The Berlin Wall, built in August of 1961, was s physical symbol of the political and emotional divisions of Germany. The Wall was built because of a long lasting suspicion between the Soviet Union on one side and Western Europe and the United States on the other. For 28 years the Berlin Wall separated friends, families, and a nation. After WWII was over Germany was divided into four parts. The United States, Great Britain, and France controlled the three divisions that were formed in the Western half and the Eastern half was controlled by the Soviet Republic.
The Western sections eventually united to make a federal republic, while the Eastern half became communist. Even though Berlin lay deep within the Soviet sector, the Allies thought it would be the best to divide this capital. Therefore Berlin was also divided into four parts. Since the Soviet Union was in control of the eastern half of Germany, they made East Berlin the capital of East Germany. The other three counties were each in control of a small part of what was to be West Germany. The Allies decided that they would come together to form one country out of their three divided parts.
Those three divided parts formed West Germany. After all the land was divided the Soviet Union controlled East Germany. Just like the Soviet Union, the economy in East Germany was struggling to get back on its feet after the war. While West Berlin became a lively urban area like many American cities, East Berlin became what many thought of as a Mini-Moscow. In East Germany there was literary almost nothing. The shelves in the stores were practically bare, and what was there was not in very good quality. At first, the divisions between East and West Berlin were uncertain.
There was nothing that divided the city. For more than ten years after the official split of the city, East Berlin saw a major emigration of East Germans, unhappy with the communist system. With nothing physical to separate East and West Berlin, migration from totalitarianism to democracy was as easy for East Berliners as changing houses. The Soviet Union went against their promises to the people of East Germany, and made East Germany a Communist country. This decision by the Soviet Union separated East Germany even more from the rest of Europe.
East Germany was now all by itself, and by the summer of 1952 the border between East and West Germany was closed; only in Berlin was the border was still open ( Encarta ). On June 17, 1953 the workers of East Germany were fed up, and they started a riot. By noon the riots had escalated and the workers from East Germany were marching through the Brandenburg Gate into West Germany with intension to combine with workers from West Germany. All of this came to an end when the Soviet Union called in tanks, and other troops, to take care of the riots.
The Soviet tanks shot into the crowds of people killing many, and injuring many others, they even shot into the crowds in West Germany that were rioting ( Schulze ). The people of East Germany realized that they were trapped in East Germany, and if they wanted out they would have to risk their lives in doing so. In the late 1950s approximately 8,000 to 10,000 people from East Germany left and each day they would move further and further west. More than half of the emigrants between 1949 and 1961 were under the age of 24. For people under 60 years old, lawful emigration was not easy ( Encarta ).
Legal processes were lengthy and difficult, and they were eventually successful in discouraging the young people from leaving the country. However, emigration for the elderly was no problem since they had no big role in the growth of the Communist State. East Germany did not have any ideas on how to stop all the people from leaving in groups, until a person came up with an idea to build a wall so high, and so booby-trapped that no one would try to get over the wall. This idea, thought up by some unknown person, became the infamous Berlin Wall.
Winston Churchill named this barrier the Iron Curtain. The Berlin Wall was built on August 13, 1961 ( Schulze ). Walter Ulbricht, who was the German Communist leader under the command of Stalin, organized the construction of a large wall to be built in order to restrain illegal emigration from the East to the West. They tore up the streets to use the paving stones to build the wall. It stunned people from both East and West Germany. Workers from East Germany that worked in West Germany were separated from their family that night, and they were separated for years.
While the Wall was being built, the West began protests and speeches that prohibited the complete isolation of East Berlin. The United States, in particular, was opposed to the establishment of the Wall. Unfortunately for East Berliners, however, Western involvement did not go much beyond protests and speeches. As I talked to my German roommate who lived in West Germany, he told me about all of the hardships that the people in East Germany went through. He visited East Germany and he told me about all of the hassle he had to go through just to see friends and family. He said he believes it is as bad as being in prison.
He also told me that no one could trust anybody. He said best friends would be torn apart because they didnt know if the other could have been a spy. He told me that he heard that 1 out of every 6. 5 citizens of Berlin were spies, and if someone was caught talking about the government they would be severely punished. The people of East Germany knew there was nothing they could do, so they tried to live their lives as best they could. Occasionally someone would try to get through to the west, and would either be shot, arrested, or sometimes make the escape to freedom.
In all around 5000 people made it to the west, around 3200 were arrested trying, around 160 were shot in killed trying, and around 120 were shot and injured by trying to make that escape to freedom ( Encarta ). Years past and nothing changed, the East Germans still had no freedom. At the brink of nuclear war, the United States and the Soviet Union reached a deadlock, but the Berlin Wall remained, representing the remaining Cold War related tension between the two countries. In the mid 1980s there was a beginning of change in the relationship of East and West Germany.
Finally, in November of 1989, emigration barriers finally dropped in November 1989, which allowed free passage between East and West Berlin. Soon after the free passage was allowed the Berlin Wall was taken down. The entire wall was taken down except for the areas of historical meaning, such as the part in front of the parliament of Berlin and the places with graffiti artwork. The collapse of the Berlin Wall signified the true end of the Cold War and its terrifying era. The Cold War was coming to a gradual end. Mikhail Gorbachev, who was then the leader of the Soviet Union, said that his country, and the world, was in need of reform.
After Gorbachev got his point across to many people, and even many government officials, the end of the Cold War was in close sight. By September 10, 1989 the Hungarian government had opened the border for the East German refugees. This was a big step for the East Germans freedom. On October 6, 1989 East Germany celebrated its 40th anniversary of statehood. The day then finally came about a month later. On November 9, 1989 the Berlin Wall was finally opened ( Schulze ). The crowds were amazing; thousands of people were at the wall going over to see friends and family that they hadnt seen for years.
The celebrating continued throughout the night, and the next day. On the 10th and 11th of November the flow from East to West Germany was endless. The evening of November 11th the first concrete slab was taken from the wall, and as this happened the cheers from the crowds were heard from miles away. The last step was the opening of the Brandenburg Gate, which was finally opened on December 22, 1989. This was the end of the legendary Berlin Wall, and the beginning of the reunification of Germany. The reunification of Germany was a great victory for the German people and the nations of the west.
However the Berlin Wall has left economic and emotional scars that can only be healed by the hard work and understanding of generations to come. This explains Peter Schnaiders quote It will take us longer to tear down the Wall in our heads than any wrecking company will need for the Wall we can see It can be easily inferred that tearing down the wall was the easy part of the reunification, however, now people have to tear down the wall in their minds. No longer families were separated and many were unedited again; life has returned to normalcy. No longer people have to live under Communist regime!
However new problem emerged and, German people still had to face yet another obstacle. This time it would also be the wall, but this time it was the wall in their minds. Eastern Germans now have to learn new ways to live by. Transition from the Communism to the Capitalism had left many Eastern German stunned. The two systems are very much different and for someone who lived all of his life under such system would be nothing but wearisome to adjust. Many Eastern Germans still have nostalgic feelings about the life they lived for the past 30 years.
For the people who grew up in Western Germany this is very hard to understand how anyone can have good memories about four decades of division much less for a Communist Regime. But one must keep in mind that many of Eastern Germans lost their jobs and housing in state-owned industries and had to adjust to a new reality complicating the process of cultural reunification, which is far from over even today (class discussion). There are many social as well as economical barriers that emerged after reunification. However, these barriers are inside of people and only time can overcome it.
These barriers will not be torn down as fast as it was to tear down the Wall. These barriers can only be torn with the time. How long? No one really has an accurate answer to this question because there are many factors implicated in this process. For instance, educational system in Eastern Germany differed greatly from Westerns and not only in administrative aspects but also in much more important sectors, such as academics. Eastern Germans studied subjects that go along with the Communist regime. Their minds are programmed to think and live the communist life.
People in West are thought subjects that go along with the Capitalistic regime. Because of such drastic differences in systems, it is very difficult to change for Eastern Germans. All their lives they were thinking and working one way, now they are expected to change all of that forget everything they learned and lived by and start thinking the new way. For anyone such drastic change would cause unhappiness as well as anger. Thats why Peter says that it would be harder to tare down the wall in our heads than for wrecking company. However, it is very important that the bigger part is long gone, which is tearing down the physical wall.
The one and last element that is left for German people is the wall in their minds. As it can be seen from discussion above, only time can bring together the true reunification of German People. With the time, there is very little to do but wait, however we can help by helping and educating each other so what happened in 1961 wont be repeated by generations to come. In conclusion Berlin Wall was an important milestone in the growth of the Cold War. It was the expansion that represented the thinking of a determined Communist system.
Western Capitalism, who was more powerful, eventually defeated the system. The destruction of the massive wall that did so much harm to a country was finally destroyed, and the people of Germany could now live the way they all wanted to live. They could live the life of freedom. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall East Germany has went through a lot of changes, and it still is not easy for all of the people in East Germany. But no matter how hard it is for the people of East Germany now, it is better than being alone and separated from their families, friends and rest of Europe.