Berlin Wall 2 Essay, Research Paper
The building of the Berlin Wall in 1961 was unjustified because it created a division between the people of Germany and violated their freedoms. The construction of the Berlin Wall was unethical because it destroyed thousands of people’s lives and killed over one hundred. The whole purpose of the wall was to block the access of the people from the East Berlin to West Berlin (Heaps, 21).
On the 27th of November 1958, Berlin was the scene of another international crisis when Nikita Khrushchev issued an ultimatum to the three western powers, giving them six months to turn West Berlin into a ” demilitarized free city ” (Khrushchev, 453). This ultimatum marked the start of a long crisis which came to a head with the building of the Wall. Talks on Berlin between the Soviets and the West, first in Geneva (May-August 1959), then in Paris (May 1960) and finally in Vienna (June 1961), failed to produce results (Khrushchev, 457).
Meanwhile, tension continued to rise around Berlin, as refugees continued to flock out of East Germany, destabilizing the regime. Walter Ulbricht repeatedly asked Khrushchev for permission to take radical steps. At the meeting of Communist Party heads in Moscow on the 5th of August, he finally got what he wanted closure of the border between East and West Berlin (Khrushchev, 455). Two days later, Khrushchev announced in a radio broadcast that this ” handy escape route ” via West Berlin absolutely had to be closed. This disturbing news instilled ” fear of the closing door ” among would-be escapees, and a further upsurge in the number of refugees over four thousand on the 12th of August alone! The building of the wall began at around 4 p.m. on the 12th of August. In preparation for this operation, 40 kilometers (25 mi.) of barbed wire and thousands of posts were stored in barracks. The police and workers’ militia set up in the wake of the June 1953 riots were mobilized. The Interior Ministry announced that East German citizens would now need a ” special authorization ” to enter West Berlin. At midnight, the security services were put on the alert; East Berlin was covered by army units (NVA); 25 000 armed militiamen and the People’s Police (Vopos) armed with kalachnikovs were posted at six-foot intervals along the demarcation line (Darnton, 194). On 13th August 1961, a holiday Sunday, at 1:11 in the morning, the official East German press agency announced that the Warsaw Pact countries had asked the East German government to set up ” effective controls ” in and around Berlin. Within an hour, 67 of the 81 crossing points were sealed off, soon followed by another seven. All traffic was stopped between East Germany and West Berlin. The underground and the S-Bahn linking the two sections of the city were no longer in operation (Galante, 42).
As a result of discontent with the economic and political conditions (forced collectivization of agriculture, repression of private trade, supply gaps), an expanding amount of people left the German Democratic Republic (Speier, 133). From January to the beginning of August 1961, about 160,000 refugees were counted. Also, the international political situation was tense. On the 27th of November, the Soviets had 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 (Wyden, 342). On 1959-02-17, the threat of settling a separate peace treaty between the USSR and the German Democratic Republic followed. The meeting between US President Kennedy and the Prime Minister of the USSR, Khrushchev, on June 3rd and 4th in 1961 in Vienna ended without any noticeable results. (Wyden, 350)
Generally, measures of the government of the German Democratic Republic were expected with the aim of preventing people from leaving the German Democratic Republic. At an international press conference on the 15th of June 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 German Democratic Republic to build a wall. I am not aware of any such plans… No one has the intention of constructing a wall”(Khruchev, 453).
By nightfall on the 13th of August 1961 the Warsaw Pact nations (the Soviet Union and it’s European satellites) instructed that the government of East Germany “take action to introduce a system on the boarder of West Berlin that will effectively check the subverse action against the countries of the Socialist [communist] camp and install a reliable watch and control system around the whole area of West Berlin, including it’s boundaries with Democratic [East] Berlin”(Heaps, 16). This day became known as “barbed-wire Sunday”(Epler, 57).
Thousands of Berlin Citizens woke up on the 13th of August 1961 to find a barricade in the middle of their city. If they had family members, jobs, schools, or anything on the other side they were not allowed to see them or make any contact with them ever. If they tried to cross it they would be killed on the spot or sent to jail for an extremely excessive sentence (Epler, 11). When the Wall was just one month old, five teenage boys were given sentences of six, twelve, and fifteen years “for attempting to flee the Republic” (Heaps, 47). The two leaders received life sentences, the alarming seriousness of their punishments was most definitely conceived to discourage others who might contemplate pursuing freedom by means of the wall.
People in the east were so unhappy with life in communist East Germany that they would risk their lives to get out. During first two years that the wall separated Berlin, 16,500 people had managed to escape alive (Heaps, 27). However the wall was responsible for many German deaths. In the first two years sixty-eight people were shot to death, and 618 more were fired at (Heaps, 30). The attempts to flee, and most definitely those that resulted in death, reinforced the outrage and discontent produced by the wall.
Throughout history walls have been built in countries and cities. These walls are usually built to keep out invaders. In Berlin, however, this was not the case. The Berlin Wall was admittedly assembled to enclose the people of East Berlin and to take away their freedom to move about the city. The Berlin Wall was constructed to restrain the departure of thousands of civilians in the east who were fleeing in hope of a higher standard of living and political freedom in the west.
Seldom in history have blocks and mortar been so malevolently employed or so richly hated in return. The Wall of Shame, as it is often called, divides Berlin’s war-scarred face like an unhealed wound; its repulsiveness irritates the eye as its callous disregard to human values injures the heart. For 27 miles it coils through the city, dismembering proud squares and busy thoroughfares, marching boldly across graveyards and gardens, dividing families and friends, transforming whole street fronts into bricked-up abandoned ghost towns (Heaps, 73). “The Wall,” muses a Berlin policeman, “is not just sad. It is not just ridiculous. It is schizophrenic.”(Epler, 59).
To the Germans, the most troubling part of the Berlin Wall’s, is its aim of eternally disjointing a divided nation whose people yearn to be reunified. West Berliners themselves must also think of their city’s welfare. West Berlin’s Mayor Willy Brandt said: “The Wall must go, but until it goes, the city must live.”(Darnton, 96). The construction of the Berlin Wall was not in favor of the residents of Germany. The Berlin Wall was however justified form the view of the Soviet Union. The leaders in Moscow determined that western propaganda was responsible for luring thousands of Soviet citizens over to the west. With the division of Berlin access to the west became as available as crossing a street. The Soviet Government feared that the west would seek to cause unrest in it’s people by creating false images of abundance and wealth. The Soviets believed that the west was seeking to score a propaganda victory. Believing the west would parade it’s defecting citizens like heros in an attempt to lure even more of it’s citizens away the Berlin Wall was built. Moscow believed the wall was a peaceful resolutions to a difficult situation. The wall was designed to shut out the west without further confrontations.
Therefor the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961 was unjustified in the sense that it was not in the best interest of any human being in that area. There were an abundant amount of faults to the wall as apposed to the scarce few pros. The Berlin Wall, was made of barbed wire and reinforced concrete, but it was also made of ignorance.