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Berlin Wall

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The Berlin Wall separated the people of East Berlin from the people in West Berlin. It separated families, kept people from their jobs, and caused people to die. It was erected in an effort to save East Berlin's economy, but in the end it did so much more.

The fleeing of residents of East Berlin to West Berlin affected the Soviet Union and East Berlin in two ways. The first of which was economic. By 1958, 15% of the population of East Berlin had fled to West Berlin. East Berlin's economy provided much for the Soviets and among these 15% were doctors, lawyers, businessmen, and other essential figures for the East Berlin economy. The birth rate in East Berlin was higher than the death rate, but still 250,000 people were leaving every year. In 1961 alone, 5,000 doctors, 20,000 engineers and technicians, and 17,000 teachers left East Berlin. All together in the years from 1954 through1960, 4,600 doctors, 15,885 teachers, 738 university teachers, 15,536 engineers and technicians moved from East Berlin to West Berlin. Besides these professionals, 11,705 students with initial intentions of working in East Berlin left to work in West Berlin after getting their free education from East Berlin. This hit East Berlin very hard, for it needed these potential workers to rebuild the country after the destruction caused by World War II.

Walter Ulbricht, the leader of the East German communist party and president of the Privy Council, was greatly distressed by the fleeing of East Berlin's citizens, for it hurt his 7 year plan to bring East Berlins economy to the same level as West Berlin's. Walter Ulbricht ordered regular police spot checks of anyone carrying a suitcase, but this barely had any impact on the number of East Berlin citizens fleeing. Citizens making many trips with very little baggage at once easily avoided them. Ulbricht tried very hard to convince Soviet Union to take over West Berlin, but the Soviet Union wanted to keep peace with westerners. Finally, the Soviet leader, Stalin, backed Ulbricht and declared that West Berlin must be turned into a "free city" in six months. The Western powers did not comply with these demands and Stalin, after six months, did nothing in retaliation for being ignored.

During the six months that Stalin spoke of, the citizens of East Berlin feared their time was running short to flee to West Berlin, so in those six months, more people fled than had previously been fleeing. Walter Ulbricht's seven-year economy plan forced farmers to share their land, which upset farmers and caused them to flee to West Berlin. Also, Ulbricht put so much pressure on factory workers to increase industrial output, that many factory workers fled to West Berlin to escape it. This obviously upset Ulbricht and he was able to convince the Soviet Union that the only way to stop the mass fleeing of East Berlin's citizens was to use force. Ulbricht had earlier promised " There are people in West Germany who want us to mobilize the construction workers of the GDR or build a wall. I am not aware of any such plans. No one has the intention of constructing a wall." Ulbricht ultimately changed his mind.

From July 17 until August 2, 1945, a conference was held by the victorious powers that had defeated Germany. Truman, Churchill and Stalin met at Cecilienhof castle in Potsdam near Berlin. The Potsdam agreement was established, which determined the shape of post war Europe.

The Berlin wall went up in the night of August 13, 1961, while most people were sleeping. By the evening of the following morning most of the first phase of the construction of the wall was completed and the border between West Berlin and East Berlin was closed. The original elements and large square blocks were first used on August 15, 1961. It was completely up within a month. On the West Berlin side of the wall, there were 90 checkpoints on the 45-kilometer border, which is 2 checkpoints every kilometer. On the East side of the wall, there were 78 checkpoints. A second build was added in addition to the original build to prevent escaping in June 1962. These first two generations were eventually replaced by a third generation in 1965, which itself was replaced by a fourth generation, named Stutzwandelement UL, in 1975, which lasted until the wall was torn down permanently. A single segment of the fourth generation wall was11.81 feet high, 3.937 feet wide, weighed 2,750 kilograms, and sold for 359 East German marks per segment. There were about 45,000 of these segments in the Berlin wall and ended up costing 16 million East German marks. (Note: at the time a loaf of bread was 1.04 marks.)

From July 17 until August 2, 1945, a conference was held by the victorious powers that had defeated Germany. Truman, Churchill and Stalin met at Cecilienhof castle in Potsdam near Berlin. The Potsdam agreement was established, which determined the shape of post war Europe.

On the morning of June 17, 1953, many citizens awoke to radio news that workers in East Berlin were rioting in the streets. It soon escalated and just before noon, they were marching through the Brandenburg Gate with the intension to consolidate with workers in West Berlin. However, it all came to a quick end when Russian tanks drew up and fired into the unarmed crowd. American troops and British troops made a show of force with tanks and troops, but they did not intervene.

Decades passed, however, and the fight for freedom did not weaken. Once in a while, someone tried to get through to the west. Only a few made it, and in all, 70 people lost their lives trying to get to the other side.

In the mid 1980's there was a change in east-west relations. "The freeze of the cold war started to thaw." Ð'- Ursula Dixon, a citizen who experienced the fall of the Berlin wall first hand. Mikhail Gorbachev became the new leader in the Soviet Union, and voiced his opinion about the need for reconstruction of his own country and the world in general. "It is not easy to change the approaches on which East-West relations have been built for fifty years. But the new is knocking on every door and window."


On October 8, 1989, a group of pacifists held a candle light vigil in a church in the city of Leipzig. Thousands took to the streets shouting, "No more violence!" and "Join us, Join us!" More and more people were joining in as the sounds echoed through every street. By October 16, the number of protesters had reached millions. "Loudspeakers could be heard throughout the city," says Dixon. The protesters words of opposition were as follows: "We have worked our fingers to the bone for this country, and we are not standing by to see it all fall into ruins. The truth



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