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The Berlin Wall Essay, Research Paper

For 28 years, 15 feet of concrete, metal pipes, barbed wire, mines,

and trenches spreading 110 miles divided a nation. Those living in the

nation named the barrier Schandmauer, the Wall of Shame. We know it

better as the Berlin Wall.

SCHANDMAUER – Wall of Shame

In addition to the many destructive factors which led to the wall?s

construction, including WWII, the Soviet Blockade, the

Kennedy/Khruschev conflict, and opposing cold war views, the tragedy

of the Berlin Wall?s construction caused the deaths of scores of east

Germans trying to cross the wall into West Germany and ruined the East

German economy. The triumphant fall of the Wall managed to break the

impasse between the communist world and the democratic world,

allowing for the opportunity of possible political peace and economic

growth between the feuding countries of the world.

The Foundations

An uneasy peace took effect as a war-weary world began to rebuild

after World War II. Berlin lay in ruins, with nearly 1 1/2 million citizens

dead. Both Berlin and Germany were subsequently divided into four

allied sections, each controlled by the separate powers of Great Britain,

France, The United States, and the Soviet Union. Even before the war

ended, the Allied forces had decided that Berlin would be a separate

division. Clearly Berlin was an important piece in the eyes of all allied

members. To allow one member complete control would be giving away

to much power. Thus, even though the city was located deep inside the

Soviet Zone, the Western powers expected free access to Berlin. The

Soviets, however, had different plans.

From the beginning of the occupation, the Soviet Union and

Western powers clashed over Berlin?s government. The first clash came

when the Soviets vetoed the election of Lord Mayor Ernst Reuter in

1946. This conflict culminated in June 1948 when the Soviets attempted

a blockade of Western movement into Berlin to overpower the Allies and

take full control of the city.

The Soviet Tactics were simple: stop all movement of Allied trucks

and trains to prevent food, coal, and medical supplies from reaching their

zones, thus starving Berlin into submission. The Blockade commenced

on June 24 with the announcement that no rail, water, or highway

movement would be allowed through the Soviet Zone. However, to

prevent this, the Allied forces staged the largest airlift in history. Over

104 planes, carrying 2 millions tons of coal, food, and medicine, took part

in this effort, costing the Allied forces 300 million dollars. This

continued for 11 months, until the Soviets saw that their effort was futile

and lifted their blockade. This effort greatly decreased the Soviet

dominance in the Berlin struggle for the moment.

Berliners began to dislike the Soviet rule, which became evident in

the elections of 1950. Over 80% of West Berliners opted for a

democratic government, and in a director contrast to previous Soviet

intervention, Ernest Reuter was elected Lord Mayor, and he stayed. Thus

began the transformation of the western half with his energetic

administration. This opened a window of democracy into West Berlin.

The Soviets soon stopped any hopes of this in East Berlin by prevented

their citizens to vote.

In 1957, West Germany joined the common market, & Willy

Brandt, a moderate socialist was elected Lord Mayor. Brandt laid the

foundation for the upcoming climax between Kennedy and Khruschev

by describing the conflict in its most lucid terms -

This crisis about Berlin has been provoked arbitrary. It

affects us all, not only Germans, but all persons who take to heart

the cause of human Freedom and international peace.

The Khruschev Era

When Soviet premier Nikita Khruschev took over the Communist

party in 1953 he began a new era for Berlin and Soviet/ US relations.

The only major offensive on Berlin up to this point was the Blockade.

But Khruschev managed two more, and a complete isolation of Berlin in

only first 9 years.

The next step was the most climactic occurrence surrounding the

Wall. The Berlin crisis of 1961 between Kennedy & Khruschev began

with their first political meeting at Vienna. Khruschev there declared

either the US sign a peace treaty to end occupation or the USSR would

sign one that allowed them a stake in West Berlin. After Kennedy left

the summit, two grim statements were ominous harbingers of the events

to come. He stated that ?Khruschev did not give an inch, not an inch.?

and predicted that ? it looks like a cold winter ahead.?

The high morale caused by the Bay of Pigs fiasco undoubtedly

encouraged Russians to try another attempt on Berlin. Khruschev?s

continuos pressure in the forms of thunderous speeches and military

threats resulted in three unwanted ways to the Russians. First, Both the

Americans and NATO responded by tightening force, thus producing

stronger NATO unity. But the most crucial was that of continuous

emigration out of the Soviet sectors by citizens. Over 60,000 fled to

West Berlin during the Summer of 1961. West Berlin was denounced as

haven for ?spies, revenge seeking militarists, and nazis? by those who did

welcome the refuses. This denouncement was refuted by Brandt saying

West Berlin is called a ?cancer? by those who support and

represent the totalitarian system. The ?poison? we spread is ideas. . .

of freedom, of lawfulness, of human dignity and a decent standard

of living. These are our ?weapons? and our ?threats?. They are why

West Berlin must be destroyed as a heart of freedom

Over and over in many speeches Khruschev called West Berlin a

?bone in the throat? and a ?rotten tooth? that must be pulled. He

vowed that his ultimatum would not be withdrawn as it had in 1958, and

many observers agreed that he had too far.

The disparity with which the United States viewed the Berlin crisis

became apparent with President Kennedy?s dramatic appeal to the

American people on July 25 1961

If we do not meet our commitments to Berlin, where will we

later stand? If we are not rue to our word there, all that we have

achieved will mean nothing.

Today, the endangered frontier of freedom runs through

divided Berlin. We want it to remain a frontier of peace . . . The

Soviet government alone can convert Berlin?s frontier of peace into

a pretext for war. . . We seek peace, but shall nor surrender. That

is the central meaning of this crisis.

Kennedy?s speech however, could not stop the construction of the wall a

month later.

SUNDAY – AUGUST 13, 1961

The Wall goes up

East Berlin

In East Berlin, the DDR?s plan to construct the wall were kept

secret to Western intelligence until after the building of the wall. All of

the advanced moves leading up to the wall were literally kept invisible.

Until midnight August 12, only 20 insiders knew of the happening

planned in Berlin. The plan had no code name, and instructions were

either oral or handwritten by one man, Gerhand Exner, the man behind

the master plan of the wall. He worked alongside Erich Honecker whose

operational plan was designed so that no one would think anything was

strange, and that is just what happened. At precisely midnight he ordered

barbed wire be placed in all access points between the city, and by 3 am

the whole perimeter was sealed. For Honecker, the operation had been a


Life Goes ON

Separating the city for 28 years the wall served as a symbol to the

entire world of the tension between the free west and the communist

East. But within the city of Berlin it acted as barrier. Berlin, which was

once a thriving city in the heart of Germany, became two halves, a

modern west and oppressed East.

In the years following the construction, desperation for freedom

increased in East Germany, which led to many elaborately planned escape

routes. Several tunnels were dug under the wall, by east and west

Berliners alike. This ?underground? operation eventually gained

international fame.

Over the next twenty years, East and West Berlin grew to be two

different cities. West Berlin thrived. though in the heart of communist

East Germany, the city managed to establish steady trade with the west

and maintain a stable capitalist economy. Industry grew rapidly, and west

Berlin became a technologically advanced city.

However, East Berlin did not share this affluence. On a visit in

1971, A British journalist said in reference to residential area, ? It was a

depraved and impoverished area. It was a devastating site.? The tension

between the US and the USSR was steadily increasing, and this was

evident in the East German economy. Though the unemployment rate

was low, wages steadily decreased as the price of food increased. More

money was sent by the East German government to the Soviets daily.

This caused the poverty level in East Berlin to increase, and limited its

technological advances.

The weakening of the communist ideals in the Eat throughout the

1980?s gave rise to hope for freedom for East Germany. The Berlin

Wall?s effect on the growth of a whole Berlin was drastic, separating one

people in two entirely different governments. However, these days of

separation grew less & less towards the late 80?s.


It was a massive emigration of East Germans to the west that

caused the Wall?s construction, and its was the immanent exodus of the

next generation that forced the border open again, with the

announcement that the Germans were free to travel abroad. Europe?s

political map was redrawn and an unpredictable new era for both East

and West was begun.

For weeks thousands of Berliners, East and West hacked away at

the wall. They used whatever they could: hammers, axes, even

pocketknives. Every hardware store quickly ran out of proper tools. The

group of people dismantling the wall was comprised by people of all ages,

sexes, races, and backgrounds brought together by a common purpose:

break down the Wall and reunify their country forever.

The philosophy behind the wall was best expressed in the words of

Dwight D. Eisenhower, who dealt with the crisis in its earliest stage. ?In

Berlin, on the two sides of masonry and barbed wire, raised by the

Communists, two powerful philosophies which hold precise but opposite

conceptions of man stand. In the East stands a complete philosophy that

man is merely a machine, soulless and therefore fit only to be a slave used

for the glorification of the state, While in the West stands the belief that

man is a creature of the spirit, possessing an individual soul, born free

and in the image of his creator.? This exemplified American beliefs.

Berlin had become a symbol of freedom and the West was determined to

keep it that way. Even as Khruschev brandished missiles and ultimatums

savagely, Berlin continued to be the focal point of a worldwide struggle.

Berlin embodied a moral issue, and this is what America concentrated on.

The tragic completion of the wall was morally wrong, and did nothing but

widen the impasse between two ways of life and harshen the lives of

Germans in the process. However, the fall of the wall and reopening of

the boundary symbolized an end to the physiological obstacle between

two different philosophies. By reunifying East and West, communism

was dealt a triumphant blow and the lives of Germans were changed for

the better.

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