Berlin Wall Part I

The Berlin Wall was a strictly guarded military system of the GDR along the border around West Berlin that existed from 1961 to 1989/90.

On June 15, 1961, the head of state of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), Walter Ulbricht, told journalists: “Nobody has any intention of building a wall.” The question was whether the GDR had its border with West Berlin want to close. A short time later, however, it became clear that Ulbricht had lied. Because on August 13, 1961, the government of the GDR left Berlin seal off the sector boundary. Until then, Berlin had been the last open “eye of the needle” for all people who wanted to leave the GDR, because the zone border between East and West Germany had been sealed off since 1954. The wall divided the city into East Berlin and West Berlin and enclosed all of West Berlin. The leadership of the GDR reacted to the continuing flow of refugees who left the GDR for the west at that time. The wall made it almost impossible for the people of the GDR to leave the GDR. The construction of the Berlin Wall was a temporary high point in the ” Cold War ” between the USA and the Soviet Union. The fall of the Wall in 1989 ushered in German reunification.

The way to the division of Germany

The Second World War ended in 1945 with the surrender of Germany. The four victorious powers USA, Soviet Union, Great Britain and France decided on its further fate. At the Potsdam Conference in the summer of 1945, Germany was divided into four zones of occupation and the city of Berlin into four sectors. The two German states emerged from this by 1949: the former occupation zones of the three Western powers became the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Soviet zone became the territory of the German Democratic Republic. With the promulgation of the Basic Law in May 1949 the Federal Republic was founded. At the same time the “Constitution of the German Democratic Republic” was passed, and the GDR was officially founded in October. Berlin was claimed as the capital of both states. In the Federal Republic, however, Bonn served as the provisional seat of government. Now, in the words of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, an ” iron curtain ” ran through Germany¬ę. The division of Germany was also the result of the “Cold War” between the USA and the Soviet Union. Due to its strategic location in the middle of Europe, Germany formed the border zone between the areas of influence of the two great powers. The Federal Republic belonged to the western camp, while the GDR became part of the communist sphere of influence of the Soviet Union.

Mass exodus from the GDR

After the two German states were founded, there was no fixed border. In the Federal Republic of Germany the economy quickly recovered. The industry grew and new jobs were created. In the GDR the situation was more difficult and the supply of the population was worse. The socialist planned economy did not keep pace with the achievements of the social market economy of the West. Dissatisfaction spread on June 17, 1953 discharged in an uprising in East Berlin. However, this was crushed with the help of Soviet tanks. So many citizens of the GDR sought their luck in the West. Although the inner-German border had been increasingly cordoned off by the GDR since 1952, it was still possible to leave the GDR and settle in West Germany. Between 1949 and 1961, more than 2.5 million people left the GDR. Among them were many well-trained workers and academics, who in turn were now lacking in the GDR’s economy.

The construction of the wall

In the summer of 1961 the situation came to a head. The GDR authorities initially focused on the 55,000 commuters from the eastern part of Berlin who had their jobs in West Berlin. At the checkpoints, such as the Brandenburg Gate, they were now exposed to considerable disabilities. Rumors arose that the GDR was planning to close the border with the Federal Republic entirely. Here was Walter Ulbricht, General Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) and chairwoman of the GDR State Council, emphasized on June 15, 1961: “Nobody has any intention of building a wall.” On the night of August 13, however, GDR soldiers began to block the border crossings with barbed wire. The S-Bahn and U-Bahn connections were interrupted. The barriers ran right through the streets and apartment blocks. At the last second, many people, including GDR border guards, tried to overcome the obstacles and flee to the West. Some lowered themselves on sheets from windows to get to the safe side. Others were rescued by a set in jumping sheets that were kept ready by the West Berlin fire brigade. A total of 7,000 East Germans dared to get to West Berlin while the border system was being built. But not all of them were successful. Many of them were arrested and detained. After the border was marked, construction of the actual concrete wall began in the weeks that followed. It was over 150 kilometers long, made Berlin a divided city and West Berlin an “island”.

Berlin Wall 1