Built in 1961, the Berlin Wall was a physical barrier that kept West Berlin and East Germany separate for 28 years from 1961 to 1989. After World War II came to an end, the allied powers comprised of the Unites States, Great Britain, Soviet Union and France divided the vanquished Germany and Berlin into four zones each and each of these zones was occupied by either of the allied forces. Soviet Union was a communist country while the other three allied forces were democratic and capitalist countries. Soon their relationship soured with the Soviet Union, resulting in the bifurcation of Germany into East against West and democracy versus communism. In 1949, this bifurcation became official with West Germany being formed by the three allied powers and East Germany by Soviet Union. Though Berlin Wall was built to prevent the huge migration from East to West Germany, it separated East Germans from their families and friends leading to desperate escape attempts and finally to its fall.
Quickly after the formation of East and West Germany, mass exodus to westward began. Within a short span, the living condition in both East and West Germany took a different turn. The allied powers turned West Germany into a capitalist society with humongous economic growth and good living condition provided to its residents who had no restriction on their individual freedom. East Germany, on the other hand, became communist under the influence of the Soviet Union with staggering economy and limited freedom. This caused many East Germans shift to West Germany via West Berlin and by 1961, about 2. 5 million people migrated to West Germany. 2 In order to stop this mass exodus, overnight a wall was erected on 13th August in 1961 dividing West Berlin and East Germany and this wall was known as the Berlin wall.
Many people died, imprisoned and injured while making escape attempts to cross Berlin wall. Initially, the wall was built up of barbed wire fence but soon it was constructed into a solid foundation that stretched 96 feet long and stood 12 feet high. There were numerous guards, dogs and watchtowers placed round the wall to make sure no one escaped to the West. Separation from families, friends and lovers staying in the West made people in the East desperate to make escape attempts. Many people tried to escape but only 5, 000 succeeded. 2 Peter Fechter, an 18 years old bricklayer, was shot while making an escape attempt and he died of bleeding because the guards didn’t let anyone help him. About 200 people were killed and 200 more injured during escape attempts. 2
Fall of the Berlin Wall
The fall of the Berlin Wall was as quick as its rise. The Communist bloc was growing weak and as communism weakened in Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia, new departure points were opened for East Germans to escape to the West. People were trying to cross over to West Germany through Hungary and Czechoslovakia. In 1989 protest demonstrations erupted throughout East Germany and it reached an apogee with a gathering of half a million people at the Alexanderplatz demonstration on 4th November. Five days later an announcement was made by Günter Schabowski, an official of the ruling party of East Germany, ” Permanent relocations can be done through all border checkpoints between the GDR (East Germany) into the FRG (West Germany) or West Berlin.” 1 East Germans were aghast with joy and disbelief. They thronged the wall and celebrated the moment in tears and hugs.
The Berlin wall was a symbol of division between communism and democracy. For 28 years this wall kept families, friends and a nation separate. Lots of people had their lives upside down because of this wall. Though the original intent behind its building was to prevent the increasing mass migration from East Germany to West, but over a period of time, it led people to a desperation to make escape attempts and finally to its ultimate fall. The startling difference between the living condition in East Germany and West Germany led to a huge mass exodus of East Germans towards West in search of freedom from the restrictions of the communist society. The migration caused East Germany a loss of its labor force and intellectuals. The Berlin Wall was erected in order to prevent the mass exodus, but East Germans became imprisoners in their own country getting desperate to unite with their families and friends on the other side of the border. They started making escape attempts which led to death, imprisonment and injury. Protests broke out throughout East Germany in 1989 in demand of breaking the barrier and ultimately all of a sudden just as the wall was built overnight, the wall was removed on 9th November 1989. Post the fall of Berlin Wall, East Germany has undergone a great many changes and though it is still struggling to come out of the emotional impact the separation of the wall left on the minds of people, it has now what it had been seeking for years, freedom.
– Derek Barry, ” The building of the Berlin Wall: 50 years on.” accessed May 26, 2013 http://bcs. bedfordstmartins. com/resdoc5e/RES5e_ch10_s1-0007. html
– Jennifer Rosenberg, ” The Rise and Fall of the Berlin Wall,” About. com, accessed May 26, 2013 http://history1900s. about. com/od/coldwa1/a/berlinwall. htm