Maria's Cold War Project: The Berlin Wall

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My Paper: The Berlin Wall

At the end of World War Two, the US, Britain, and France had occupied West Germany and liberated the death camps while the Soviet Union had done the same in the east. It was decided that the country of Germany would be divided into four occupation zones, one for each country. Because the US and the Soviet Union were competing with each other, Germany was divided into two main parts. The Soviet-controlled side became known as East Germany while the American, French, and British was West Germany. The capital city of Berlin was in the Soviet occupation zone, but was divided into East and West Berlin. The east became communist and the west democratic. Next to each other and each representing a system of government, East and West Berlin were the perfect way to see communism and democracy at the same time. The divided city of Berlin showed the difference between Communism and Capitalism and was a symbol of the struggle between the two.
The people of East Germany, the Soviet Union-controlled side, began with the freedom to leave whenever they wanted and travel to the west and back. However, it was estimated that about 1,500 people a day were leaving to go to the West (Heiko Burkhardt “Berlin Wall online”), so on May 6, 1952 the East German government decided to close the border. After this, the only way to get from East to West Germany was through Berlin. Many people left East Germany through Berlin by going into East Berlin, crossing to the West, and leaving East Germany. To stop this, the Berlin Wall was built from August 12-13 by the East German communist government. The Wall started out as a ninety-six mile barbed wire and chain link fence, but this proved too easy to climb. To improve the wall, a second fence was built, and in between there was a space called the ‘death zone’. It had mines, traps, and the wall was guarded by soldiers, who were ordered to shoot on sight. The third and final stage of the Berlin wall was the most popularly known, and the most effective, the 3.6-meter high concrete wall. (Heiko Burkhardt “Berlin Wall online”)
Even with the danger of leaving, many people tried, even as the security tightened. Over the 30 years that the Berlin wall was up, 171 people died trying to escape ( “the Berlin Wall”), but it was said that about 5,000 people succeeded. While some people chose to risk their lives to leave East Berlin, others stayed. They were not allowed to leave, and there was not much communication with the outside world. There was about one telephone to every ten people ( “The Berlin Wall”) and almost no news from the outside world. A lot of the people in East Berlin were poor, and about 60,000 people had businesses, jobs, or family on the other side of the wall that they couldn’t contact (Heiko Burkhardt, “Berlin Wall Online”). Living in East Berlin was bad, and leaving was nearly impossible.
The U.S. tried to keep West Berlin and West Germany as good place to live to prove that capitalism and democracy is better than communism. West Germany was somewhat restricted, but not nearly as much so as the East. People could leave at will, and it was relatively easy to travel from the U.S., French and British zones, all you needed was a pass. While the economy of the East side was bad, due to all the workers who left, the West German economy was fine. It was better than before the occupation, because before the occupation it was World War Two and many people (especially Jews) were suffering under the Nazi regime and hiding from it. West Berlin was a little worse off because it was surrounded by East Germany, this was really only a problem during the Berlin Airlift and the blockade, but otherwise didn’t matter. Overall, West Berlin wasn’t perfect, but was much better than East Berlin.
The Berlin Wall was mostly dismantled in 1989. On November 9, it was announced that people could leave for ‘private trips abroad’ ( “the Berlin Wall.”) Thousands of people gathered at the border, and the border guards were overwhelmed and had to let them through. The Berlin Wall had mostly fallen. After the border had been officially opened, people began physically destroying it. This signified the reunification of Germany, which was formally announced on October 3, 1990. (Cold war: A Student Encyclopedia) The Berlin Wall is mostly destroyed, but there are still remnants in some places.
The lives of people on either side of the Berlin were very different in many ways. The people on the eastern side of the wall had a lot less freedom than on the western side. Many had no money because their businesses were on the other side of the wall when it was built. The people were also poorer on the East Side and they couldn’t leave. The reason that the U.S. wanted to keep the West Side alive was to show the world that capitalism works better than communism. They thought that if the world saw a flourishing and happy West Berlin beside a poor and starving East Berlin population, it would think that democracy was better. This is basically the whole idea of the cold war, each system trying to prove that it is better. That is why Berlin was considered a symbol of the Cold War, it showed capitalism and communism, side by side but completely separate, for the world to see and compare.

my berlin timeline

Berlin Pictures

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external image berlin-wall-392-350.jpg East German border guards in 1978 at the Berlin Wall.

View from the former West Berlin into East Berlin
View from the former West Berlin into East Berlin
A sign between east and west Berlin (before the wall)

external image b_mur5.jpgThe berlin wall (viewed from the east side)

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Waiting for the right moment to make his escape.
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A dash for freedom.
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East German border patrol arriving at the scene of the escape.
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East Berlin observation tower.
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14-year-old East Berliner's first steps into freedom in West Berlin

The Berlin Wall Today

today, most of the Berlin wall is destroyed, but there are still places where it goes on for miles and people can look at it.

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We snuck around some fences and were able to walk along the former guard path (between the wall and the river). The path was used to patrol the wall and insure no one could leave (alive) the East German communist paradise.

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Looking from West Berlin into East Berlin.