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.
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
SUNDAY – AUGUST 13, 1961
The Wall goes up
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
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
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