A History of the Berlin Wall

December 15, 2017 – 09:24 pm

The Berlin Wall. Carsten Koall / Getty Images

Summary of the Berlin Wall:

Physical barrier which surrounded West Berlin, cutting it off from both East Berlin and the surrounding parts of East Germany. The wall was erected by the communist government of East Germany in 1961 to prevent disaffected people fleeing to the West and fell in 1989 after the collapse of Russian backing for the East German government and the opening of crossing points.

Background:

In the aftermath of the Second World War Germany was occupied by four liberating powers: Russia, France, Britain and the United States. Berlin, the capital of Germany, was in the Russian sector, but was also split into four sections amongst the same powers. With the rise of the Cold War, which saw liberated western nations return to capitalism and democracy but eastern ones become communist satellites dominated by Russia, the divided Germany became a source of conflict between East and West.

Russia grew concerned that West Germany, which experienced freedoms, economic growth and integration with Western states, was undermining both East Germany and the whole Soviet power bloc. After attempts to force a renegotiation of terms failed after the Berlin Blockade, overtures were made to reunite Germany under a truly neutral government. The West spurned such offers. By 1960 there was due to be further discussions, but Russia and East Germany pulled out after an American spy plane was shot down over Russia.

Immediate Cause:

Between 1949 and 1961 2.7 million East Germans had fled to Western Germany, including a considerable numbers of professionals which the home nation found hard to replace. With talks on the future of the divided Germany stalled, and desperate to keep East Germans hemmed in, the East German government, with backing from an initially reluctant Russia, began a programme of shutting the border between East and West Germany. On the night of August barriers went up around the whole of West Berlin, despite a statement earlier that year that a wall would not go up.


Source: europeanhistory.about.com

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