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Berlin's Wall, Which Stood from 1961 Until 1989, and Its Relation to the Cold War

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This essay depicts the Berlin's Wall, which stood from 1961 until 1989, and its relation to the cold war.

After the Second World War finished, in 1945, one of the most terrible and shaming periods of Humanities' history ended. From this war, the Allies come out victorious, by defeating the Third Reich and its leader, Hitler, so they asserted their authority over the German territories.

There were four main Allied powers: the United States of America, the Soviet Union, United Kingdom and France. Consequently, Germany was divided into four different zones for administrations reasons, the eastern part of the country went to the Soviet Union, while the western part went to the United States, Great Britain and (eventually) France, creating what became known as the Allied-occupied Germany. The division of the territories was ratified at the Potsdam Conference in 17 July to 2 August 1945, where was stated that: ''there shall be uniformity of treatment of the German population throughout Germany'' and ''certain essential central German administrative departments shall be established.''.

However, the Allies didn't commit to what they had decided in the Potsdam Conference and started to pursue their own interest in their own territory, applying different policies. These would start to conflict with the other Power's policies, building up tension between them, specially between the United States and the Soviet Union.

"West Germany and East Germany started out on a friendly foot, expecting to be re-united shortly, but that proved to be a vain hope. Instead, the Allies turned them into enemies and protagonists of the Cold War." (Meyer, Judith, 2014).

On one hand, their priorities were different. While West Germany was more concerned with the reconstruction of the economy; the East Germany's focused was to do the reparations needed to the German's war equipment.

On the other hand, the Soviet Union extended the communist economic and political systems to their zone, where nationalism and socialism ruled. Adversely, the other allies wanted to reintegrate Germany as a peaceful member of the International community. Specially The United States, who had hoped for a democratic, pluralistic and capitalistic Germany that could become a market and partner of its trade.

As expected, the planned economy of the Soviet Union wasn't able to compete with the market economy pledged by the United States. In this way, the West was seen as an opportunity to be a part of a more prosperous economy, to escape the sacrifices being made in the East and to reunite with family.

In this fashion, a massive immigration started to take place, people would go from East Germany to the West Germany. In only one day, 16000 people fled from the communist area and from 1949 to 1961, a total of 2.6 million people. This was particularly shameful to the Soviet Union, they were losing labor force and dignity.

In order to prevent this massive immigration, the Soviets decided to build a wall with several checkpoints. According to Judith Meyer, the solution came from the Soviet politburo (the executive committee of the USSR) and Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev. The orders technically were issued by German communist party leader Walter Ulbricht, however he was basically a puppet of the Soviets (2014).

The Berlin Wall was the defining symbol of the Cold war, separating families and keeping the people form jobs and opportunities in the west. The first step in separating the city, was by placing wire fences around the area. Just within weeks, the wire fence was fortified with concrete and a second fence was built in June, 1962. Between the two fences, there was an empty space, which later became known as "The Death Strip".

In 1975, construction began on an even more secure wall, called the "Border Wall 75", which took five years to complete. This wall had 45000 sections of reinforced concrete, each one was 12 foot high, 3,9 foot wide and weighted 3 tons. The new Berlin Wall included: 79 miles of fencing, nearly 300 watchtowers, more than 250 guard dog runs, 20 bunkers and 65 miles of anti-vehicle trenches.

The Berlin Wall was a tangible symbol of the suppression of human rights by the Eastern bloc during the Cold War (Taylor, Frederick, 2007). The subsequent international crisis that arose from it, particularly intense during the summer of 1961, brought fear to the world as it waited to see if the tension between the United States and the Soviet Union evolved to a nuclear war.

In addition, this wall was a reminder of how different the ideas of how Germany should be ruled. It represented physically the ideal separation of the democrats in the Western part from the communist Eastern. In this fashion, the Wall also represented division.

 This wall destroyed the communist's vision of a just society, as it created inequality among Germany citizens and opened communism to criticism around the world. As President Kennedy stated, "There are many people in the world who really don't understand what is the great issue between the free world and the communist world - let them come to Berlin!

There are some who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the communists - let them come to Berlin!" (1963).

On 26 of August, 1961, all the borders were closed and no longer East Berlin citizens could cross to the West sector. Due to this a lot of families were separated and couldn’t see or talk to each other. Workers that lived in the East Berlin and worked in the West sector were cut off of their jobs.

Until 17 of September, 1963, no one from both sides could cross the borders. From 1963 until 1971 a few agreements were made about crossing the borders. Initially East Berlin only accepted visits during the Christmas season. In 1971, with the Four Power Agreement on Berlin, crossing the borders from West Berlin to East Berlin wasn’t any more a problem; they only had to do an application for a visa with a few weeks in advance. In the borders they had to say the reason for their visit or the visa could be rejected. In the opposite direction it wasn’t allowed to cross the borders with a few exceptions like the visits of relatives for important family matters, for professional reasons and after 1964 old age pensioners could also cross the border. Even for these exceptions there were some rules like they couldn’t exchange a large amount of money so that they couldn’t afford staying in the West Berlin.



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