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Walls in people’s heads are sometimes more constricting than those of concrete and steel.’ A quote by Willy Brandt, the mayor of West Berlin.
The Berlin Wall would create not only a border between East and West Berlin but also emphasize the understanding between the Allies that the Soviets would assert dominance over its eastern European allies and East Berlin, while the Allies would claim Western Germany and West Berlin under its control. The Berlin Wall would divide people and others in East Berlin that was using the more wealthy West to get more money than in the East where there was not as much wealth and worse jobs than the West. The hopes and dreams of thousands were crushed overnight on the 13 of August 1961, when Nikita Khrushchev and Walter Ulbricht had a teleconference and ordered the building of one of the most infamous borders in history. There is a problem. The city of Berlin. A city deep into the GDR (German Democratic Republic), and yet it was also divided into four parts. The fact that this city was not completely communist “Stuck like a bone in the Soviet throat.” as Khrushchev put it. During the Cold War, the citizens of all major powers lived in constant fear of nuclear attack, and the sad truth was that if one day an atom bomb suddenly dropped out of the sky, there was nothing they could do about it. Children had a “bomb drill” in class, and all they could do was hide under their desks, which wouldn’t do much to protect from a bomb that would vaporize everything underneath it.
Nowhere was this more true than in Berlin (with notable exceptions), and this fear peaked (arguably) when in 1948, when the Soviet Red Army surrounded Berlin and cut off all convoys bringing food and other necessities for survival, hoping to starve the Allies out of the city, “The transport division of the Soviet military administration is compelled to halt all passenger and freight traffic to and from Berlin tomorrow at 0600 hours because of technical difficulties. West Berlin will receive electricity only between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m: Soviet Communique”. The Red Army, however, had not restricted access to Berlin by air. The Allies sent planes carrying thousands of tons of food to Berlin, an almost impossible task, as they had to stay in three extremely narrow air lanes, and if they strayed from these paths, it would be taken as an excuse for Soviet fighters to attack. This was made more dangerous, as, in the words of an anonymous USAF pilot: ‘We had no guns, only flour;’ they were unarmed. The air routes also went over the mountains, where the elevation could be too high, and the oxygen level too low, which claimed the lives of 101 British and American pilots. Seeing that the airlift was working too well, the Soviets called off the blockade and food could reach Berlin again.
Act 1 In 1961, 17 years after the airlift, Moscow was worried by a quick population drop in East Berlin due to the better living conditions and jobs in West Berlin. Every day thousands of East Berliners crossed the border to go to their jobs or visiting their family. This all ended when the wall was built. One of the main reasons the wall was built was to help maintain the population and stop the thousands of people fleeing from the East Berlin. Another reason was to keep the most essential workers, such as scientists, doctors, and generally intellectually minded people in the east, as they had been moving in large numbers to the west. Act 2On August 13, 1961, the Soviet Union built the Berlin Wall. The wall kept the people of East Berlin from moving to West Berlin. Even after the wall was built, many people tried to get over the wall and to West Berlin. There were thousands of people that got into the west, but the journey into West Berlin was much harder than before the wall was built. Over the years, about 138 people died from attempting to cross over the wall.
The reason the wall was so hard to cross was that there were actually two walls to cross. In between the two walls, was an area the Germans named the “Death Strip.” This Death Strip was so hard to cross because there were land mines, tripwire machine guns, guard dogs, anti-vehicle trenches, barbed wire, and hundreds of watchtowers. If an East Berlin citizen trying to escape stepped foot in the Death Strip, the guards had permission to fire with no warning. People were so desperate to cross into West Berlin they would do nearly anything to cross. Some innovative attempts to cross included drifting in hot air balloons, driving a souped-up truck through the wall, sliding down zip lines, flying in a fake Soviet plane, digging tunnels, and even walking on a tightrope to freedom. Over 3 decades, over 5,000 people are estimated to have successfully breached the Wall. This wall affected both sides of Berlin in many ways. Many families have split apart for decades.
Many people lost their jobs because they were restricted from getting to the other side of Berlin to their place of employment. People on both sides despised the Wall for the impact it had on their personal and professional lives. The wall stayed up for about 28 years until an East Berlin spokesman, Mr. Schabowski, for the communist party announced restrictions on travel visas would be lifted. When asked when the new policy would begin, he replied, “Immediately, without delay.” Schabowski confused answers were one of many reasons why the wall came down. That week more than 2 million people from East Berlin visited West Berlin. This ultimately ended with people coming with pickaxes and sledgehammers to destroy the wall. If the Berlin Wall was a political earthquake, then the world felt the aftershocks of the Wall coming down. When the Wall came down, the Soviet Union came down right after it. When the Wall came down, Germany was reunified. When the Wall came down, the Cold War ended. When the Wall came down, decades of fear were over. When the Wall came down, decades of oppression and hardship were over for over sixteen million East Berliners. The Berlin Wall had been the grave of nearly 140 people trying to escape to freedom, and a prison for a nation, but also represented the will of oppressed peoples to prevail and survive.
Over five thousand people escaped over the wall to freedom and a better life. When the Berlin Wall fell, on Nov. 9, 1989, it was a beacon of victory for the free world, and on Dec. 26, 1991, the Soviet Union was formally dissolved, ending the reign of terror that had started in 1922. In 1990, East and West Germany were reunified, ending thirty years of distrust and oppression. On Dec. 3, 1989, the Cold War officially ended, and along with it, decades of fear that a bomb could drop on your head at any moment. In East Germany, everyone was spied on, had their conversations recorded, people disappeared, all by the Stasi, dreaded secret police of the GDR. On January 15, thousands of East Berliners stormed the headquarters of the Stasi, finding millions of files, 112 miles of it, if someone stretched them all out, side-by-side. The Stasi’s system had never been computerized, for fear of hacking, and there were more than 17 million flashcards. The storming of the Stasi headquarters was not the official end of the Cold War, but for the people of Berlin, the war was over. As former German Chancellor Gerhard Schrӧder put it, “The Wall was not brought down by Washington, Bonn or Moscow. It was razed to the ground by the courageous and intrepid people, from both the East and the West.” Lasting Consequences As there was power in building a wall, there were lasting consequences to their endeavor. When the Wall fell down Germany was once again unified and the people free to move about all of Germany. The Berlin Wall left a mark of misery in the people, though it did give the people a new beginning. It also left an indent on the city of Berlin and was partially torn down to erect new buildings for the West. In conclusion, the rise of the Berlin Wall affected the Berliners by restricting all people from the West of Berlin, though when it fell it meant the end of the Cold War and twenty-five extensive years of oppression.
Along with the fear of being attacked at any moment, also the fact of the West would stop being capitalists while the East communists. While the wall did stop a war, it was no less bad because it created oppression and sadness in the people. The Berlin Wall severed lots of people from jobs, family, and their homes. It also was a very convincing statement on the end of the communism in Berlin. They were all very excited to find their friends and relatives on the other side of the wall. The Fall ended communism in Berlin and reunited people and ended the Soviet Union. So The Fall and Rise were both needed for the survival of Berlin, and that was the end of part of history in Berlin.
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