William Miller

Berlin Wall

A map showing how West Berlin was completly surounded by Soviet fences in 1961.

The Wall's History

Pre Wall History

After WW2, Germany was divided up into 4 sectors of occupation by the victorious Allies to prevent it from rising up again. This division into different sectors was also done in Berlin. Originally, The US, UK, and France controled their own zones, but they eventually came together to form West Germany and West Berlin. The Western Powers let their sectors develope a democratic and capitilist society, which led to economic and poltical prosperity. However, the USSR forced its sector into a totalitarian stae with a command economy. In order to do this the Soveits stripped people of their rights and property, which led to discontent both politically and economically.

Why The Wall Was Built

Becuase of East Germany's economic failure and oppressive tactics, many East Germans were unhappy about their current conditions. However, when they looked at West Germany/Berlin they saw a place where they could be free from oppression and have a chance to prosper economically. So many of the East's best and brightest illegally crossed over the border into West Berlin. They used West Berlin as a jumping point to get to West German, where they could live a better life. This flight of human capital became known as brain drain and negativly affected East Germany's economy. While this was tolerated by East German officals at first, they soon could not look past it any more. By 1961, over 1.65 million people had crossed the border to West Berlin, which was an equivalent figure to the entire population of East Berlin. In order to stop this mass flight, East German officals decided to build a wall all around West Berlin. Even though they called it an Anti-Fascist Rampart, it real purpose was to keep East Germans out of West Berlin.

The Wall Itself

The Berlin Wall was erected on August 13, 1961 and it was actually built in one night. However, the wall origianlly onlt consisted of sallow trenches ans barbed-wire fences. This wall was the first stage of three differnt stages of the Berlin Wall. The Second Stage was begun on August 17, 1961 and consisted of a mortar and brick wall with shards of glass embeded on top. This first Wall was between 5 to 8 feet tall. This improved Wall was not difficult enough to stop defections, so another Wall was built. The third and fianl stage's contruction began in 1975 and was finished in 1980. This Wall was about 12 feet tall and consisted of prefabricated concrete slabs. But what made this Wall more effective was its many defense features. These defences included such this as the top of the wall was lined with a smooth pipe, intended to make it more difficult to scale. It was reinforced by mesh fencing, signal fencing, anti-vehicle trenches, barbed wire, dogs on long lines, over 116 watchtowers,and 20 bunkers. The land between all of these defences became known as the Death Strip.

A picture showing the construction of the second stage wall. Notice how the wall is being built in broad day light in front of West Berliners.

This is a diagram showing what the second version of the wall looked like. This version was much bigger and armed to the teeth with multiple layers of defence.

Picture of what the Death Strip and Berlin Wall looked like in its final stage.

The Wall's Impact on German History

The Berlin Wall has had two major impacts on German history. The first impact is that it divided the German people. The Wall not only divided them physically, but also ideologically and mentally. After the Wall fell in November 9, 1989 these divisions remained in place even after Germany was reunified. For example, many former West and East Germans continued to think about each other as the enemy, than as fellow Germans. This also spilled over into politics and economics too, which created some tensions between the two former halves during the reunification process. The second impact that the Berlin Wall has had on the German people is that it has made them question their identity. It has caused Germans to stop and think about what it means to be German. One of the most important parts of this question is what should the German people forget and what should they remember about their past. Many Germans would want to forget about the division that the Berlin Wall caused, however they must remember it, just like they must remember Nazi Germany, so that they do not repeat the mistakes of the past. This is an on going discussion among the German people that will be with them for their rest of their history.

“We Are One People”-This was a cardboard sign used by a German in November 1989 to celbrate the fall of the wall and possible German reunification.

Key Terms

Überlaufen - defection

Brain-Drain - brain drain

Mauer - wall

Tod Streifen - Death Strip

Wand Krankheit - wall disease


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ger/101/2010/fall/william_miller.txt · Last modified: 2010/10/05 22:22 (external edit)
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