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Significance of the Berlin Wall

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Significance of The Berlin Wall

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 Ð''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 1950's 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 didn't 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 1980's 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



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