Berlin wall was a massive concrete erection that included guard towers constructed by the German Democratic Republic, East Germany, to cut off West Berlin for protection purposes. The primary purpose of the wall erection was to protect the population within the eastern block from fascist elements who were barring the establishment of a socialist society in East Germany. It served to prevent the massive emigrations, including fascist features such as the United States and France during post-World War II. It contained anti-vehicle trenches that made sure there was no trespassing of any kind to the states and blocs that were economically doing well. During the pre-war period, Eastern bloc’s authoritarian systems and erosion of political powers in pro-Soviet governments led to circumventing and the defection of 3.5 million East Germans into the west, where they could travel to other areas and neighboring countries. As a result, to strengthen the Eastern bloc emigration and defection restrictions, legal migrations were meant to reunite families or when members of the minority groups were to return to their homelands (Mur, p.7), which led to the construction of the Berlin Wall. The wall was intended to restrict movement, which, together with the Inner German Border, which was more separate and more extended, helped implement the emigration policy between the Eastern Block and West Europe.
Reasons for Construction
After World War II, Germany was divided into four occupation zones, which were based on different social and economic ideologies from four allied powers such as United States France, United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union, whose ideological differences led to further political divisions in the economy. For instance, the Soviet Union expected to undermine the British position within their occupation zones to directly influence the United States to withdraw from their jobs to the point that nothing would stand along with their communist rule. This would later be followed by the establishment of Marxism-Leninism system with the significant communism party required to channel down Soviet orders down the administrative apparatus; leading to nationalization of property and industries in East Germany Zone, and this led to internal wrangles within the zone and those of the allied powers (Major, p.2). This led to the massive emigration of people from East Germany to the west; with the creation of an elaborate police force and the administration that was to oversee indoctrination of Marxism systems introduced in the school curricula and close surveillance of the implementation. In case of violation of the stated communism lines, punishments such as imprisonments, torture, and death would apply and reprimands for the persons outside the public attention; which instigated the need to control the movement of the people out of East Germany, and to protect the interests of the new communism establishment (Maltz, p.7), the wall had to be created.
This was also influenced by the 1950’s Soviet approach of controlling the emigration and national movements, which presented a difficulty for some Eastern blocs that were more economically advanced and those that were liberalized, which led to many citizens escaping the East for the west. By 1961, German Democratic Republic wanted to de-Nazify their occupation zone and to promote the socialism system as means of public policy and development, which could only be achieved by restricting the movement of people with different ideologies into the zone and thus the construction. In addition, emigrants seemed young and well educated, and the East Germany officials feared “brain drain”; leaving for political reasons of communism at the expense of economic expectations by East Germany would ruin their socialism plan; thus, they needed to be controlled. Refusals by the Soviet Union in and other allied powers in a bid to take full control of East Germany such as the closure of the Inner German Border and the introduction of passes system for the visits of West Berlin residents to the territory of East Berlin encouraged the movement of the West agents, who were anti-socialists to the East necessitating a more physical barrier. For instance, in 1956, the then Soviet East German ambassador, Mikhail Pervukhin, observed that the contraventions provided open and virtually uncontrolled movement and a mixture of socialists and capitalists in which the comparisons did not turn out in favor of Democratic East Berlin. This was also because the Soviet approach at the time meant border defense line was soldiers-based that is, Germans would guard their territory with their lives and so to protect more deaths of the zone members from the allied powers who had superior weapons, and it would mean construction of a physical barrier (Gehler, pp.13-29).
After several defection attempts and the creation of migration loopholes by the Soviet Union and the allied Powers, unrest that is more political was experienced at the time. This led to the escape of many East German residents to the neighboring countries such as Austria and Hungary. For instance, in 1989 more than 13000 East German tourists were reported to escape through Hungary to Austria; a move that made the East Germany government respond by disallowing any travel to Hungary, but the migration loophole that was necessitated by the free train that transited through East Germany led to more emigration. In September 1989, East Germany was overwhelmed with demonstrations with protestors demanding to be let out to West Germany. As a loophole, the new “phase of freedom,” the number grew up in October with the then long time East German leader Erich Honecker resigning amid public pressure. To ease the complications of the matter, the then Politburo leader Egon Krenz, who succeeded Erich, agreed with the Czechoslovakia communist government to allow refugees exit freely and directly through exit points between East and West Germany and with proposals to include private travel. It was on 9th November 1989 that the East Germans started gathering at the wall and at the six checkpoints demanding trespass from the guards; who despite the orders from the administration to stamp the passes of the aggressive residents with a unique stamp that would not allow their comeback to East Germany, the guards were outnumbered by the crowd which forced their way out of the wall. This was later to be followed by the physical demolition of the wall in the subsequent weeks with travel bans more restrict to the West Germany Residents as they moved to the East compared to the Eastern residents as they moved to the west. This also marked Germany’s unification by unifying the cultural differences of the Ossis and Wessis, East and West Germans, respectively (Fuhr, pp.7-149). Despite the opposition by the allied powers, Germany remains strong to date.
As discussed, the construction of the wall was purely on the ideological diversity on the economic, social, and political grounds by the allied powers of post-war Germany. The immediate effects of the construction, such as unemployment for the East Germany Residents who worked in the west, Isolation of West Berlin, and family split up, contributed much to the fight for freedom of travel and movement. However, there were crossings during the time, that is, elderly pensioners, visits by relatives for important family matters, journey to the west for professional issues, the restrictions involved tedious applications, and approval was not guaranteed to make residents rise freedom. The conflict of interests between the residents and the allied powers led to political and social turmoil. They were viewed as neo-colonization and violation of Germans’ freedom by external, which forces led to the fall of the Berlin wall.
- Führ, Wieland. The Berlin Wall and Inner-German Border, 1945-1990. Petersberg: Imhof, 2009. Print.
- Gehler, Michael. Three Germanies: West Germany, East Germany and the Berlin Republic Since 1945. London: Reaktion, 2010. Print
- Major, Patrick. Behind the Berlin Wall: East Germany and the Frontiers of Power. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. Internet resource.
- Maltz, Leora. The Cold War Period, 1945-1992. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2003. Print.
- Mur, Cindy. The Berlin Wall. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 2004. Print.