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The Fall of Berlin Wall

History | 8-14 yrs | Interactive, Learning Pod, Reading Pod

What is the Berlin Wall?

The Berlin Wall, a symbol of the Cold War, was a wall that separated the communist Eastern side of Berlin from the democratic Western side. The wall was built in 1961 and stood for nearly 28 years. It all started after the World War II, when Germany was divided into two parts – East Germany Zone and West Germany Zone, among the four allies that defeated the Nazis.

West Germany Zone

West Germany zone was controlled by France, Great Britain and America. It was known as the Bundesrepublik Deutschland.

East Germany Zone

East Germany was controlled by the Soviet Union and was known as the Deutsche Demokratische Republik. Berlin, being the capital city, was divided among the four allies. Thus, the Soviet Union controlled East Berlin, while France, Great Britain and America controlled West Berlin.

Why was the Berlin Wall built?

The conditions between the two parts of Berlin became very different. The Western part was growing as their economy began to rise and become better day by day, while in the East the Soviets had full control with limited freedom to the citizens. Thus, the people living in East Germany did not want to live under the control of the Soviets and started to move towards the Western part. These people were known as defectors. Few were stopped at the border, while other made their way to the West and kept in warehouses. By the early 1960’s, more than 2 million people had defected from the East to West. East Berlin had lost a great number of their workforce. Now, the East became desperate to stop this immigration. Citizen from the East used to commute daily to the West to look for better job opportunities. The East and the West finally had enough, and decided to build a wall around Berlin to prevent people from defecting. On August 13, 1961 the communist of the East started building the wall dividing East Berlin and West Berlin. In a matter of days a low concrete wall was created between the two sides.

What were the effects of the Berlin Wall?

The wall separated families and cut people off from their daily jobs. People from the East side peered through their dilapidated apartments into the prospering West side. Many East Germans tried to climb the wall or use the tunnels to get to the West in desperation. But they were killed by the East German guards who regarded such people as traitors. The Western side was very different. They started calling the Berlin Wall a ‘wall of shame’. The East continued to rebuild the wall and kept adding onto it, making it further long. It reached a length of 103 miles, 4 feet high and 12 feet high. Guards and dogs were then added at check points to keep a watch on anyone trying to cross the wall. Did this keep the East Germans at bay? No, they still made attempts to cross the wall- simple and planned ones. This continued till the 1970’s and 1980’s.

When was the Berlin Wall demolished?

It was on June 12, 1987, when President Ronald Reagan gave a speech in Berlin directed to the Soviet Union leader, Mikhail Gorbachev and asking him to tear down this wall of shame. By this time, the communists were also beginning to weaken and losing their hold on East Germany. It was on November 9, 1989 that an announcement was made which said that relocation on the two sides can be done through all border checkpoints. People rushed to see if the borders were opened. People from the West side celebrated the end of divided Germany by chipping off and tearing down the wall with hammers. It was only on October 3, 1990 that Germany was officially recognized as one and was unified as a single country.

5 Interesting facts about the Berlin Wall

1. The West side of the Berlin Wall was fully covered with colorful graffiti while the East side was totally barren.
2. The Berlin wall had underground subways and train stations. Many trains were not allowed to stop at the East side station. These stations were heavily guarded and dimly lit and were known as ‘ghost stations’. The Ghost stations were reopened after the wall was demolished.
3. During the 28 years when the wall stood, almost 5000 people had crossed to the Western side, either over or through the wall.
4. The most famous checkpoint was Checkpoint Charlie. After the demolition the guard house of this checkpoint is now situated in the Allied Museum in Berlin.