The Berlin wall went down in history as a symbol of the Cold War and the division of Germany. It also reminds us of successful resistance and united citizens. But who built the Berlin Wall? And Why Was The Berlin Wall Built? Let’s find out.
A fresh start after the war was difficult in Germany. The country was destroyed, many people wounded, crippled or killed in the years of the war. The division of Europe into allied powers(USA, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union) and the joint administration along with the division of Germany into zones was decided at the conference in Yalta in 1944. Germany had to pay 22 billion US dollars in reparations for the material damage caused by the war to the former opponents of the war. This division of power would later go on to become the reason why the Berlin wall was built.
The Initial stages of the Futile alliance post-war
According to the Allies, Germany was to be administered by a joint Allied Control Council and divided into an American, British and Soviet zone. Berlin should be managed jointly by the Allies. In 1945 France also received a region in Germany and a sector in Berlin. It was not intended to divide Germany, and in the first two years after the war, the Allies still considered Germany to be an economic area to be managed jointly.
During this time, however, the fundamental contradictions in the economic, ideological and political development of the Allies emerged, and the former allies became enemies. The Soviet Union tried to bring Communists to power in its sphere of influence. The economy in the Soviet sector was devastated because the Soviet Union itself was severely destroyed in the war. The USA, on the other hand, emerged from the war with a stronger economy. In contrast to Europe, the USA itself was spared the destruction of the war.
The USA created a plan for the reconstruction of Western Europe and Germany in 1948 and called it the Marshall Plan. The Soviet Union did not allow the Soviet-occupied zone of Germany to participate in the Marshall Plan because the plan was subject to conditions that were contrary to the interests of the Soviet Union.
The division before the Berlin Wall
The division of Germany began with the introduction of a new, independent currency in the western zones and West Berlin and the Eastern Zone and East Berlin and the comprehensive economic aid for the western zones of Germany and Berlin.
In June 1946, free travel between the zones of Germany was restricted at the request of the Soviet authorities. An inter-zone passport had to be applied to travel from one zone to the other. Crossing the inter-zone border was only allowed at certain checkpoints.
However, the inter-zone border also intersected villages whose residents were never separated by a border. The way from one half of the village to another was now connected with an elaborate journey. Berlin was spared the restrictions and Berliners could move freely within Berlin.
While the material life situation improved for many people in the West, people in the East, in particular, suffered from the burden of reparations to the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was unable to provide the kind of financial aid that the West received from the United States.
Another serious problem, especially in Berlin, was the existence of two currencies after 1948 and the associated purchasing power based on a different exchange rate. ‘Westgeld’ (American Sector Currency) could be exchanged in large quantities for ‘Ostgeld’ (Soviet Sector Currency) in the western part of the city and then used for cheap shopping in the East.
Many people left the Soviet zone and East Berlin. If the inter-zone passport was refused to them, there was still the route via Berlin or the flight across the poorly secured border into the western zone.
The two German states were founded in 1949, and the economic and political repression in the German Democratic Republic(GDR), began. The Improvement in the Western sector was recorded, especially amongst the young and highly qualified people, the workers and the farmers. Between 1949 and the construction of the Wall in 1961, approximately 2.6 million GDR citizens left their country to the West.
On May 26, 1952, the GDR Council of Ministers decided to secure the inter-zone border and to establish a 10 m and 500 m protective strip and a 5 km restricted area in front of the inter-zone border with West Germany.
The border to West Germany was closed, and even if an escape was possible, it became dangerous every year. Escape was much less dangerous to go to the West via Berlin. Routine Checks were also carried out at the sector borders in Berlin and at the city limits from East Berlin to the GDR, but there was little chance of being caught. Hundreds of thousands of people crossed the sector borders within Berlin every day. When they arrived in West Berlin, the refugees reported to the Marienfelde refugee camp. They were distributed from there to West Berlin or flown to West Germany.
In order to avoid the GDR bleeding out due to the growing flow of refugees and to preserve the communist system in the GDR, the GDR government sealed the border from East Berlin to West Berlin. The termination of the flight connection from West Berlin to West Germany was not possible due to the rights of the Allies for East Berlin. The security of the border from East Berlin to the GDR was politically impossible, and a change in the political system in the GDR was not wanted. On August 13, 1961, the sector border between East and West Berlin was closed.
Until the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, the majority of the GDR population was denied travel or departure to the West.
The Fall Of Berlin Wall And The Reunification Of Germany: November 9, 1989
The political and economic stability, which the GDR leadership wanted to achieve by sealing off the borders, collapsed at the end of the 1980s. Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in Moscow and tried to modernize the state and government apparatus. He reformed the Soviet Union and also the entire Warsaw Pact. The GDR leadership lost the backing of the Soviet Union. In all major cities, people protested for their freedom. A wave of escape across Hungary and Czechoslovakia exacerbated the situation.
The opening of the border came as a surprise to everyone on the evening of November 9, 1989. The Wall fell. The turn was unstoppable. That evening, thousands stormed the border crossings and celebrated the Fall of the Berlin Wall.
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Today, the traces of the Wall have largely disappeared from the landscape and the Berlin cityscape. In Berlin itself, there are only 1.5 kilometres of Wall remains to be found, the rest were sold all over the world. Paving stones at the Brandenburg Gate are reminiscent of the earlier course of the Wall.