The Rise And The Fall Of Berlin Wall

Crowd climbing on Berlin Wall to celebrate the historic moments of it's fall

In the Second World War, the Allied powers (coalition of United States, Soviet Union, Britain and France) fought against the Axis powers (coalition of Germany, Italy and Japan). The war ended with the Allied victory through Germany’s surrender on 8/9 May and Japan’s surrender on 2 September. Hitler’s Germany, he principle force of the Axis, was captured by the Allied powers.

But disagreement occurred among the Allied country over the new ruling system of Germany. socialist Soviet Union was demanding it to be a communist country, but democratic US, Britain and France were in attempt to implement democracy there. Due to this division, finally it was decided that Germany would be split into two parts. The East Germany would be a communist country and the West Germany would follow democracy.

In the new boundary agreement, Berlin, the capital of previously undivided Germany, fell inside the communist East German territory. Following the same formula, Berlin was divided into east and west too. That made the West Berlin totally surrounded by Soviet influenced East German territory.

Berlin Blockade

Soon after the creation of East and West Germany, ideological tensions started to grow between the two newly formed countries. In 1948, the Soviet-backed East Germany suddenly imposed full blockade over West Berlin which was geographically already surrounded by the East. The communist government now sealed off the entire border of West Berlin. That created an unprecedented crisis of food and others essentials for the citizens of West Berlin.

Soviet Union thought that due to this blockade, the US, Britain and France would be forced to leave West Berlin. But those three countries took an unique step, that totally ruined the Soviet plan. The land boundary was blocked by the East German government, but the airspace was open. US, Britain and France started to send cargo planes to West Berlin loaded with foods and other essential goods.

This became known as ‘Berlin Airlift’ and continued for almost a year. Within this period around 2.3 million tons of food, fuel, medicine and others were sent to West Berlin.

Atlast on June 1949, the blockade was lifted by the East German government.

For the next decade, the relation between East and West Germany was relatively calm. But from 1958 it again started to deteriorate. As West Germany adopted the open market policy at the beginning, within years it’s economy became far more stronger than the communist East Germany. As a result the citizens of West Germany used to enjoy more financial freedom and better lifestyle than the East Germans.

Also in West Germany’s democratic atmosphere, people there had freedom to express, cultural liberty, scopes to develop personal talents and skills which used to deeply attract the Eastern citizens and made them to attempt to flee away in West Germany.

However, crossing the main border between the East and West Germany was not easy as it was guarded heavily. Therefore they started to try entering into West Berlin which was inside the East German territory. However, border crossing between the sides of Berlin was a common thing previously. People from both parts could easily visit the other area for purposes like working, shopping or simply watching theaters. Even train services were there to transport Berliners from one side to another.

But by 1958, people from East Berlin started moving to West permanently to settle down there. Day by day the number grew massively. On June 1961, 19,000 people from East Berlin entered into West Berlin. In July it reached to 30,000. Just in the first 11 days of August, around 16,000 people from East crossed the border. On only 12th August the figure was 2,400 which was the record largest number of migration in Berlin that time in a single day.

Building the Wall

To prevent this kind of mass migration from East to West Berlin, Soviet prime minister Nikita Khrushchev told the East German country to shut down it’s border with the west permanently. According to his instructions, East German army and construction workers started to build a boundary wall at the border. Within just two weeks, they built the giant concrete wall with barbwire literally separating East Berlin from the West. And that was the ‘Berlin Wall’

Because of the wall, the previous opportunities for the East Berliners to enter in the West halted temporarily. Although the East Berlin government kept three gates or check points throughout the wall, which was later increased to some more, but those could used only by diplomats, government officials or specially permitted tourists.

However in the entire scenario, Berlin Wall couldn’t totally prevent the people of East Berlin from crossing the border. From it’s creation in 1961 until the demolition in 1989, around 5,000 people including 600 border guards from East Berlin managed to crossed the wall and fled away to the West.

Some of them used the small windows adjacent to the wall, some climbed over the barbed wire, some used big gas balloons, some crawled through the sewers beneath the wall and some drove at high speeds through the less guarded parts of the wall.

But not all of them were lucky enough to finish the task. In total 171 people were killed by guards and other reasons during that period. Many more were caught by the guards and awarded imprisonment and other punishments.

Fall of the Wall

By the end of 80s, the foundation of communist rule across the globe began to weaken due to mass uprisings against the governments. East Germany was no exception. Oppressed people there too took the streets to protest against the misrule of the communist regime. Citizens of East Berlin also demanded to open the gates of Berlin Wall permanently so that the people from both sides can again freely visit each other like before.

Under the immense pressure from the mass, the East German communist party on 9 November 1989 announced that the gates will be opened and people from their land can go to West Berlin without any obstacle.

As soon the announcement spread, people from both East and West Berlin flocked to the wall. They climbed over the wall, sang, danced and had beer and champagne to celebrate their new freedom. They shouted altogether ‘Tor auf!’ (open the gate). Many wrote down and draw their feelings and emotions on the wall.

Finally the gates were opened at midnight. Thousands flooded from east to west and vice versa through the border, something they were able to do for the first time in many years. People from both sides then started to break the wall with hammer, shovel and whatever they had. In following days, that was continued by the government forces with cranes and bulldozers. Within weeks, apart from few areas kept as souvenir, the remaining entire Berlin Wall was demolished.

A year after the fall of Berlin Wall, the East and West Germany were reunited as a single country on 3 October 1990.