History Of Berlin Wall

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INTRODUCTION Today people belong to the CNN generation. Any time an event happens in the world today people turn to CNN. In recent years, the Gulf War, and the events in Bosnia have been headliners. In 1989, one event monopolized the airways of CNN, THE FALL OF THE BERLIN WALL. I remember seeing this, and thinking how little I knew about this event. The fall of the Berlin Wall succeeded in one aspect that today is still not been rectified; The Berlin Wall divided Berlin into two very distinctively different cities. These cities both developed differently. Even after the wall was destroyed eight years ago the city still remained divided, and is still divided today. Following World War II, the allies had begun this split that was greatly expanded following the building of the wall. The split of the city was wanted greatly by the Soviets, but not the other allies. When I joined the army being stationed in Germany didn’t really appeal to me. I wanted to stay stateside, with little travel, Going on a one to two year hardship overseas tour did not appeal to me. But after 1989, I put in request to be sent to Germany. I arrived in January 1990 three months after the wall collapsed. When I visited the wall five questions about the wall and German society surfaced; First what was the background of the wall why was it created, second how and when was the wall constructed, and of what material, third what were the measurements of the wall, Berlin is a huge city, fourth the aspects around the fall of the wall, and the actual fall , and fifth after riding the Berlin sub-way, how did these tunnels affect the travel within the city, and the differing cultures of the two differing cities of East and West Berlin . In this examination I will finally answer these questions that I asked my self seven years ago. These questions all center around the aspect of Berlin becoming Two cities following World War II. Berlin, eight years after the fall of the illustrious wall is now busy rebuilding and redefining itself. Since my initial visit I have returned to see friends every other year. The city is no longer restricted by its cold war status as the symbolic dividing line between East and West. Berlin is the new political, cultural, and architectural capital of Germany and is quickly becoming one of the key business centers in all of Europe. Before Hitler came to power and lost World War II, Berlin had enjoyed this status. The German government hopes today to groom Berlin as a possible capital of the new European Union. They are grooming there economy, and the city to be the focal point. BACKGROUND After World War II Berlin, was badly damaged during the war, unlike World War I. The Soviet Union wanted to bring the war to German soil. The Soviets harbored many hard feelings toward the German people. The city was surrounded by the German Democratic Republic/East Germany, and was partitioned into East Berlin and West Berlin. The city was in the Soviet sector of the post-war division. But the capital too was divided among the victorious allies, to keep the capital with democratic ideals. The divided city not only symbolized the collapse of the German Empire, of which it was the capital, but also became a focus of cold-war tensions between the Communist nations led by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the group of Western nations led by the United States. The Berlin wall, a wall separating East and West Berlin was built by the East Germans in 1961, blocked free access in both directions until 1989; by the time Germany was unified in October 1990, much of the wall had been torn down. (1) Because of dissatisfaction with the economic and political conditions, an increasing number of people left East Germany (German Democratic Republic). from” January to the beginning of August 1961, about 160,000 refugees were counted”(2) Also, the international political situation was tense. On Nov. 27, 1958 the Soviets delivered their Berlin ultimatum, demanding that the western allies should withdraw their troops from West Berlin and that West Berlin should become a free city within six months. They believed without allied support West Berlin would also fall under their control. On Feb. 2 1959, the threat of settling a separate peace treaty between the USSR the German Democratic Republic (GDR) followed. The meeting between US President Kennedy and the Prime Minister of the USSR, Kruschev, on June 3&4 1961 ended without any noticeable results. The East German government had one goal at this time; preventing people from leaving the GDR. At an international press conference on June 15 1961, Walter Ulbricht The leader of the East German communist party, SED, and President of the Privy Council. Answered to the question of a journalist. I understand your question as follows: there are people in West Germany who want us to mobilize the construction workers of the GDR to build a wall. I am not aware of any such plans... No one has the intention of constructing a wall.(3) This statement could be seen as the truth or in the aspect that he knew nothing about the plans of the wall. It was seen that the Soviets unlike the other allies did not plan to give up their influence in the city. The Berlin airlift of 1947-49 is a great example of the Soviet aspirations to continue to control their sector even after they were supposed to leave During the Berlin Air lift The Soviets cut off supply routes to the city. the only way supplies could be brought into the city was to fly over and drop them. The allies from Frankfurt began the almost three year effort to supply West Berliners with supplies. The succeeded and the Soviets ultimately gave in. They did however create stricter guidelines on entering the city to include the developing of the infamous “:Checkpoint Charlie,” the last checkpoint on the autobahn before entering East Berlin. CONSTRUCTION OF THE WALL The construction of the wall according to the Soviet Government was not a planned event. The following description is given to show that no plans were pre-done before they started. “Early in the morning of Sunday August 13, 1961, the GDR began under the leadership of Erich Honecker to block off East Berlin and the GDR from West Berlin by means of barbed wire and antitank obstacles. Streets were torn up, and barricades of paving stones were erected. Tanks gathered at crucial places. The subway and local railway services between East and West Berlin were interrupted. Inhabitants of East Berlin and the GDR were no longer allowed to enter West Berlin, In the following days construction brigades began replacing the provisional barriers with a solid wall.(4) The western allies showed little reaction, they showed more reaction during the blockade of 1947 to 1949, The allies participated in a massive airlift in which French, US, and British planes were dropping 8,000 tons of food and fuel into the city daily which forced the soviets to give up their blockade. When East German troops began their construction of the twenty-five foot wall made of concrete and barbed wire, they were laying the foundation for the infamous wall West Berlin’s mayor Willie Brandt’s policy of Ostopolitik allowed West Germans to visit their families in the East; however East Germans could not go to the West unless they escaped, and many died trying.(5) After August 23, 1961, citizens of West Berlin were no longer allowed to enter East Berlin. On September 20, 1962, Peter Fechter, an Eighteen year old citizen of East Berlin Bled to death after he was shot down by East Berlin border patron in an attempt to escape over the wall, becoming the first of many to die attempting to escape to the west. On June 21, 1963, the minister of Nation Defense of the GDR gave orders concerning installation of a border area at the frontier between the GDR and West Berlin. Afterwards inhabitants of East Berlin living within a distance of one hundred meters had to register. These citizens were living in a danger zone. Their houses were with-in view of the West side of the city. When I was there this housing issue was quite visible. These people could see the capitalist West, while remaining to live in the communist East. When construction of the wall was complete the western leaders declared it an “Anti-fascist protection wall.” Unlike the Berlin air-lift the western leaders could not drop food, and goods into the east. The city of Berlin was now a divided city, one side as a capitalist democracy, and the other a communist state. But inside the cities they were more differences than politics, Economics, sociology, and total lifestyles of the citizens were becoming a major difference. MEASUREMENTS OF THE WALL The border between West Berlin and East Berlin and the GDR had a total length of 166 km, and there was a deeply staggered system of barriers. There was the physical wall with a length of 107 km.(4) The simple vastness of the city of Berlin proved that they could not build a wall to close in the entire city. The area around the concrete wall looked like; First, there was the wall which was made up of concrete segments with a height of nearly twenty feet, usually with a concrete tube on top. Behind it on the Eastern side there was an illuminated control area, called the death area. Refugees attempting escape that got over the wall were shot in this area thus the name as the death area. Following this area was a trench that would prevent vehicles from breaking through. Then there was a patron track, a corridor with watchdogs, watch towers and bunkers, and a second wall.(4) My impression of this area at first was that it would have been simple to just jump off an apartment building with a glider and sail across. I than observed the area of the wall still standing with years and numbers underneath. I later found out that these numbers stood for the number of people killed in that given year for attempting to escape. People did escape but according to my guide many more than the numbers on the wall were killed in attempting . Escape was a dream, but once a citizen escaped he had to have a major plan, The West German embassy could not deal with all the escapee’s. Other nations wanted to help, but they did not want to insult the East German government. So when a person escaped they were treated difficulty, and most often needed family and money to stay out. The border in the city cut through 192 streets, 97 leading in to East Berlin and 95 leading into the GDR. This whole area was the city section of the barricade/wall, but the wall extended 59 km without a physical wall. When the wall first went up the Country section was just about the ‘leakiest’ part it, and many escapees made it to the west through fields and woods, and even through people’s gardens and summer houses. But slowly and surely, over time, all the places where escape was possible were plugged up. Any building close to the border was demolished.(1) Things in the country section were far more complex than in the city section of the wall. The country section was constantly guarded as was the city section. But in the country planes, tanks, dogs, and roving mass patrols were used. In the city section there were massive towers approximately every two-hundred meters. these towers housed armed guards, armed with automatic rifles, grenade throwers, and they too had a roving patrol with dogs. To even think about escape would be crazy but the concept of freedom led man to actually escape. There were three motorways running out from West Berlin to West Germany, and the Railway had to go through as well, and there was also a canal system for the transport of heavy supplies like coal.(5) The vastness of the city meant that goods and services had to come in from the outside, they utilized the motorways, Railway and the canal system, these areas were more heavily guarded than others. Simply escaping in the country section was more than merely walking around the wall, this due to the fact that the wall was deep in the middle of East Germany, and the fact that it was barely fifty kilometers from the Polish border. To escape Berlin a refugee than needed to take the long journey somewhere. The nearest border was Poland, at the time another communist country. Escaping in the city a person entered West Berlin, In West Berlin they were in a free state, with embassy’s and possible family ties that could assist them in getting into West Germany. They still did need someone to assist them financially, and socially by giving them a place to stay. THE FALL OF THE WALL During the period of the divided city between East and West Berlin, West Berlin enjoyed great economic growth, while East Berlin remained in a state of little growth. West Berlin received aid from its democratic friends along with West Germany, which was becoming an economic power. East Germany relied on its communist patriarch. The Soviet Union due to harsh feelings following the treaties after World War I, used there occupation following World War II to fuel the hearts of their people of past hardships that the German culture had given there nationality. By making them feel inferior. Once in Berlin, the west side was like many other thriving western cities. In fact, thriving a good deal more than most, due to heavy support and subsidy by the Federal government, to keep this outpost of the West in a healthy condition. It seems odd, now, that such a strange situation, West Berlin being “walled-in, could be taken for so many years as normality. But so it was. To us then, that wall was permanent, and the chances of it ever coming down laughably small.(4) This existence of two separate cities both with differing economic status, and the political culture of Europe at the time are often seen as reasons for the fall of the Berlin wall. But the fall was due to bigger reasons. The people of the differing Berlin’s, were in some instances family, The years of the separation were leading to an uprising. The new generation of Berliner’s had never known the city as one. President Kennedy upon visiting Kennedy made his famous statement Eich Bein Ein Berliner. This translates that he like the citizens of Berlin was also a citizen of Berlin. This statement when given through original translation stated that Kennedy was Berlin. This according to my guide on my original tour of Berlin. The statement was corrected for its press release however. When Gorbachev’s perestroika swept through the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, the storm of reform did not skip over Berlin. East Germans watched the border between Hungary and Austria come down and began leaving at the rate of 200 people a night. The citizens of East Berlin were becoming agitated, the government was in no position to resist them and in November 1989 the wall came down. People all over the world witnessed this on CNN, People from all over wanted to be involved in this historical occasion. The wall had served as a symbol for a generation in Germany, that had been split. On the world scope people wanted to have an impact on this major culture event that changed Europe. When the wall was finally penetrated people stopped in silence to remember those who had died in attempting to escape to the West. In February 1989 the last killed refugee was Chris Gueffroy, He nearly made it across but was caught in barbed wire while crawling across, he was shot while entangled in the wire. He like many others suffered the fate of death in attempting to reach something he had never attained freedom. Only nine months later the sweeping reforms were to open the wall again. If he had only known. If any of the people who died had only known that it was not as permanent as believed. The cultural generation of this divided city for a generation would ultimately create hopefully the new capital of the coming European Union, to citizens of East Berlin before the fall would never be a reality, but in West Berlin, the citizens always hoped the city would again be united to its pre wall greatness. Even though the wall was gone, the city and the country remained divided. An entire generation of Germans grew up knowing two separate Germanys. Many Germans when I was there still saw these East Berliners, as second class citizens. They still did not view them as Germans. They saw them as they saw Austrians, A West German student at Berlin’s free University said of the East Berliners. she still can’t shake the idea that East Germany is part of Germany. It is like Austria; they speak German, but they are another country, they have their own struggles and we have ours.(7) These sentiments even in my last visit in 1995 were still prevalent, people are glad the wall is down, but they still often refer to East German’s and West German’s as if they are from differing nations. The different city’s through the wall era developed different cultures, and economies. Many citizens of the West Berlin background do not believe it is their responsibility to bring East Berlin into the Twentieth century. When a person enters East Berlin they can observe vast differences. But these differences are changing East Berlin is today the construction Mecca of Europe. While the west was building West Berlin into a monument to capitalism, East Berlin became a very cosmopolitan and modern city, by communist standards. However a striking contrast in the two cities’ living standards remained. West Berliners had access to a vast array of goods from all over the world, while the East Berlin shopping district, Alexanderplatz, comprised of dingy shops selling a poor selection of low quality goods. could only sell goods created in East Germany, or other communist nations. Mercedes and BMWs were common in West Berlin, while Trabis, the East German-built, three-cylinder car that easterners waited up to ten years to get crowded Berlin streets. These cars were made of fibers, when the masses left after the wall collapsed the streets were flooded with abandoned Trabis. The government began to burn these. Or sell them cheaply. When I was stationed in Germany I bought one of these for fifty dollars. It had a two stroke engine in which I had to mix my gas with oil, like a chain-saw. The car ran good, and was a parking dream. It could only reach seventy-five Kilometers an hour, which was slow on the Autobahn, but it got me around without having to rely on the public transportation system, that I had trouble understanding. THE U-BAHN AND GERMAN SOCIETY SINCE THE FALL When I took a ride on the Berlin U-Bahn I was shocked when

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