Essay: The Berlin Wall

After Germany lost World War II the country was split into four zones, each occupied by one of the four Allied powers that defeated the Nazis. (je kan misschien een foto hiervan plakken in je verslag; je kan het opnemen als bijlage I) The zones controlled by France, Great Britain and America became West Germany, or Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Federal Republic of Germany = FRG). The Soviet-controlled zone became East Germany, or Deutsche Demokratische Republik (Germany Democratic Republic = GDR). Germany’s capital, Berlin, was situated in Soviet-controlled East Germany , but as this city was the administrative area for the Allied forces, it too was split into four. This meant that France, Great Britain and America controlled West Berlin, whereas the Soviet Union controlled the East. Relations between America and the Soviet Union soured considerably during much of the second half of the Twentieth Century. The Berlin Wall was a symbol of this hostility, a physical representation of what was called the Iron Curtain.

Iron Curtain
The Iron Curtain symbolized the ideological conflict and physical boundary dividing Europe into two separate areas from the end of World War II in 1945 until the end of the Cold War in 1991. The term symbolized efforts by the Soviet Union to block itself and its satellite states from open contact with the west and non-Soviet-controlled areas. On the east side of the Iron Curtain were the countries that were connected to or influenced by the Soviet Union. On either side of the Iron Curtain, states developed their own international economic and military alliances.

Economic situation in West and East Berlin

West Berlin received financial help from the Allied powers (especially Marshall Fund of the United States) , but East Berlin didn’t get any help from Soviet Union. Unlike East Berlin West Berlin could build a good economy. In East Berlin, there was food shortage and there was unemployment, while they had enough food and luxury in West Berlin. The result was that many people who lived in East Berlin fled to West Berlin. There were so many people that the GDR fell from 18.4 million in 1950 to 17.2 million in 1960. Especially highly skilled workers moved to West Berlin, to find a better job there. Only low-skilled workers remained in East Berlin.

The rise of the Wall
On August 13,1961 Premier Khrushchev of the Soviet Union gave the East German Government permission to stop the flow of emigrants by closing its border for good. In just two weeks, the East German army, police force and volunteer construction workers had completed a makeshift barbed wire and concrete block wall’the Berlin Wall (45 kilometers long)’that divided one side of the city from the other.
Before the wall was built, Berliners on both sides of the city could move around fairly freely: They crossed the East-West border to work, to shop, to go to the theater and the movies. Trains and subway lines carried passengers back and forth. After the wall was built, it became impossible to get from East to West Berlin except through one of three checkpoints: at Helmstedt, at Dreilinden and in the center of Berlin at Friedrichstrasse. (Eventually, the GDR built 12 checkpoints along the wall.) At each of the checkpoints, East German soldiers screened diplomats and other officials before they were allowed to enter or leave. Except under special circumstances, travelers from East and West Berlin were rarely allowed across the border.
After World War II Germany was divided into West Germany and East Germany (as stated above). In East Germany the Communism arose and in West Germany the capitalism.
In the west, it was actually quite good. There was free economy, so it went well with the prosperity. This was done with the help of the United States. There were free elections and a parliamentary democracy.
In East Germany the communists took control and the SED (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands) became the official state party. There was a people’s democracy under the leadership of the communists. There were no free elections. There was a dictatorship because the political party was the only party that did exist. The residents of the East were very suppressed. There was no freedom of speech. Only positive things about the SED appeared in the newspaper and the negative things were omitted (propaganda). East Berliners wanted to live in freedom like the West Berliners.
Social and economical consequences of Berlin Wall
Most people lost their jobs because 60,000 East Berliners were working in West Berlin and 13,000 West Berliners in East Berlin. Before the wall West Berliners could buy their products for lower prices in East Berlin. People were separated from relatives, because they were living on the other side of the wall.
At the beginning the West Germans felt imprisoned by the Berlin Wall, but it soon became apparent that the East Germans were locked. Unlike the East Germans the West Germans lived in luxury. The West Germans could just eat, drink and wear anything what they wanted. In fact, the West Germans were not much affected by the wall beyond the fact that they were separated from relatives in the East (as stated above). Until 1972 it was not allowed to travel to the other side of the city. The East Germans tried to smuggle all kinds of articles like food and clothes from the West.

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