aerial wires, flying ultralights and, in one instance, simply driving a sports car at full speed through the basic initial fortifications.
When a metal beam was placed at checkpoints to prevent this kind of defection, up to four people (two in the front seats and possibly two in the boot) drove under the bar in a sports car that had been modified to allow the roof and windscreen to come away when it made contact with the beam. They lay flat and kept driving forward.
The East Germans then built zig-zagging roads at checkpoints.
Why is the Berlin Wall still important?
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The wall, which stood between 1961 to 1989, came to symbolize the ‘Iron Curtain’ – the ideological split between East and West – that existed across Europe and between the two superpowers, the US and the Soviet Union, and their allies, during the Cold War.
How significant was the Berlin Wall during the Cold War – was it more important physically or psychologically? The Berlin Wall was important physically, as well as psychologically, because Berlin was the only city that was divided physically by the Cold War between the Soviet Union and its allies in the Eastern Bloc and the West.
Given the disparity that quickly emerged between the two sides in economic wealth, freedom of expression and so on, the fear was that, without that wall, there would’ve been a unification of Berlin in a way that the Soviet side would have lost. But it was also very important psychologically because it became the symbol of the division between two ideologies that saw each other as inimical to each other.
That meant that if you wanted to visualize the Cold War, and the separation between the capitalist, democratic system of the West and the communist, command-and-control system of the East, Berlin offered a place where you could physically walk from one world, through a checkpoint, into the other. The whole Cold War could be reduced to this one nexus point.
Because of its psychological as well as its physical significance, the fall of the Berlin Wall quickly became the symbol of the collapse of the communist ideology it had shielded. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, European countries have reportedly built over 1,000 kilometres of walls – the equivalent of more than six times the total length of the Berlin Wall – along their borders.
- Why has Europe been building more walls and how effective have they been? Have they been used more as symbols to appeal to political bases, and if so, has it worked with voters? The walls that have been built in Europe recently have been for a very specific reason.
- This was the huge influx of migrants and refugees to Europe in 2015, through what was called the ‘eastern Mediterranean’ or ‘western Balkan route’, from Turkey to Greece and on through the Balkans, Serbia and Hungary to northern Europe – in what was Europe’s biggest migrant and refugee crisis since the Second World War.
What’s interesting is that for Viktor Orbán and the Hungarian government, which was on the frontline of the flow of migrants and refugees, building a wall was a way of reasserting its sovereignty. Like many other countries along the ‘migrant route’, they resented that the rules under which people could migrate into Europe were flouted by northern European governments which were willing to accept large numbers of migrants and refugees.
- By accepting them, they kept attracting more, and so Orbán was worried that, at some point, Germany might say ‘We can’t take anymore’ and they’d be left in Hungary.
- It’s important to remember that the communist states of central and eastern Europe were kept in aspic by the Soviet Union – they existed in a hermetically sealed environment without immigration.
As a result, they didn’t experience the rise of multicultural societies of the sort that emerged in Britain, Belgium, France and Germany, where immigration persisted throughout the Cold War period. The countries of central and eastern Europe were delighted that the Berlin Wall collapsed because it allowed them to unify with western Europe.
- They had been vassal states of the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and by joining the EU, they re-discovered personal freedom and re-gained national sovereignty.
- They thought they had become masters of their own future again.
- But they suddenly found they were on the frontline of a new movement of people that wanted to get into the same world that they’d entered some 15 years earlier.
And, as hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees began arriving, they suddenly realised they were in a union that did not respect their sovereignty. So, for them, putting up walls was a sovereign act against a European Union that didn’t seem to take their sovereignty seriously.
- Has it worked? Definitely.
- The flow of migrants has been reduced drastically.
- This is partly because the EU paid Turkey to hold back the over three million migrants based there.
- But the walls also acted as a physical and psychological deterrent.
- It also worked politically.
- It allowed Viktor Orbán and other European parties that took the sovereigntist line to strengthen their appeal to voters – voters like to know that governments can do certain things like protecting them and their borders.
What is hypocritical, however, is that many of the governments in western Europe which criticized the Hungarian government for building its wall have actually been rather grateful that they did so as it slowed down the flow of migrants to their countries.
- Then there’s the additional hypocrisy of the EU criticizing Donald Trump for building his wall with Mexico when Europeans are benefitting from theirs in Hungary.
- Two years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, former US president Ronald Reagan challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to ‘tear down this wall’ declaring ‘across Europe this wall will fall.
For it cannot withstand,’ 32 years later, building a wall along the US–Mexico border has become a cornerstone of the current US administration under Donald Trump who has pledged to build a ‘big beautiful wall’. How does this reflect the political evolution of the US and what effect does that have across the rest of the world? President Reagan talked about tearing down the Berlin Wall as a symbol of the Cold War.
- He knew that the fall of the wall would undermine the Soviet Union.
- President Trump is way beyond the Cold War.
- Building a new wall is his response to the growing sense of economic dislocation that segments of America, like Britain and other parts of Europe and the developed world, have experienced on the back of the rise of globalization, which was partly the result of the end of the Cold War but also the rise of China.
The spread of globalization, the declining earning power of many workers in the West, advances in technology which have taken away many high-earning jobs, the eight years of austerity after the global financial crisis – these are all factors driving Trump’s thinking.
Have inflows of Mexican immigrants or immigrants through the Mexico border been the principal driver of economic insecurity? No. What you’ve got is Trump promising to build a wall as a symbol of his administration’s determination to protect Americans. So I’d say the US–Mexico wall is another symbolic – or psychological – wall.
Trump’s wall is supposedly about stopping illegal immigration but there are still plenty of ways to come through the border posts. It’s principally an exercise in political theatre. — Construction site for a secondary border fence following the length of the primary border fence separating the US and Mexico in the San Diego in the US. Photo: Getty Images. From the Great Wall of China to Hadrian’s Wall, wa lls and fences of all sorts have been used throughout history for defence and security, but not all of them have been physical.
So-called ‘maritime walls’, as well as ‘virtual walls’, are also increasingly being enforced which, today, includes border forces patrolling seas and oceans, such as in the Mediterranean Sea or off the coasts of Australia, and border control systems controlling the movement of people, Politically how do these types of barriers compare to physical ones? You could argue that the Mediterranean Sea, and the European border forces operating within it, still act as a physical wall because they constitute a physical obstacle to migrants being able to move from the South across the Mediterranean Sea into Europe.
So I don’t see this maritime wall being much different to the physical walls that have been built to try to stop migrants – just like any other border patrol, the Italian navy is preventing NGO vessels carrying migrants, who have been stranded at sea from docking at Italian ports.
In this sense, you could argue that the Mediterranean Sea is a larger version of the Rio Grande between the US and Mexico which also incorporates physical barriers along its shores. I think the more interesting walls that are being built today are virtual walls such as regulatory walls to trade, or with the internet, new barriers are being built to digital communication which affect your capacity to access information.
In the end, all these walls are manifestations of national sovereignty through which a government demonstrates it can ‘protect’ its citizens – whether they are successful in this objective or not. The border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, and the presence of enforcement mechanisms along the border, has become a key issue in the Brexit negotiations.
- How much of the debate over this is about the symbolism of the border against its economic implications? The Irish border carries great symbolic importance because it reflects the reality of the separation of two sovereign states.
- On the island of Ireland, the British and Irish governments have wanted to minimize this reality to the greatest extent possible.
They even went as far as removing all types of barriers as part of the Good Friday Agreement. This is the same sort of fiction the European Union created when it removed any physical manifestations of the existence of borders between those member states in its Schengen agreement on borderless travel.
By removing physical manifestations of the border, the UK was able to reduce some of the popular support for Irish unification as well as support for the IRA’s campaign of violence and terrorism to try to force the same outcome. Brexit has thrown a huge spanner into this arrangement. If Brexit is going to mean the entire UK not being in the EU’s customs union then some sort of border would need to be reinstated.
The British government proposed to do all the checks behind the border somewhere. The EU’s view was, ‘Well, that’s nice for you to say, but this border will become the EU’s only land border with the UK, and you cannot guarantee that people won’t be able to smuggle things through.’ On the other hand, recreating a border of some sort, whether physical or not, would reignite the differentiation between the two nations – running counter to the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.
- The only solution available to Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been to put the border down the Irish Sea.
- While this means that Northern Ireland will no longer be an obstacle to the UK signing new, post-Brexit, free trade agreements with other countries, it has betrayed the Conservative Party’s unionist allies, for whom it’s essential that the UK’s borders include and not exclude them.
By the end of the Cold War there were just 15 walls and fences along borders around the world, but today, there are at least 70. How effective, do you think, building barriers are as a political and military strategy to defence and security issues given their financial – and human – cost? Physical barriers can be an effective form of protection – or imprisonment.
- The separation wall between Israel and the Palestinian territories has reduced the level of terrorist violence being perpetrated in Israel, but the cost has been the impoverishment of many Palestinians, and is another nail in the coffin of a two-state solution.
- Yet many Israelis are saying that, maybe, being entirely separate is the best way to achieve peace between the two sides.
However, the walls around the Gaza Strip have not prevented, for various reasons, the Hamas government from developing rockets and firing them into Israel. You could argue that the border between China and North Korea, which is severely patrolled, has been a tool of continued political control protecting the Kim Jong-un regime from collapse – as has its virtual border preventing internet penetration.
Similarly, the virtual border the Chinese government has created around its own internet, the ‘great firewall’, has been very effective both economically – allowing Chinese internet platforms to develop without the threat of competition – and also as a form of political control that helps the Chinese Communist Party retain its monopoly on power.
So walls in all of their shapes and forms can work. They are like sanctions – sanctions are easy to impose but difficult to remove. Walls are easy to build but they’re difficult to break down. But my view would be that they still only work temporarily. In the end, walls serve their particular purpose for a particular period, like the Berlin Wall, they end up outliving their purpose.
You have to be alive to the fact that, whether that purpose was a good or bad purpose, there will be a moment when walls end up protecting the interests of an ever-narrower number of people inside the wall, while they cease serving, if they ever did, the interests of the growing number on both sides.
It’s ironic that the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 was not the main marker of the end of the Cold War. It began earlier that year, with the intensification of people protesting in Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Once Hungarian troops dismantled the fence separating them from Austria in May 1989, thousands of Hungarian citizens simply walked out of their country, because by then, the wall between the East and West only existed in their minds.
Then, once East Germans also realized that Mikhail Gorbachev and the Soviet regime had lost its willingness to defend the Berlin Wall, it collapsed. So it is interesting that we’re marking the end of the Cold War with this anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which of course, did divide two halves of one country, making its fall all the more poignant and powerful.
But the end of the Cold War really began with the fall of the invisible wall in people’s minds.
Who built the Berlin Wall and why?
The Berlin Wall was built by the German Democratic Republic during the Cold War to prevent its population from escaping Soviet-controlled East Berlin to West Berlin, which was controlled by the major Western Allies. It divided the city of Berlin into two physically and ideologically contrasting zones.
How much of the Berlin Wall is left?
Sekundäre Navigation – Most visitors to Berlin want to see the Wall. But of the concrete barrier that once divided the German capital, only remnants remain. Where to find pieces of the real thing – and which structures are only a replica.
© dpa For more than 28 years, the Wall divided East and West Berlin. Today, almost nothing is left of it. © dpa Berlin Wall at the East Side Gallery © dpa In many places, metal plates in the ground remind us where the Wall once stood.
Whoever comes to the capital wants to see it. But of the wall that once divided Berlin, only remnants remain. Where there is still a real wall – and what is only a replica. © dpa Berlin Wall Memorial at Bernauer Strasse
How did people escape the Berlin Wall?
Refugee flows and escape attempts – Between 1945 and 1988, around 4 million East Germans migrated to the West.3.454 million of them left between 1945 and the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961. The great majority simply walked across the border or, after 1952, exited through West Berlin.
After the border was fortified and the Berlin Wall was constructed, the number of illegal border crossings fell drastically. The numbers fell further as the border defenses were improved over the subsequent decades. In 1961, 8,507 people fled across the border, most of them through West Berlin. The construction of the Berlin Wall that year reduced the number of escapees by 75% to around 2,300 per annum for the rest of the decade.
The Wall changed Berlin from being one of the easiest places to cross the border, from the East, to one of the most difficult. The number of escapees fell further to 868 per annum during the 1970s and to only 334 per annum between 1980 and 1988. However, escapees were never more than a small minority of the total number of emigrants from East Germany.
|Total||Official permits||Escapes through other countries||Direct escapes||Ransomed to West Germany|
|Total (+ 1961)||616,066||382,481||163,815||40,100||29,670|
Escapees had various motives for attempting to flee East Germany. The vast majority had an essentially economic motive: they wished to improve their living conditions and opportunities in the West. Some fled for political reasons, but many were impelled to leave by specific social and political events.
The imposition of collective agriculture and the crushing of the 1953 East German uprising prompted thousands to flee to the West, as did further coercive economic restructuring in 1960. Thousands of those who fled did so to escape the clearance of their villages along the border. By the 1980s, the number of escape attempts was rising again as East Germany’s economy stagnated and living conditions deteriorated.
Attempts to flee across the border were carefully studied and recorded by the East German authorities to identify possible weak points. These were addressed by strengthening the fortifications in vulnerable areas. The East German Army (NVA) and the Ministry for State Security (Stasi) carried out statistical surveys to identify trends.
- In one example, a study was carried out by the NVA at the end of the 1970s to review attempted “border breaches” ( Grenzdurchbrüche ).
- It found that 4,956 people had attempted to escape across the border between 1 January 1974 and 30 November 1979.
- Of those, 3,984 people (80.4%) were arrested by the People’s Police in the Sperrzone, the outer restricted zone.205 people (4.1%) were caught at the signal fence.
Within the inner security zone, the Schutzstreifen, a further 743 people (15%) were arrested by the border guards.48 people (1%) were stopped – i.e. killed or injured – by landmines and 43 people (0.9%) by SM-70 directional mines on the border fence.
- A further 67 people (1.35%) were intercepted at the border fence (shot and/or arrested).
- The study highlighted the effectiveness of the SM-70 as a means of stopping people getting across the fence.
- A total of 229 people – just 4.6% of attempted escapees, representing less than one in twenty – made it across the border fence.
Of these, the largest number (129, or 55% of successful escapees) succeeded in making it across the fence in unmined sectors.89 people (39% of escapees) managed to cross both the minefields and the border fence, but just 12 people (6% of the total) succeeded in getting past the SM-70s. East German Army diagram detailing numbers of escape attempts on the inner German border, 1974–1979 Escape attempts were severely punished by the East German state. From 1953, the regime described the act of escaping as Republikflucht (literally “flight from the Republic”), by analogy with the existing military term Fahnenflucht (” desertion “).
A successful escapee was not a Flüchtling (“refugee”) but a Republikflüchtiger (“Republic-deserter”). Those who attempted to escape were called Sperrbrecher (literally “blockade runners” but more loosely translated as “border violators”). Those who helped escapees were not Fluchthelfer (“escape helpers”), the Western term, but Menschenhändler (“human traffickers”).
Such ideologically coloured language enabled the regime to portray border crossers as little better than traitors and criminals. An East German propaganda booklet published in 1955 outlined the official view of escapees: Both from the moral standpoint as well as in terms of the interests of the whole German nation, leaving the GDR is an act of political and moral backwardness and depravity.
Those who let themselves be recruited objectively serve West German Reaction and militarism, whether they know it or not. Is it not despicable when for the sake of a few alluring job offers or other false promises about a “guaranteed future” one leaves a country in which the seed for a new and more beautiful life is sprouting, and is already showing the first fruits, for the place that favors a new war and destruction? Is it not an act of political depravity when citizens, whether young people, workers, or members of the intelligentsia, leave and betray what our people have created through common labor in our republic to offer themselves to the American or British secret services or work for the West German factory owners, Junkers, or militarists? Does not leaving the land of progress for the morass of an historically outdated social order demonstrate political backwardness and blindness?,
orkers throughout Germany will demand punishment for those who today leave the German Democratic Republic, the strong bastion of the fight for peace, to serve the deadly enemy of the German people, the imperialists and militarists. Republikflucht became a crime in 1957, punishable by heavy fines and up to three years’ imprisonment.
- Any act associated with an escape attempt was subject to this legislation.
- Those caught in the act were often tried for espionage as well and given proportionately harsher sentences.
- More than 75,000 people – an average of more than seven people a day – were imprisoned for attempting to escape across the border, serving an average of one to two years’ imprisonment.
Some of the people who tried to escape were in fact East german guards or soldiers. Some of them use military vehicles to smashed through the Berlin wall. Guards who attempted to escape were treated much more harshly and were on average imprisoned for five years.
Who was the Russian president when the Berlin Wall came down?
Berlin Wall’s fall stokes memories of lost hopes in Russia MOSCOW (AP) — When the Berlin Wall fell, the Soviet Union stepped back, letting East Germany’s communist government collapse and then quickly accepting German unification. Russian President Vladimir Putin now blames the Soviet leadership for naivete that paved the way for NATO’s expansion eastward.
Many in Russia share that view, seeing the collapse of the Berlin Wall and reunification of Germany as a moment when Moscow reached out to the West hoping to forge a new era of partnership but was cheated by Western powers. Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev encouraged the Communist leaders in Central and Eastern Europe to follow his lead in launching liberal reforms and took no action to shore up their regimes when they started to crumble under the pressure of pro-democracy forces.
During 1989, reformers took power across Soviet bloc countries, ending more than four decades of Communist rule. The swiftness of the change took Gorbachev himself by surprise. The ex-Soviet leader said in a recent interview, ahead of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov.9, that he welcomed democratic changes in East Germany and other Soviet bloc countries but didn’t foresee the Berlin Wall to come down that quickly.
- Not only us, but our Western partners didn’t expect that the pace of history would be so fast,” Gorbachev told newspaper Izvestia.
- The morning after the Berlin Wall’s collapse, Gorbachev called a session of the Communist Party’s ruling Politburo to discuss a Soviet response.
- The Politburo unanimously decided that the use of force must be absolutely ruled out.
Some were certainly eager to ‘restore order’ with tanks, but they kept mum then,” he said in the interview. Pavel Palazhchenko, who worked as Gorbachev’s interpreter at the time, said that “any other decision could have had extremely serious, grave consequences, could have been the beginning of a disaster.” The Soviet Union had more than 300,000 troops and more than 12,000 tanks and other armored vehicles in East Germany.
“Practically they could have closed the entire border with their tanks, but they stayed in their barracks,” said Vladislav Zubok, an expert on Soviet history with the London School of Economics. “It was clear to the Soviet leadership that it was impossible to put the paste back into the tube. A new era started.” Nikolai Andreyev, who was a Soviet army colonel in East Germany, said he was relieved to see that the Soviet leadership didn’t try to reclaim control by forceful means.
“I was happy that it all happened peacefully, without a military conflict, without any shooting and bloodshed,” he said. The Soviet Union itself was going through a tumultuous period of change. Liberal reformers in the newly elected Soviet parliament pushed for ending the Communist Party’s monopoly on power and pro-independence movements quickly gained leverage in Soviet republics.
The Soviet media, transformed by Gorbachev’s policy of openness, freely reported on the Berlin Wall’s collapse. “I was sure that our military units wouldn’t take any radical action. Gorbachev’s policy warranted that,” said Vyacheslav Mostovoi, who covered the wall’s fall for Soviet state television. Following the wall’s collapse, Gorbachev agreed to fast-track the talks on the unification of Germany and, to much Western surprise, easily accepted its membership in NATO.
He told Izvestia that it “removed a source of tension in the center of Europe” and helped radically improve relations with Germany. But many in Russia continue to hold Gorbachev responsible for betraying Soviet ally East Germany and foregoing Moscow’s vital interests in talks with Western powers.
- They include Putin, who charged that the Soviet leader naively trusted Western promises that NATO wouldn’t seek to incorporate Soviet bloc countries instead of getting a written pledge.
- Gorbachev made a mistake,” Putin said.
- It’s necessary to document things in politics.
- And he just talked about it and thought that it was done.” Gorbachev countered that it would have been absurd to ask the West for written guarantees that the Warsaw Pact members wouldn’t join NATO because it would have amounted to declaring the Soviet-led military alliance dead even before it formally ceased to exist in July 1991.
For Putin, however, Gorbachev’s German policy was a show of unforgivable weakness that left a deep personal mark. A month after the wall’s collapse, Putin, a KGB lieutenant colonel posted to Dresden, East Germany, was left to face demonstrators who tried to break into the KGB’s headquarters there after the Soviet military ignored his desperate plea to protect the building.
- He eventually managed to turn the crowd back without violence.
- As the Kremlin was negotiating German reunification, the Soviet Union began to unravel amid a massive economic crisis and political turmoil.
- The country’s hard currency reserves depleted and the Kremlin was struggling to pay its bills, leaving Gorbachev and his government in a weak negotiating position.
“The Soviet Union was in crisis and couldn’t negotiate from the position of equality with the West,” Zubok said. The country’s economic woes continued after the 1991 Soviet breakup, leaving Russia heavily dependent on Western financial aid throughout the 1990s.
Some of the elite Soviet troops hastily pulled back from Germany often were lacking basic infrastructure and had to stay in tents. Germany helped finance the pullout, but many in Russia saw the aid as insufficient. In the years that followed, the Kremlin could do little to oppose the enlargement of NATO that embraced Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic in 1999 and incorporated other former Soviet bloc nations and the three ex-Soviet republics in the Baltics in the following years.
NATO’s expansion eastward was widely seen in Russia as a proof of its hostile intentions, helping foment anti-Western sentiments. “The mistrust toward the West, toward the potential partners on the other side, is still there,” said Konstantin Kosachev, the Kremlin-connected head of the foreign affairs committee in the Russian parliament’s upper house.
_Harriet Morris, Francesca Ebel, Konstantin Manenkov and Tanya Titova contributed to this report._Follow AP’s full coverage of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall at
: Berlin Wall’s fall stokes memories of lost hopes in Russia
Who was the last person to cross the Berlin Wall?
Death – Gueffroy and Gaudian based their decision to try to flee over the wall on mistaken beliefs that the Schießbefehl, the standing order to shoot anyone who attempted to cross the wall, had been lifted (it had not), and that the Swedish prime minister Ingvar Carlsson was to pay a state visit to East Berlin (he had already left when they attempted their escape).
- Their attempted escape from East Berlin to West Berlin, along the Britz district canal would take place on the night of 5–6 February 1989, about two kilometres (1¼ miles) from what would be Gueffroy’s last residence on Südostallee 218, Johannisthal, Treptow, East Berlin.
- Climbing the last metal lattice fence, the two were discovered and came under fire from the NVA border troops.
Gueffroy was hit in the chest by two shots and died in the border strip. Gaudian, badly but not fatally injured, was arrested and was sentenced on 24 May 1989 to imprisonment of three years by the Pankow district court for attempted illegal border-crossing of the first degree (” versuchten ungesetzlichen Grenzübertritts im schweren Fall “).
- In September 1989 Gaudian was freed on bail by the East German government, and on 17 October 1989 he was transferred to West Berlin.
- Chris Gueffroy is often erroneously named as the last person to die in the attempt to cross the wall, but he was in fact only the last to be killed through the use of weapons, and the second-last to die in an escape attempt.
Winfried Freudenberg died in the crash of an improvised balloon aircraft by which he crossed the border into West Berlin on 8 March 1989.
Who was the first person killed trying to cross the Berlin Wall?
First and last deaths – When Berlin was a divided city, the Berlin Wall ran along Bernauer Straße, The street itself belonged to the French sector of West Berlin and the East German authorities declared that the windows and doors that led out onto Bernauer Straße should be bricked up.
- In the early morning of 22 August 1961, Ida Siekmann was the first of 98 people to die while attempting to escape.
- She was living on the fourth floor of number 48 (third floor, 3te Stock, by German standards), threw bedding and some possessions down onto the street, and jumped out of the window of her apartment.
She fell on the sidewalk and was severely injured, dying shortly afterwards on her way to the Lazarus Hospital. In February 1989, Chris Gueffroy was the last person shot trying to escape East Germany; he was not, however, the last to die escaping. On 8 March 1989, Winfried Freudenberg became the last person to die in an attempt to escape from East Germany to West Berlin.
Who hit the Berlin Wall first?
Defection attempts – During the years of the Wall, around 5,000 people successfully defected to West Berlin. The number of people who died trying to cross the Wall, or as a result of the Wall’s existence, has been disputed. The most vocal claims by Alexandra Hildebrandt, Director of the Checkpoint Charlie Museum and widow of the Museum’s founder, estimated the death toll to be well above 200. October 7, 1961. Four-year-old Michael Finder of East Germany is tossed by his father into a net held by residents across the border in West Berlin. The father, Willy Finder, then prepares to make the jump himself. The East German government issued shooting orders ( Schießbefehl ) to border guards dealing with defectors, though such orders are not the same as “shoot to kill” orders.
- GDR officials denied issuing the latter.
- In an October 1973 order later discovered by researchers, guards were instructed that people attempting to cross the Wall were criminals and needed to be shot: Do not hesitate to use your firearm, not even when the border is breached in the company of women and children, which is a tactic the traitors have often used.
Early successful escapes involved people jumping the initial barbed wire or leaping out of apartment windows along the line, but these ended as the Wall was fortified. East German authorities no longer permitted apartments near the Wall to be occupied, and any building near the Wall had its windows boarded and later bricked up.
On 15 August 1961, Conrad Schumann was the first East German border guard to escape by jumping the barbed wire to West Berlin. On 22 August 1961, Ida Siekmann was the first casualty at the Berlin Wall: she died after she jumped out of her third floor apartment at 48 Bernauer Strasse, The first person to be shot and killed while trying to cross to West Berlin was Günter Litfin, a twenty-four-year-old tailor.
He attempted to swim across the Spree to West Berlin on 24 August 1961, the same day that East German police had received shoot-to-kill orders to prevent anyone from escaping. Another dramatic escape was carried out in April 1963 by Wolfgang Engels, a 19-year-old civilian employee of the Nationale Volksarmee (NVA). Memorial to the Victims of the Wall, with graffiti, 1982. East Germans successfully defected by a variety of methods: digging long tunnels under the Wall, waiting for favorable winds and taking a hot air balloon, sliding along aerial wires, flying ultralights and, in one instance, simply driving a sports car at full speed through the basic, initial fortifications.
- When a metal beam was placed at checkpoints to prevent this kind of defection, up to four people (two in the front seats and possibly two in the boot ) drove under the bar in a sports car that had been modified to allow the roof and windscreen to come away when it made contact with the beam.
- They lay flat and kept driving forward.
The East Germans then built zig-zagging roads at checkpoints. The sewer system predated the Wall, and some people escaped through the sewers, in a number of cases with assistance from the Unternehmen Reisebüro, In September 1962, 29 people escaped through a tunnel to the west.
- At least 70 tunnels were dug under the wall; only 19 were successful in allowing fugitives—about 400 persons—to escape.
- The East Germany authorities eventually used seismographic and acoustic equipment to detect the practice.
- In 1962, they planned an attempt to use explosives to destroy one tunnel, but this was not carried out as it was apparently sabotaged by a member of the Stasi.
An airborne escape was made by Thomas Krüger, who landed a Zlin Z 42 M light aircraft of the Gesellschaft für Sport und Technik, an East German youth military training organization, at RAF Gatow, His aircraft, registration DDR-WOH, was dismantled and returned to the East Germans by road, complete with humorous slogans painted on it by airmen of the Royal Air Force, such as “Wish you were here” and “Come back soon”.
If an escapee was wounded in a crossing attempt and lay on the death strip, no matter how close they were to the Western wall, Westerners could not intervene for fear of triggering engaging fire from the ‘Grepos’, the East Berlin border guards. The guards often let fugitives bleed to death in the middle of this ground, as in the most notorious failed attempt, that of Peter Fechter (aged 18) at a point near Zimmerstrasse in East Berlin.
He was shot and bled to death, in full view of the Western media, on 17 August 1962. Fechter’s death created negative publicity worldwide that led the leaders of East Berlin to place more restrictions on shooting in public places and provide medical care for possible “would-be escapers”.
How did Russia get East Germany?
This article is about the country that existed from 1949 to 1990. For the modern east of Germany, see Eastern Germany, For the group of extinct Germanic languages, see East Germanic languages,
|German Democratic Republic Deutsche Demokratische Republik|
|Flag (1959–1990) Emblem (1955–1990)|
|Motto: ” Proletarier aller Länder, vereinigt Euch! ” (” Workers of the world, unite! “)|
|Anthem: ” Auferstanden aus Ruinen ” (“Risen from Ruins”) 2:54|
|Territory of East Germany (dark green)|
|Status||Member of Comecon (1950–1990) Member of the Warsaw Pact (1955–1990)|
|Capital and largest city||East Berlin ( de facto )|
|Official languages||German Sorbian (in parts of Bezirk Dresden and Bezirk Cottbus )|
|Religion||See Religion in East Germany|
|Government||Federal Marxist–Leninist one-party socialist republic (1949–1952) Unitary Marxist–Leninist one-party socialist republic (1952–1989) Unitary parliamentary republic (1989–1990)|
|• 1946–1950||Wilhelm Pieck and Otto Grotewohl|
|• 1950–1971||Walter Ulbricht|
|• 1971–1989||Erich Honecker|
|• 1989||Egon Krenz|
|Head of State|
|• 1949–1960 (first)||Wilhelm Pieck|
|• 1990 (last)||Sabine Bergmann-Pohl|
|Head of Government|
|• 1949–1964 (first)||Otto Grotewohl|
|• 1990 (last)||Lothar de Maizière|
|• Upper house||Länderkammer|
|Historical era||Cold War|
|• Constitution adopted||7 October 1949|
|• Uprising of 1953||16 June 1953|
|• Warsaw Pact||14 May 1955|
|• Berlin Crisis||4 June 1961|
|• Basic Treaty with the FRG||21 December 1972|
|• Admitted to the UN||18 September 1973|
|• Peaceful Revolution||13 October 1989|
|• Fall of the Berlin Wall||9 November 1989|
|• Final Settlement||12 September 1990|
|• Reunification||3 October 1990|
|• Total||108,333 km 2 (41,828 sq mi)|
|• Density||149/km 2 (385.9/sq mi)|
|GDP ( PPP )||1989 estimate|
|• Total||$525.29 billion|
|• Per capita||$42,004|
|HDI (1990)||0.953 very high|
|Time zone||( UTC +1)|
East Germany, officially the German Democratic Republic ( GDR ; German : Deutsche Demokratische Republik, pronounced ( listen ), DDR, pronounced ( listen ) ), was a country in Central Europe that existed from its creation on 7 October 1949 until its dissolution on 3 October 1990. In these years the country was a part of the Eastern Bloc in the Cold War, Commonly described as a communist state, it described itself as a socialist “workers’ and peasants’ state”.
With the Potsdam Agreement on 1 August 1945, its territory was administered and occupied by Soviet forces following the end of World War II in Europe—the Soviet occupation zone, bounded on the east by the Oder–Neisse line, The Soviet zone surrounded West Berlin but did not include it and West Berlin remained outside the jurisdiction of the GDR.
Many Western scholars and academics describe the GDR as a totalitarian dictatorship, The GDR was established in the Soviet zone, while the Federal Republic of Germany, commonly referred to as West Germany, was established in the three western zones ( Trizone ).
A satellite state of the Soviet Union, Soviet occupation authorities began transferring administrative responsibility to German communist leaders in 1948 and the GDR began to function as a state on 7 October 1949; and in 1954 the Soviet Union granted East Germany sovereignty, when the Soviet Control Commission in Berlin was disbanded.
The GDR was governed by the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED), although other parties nominally participated in its alliance organization, the National Front of the German Democratic Republic, The SED made the teaching of Marxism–Leninism and the Russian language compulsory in schools.
- The economy was centrally planned and state-owned,
- Prices of housing, basic goods and services were heavily subsidized and set by central government planners rather than rising and falling through supply and demand.
- Although the GDR had to pay substantial war reparations to the Soviets, it became the most successful economy in the Eastern Bloc,
Emigration to the West was a significant problem as many of the emigrants were well-educated young people; such emigration weakened the state economically. In response, the government fortified its inner German border and built the Berlin Wall in 1961.
- Many people attempting to flee were killed by border guards or booby traps such as landmines,
- Those captured spent long periods of time imprisoned for attempting to escape.
- In 1951, a referendum in East Germany regarding the remilitarization of Germany was held, with 95% of the population voting in favour.
In 1989, numerous social, economic and political forces in the GDR and abroad, one of the most notable being peaceful protests starting in the city of Leipzig, led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the establishment of a government committed to liberalization.
The following year, a free and fair election was held and international negotiations led to the signing of the Final Settlement treaty on the status and borders of Germany. The GDR ceased to exist when its states (“Länder”) joined the Federal Republic of Germany under Article 23 of the Basic Law on 3 October 1990.
Several of the GDR’s leaders, notably its last communist leader Egon Krenz, were later prosecuted for offenses committed during the GDR times. Geographically, the GDR bordered the Baltic Sea to the north, Poland to the east, Czechoslovakia to the southeast and West Germany (FRG) to the southwest and west.
Internally, the GDR also bordered the Soviet sector of Allied-occupied Berlin, known as East Berlin, which was also administered as the state’s de facto capital. It also bordered the three sectors occupied by the United States, United Kingdom and France known collectively as West Berlin (de facto part of West Germany).
The three sectors occupied by the Western countries were sealed off from the GDR by the Berlin Wall from its construction on 13 August 1961 until it was brought down on 9 November 1989.
Why Germany was divided?
What was the Berlin Wall and how did it fall? 1. Berlin was a divided city before the wall At the end of the, Germany was divided into four zones of occupation under the control of the United States, Britain, France and the Soviet Union. Berlin, although located within the Soviet zone, was also split amongst the four powers. 2. The Berlin Wall came to represent the ideological divisions of the Cold War This photograph shows British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, American President Harry Truman and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin at the Potsdam Conference on 23 July 1945. The relationship between the former wartime Allies, although tense from as early as 1942, became increasingly strained as they struggled to reach agreement on the shape of post-war Europe.
By 1945, the United States and the Soviet Union had begun to emerge as ideologically opposed ‘superpowers’, each wanting to exert their influence in the post-war world. Germany became a focus of Cold War politics and as divisions between East and West became more pronounced, so too did the division of Germany.
In 1949, Germany formally split into two independent nations: the Federal Republic of Germany (FDR or West Germany), allied to the Western democracies, and the German Democratic Republic (GDR or East Germany), allied to the Soviet Union. In 1952, the East German government closed the border with West Germany, but the border between East and West Berlin remained open. 3. The Berlin Wall developed over time In 1961, rumours spread that measures would be introduced to strengthen the border and stop East Germans from leaving for the West. On 15 June, East German leader Walter Ulbricht declared that ‘no one has the intention of building a wall’, but on the night of 12-13 August a wire barrier was constructed around West Berlin.
Established crossing points between the Western and Soviet sectors were closed, dividing neighbourhoods and separating families overnight. From this barbed wire barricade, the Wall would eventually develop into a fortified concrete structure encircling West Berlin and isolating it from the surrounding East German territory.
In this photograph, construction workers are supervised by East German guards as they build part of the Berlin Wall in 1961. 4. The Berlin Wall was heavily guarded The Berlin Wall was not one wall, but two. Measuring 155 kilometres (96 miles) long and four metres (13 feet) tall, these walls were separated by a heavily guarded, mined corridor of land known as the ‘death strip’. 5. The Berlin Wall fell on 9 November 1989 In 1989, political changes in Eastern Europe and civil unrest in Germany put pressure on the East German government to loosen some of its regulations on travel to West Germany. At a press conference on 9 November, East German spokesman Günter Schabowski announced that East Germans would be free to travel into West Germany, starting immediately.
- He failed to clarify that some regulations would remain in place.
- Western media inaccurately reported that the border had opened and crowds quickly gathered at checkpoints on both sides of the Wall.
- Passport checks were eventually abandoned and people crossed the border unrestricted.
- East and West Berliners came together in celebration.
The was the first step towards German reunification. The political, economic and social impact of the fall of the Berlin Wall further weakened the already unstable East German government. Germany reunited on 3 October 1990, 11 months after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Why was Berlin split if it was in East Germany?
Shortly after midnight on August 13, 1961, East German soldiers begin laying down barbed wire and bricks as a barrier between Soviet-controlled East Berlin and the democratic western section of the city. After World War II, defeated Germany was divided into Soviet, American, British and French zones of occupation.
The city of Berlin, though technically part of the Soviet zone, was also split, with the Soviets taking the eastern part of the city. After a massive Allied airlift in June 1948 foiled a Soviet attempt to blockade West Berlin, the eastern section was drawn even more tightly into the Soviet fold. Over the next 12 years, cut off from its western counterpart and basically reduced to a Soviet satellite, East Germany saw between 2.5 million and 3 million of its citizens head to West Germany in search of better opportunities.
By 1961, some 1,000 East Germans—including many skilled laborers, professionals and intellectuals—were leaving every day. WATCH: Declassified: Rise and Fall of the Wall on HISTORY Vault In August, Walter Ulbricht, the Communist leader of East Germany, got the go-ahead from Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to begin the sealing off of all access between East and West Berlin.
- Soldiers began the work over the night of August 12-13, laying more than 100 miles of barbed wire slightly inside the East Berlin border.
- The wire was soon replaced by a six-foot-high, 96-mile-long wall of concrete blocks, complete with guard towers, machine gun posts and searchlights.
- East German officers known as Volkspolizei (“Volpos”) patrolled the Berlin Wall day and night.
Many Berlin residents on that first morning found themselves suddenly cut off from friends or family members in the other half of the city. Led by their mayor, Willi Brandt, West Berliners demonstrated against the wall, as Brandt criticized Western democracies, particularly the United States, for failing to take a stand against it.
President John F. Kennedy had earlier said publicly that the United States could only really help West Berliners and West Germans, and that any kind of action on behalf of East Germans would only result in failure. The Berlin Wall was one of the most powerful and iconic symbols of the Cold War, In June 1963, Kennedy gave his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” (“I am a Berliner”) speech in front of the Wall, celebrating the city as a symbol of freedom and democracy in its resistance to tyranny and oppression.
The height of the Wall was raised to 10 feet in 1970 in an effort to stop escape attempts, which at that time came almost daily. From 1961 to 1989, a total of 5,000 East Germans escaped; many more tried and failed. High profile shootings of some would-be defectors only intensified the Western world’s hatred of the Wall.
- Finally, in the late 1980s, East Germany, fueled by the decline of the Soviet Union, began to implement a number of liberal reforms.
- On November 9, 1989, masses of East and West Germans alike gathered at the Berlin Wall and began to climb over and dismantle it.
- As this symbol of Cold War repression was destroyed, East and West Germany became one nation again, signing a formal treaty of unification on October 3, 1990.
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How long did the Berlin Wall last?
History & Culture Explainer
The ugly symbol of the Cold War was built to keep East Germans from escaping to the West. A decades-long fight to flee brought it down. For nearly 30 years, Berlin was divided not just by ideology, but by a concrete barrier that snaked through the city, serving as an ugly symbol of the Cold War.
- Erected in haste and torn down in protest, the Berlin Wall was almost 27 miles long and was protected with barbed wire, attack dogs, and 55,000 landmines.
- But though the wall stood between 1961 and 1989, it could not survive a massive democratic movement that ended up bringing down the the socialist German Democratic Republic (GDR) and spurring on the Cold War’s end,
The wall had its origins in the end of World War II, when Germany was carved into four pieces and occupied by Allied powers. Although Berlin was located about 90 miles east from the border between the GDR and West Germany and completely surrounded by the Soviet sector, the city was also originally divided into four quarters, but by 1947 was consolidated into east and west zones,
In 1949, the two new Germanies were officially founded. Socialist East Germany was wracked by poverty and convulsed by labor strikes in response to its new political and economic systems. The brain drain and worker shortage that resulted prompted the GDR to close its border with West Germany in 1952, making it much harder for people to cross from “Communist” to “free” Europe.
( Revisit National Geographic’ s reporting from West Berlin before the wall fell.) East Germans began fleeing through the more permeable border between East and West Berlin instead. At one point, 1,700 people a day sought refugee status by crossing from East to West Berlin, and about 3 million GDR citizens went to West Germany through the via West Berlin between 1949 and 1961.
In the wee hours of August 13, 1961, as Berliners slept, the GDR began building fences and barriers to seal off entry points from East Berlin into the western part of the city. The overnight move stunned Germans on both sides of the new border. As GDR soldiers patrolled the demarcation line and laborers began constructing a concrete wall, diplomatic officials and the militaries of both sides engaged in a series of tense standoffs,
Eventually, East Germany erected 27 miles of concrete wall through the city. The Wall was actually two parallel walls punctuated with guard towers and separated by the “death strip,” which included guard dog runs, landmines, barbed wire, and various obstacles designed to prevent escape.
- East German soldiers monitored the barriers 24/7, conducted surveillance on West Berlin, and had shoot-to-kill orders should they spot an escapee.
- People did try to escape.
- Initially, they fled from houses right along the Wall; later, those houses were emptied and turned into fortifications for the Wall itself.
Others plotted riskier escapes through tunnels, on hot air balloons, and even via train, Between 1961 and 1989, over 5,000 people made successful escapes. Others were not so lucky; at least 140 were killed or died while trying to cross the Wall. Over the years, the Wall became a grim symbol of the Cold War.
- By 1989, many East Germans had had enough.
- They staged a series of mass demonstrations demanding democracy.
- Meanwhile, the Soviet bloc was destabilized by economic woes and political reforms.
- Meet the forgotten ‘wolf children’ of World War II.) On the night of November 9, 1989, East Berlin party official Günter Schabowski announced upcoming travel reforms in response to the protests, but botched the message so badly it sounded as if the GDR had in fact opened its borders.
Thousands of East Berliners flooded toward border crossings along the Wall, where confused guards eventually opened the gates. As East Berliners pushed through, tens of thousands of West Berliners met them in a massive outpouring of emotion and celebration.
As they celebrated with champagne, music, and tears, Berliners began to literally tear down the wall with sledgehammers and chisels. Less than a month later, the GDR collapsed entirely, and in 1990, Germany reunified. The Soviet Union followed suit, and today the fall of the Berlin Wall is seen as a symbol of the end of the Cold War.
Today, a double row of cobblestones marks the place where the wall once stood.
Which side of Germany was communist?
Two years after the construction of the Berlin Wall, President Kennedy paid a historic visit to Berlin to challenge Soviet oppression and offer hope to the people of the divided city. – At the end of World War II, the main Allied powers—the United States, France, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union—divided Germany into two zones.
The Soviet Union occupied East Germany and installed a rigidly controlled communist state. The other three Allies shared the occupation of West Germany and helped rebuild the country as a capitalist democracy. The City of Berlin, located 200 miles inside East Germany, was also divided. Half of the city—West Berlin—was actually part of West Germany.
Many East Germans did not want to live in a communist country and crossed into West Berlin, where they could either settle or find transportation to West Germany and beyond. By 1961, four million East Germans had moved west. This exodus illustrated East Germans’ dissatisfaction with their way of life, and posed an economic threat as well, since East Germany was losing its workers.
What happened after the Berlin Wall fell?
The European Union Is Born – The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union accelerated the push for deeper European integration, a project that had begun in earnest in the wake of World War II, with the founding of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 and the European Economic Community in 1958.
- The EU was by the 1992 Maastricht Treaty.
- Maastricht established a framework for a common currency and a common defense and security policy; the 2007 Lisbon Treaty created the EU’s current structure.
- Under these treaties, the twenty-seven member states agreed to pool their sovereignty and delegate many decision-making powers to the EU.
Among other changes, this allowed for the creation of a passport-free zone, known as, The free movement of people is one of the bloc’s “four freedoms,” along with that of goods, services, and capital. UN peacekeeping forces arrive in Tuzla, Bosnia in April 1993. Pascal Guyot/AFP/Getty Images The unraveling of Yugoslavia in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union resulted in a decade of conflict that prompted a reevaluation of national sovereignty and the responsibility of outside powers to stop atrocities.
The 1995 massacre of in Srebrenica prompted NATO air strikes against the Bosnian Serb forces responsible, paving the way for the Dayton Agreement, which, NATO also intervened against Serbian forces in Kosovo in 1999 to protect ethnic Albanian Kosovars. Proponents of these interventions argued that acting in the former Yugoslavia—at times without UN authorization, as UN Security Council members China and Russia opposed the Kosovo campaign—was justified by the need to put human rights above state sovereignty.
In 2005, UN member states unanimously adopted the principle of the “,” which established the basis for international action to stop genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. Since then, however, controversial international interventions in places such as Libya have, The European Parliament sits for its first session with the representatives of ten new member states after the bloc’s 2004 enlargement. Jean-Marc Loos/Reuters The reunification of Germany paved the way for former Eastern Bloc countries to join the EU.
- Between 2004 and 2007, EU membership jumped from fifteen countries to twenty-seven, with the addition of Central European nations including the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia, as well as the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
- Many policymakers hoped this would fulfill a vision of a united Europe, “,” as first articulated in 1989 by U.S.
President George H.W. Bush. But enlargement has since slowed as the bloc has struggled with economic crises, migration pressures, and rising nationalism. Croatia has been the only new admission since 2007, joining in 2013. Turkey’s candidacy, already contentious due to concerns over the country’s size, its human rights record, and the stability of its economy, has amid President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s growing authoritarianism. Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland’s governing Law and Justice party, campaigns during 2019 parliamentary elections. JP Black/LightRocket/Getty Images
What countries were involved in the Berlin Wall?
The Berlin Wall, which separated East and West Germany since 1961, represented the rise of the Cold War. It was torn down by masses of people in 1989. Introduction In post- World War II Germany, the Berlin Wall was erected on August 16, 1961, along the demarcation between the eastern sector of Berlin controlled by the Soviet Union, and the western sectors occupied by the United States, France, and Great Britain.
- East Germany, officially the German Democratic Republic (GDR), was a Communist state that existed from 1949 to 1990 in the former Soviet occupation zone of Germany.
- The Soviet sector was by far the largest and covered most of east Berlin, including Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg, Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg, and Lichtenberg.
Its twofold purpose was to prevent well-educated East Germans from leaving East Germany — a “brain drain” — and to impede approximately 80 spy centers and organizations from interfering with the Russian sector. The threat of a second Great Depression loomed large in Europe, and Germany was one of the hardest-hit areas. In a rare move, the Allied victors decided to allay an economic crisis by helping to rebuild the most-devastated areas as quickly as possible. That effort was called the Marshall Plan, in honor of George C. Marshall, then U.S. Secretary of State, who first called for Allied participation in the restoration of Europe.
- The success of that strategy earned Marshall a Nobel Peace Prize,
- The ” Berlin Crisis ” involved a controversy so bitter and so sustained that at its height, world leaders feared that a misstep could trigger a nuclear war.
- The crisis unfolded through a war of words, diplomatic negotiations, superpower summits, and military posturing and preparations, — thus the term ” Cold War ” — as East and West disputed over Berlin`s future.
For presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, U.S. credibility was at stake: A failure in Berlin could disrupt NATO and weaken American influence in West Germany, the key to the balance of power in Europe. The Berlin Wall was the flashpoint of the Berlin Crisis.
- The Berlin Crisis was a flashpoint of the Cold War.
- The Iron Curtain descends Berlin was considered to be the key to the balance of power in post- World War II Europe.
- The postwar, sequestered Soviet Union, was nevertheless active beyond its borders.
- Events around the world, many seemingly unrelated, represented battlefronts in the Cold War.
Some battlefronts were hidden from public view for decades. Other battlefronts, like the Berlin Crisis, were highly public. The Berlin Crisis started with the 1948 Berlin blockade ordered by Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev, which led to the Berlin Airlift by the Western Allies.
Cold War tensions continued to smolder for four decades after the World War II defeat of Germany. The construction and destruction of the Berlin Wall stand as milestones of the Cold War era. In July 1958, the East German Fifth Congress ordered a wholesale collectivization of agriculture and a sharp rise in industrial output.
That was part of a seven-year economic plan to bring per capita consumption in the GDR up to the level of West Germany. The plan also repressed private trade and created supply gaps behind the Iron Curtain, which became increasingly severe and oppressive.
- Dissatisfaction by an increasing number of people in the GDR caused them to seek refuge in the West — a major loophole in the GDR scheme of things.
- The border to West Berlin lay open to East Germans, and hundreds left the country daily.
- Nearly all of them went by subway or S-Bahn (electric commuter train), undetected among the thousands of commuters who worked or shopped in the West.
Regular spot checks by the police on anyone carrying a suitcase exerted little impact. Most people easily evaded them by making repeated journeys with a few belongings at a time. At an international press conference on June 15, 1961, the leader of the east German Socialist Unity Part of Germany (SED) and president of the Privy Council, Walter Ulbricht, answered a journalist`s question: “I understand your question as follows: There are people in West Germany who want us to mobilize the construction workers of the GDR to build a wall.
I am not aware of any such plans, No one has the intention of constructing a wall.” But the wall was exactly what he wanted from Khruschev. The international political situation between NATO and Warsaw Pact nations continued to intensify. On November 27, 1958, the Soviets under Khrushchev delivered the Berlin Ultimatum in an attempt to stem the tide of refugees.
The ultimatum demanded that the western allies withdraw their troops from West Berlin and that it should become a “free city” within six months. The threat of a separate peace treaty between the Soviet Union and East Germany loomed on February 17, 1959.
- A meeting in Vienna between President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev on June 3 and 4, 1961, failed to end the impasse.
- The ultimatum was a fiasco, and the situation was even worse than before.
- Continued tension during the six-month period had only increased the flow of refugees who feared that time was running short.
When the ultimatum ran out, there was a brief respite. But as the effects of the “Seven-Year Plan” began to be felt, the flow of refugees rose again. Construction of the Berlin Wall The Berlin Wall was erected on August 13, 1961. Early on that Sunday morning the GDR began, under Secretary General Erich Honecker, to block off East Berlin and the GDR from West Berlin by means of Barbed Wire and antitank obstacles.
Streets were torn up, and barricades of paving stones were erected. Tanks gathered at crucial places. The subway and local railway services between East and West Berlin were interrupted. Inhabitants of East Berlin and the GDR were no longer allowed to enter West Berlin, amongst them 60,000 commuters who had worked in West Berlin.
In the following days, construction brigades commenced to replace the provisional barriers with a solid wall. Thousands of angry demonstrators quickly gathered on the West Berlin side of the divide. At one crossing point, protesters tried to trample down the barbed wire, only to be driven back by guards with bayonets.
The West German chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, appealed for calm, saying in a broadcast to the nation the following evening: “Now, as always, we are closely bound to the Germans of the Russian zone and East Berlin. “They are and remain our German brothers and sisters. The Federal Government remains firmly committed to the goal of German unity.” Outrage from the international community erupted at the abrupt decision to cut off one side of the city from the other.
A Foreign Office spokesman in London said the restrictions were contrary to the four-power status of Berlin, and therefore illegal. The American secretary of state, Dean Rusk, called it a “flagrant violation” of East-West agreements, and said there would be a vigorous protest to Russia.
Yet, the reaction of the Allies was moderate, given that the three essentials of American policy regarding Berlin were not affected: the presence of allied troops, free access to Berlin, and the West Berliners` right of self-determination. After August 23, 1961, citizens of West Berlin were no longer allowed to enter East Berlin.
On September 20, the forced evacuation of houses situated immediately at the border to West Berlin began. On August 17, 1962, Peter Fechter, an 18-year-old citizen of East Berlin, bled to death after he was shot down by a East Berlin border patrol in his attempt to escape over the wall.
- The last to die was Chris Gueffroy on June 2, 1989.
- Many attempted to escape over the 28 years of the wall`s existence.
- First, there was a wall that comprised concrete segments with a height of about about 13 feet, usually with a concrete tube on top of it.
- Behind it on the east side lay an illuminated control area — also called the “death area.” Refugees who had reached that area were shot without warning.
A trench that followed was intended to prevent vehicles from breaking through. Then there was a patrol track, a corridor with watchdogs, watchtowers and bunkers, and a second wall. The barrier cut through 192 streets (97 between East and West Berlin and 95 between West Berlin and East Germany), 32 railway lines, eight S-Bahns, and four underground train lines, three autobahns (freeways), and several rivers and lakes.
- On the waterways, the wall consisted of submerged railings under constant surveillance by patrol boat crews.
- The total length of the Berlin Wall was 96 miles.
- Twenty-seven miles went through the center of the city.
- Twenty-three miles went through residential areas.
- Sixty-six miles comprised a concrete barrier 13 feet high.
It also consisted of 302 watch towers and 20 bunkers. More than 5,000 people successfully crossed the Berlin Wall to freedom. About 3,200 people were arrested in the border area. More than 160 people were killed in the death area, and another 120 people were injured. Due to the danger of escape attempts over the wall, numerous tunnels were dug, allowing about 150 East Berliners to escape undetected. As time passed, the wall was gradually perfected and became more impassible. After October 1964, it was gradually strengthened, doubled up and transformed into a “modern border,” which assumed its final appearance from 1979 to 1980.
The partition left West Berlin stranded in the midst of the Soviet zone, 110 miles from the border with the western zones. That unusual geopolitical situation became difficult to handle. On June 26, 1963, President John F. Kennedy delivered a historic speech in Rudolph Wilde Square in Berlin. The square was packed with cheering West Berliners.
It was a spectacle new to Kennedy — one to two million people assembled to greet him. In the midst of the Cold War he declared, “There are many people in the world who really don’t understand, or say they don’t, what is the great issue between the free world and the communist world.
Let them come to Berlin.” President Kennedy, identifying with the citizens of Berlin in their quest for freedom and to be reunited with their families in East Berlin, said, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” (“I am a Berliner”). The Iron Curtain begins to ascend President Ronald Reagan delivered a speech at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin on June 12, 1987.
His comments were to the people of West Berlin, but audible on the East side of the Berlin Wall. Part of Reagan`s intended audience was none other than Mikhail Gorbachev : “There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace.
General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall! The Iron Curtain began to rise when the wall met its demise. Soon afterward, Gorbachev made his first official visit to West Germany in May 1989.
While there, he announced that Moscow would no longer forcefully prevent democratic conversion of its outlying states. Hungary opened its border with Austria on September 11, 1989. The opening of the borders between East and West Berlin, which also symbolized the end of the Cold War, began on June 13, 1990.
Reconstruction of Berlin Since the Berlin Wall became obsolete with the 1989 opening of the borders between East and West Germany, Berliners have created massive reconstruction, mostly in what was East Berlin. The heart of the city, the Mitte district, was rebuilt, though remnants of the communist regime still remain.
The 19th-century Reichstag building, the new seat of the German parliament, gained a modern glass cupola to replace the original dome destroyed by fire when the Nazis came to power. A museum at the former site of Checkpoint Charlie, the famous border post in the American sector, memorializes the Berlin Wall. The greatest reconstruction has been the reconnection of a people — reconstruction of strained relationships and cultures, not just in Germany, but across Eurasia. The terms Perestroika and Glasnost, Russian for restructuring and openness respectively, were used to describe the set of reforms instituted by Mikhail Gorbachev in the late 1980s.
Can you go around Berlin Wall?
East Berliners could go all around the wall but it didn’t do them any good because sil around the wall was East Germany. West Berlin was walled off not just from East Berlin but from all of East Germany.
Was the Iron Curtain a real wall?
What was the difference between the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain? – In 1946 Winston Churchill, the prime minister of Great Britain, delivered a speech in which he declared than an iron curtain was descending upon Europe. What he meant was that after the World War II ended the Soviet Union took control of all of the countries in eastern Europe. The countries that fell into Soviet control lost much of their freedom, but they were not given the opportunity to seek freedom elsewhere. The borders were guarded and they could not leave to go to the free countries in western Europe even if they wanted too. The Iron Curtain was not actually a physical wall in most places, but it separated the communist and capitalist countries. The Berlin wall on the other hand was actually a wall that was built right through the middle of Berlin the capital of Germany. West Berlin became free after WWII, while east Berlin was controlled by the Soviets and did not receive the same freedom. While the city was divided soon after World War II, the actual Berlin Wall was not actually built until 1961. This wall split the city in half and made it almost impossible for citizens of east Berlin to escape into free west Berlin.
Why did Germany split into East and West?
For purposes of occupation, the Americans, British, French, and Soviets divided Germany into four zones. The American, British, and French zones together made up the western two-thirds of Germany, while the Soviet zone comprised the eastern third.
Why did crowds tear down the wall after the gates were opened?
Why did crowds tear down the wall after the gates were opened? The wall was a symbol that people wanted to destroy. What can you infer from the fact that people were willing to risk their lives to cross the wall prior to its removal? Many East Germans wanted to leave East Germany at any cost.