Berlin wall


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Mehmet Unsal B.COMM MBA
Ryerson University
Toronto, Canada

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Berlin wall

  1. 1. 1 THE BERLIN WALLMehmet Unsal B.Comm MBA Ryerson University Toronto, Canada
  2. 2. 2The Berlin Wall successfully carried its mission of separating Germans and stood as anugly symbol of the Cold War for almost 3 decades. The Wall was the representation ofthe division of Germany but furthermore it was standing to show the world how differentthe ideologies of the Western World and the Communist regime. It divided families andprevented East Germans’ access to the freedom. As soon as it was erected, it became aninhumane symbol of the cold war.1 Berlin wall was built by the Communist regime in theEast Germany to prevent escapes and close the brain drain from east to west. Howeverthe communist regime defined the wall as a barrier to fascist and imperialist ideology ofthe capitalist world.2 May 7, 1945 was day of the official surrender of Germany. 3 However, Victoriouscountries already decided to divide Germany couple months before the surrender at theYalta conference in February 1945. U.S., Britain and Soviet Russia decided to divide theGermany and Berlin into zones and later U.S. and Britain gave part of their zones toFrance.4 After they signed the surrender of Germany, allied powers took the control ofGermany and established their zones. However, West Berlin was in the heart of theCommunist part and even though western allies had a right to access, they had to passthrough Soviet’s part.5 When the Communist governments established in East Europe bySoviet Russia’s ideological and military help, well educated people and intellectuals whofelt the threat escapes to the west immediately. Soviets answered to that problem by1 Painter, David S. The Cold War: an International History. London: Routledge, 1999.,Print. P 532 Schulte-Peevers, Andrea. Lonely Planet Berlin Encounter. 2010-02, 2010., Print. P 1603 Lemons, Everette O. Third Reich: a Revolution of Ideological Inhumanity;. Morrisville: Lulu Com,2006.,Print. P 5414 Duiker, William J., and Jackson J. Spielvogel. World History. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth, 2007.Print. P 712,5 ̈ 5 Thomaneck, Jurgen K. A., and William John Niven. Dividing and Uniting Germany. London: Routledge,2001. Print.P12
  3. 3. 3closing borders and isolating the eastern block from the west. Winston Churchill definedthat ideology as an Iron Curtain between east and west.6 Western allies were planning to establish unified zone to create free country asWest Germany. However their plan was not favoured by Stalin since he was planning tocontrol all of Germany and push the allies out of the country. Soviet’s plan waspreventing the access of allied forces to the Berlin. And they closed all accesses to thecity. Blockade started on June 24 1948.7 Berlin was an island in the communist part ofthe Germany and a potential danger to the despotic Communist regime therefore SovietRussia tried to get rid of this danger and invade both parts of Germany to createCommunist country in this part of Europe. That was the main idea of Berlin blockade,however because of the allies’ determination; Stalin had to end this blockade withdisappointment. Berlin was an important city for western allies; even though it was verydifficult to protect it, Western allies and especially the U.S. had to protect this citybecause of its psychological effects in the non-communist world. If they give up theBerlin they feared that it could have a domino effect and they will not be able to protectother countries from the communist threat.8 Altough, some politicians and armyauthorities advised President Truman to use military forces against this blockade he couldnot take this risk since it might lead to another World War.9. They found the solution asto provide supplies by Airlift. British, U.S., and French planes carried tens of thousandtones of food, medical supplies and other necessary items to Berlin. They successfully6 Gradus, Y.and Harvey Lithwick. Frontiers in Regional Development. Lanham, Md.: Rowman &Littlefield, 1996. Print. P447 Betts, Richard K. Nuclear Blackmail and Nuclear Balance. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution,1987. Print.8 Harrell, David Edwin. Unto a Good Land: a History of the American People. Grand Rapids, Mich.:William B. Eerdmans, 2005. Print. P 10019 Ojserkis, Raymond P. Beginnings of the Cold War Arms Race: the Truman Administration and the U.S.Arms Build-up. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2003. Print. P 22
  4. 4. 4assisted Berliners and broke the embargo. When Stalin saw the results of the year longblockade he decided not to continue that embargo since western allies continued tosupply Berliners by airlift as long as it was possible. 10 In May 1949, Western alliesdecided to unify their zones. This unification in the west created West Germany. Sameyear in October, in the east part of the Germany, Soviet Russia established East Germanyunder its communist regime.11 Berlin became a communist East Germany’s capital butwestern allies continued to control their zone in Berlin as part of their Democratic WestGermany. Soviet Russia continued to export its communist regime to East Germany.Communist Government took control of the commercial enterprises and planned stateeconomy replaced the market economy in East Germany. Political system changedaccordingly and they closed all the democratic political parties and communist partystarted to run the country with the ideological and military help of Soviet Russia. Peoplelost their freedom under the Despotic Communist regime of SED (Socialist Unity Partyof Germany).12 While East Germany was poor and struggling with the lack of freedom, West Germanydeveloped economically and politically. East Germans wanted to move to the west toenjoy economical and political freedom. Under the Walter Ulbricht’s communist regimepeople were suffering and thousands of them moved to the West Germany. In 1952communist government wanted to control this immigration and decided to close down theborders between east and west.13 Berlin became a gate to the west and thousand of peoplefrom East Germany had to come to Berlin to cross the border. After Stalin died in 195310 Burgan, Michael. The Berlin Wall: Barrier to Freedom. Minneapolis, Minn: Compass Point, 2008.Print.P4211 Thackeray, Frank W. Events That Changed Germany. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 2004. Print. P 18712 Grieder, Peter. The East German Leadership, 1946-73: Conflict and Crisis. Manchester, UK: ManchesterUP, 1999. Print.P 113 Germany and Switzerland. Tarryton, N.Y.: Marshall Cavendish, 2010. Print. P 357
  5. 5. 5thousand of people thought that the life will be even harder under the new communistleader so immigration increased. In that year, approximately 300,000 people immigratedto West Germany. 14 In 1953 Nikita Khrushchev became a leader of the communist partyin Soviet Russia.15. East Germany and communist regime were loosing their citizens andmost of them were well educated productive workers. This Brain drain further weakenedthe East Germany’s economy and communist regime had to make decisions to preventthis immigration. Between 1949 and 1961 2.5 millions of East Germans escaped to theWest Germany.16 In the early years of the East Germany, communist government did not attempt toclose borders or prevent immigration from the east. However increasing numbers,especially in the 1950’s, alarmed communist regime because most of the immigrantswere well educated and professionals. This increased immigration became a seriousproblem for the East Germany since it started to undermine communist regime. 17 SovietRussia and its puppet government in East Germany tried to prevent those escapes fromeast but they were unsuccessful. Brain drain was a problem for east’s economy and theymade a decision that leaving East Germany without permission became a crime.Communist regime tried everything to stop this immigration. Finally in 1961, EastGerman leader Walter Ulbricht and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev made a decision to14 Burgan, Michael. The Berlin Wall: Barrier to Freedom. Minneapolis, Minn. Compass Point, 2008.Print.P3515 Page, Melvin E., and Penny M. Sonnenburg. Colonialism: an International, Social, Cultural, andPolitical Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2003. Print. P 31516 Tipton, Frank B. A History of Modern Germany since 1815. Berkeley: University of California, 2003.Print. P 51017 Loescher, Gil. Beyond Charity: International Cooperation and the Global Refugee Crisis. New York:Oxford UP, 1996. Print. P 60
  6. 6. 6build a wall between east and West Germany to prevent immigration which became asymbol of cold war and division in Europe for 28 years.18 West Germany’s economic success and developments in the economic and political life attracted East German citizens. This immigration undermined communist system in East Berlin since they were loosing well educated professionals. Event though communist regime tried to control escapes they could not stop the brain drain from east to the west. While the East under the Communist regime was struggling with lack of freedom and food shortages and increasing pressure of the Soviet Russia, the West was enjoying the prosperous economy in the country.19 West became a member of newly established European economic corporation in 1949. It followed by membership of European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 and also it approved that West Germany got full membership of Council of Europe. All of these events improved West Germany’s economic infrastructure and it became one of the Europe’s economically developed and democratic countries.20 As a result of this economical development in the west and increased pressure in the east also stimulated the escapes from east to west. On August 13, 1961 East German and soviet soldiers and construction workers closed the border, with the Berlin wall, between east and west.2118 Gray, Colin S. War, Peace and International Relations: an Introduction to Strategic History. London:Routledge, 2007. Print.P 19419 Sinn, Hans-Werner. Can Germany Be Saved?: the Malaise of the Worlds First Welfare State.Cambridge, Mass.: MIT, 2007. Print. P 120 Fulbrook, Mary. History of Germany, 1918-2000: the Divided Nation. Oxford, England: Blackwell,2002. Print. P 14621 Solsten, Eric. Germany. DIANE Publishing, 1999. Print.P 104
  7. 7. 7 On August 13, 1961 East German government started to close all the border gates andrailway stations. They turned the street lights off so no one can see what was happening.Even the leaders of the western countries did not understand the meaning of thispreparation until the morning.22 Soldiers guarded the construction workers and barbedwires used first and to fasten the construction they used readymade cement blocks. Thewall isolated East Germany from the west completely. There is no country in the worldhistory that surrendered its own citizens and isolated them from the rest of the world. 23Even though there was a wall in the morning of August 13, some places still closed onlyby barbed wire and offered last chance to the east citizens. Many East Germans evensome soldiers took that risk and they escaped to the west before the wall completelyclosed the border.24 As soon as the news spread to the West Berlin people gathered among the wall andthey demanded that Western allies and especially the U.S. had to do something. Althoughthe wall was a violation to the Yalta conference and other treaties, between western alliesand soviet Russia, no one wanted to take a risk to use military power. 25 Since both ofthem, U.S. and Soviet Russia, had nuclear weapons, no one wanted to take a risk of a newworld war. Some can argue that the Berlin wall was necessary to prevent undesirableclash between armies in this region even though it restricted the freedom of EastBerliners. Some can also argue that it brought the stability since the border was potentialthreat to the peace and it could create chaos world wide. For instance, President Kennedy22 Rosenberg, M. An American Trapped in a Communist Paradise: an Historical Autobiography. Sault Ste.Marie, Ont.: Moose Enterprise, 2003. Print. P 19723 Edwards, John. Europe. Cheltenham: Stanley Thornes, 1998. Print. P 8624 Swanson, Diane. Tunnels! Toronto: Annick, 2003. Print. P 10925 Hunter, Allen. Rethinking the Cold War. Philadelphia (Pa): Temple University, 1998. Print.P 48
  8. 8. 8indicated that”it is hell of a lot better than a war” about the construction of the Berlinwall.26East Germans and communist regime tried to close the border and complete the wall assoon as possible. However it was impossible to close the border with 12- to 15-foot highand 154.5 km long wall in one day. They used barbed wires first and as they erected thecement wall and at the end they added the barbed wires on top of the wall. In some partsof the wall they inserted land mines and steel traps to prevent vehicles. People had to passthe barbed wires to reach to the wall. 27 to 91 m wide, no man land created betweenwalls and east side of the wall painted to white color to see people easily. Big lights usedto control the area and soldiers with machine guns patrolled along the wall. Communistregime added more security measures and it became the real symbol of cold war andpeople named this inhumane structure “wall of shame”.27 The wall isolated the WestBerlin entirely. The entire wall was 154.5 km long and 12- to 15-foot high but only 46.7km was splitting the East Berlin from the west. 28 East Germany built 116 military towersto control the entire area. Thousands of East German soldiers were assigned the area tocontrol the escapes. When the wall was built, thousands of people trapped in EastGermany and the wall separated families in the both sides of the Berlin. People who werein East Berlin to visit their families or for a business or travel they could not leave thecountry and they were stuck in East Germany. Some buildings facing the west were stuckwithin the wall and people used them as a gate to escape to the west. They used theentrances, which were in the east part, and used windows and back doors, which werefacing to the west, as a gate to the free world. They used to jump from the higher floors26 Cowley, Robert. The Cold War. Random House Inc, 2006. Print.27 Swanson, Diane. Tunnels! Toronto: Annick, 2003. Print. P 10928 Dunn, Joeming W., and Ben Dunn. The Fall of the Berlin Wall. Edina, Minn.: Magic Wagon, 2009.Print .P 30
  9. 9. 9of the apartment buildings and firefighters open their net and help them when theyjumped. When the East Germany discovered these loopholes they closed those windowsby brick walls. The communist government of East Germany gave orders to preventescapes. East German soldiers had a permission to kill people if they were attempting toescape. First victim of this order was the Gunter Litwin. Border security shot him. PeterFatcher, 18 year old young man, was also killed by the East German soldiers when hewas trying to climb the wall. He was trapped within the barbed wires and no one wantedto help him. They basically left him to die. Some people swam in the city’s canal to escape to the west and some people usedhome made balloons. Thousands of people tried every way to escape from the communistregime, however more than hundreds of them killed by the east’s border guards. They didnot hesitate the shot even a pregnant woman who was trying to escape. Berlin wall wasrelatively successful to prevent escapes from the east but it could not stop the peoplefrom creating new ways to immigrate to west. As the security measures increased andstrengthened by the communist regime East Germans became more creative to find a wayto escape. They even dug tunnels from east to west under the Berlin wall.29 While East Germany was trying to keep its citizens in the country by force, WestGerman citizens and also the West Berlin continued to develop their economy andenjoyed their freedom. West Germany successfully integrated to western economical andpolitical system and completed its transformation. Social life and economy wasprogressing with incredible speed and even though the Berlin wall stopped immigration29 Dunn, Joeming W., and Ben Dunn. The Fall of the Berlin Wall. Edina, Minn.: Magic Wagon, 2009. Print.P 24
  10. 10. 10of the work force from East Berlin, West German government invited cheap workforcefrom other countries to continue its development.30 In East Germany, life was totally different than the west. It was possible to seecommunist regime’s bold marks in every part of the city and every part of the EastGerman’s lives. As a result of loosing well educated work force, economy wasexperiencing a depression. Soviet regime and its puppet government were increasing theirpressure day by day and East Germany’s secret service, Stasi, was controlling the life inthe east. There was not any kind of freedom. Not just the lack of economical power orsocial life opportunities but the fear of Stasi made the life unbearable for the EastGerman’s.31 There were some official gates to west from the east. But three of them weremore important: Alpha, Bravo and Charlie. Checkpoint Charlie became a famous gatewhen hundreds of tanks and troops from the both side stood against each other. Whenthe East German soldiers wanted to check the travel document of the western diplomatsthey refused and it was started to big crisis between the U.S. and Soviet Russia. OnOctober 28, 1961 this crisis ended without any further problem. Checkpoint Charlie wasthe only place to cross the border for diplomats and military officers and tourists. Othershad to use other checkpoints to cross the border. It was also the only place where Sovietand the U.S. armies stood face to face during the cold war.32 It can be concluded that when the Communist regime built the wall people knew thatit was going to fall one day. People knew that there can not be any permanent barrier30 Kopnina, Helen, Christina Moutsou, and Jaro Stacul. Crossing European Boundaries: beyondConventional Geographical Categories. New York [u.a.: Berghahn, 2006. Print. P 8631 Malley-Morrison, Kathleen. State Violence and the Right to Peace: an International Survey of the Viewsof Ordinary People. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Praeger Security International/ABC-CLIO, 2009. Print. P 632 Harrison, Hope Millard. Driving the Soviets up the Wall: Soviet-East German Relations, 1953-1961.Princeton, N.J.: Princeton UP, 2003. Print. P 214
  11. 11. 11between freedom and communist dictatorship. Communist regime and even the Westerncountries were aware of the fact that Soviet planned economy was not sustainable. IronCurtain countries, such as Poland and Hungary, were trying to find a way to get rid of thecommunist governments and Soviet system was loosing its power. However, EastGerman government was strongly tied to the communist regime and there were noattempt to improve the life in the East Germany. Even though economy was relativelyimproved in East Germany that could not change the fact that communism did not makepeople happy.33When Mikhail Gorbachev became a head of the soviet Russia, in 1985, he decided not tocontinue decade’s long typical communist system. He was trying to improve the life inthe communist world and he employed different strategies such as “glasnost” which gavepeople more freedom to express their feelings against the state’s management. He alsotried to change the economic structure of the communist regime by employingPerestroika. Those two fundamental changes in communist ideology prepared the fall ofthe communist regime and eastern block. These fundamental changes had huge impacton the Soviet policy. They led the Soviets to the Sinatra doctrine and Communist regimein Russia approved the anti communist regimes in Poland and Hungary. With Sinatradoctrine Soviet Russia simple gave up its control on the eastern block countries and itwas a signal to end of the cold war. 34 Another important step was taken by Hungary.Hungary opened its borders with Austria in 1989. That created a huge hole in the IronCurtain since Eastern Germans can travel freely to Hungary, as part of the eastern blockcountry, now they have a gate to the west through Austria. When Eastern Germans33 Germany and Switzerland. Tarryton, N.Y.: Marshall Cavendish, 2010. Print.P 35734 Fry, Michael G. Guide to International Relations and Diplomacy. London: Continuum, 2002. Print. P418
  12. 12. 12discovered this way to escape from communism thousands of people immigrated to westevery day. East Germany’s attempt to close this loop hole did not work and thousandsmanaged the escape from the east.35 While anti communist demonstrations took place inother countries such as Poland and Czechoslovakia, in East Germany intellectuals andstudents created a “New Forum” to demand new reforms from the communist regime.East German communist leader Erich Honecker did not want to create reforms and herefused the demands of these peaceful demonstrations. But the communist party broughtmore liberal communist leader, Egon Krenz, to the management instead of ErichHonecker.36 Now everyone was expecting that it was the end of the cold war and freedomwill win against ruthless communist regime. The main event to the fall of the Berlin wall was the announcement of the EastGerman government that allowed East Germans to travel abroad freely on November 9,1989. The communist government finally gave right to get passport and travel documentsto the East German citizens. At first no body had any idea about the meaning of thisannouncement. After the first shock thousands of East Germans gathered along the walland waiting for the gates to open. Since the communist management of East Germany didnot make any official announcement and they did not provide any order to the troopsalong the border, no one knew what to do against the growing number of the EastGermans. The number grew with an unbelievable speed and they started to push theborder forward. Feared by the number of the people board guards had to open the bordersand finally East Germans managed to enter to West Germany freely first time in 28 years.35 Fry, Michael G. Guide to International Relations and Diplomacy. London: Continuum, 2002. Print. P16636 Fulbrook, Mary. History of Germany, 1918-2000: the Divided Nation. Oxford, England: Blackwell,2002. Print.P 266
  13. 13. 13Next two days Germans celebrated their freedoms from the communist regime. Everyonebrought their hammers to tear down this ugly inhumane barrier between families,between freedom and despotic communist regime. Some sources state that in first coupleof days more than 4 million East Germans crossed the border to freedom. 37 It was thehistorical moment that ended the communist pressure on the people of eastern blockcountries. That was the end of the communist era and end of the cold war.38 After the wallGermany had to deal with the difficulties of the unification. Since East was intentionallyleft poor and backward by the Communist government, East German currency wasworthless and there was a high unemployment. 39 That was another burden for the unifiedGermany however the country successfully completed its transformation and became apowerful economy in the world.37 Grathwol, Robert P., Donita M. Moorhus, and Gareth L. Steen. Berlin and the American Military: a ColdWar Chronicle. New York: New York UP, 1999. Print.P 16838 Suri, Jeremi. American Foreign Relations since 1898: a Documentary Reader. Chichester, West Sussex:Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. Print. P 19139 Kitchen, Martin. A History of Modern Germany, 1800-2000. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2006. Print. P391