The Berlin Wall was both the physical division between West Berlin and East Germany from 1961 to 1989 and the symbolic boundary between democracy and Communism during the Cold War.
Overview of the Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall was erected in the dead of night and for 28 years kept East Germans from fleeing to the West. Its destruction, which was nearly as instantaneous as its creation, was celebrated around the world.
A Divided Berlin
At the end of World War II, the Allied powers divided conquered Germany into four zones, each occupied by either the United States, Great Britain, France, or the Soviet Union (as agreed at the Potsdam Conference).
The same was done with Germany's capital city, Berlin.
As the relationship between the Soviet Union and the other three Allied powers quickly disintegrated, the cooperative atmosphere of the occupation of Germany turned competitive and aggressive. Although an eventual reunification of Germany had been intended, the new relationship between the Allied powers turned Germany into West versus East, democracy versus Communism.
In 1949, this new organization of Germany became official when the three zones occupied by the United States, Great Britain, and France combined to form West Germany (the Federal Republic of Germany). The zone occupied by the Soviet Union quickly followed by forming East Germany (the German Democratic Republic).
This same division into West and East occurred in Berlin. Since the city of Berlin had been situated entirely within the Soviet zone of occupation, West Berlin became an island of democracy within Communist East Germany.
Within a short period of time after the war, living conditions in West Germany and East Germany became distinctly different.
With the help and support of its occupying powers, West Germany set up a capitalist society and experienced such a rapid growth of their economy that it became known as the "economic miracle." With hard work, individuals living in West Germany were able to live well, buy gadgets and appliances, and to travel as they wished.
Nearly the opposite was true in East Germany. Since the Soviet Union had viewed their zone as a spoil of war, the Soviets pilfered factory equipment and other valuable assets from their zone and shipped them back to the Soviet Union. When East Germany became its own country, it was under the direct influence of the Soviet Union and thus a Communist society was established. In East Germany, the economy dragged and individual freedoms were severely restricted.
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