Berlin WallBerlin WallWith the aim of preventing East Germansfrom seeking asylum in the West, the East German government in 1961 beganconstructing a system of concrete and barbed-wire barriers between Eastand West Berlin. This Berlin Wall endured for nearly thirty years,a symbol not only of the division of Germany but of the larger conflictbetween the Communist and non-Communist worlds.
The Wall ceased tobe a barrier when East Germany ended restrictions on emigration in November1989. The Wall was largely dismantled in the year preceding the reunificationof Germany. The victorious Allies agreed to give mostof Eastern Germany to Poland and the USSR, and then divide the rest intofour zones of occupation. However, they could not agree of whetheror how to reunite the four zones. “As Cold War tensions grew, stimulatedin part by the German situation itself, the temporary dividing line betweenthe Soviet zone in the East and the British, French, and U. S.
zones inthe West hardened into a permanent boundary. In 1949, shortly afterthe Western powers permitted their zones to unite and restore parliamentarydemocracy in the Federal Republic of Germany, the Russians installed apuppet regime of German Communists in the East, creating the German DemocraticRe-public. “(Niewyk, 1995) According to Galante (1965, p. vii) “a cityis the people who live in it. Berlin is 3,350,000 people in twentyboroughs. A rich city of factories, an airy city of farms and parksand woods and lakes.
. . On Sunday, August 13, 1961 Herr Walter Ulbricht stoppedthat. He built the Wall. “One reason for the building of the Wallwas due to the more than fifty-two thousand East Berliners who crossedthe border everyday to work in West Berlin. These people were referredto as the “grenzgaenger or border crossers.
” “East Berliners saidthe grenzgaenger were parasite who should stay and work on the East sideof the boundary, for the benefit of Communism and the prosperity of theGerman Democratic Republic. “(Galante, p. 3) Gelb (1986, p. 3) states,”Berlin was where the Cold War began with a Soviet blockade, where Sovietand American tanks faced each other virtually snout-to-snout for the firsttime, and where the grisly game of nuclear brinkmanship was introduced. “The Wall was constructed of concrete andsteel and barbed wire.
It was 28 miles long, if straightened it wouldmeasure 103 miles long, dividing on of the greatest cities in the world. On side was painted white and one side was covered with graffiti. “But there is more to the Wall than just this wall. Behind it, onehundred yards deeper into Communist territory, is another concrete barrieralmost as formidable. The leveled area between the two is a desolate,dangerous no-man’s-land, patrolled by kalashnikov-toting guards, dottedwith free-fire machine-gun emplacements, and sown in places with landmines. It is punctuated with 285 elevated watchtowers, more suited to prison campsthan city centers, and by a series of dog runs where ferocious, long leashedAlsatians effectively run free.
It is not a safe place to be. “(Gelb,p. 4) Approximately 5000 people managed to escape to the West, 80died trying. There is no known record of anyone trying to escapein the other direction. “The poor quality and construction is a resultboth of the speed with which the first sections were erected and the factthat no foundation was prepared.
“(Galante, p. 8) On August 13, 1961,East German troops began stretching coils of barbed wire across the bordercheckpoints between East and West Berlin, inhibiting free transit betweenthe two sectors as guaranteed under the Four-Power Pact that governed thecity. Within days the wire was replaced by 28 miles of compressedrubble, “and now the historic Berlin Wall became a hideous symbol of theeconomic and political schism in Germany. “(Cate, preface)For 28 years the Berlin Wall kept peoplein, and kept people out.
It separated friend and family. Itdivided a nation, a continent, a world. The story of seventeen-year-oldUrsula Heinemann who “still had not recovered from the shock of being separatedfrom her mother. Although she was certain that she had done the rightthing in escaping to the West, she was nagged by a sense of guilt.
“(Cate,(1978),p. 3) Many people saw the Wall as “grim and forbidding, the Wall snakesthe city of Berlin like the backdrop to a nightmare. “(Gelb, p. 3)After the Wall came down, East German teachers had to plan new curriculamore in line with the schools in the West. “For now, the opportunitieswere less notable than the problems. Thousands of East German emigrantswere already sleeping in West German army barracks, nursing homes, high-schoolgymnasiums, and even converted cargo containers.
“(Anderson,(1989), p. 33)The first cracks came in May, when theHungarian government opened its border with Austria. East Germanofficials were furious because this meant that East German refugees nowhad a new route to freedom. Up to 2 million of East Germany’s 16. 5million were ready to flee if the chance was offered. As reform spreadacross Eastern Europe, the Stalinist regime of Erich Honecker refused tobudge.
In January, Honecker said the Wall would stand for a hundredyears. When Soviet leader Gorbachev visited East Berlin he triedto convince Honecker to accept liberalization, Honecker still stood strongto his beliefs. Demonstrations erupted throughout Germany, with thousandstaking to the streets demanding a share of Gorbachev’s restructuring, andthe right to travel. Violent police attacks on demonstrators onlyfueled the people’s anger and brought hundreds of thousands more into thestreets. Czechoslovakia opened its border for East Germans travelingto the West, and 30,000 refugees emigrated in 48 hours.
On November7, the entire East German cabinet resigned, on the 8th, the Communist PartyPolitburo and Central Committee resigned. And on the 9th the Wallcame down at the stoke of midnight. When the news of the Wall reachedthe West German parliament, “the legislators spontaneously burst into patrioticsong. “(Bornstein,(1990),p. 23) “Exhausted by weeks of political stressin which decades-old policies were reversed daily, overwhelmed by the mobsdemanding immediate exit, and noticing Western television crews waitingon the other side, the commanding officers gave way to the masses and openedall the gates.
“(Borneman,(1991), p. 2)”Economic union has powerful implicationsboth inside and outside Germany. Rebuilding the East German derelicteconomy will tie up perhaps $650 billion West German capitol, raising interestrates and very possibly fueling inflation throughout European Community. “(Garrard,(1990),p. 23) On Sunday, 18 March 1990, East Germans held the first freeelection on their territory since 1933-“the first fully free election inEastern Europe since the Second World War.
“(Borneman, p. 229)The wall opened because its reasonfor existence had disappeared. The East German regime erected itin 1961 to stem the flow of refugees to the West. In a paradox ofhistory, the same government was forced to open the Wall in a desperate,last-ditch effort to stop an even more massive wave of deflections in 1989. ReferencesBorneman, John (1991). Afterthe Wall.
U. S. : Basic Books, Inc. Cate, Curtis (1978). TheIdes of August.
New York: M. Evans & Company, Inc. Galante, Pierre (1965). TheBerlin Wall.
New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc. Gelb, Norman (1986). TheBerlin Wall. New York: Times Books. Bornstein, Jerry (1990).
The Wall Came Tumbling Down. New York: Outlet BookCompany, Inc. Heaps, W. A. (1964).
The Wallof Shame. New York: Meredith Press. Niewyk, D. L. (1995). GroliersMultimedia Encyclopedia.
Garrard, Margaret (1989). Facing Up to the German Question Newsweek, pp. 51-52Anderson, Harry (1989). AMixed Blessing for Bonn Newsweek, pp.