Berlin truly symbolized the Cold War in Europe. This was where it all started with the blockade of 1948, and where 41 years later, it all came to an end. Two dates, one dramatic, the other a joyful, marked the high points…
East Germans had limited access to West German media and were aware that their standard of living was substantially lower than that of their counterparts in West Germany. Many East Germans left their side, hoping to find better economic opportunities in the West.
In 1961, the East German government decided to stop this flight to the West, which was depleting the country's labor force. During the night of August 13, 1961, East German soldiers and members of its militia surrounded West Berlin with temporary fortifications that were rapidly replaced by a concrete wall, 12 ft high and 103 miles long, of which 28 miles lay between two sides of the city. Where a wall was not possible, buildings were bricked-up. The only openings in the wall were two closely guarded crossing points. Although East Germany announced that the wall was needed to prevent military aggression and political interference from West Germany, the East German government built tank traps and ditches along the eastern side of the wall, suggesting that it was constructed to keep East German citizens in.
It starts with armed guards moving in to seal up the border between East and West Berlin…
In 28 years, the Wall claimed at least 239 victims, shot by guards, drowned in the waters of the Spree or one of the lakes, or killed jumping out of their houses. The border guards, often young brainwashed men doing their military service, felt that shooting down a fugitive was a patriotic action. Shooting fugitives earned them a rich reward in fact – a decoration, personal congratulations from the head of the Stasi, a substantial bonus and extra leave in a holiday village on the Baltic. After the Wall came down, some of these border guards were tried for murder
The first victim was Rudolf Urban, who was killed on August 19, 1961 after jumping out of a window in the Bernauer Strasse. That same street was the scene of another tragedy on October 4, 1961 when young Bernd Lünser, under fire from the Vopos , leaped from the fourth story of a building but mislanded and was killed.
A year after the Wall went up, on August 17, 1962, the death of young Peter Fechter was met with great agitation. After being badly wounded by border guards, he lay dying for nearly an hour at the foot of the Wall, during which time nobody came to help him.
On the first anniversary of the tragic death of Peter Fechter , citizens place wreaths at the foot of the cross erected near the spot where he died.
Many showed their disgust with the wall by adding graffiti to it on the Western side.
Total border length around West Berlin 96 mi Border between East and West Berlin 27 mi Border between West Berlin and East Germany 69 mi Border through residential areas in Berlin 23 mi Concrete segment wall 3.6m (11.81 ft.) high 66 mi Wire mesh fencing 41 mi Anti-vehicle trenches 65 mi Contact or signal fence 79 mi Column track 6-7 m (7.33 yd) wide 77 mi Number of watch towers 302 Number of bunkers 20 Persons succeeded in passing the Wall ca. 5000 Persons arrested in the border area ca. 3200 Persons killed on the Berlin Wall 192 Persons injured by shooting ca. 200
The Wall fell as the combined result of both internal and external pressures. The evolution of the USSR played a crucial role in this process.
On his first official visit to West Germany in May 1989, Mikhaïl Gorbachev, whose ambition was to save his country from decline and ruin through an innovative policy based on restructuring ( perestroïka ) and openness ( glasnost ), informed Chancellor Kohl that the Brezhnev doctrine had been abandoned ; Moscow was no longer willing to use force to prevent democratic transformation of its satellite states.
This was the kiss of death for East Germany because there was no need to have two separate Germanys if the Soviets and US were no longer going to be involved in the Cold War…