Germany was divided into four sections after World War II. Each section was affiliated to an allied power. Allied powers after World War II were Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union and France. West Berlin was characterized by occupational zones of France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, while the Soviet Unions occupational zone was East Berlin. When the border between East and West Germany was closed in 1952, Berlin remained the only place where people could easily cross the border (Harrison 1). West Berlin was an island of democracy and capitalism, and many East Germans were tempted to immigrate to immigrate to West Berlin in pursuit of a life where people had freedoms to live a decent and humane life. East Germans were frustrated with communism ideals that thwarted people on peoples rights and freedoms. East Germany was against its citizens crossing to West Berlin, and as a result, it came up with the idea that would ensure that its citizens are deterred from migrating to West Berlin. East Germany was also afraid that allowing its citizens to migrate to West Berlin was a sign that its citizens were finding communism detestable. East Germany was also concerned that continued migration of its citizens to West Berlin created an impression that Communism was an inferior political ideology when compared to capitalism and democracy. Consequentially, the Berlin Wall was erected in 1961 by Eastern Germany between East and West Berlin (Harrison 3). The Berlin wall was one hundred and forty kilometers in length. East Germany was referred to us as the German Democratic Republic, and its policies and laws were shaped by Communist ideals. East Germany claimed that Western fascists were migrating from West Germany into their country, thus necessitating the construction of the Berlin. The claim was propaganda that was used by East Germany during the period when in the real sense they knew that most East Germans admired freedom and democracy that was prevalent in West Germany and wished to live in West Germany. There are very few West Germans who traveled to East Germany during the Cold War period. East Germany was afraid that if many of its citizens heard stories of how life in West Germany was good given that human rights and freedoms were respected, a rebellion by East Germans against Communism would have occurred (Ahonen 43). East Germany also wanted to control mass defections by the citizens into West Germany. East Germany also wanted to put an end to the migration of individuals with skilled labor who had developed a penchant for migrating to West Germany. East German intellectuals had also been migrating in droves to West Germany; East Germany wanted to bring this to an end. However, despite the erection of the Berlin Wall, East Germany continued to migrate to West Germany, albeit stealthily.
The Berlin Wall was symbolic of suppression of human rights and stifling of human freedoms. Contrary to the expectations of East Germany, the wall brought more problems and misery than had it not been constructed. Dissent against Communism heightened to great levels in East Germany courtesy of the Berlin Wall. German people had for many years been interacting freely. As a matter of fact, East Germans and West Germans both had relatives on each side of the Berlin Wall. Therefore, construction of the Berlin Wall strained relationships between Germans and affected lives of Germans from political, social and economic perspectives. The Berlin Wall was symbolic of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union (the two world superpowers). The wall was also a physical mark, an Iron Curtain, that separated Eastern and Western Europe (Harrison 6).The Berlin Wall represented the difference between the Eastern part of Europe that embraced communist ideals and the Western part of Europe where capitalism was embraced. The Berlin Wall also revealed that Germans were divided along political ideology lines. The idea of constructing the Berlin Wall was challenged by many world leaders. President John F. Kennedy, the United States president, challenged the idea, albeit indirectly. John F. Kennedy paid a visit to Berlin two years after the wall was constructed. President John F. Kennedys visit to Berlin was meant to give hope to Germans who were against Communism. Germans who were against Communism viewed the United States as their last hope in eradicating Communism from Germany and challenging the Soviet oppression. In his speech at the Rudolph Wilde Platz in Berlin, President John F. Kennedy was emphatic on the importance of freedom and truth: these were things that the people had been denied with the building of the Berlin wall (Kennedy). Therefore, the wall was a bad idea because it exemplified the differences and tensions between the Eastern Communists and the Western capitalists, a show of division between the German people.
The construction of the Berlin Wall restricted movement of citizens of Berlin. Before its construction, Berlin residents were free to travel within the city. Citizens could work, shop, or live in either East or West Berlin. Train services carried people around the city with no difficulty. After the construction of the wall, movement between East and West Berlin was curtailed. Check points were introduced in Berlin to monitor the movement of Germans in Berlin. The checkpoints were Helmstedt, Dreilinden, and Friedrichstrasse in central Berlin (Harrison 4). It meant that families, lovers, and friends could not freely interact with each other. With the restriction of movement between East and West Germany, it made it impossible for families and friends to assemble. Germans needed visas to travel to either East or West Germany. To make matters worse, soldiers screened people thoroughly before permitting them to enter or leave East Germany as if the people were criminals. Most citizens in East Germany believed that the wall was built specifically to avoid them from defecting to West Germany. Restriction in movements led to many attempts by residents of East Germany to run away to West Germany, although most of these attempts were unsuccessful. Separation of families, due to the construction of the wall, led to unimaginable suffering to members of these families. This desperation motivated people to escape. Such suffering could have been avoided if the wall had not been constructed.
Additionally, the Berlin Wall was interference in the development of East Germany. The flow of better ideas from the West to East Germany was curtailed by the Berlin Wall. Adoption of communism in East Germany compelled many professors and students to migrate to West Germany. Although the wall reduced the loss of professionals from East Germany, the industrial growth in the East was immobile due to lower technological advancements when compared to West Germany (Ross 28). Even today, states in the former West are richer than states in the East. Western states have a high level of wealth that is more than double that of states in the former East. Unemployment is now more widespread in the East than the West. If Germany recovered from World War II as a united country, such inconsistencies would not have occurred.
Furthermore, construction of the Berlin Wall led to the loss of civil identity in the city of Berlin. There was a construction of separated suburbs and closing of links between the two parts of the city (Harrison 5). Berlin became two cities with similar features. There were main operas, universities, and zoos in both areas of the city since both governments wanted to develop an independent city with all services available (Berdahl 59). The role of Berlin as an economic, social, and political capital of Germany diminished, and cities with smaller populations such as Frankfurt flourished. It was after the fall of the Berlin Wall that once again Berlin became the capital of a united Germany.
Other than the Berlin Wall acting as a divisive tool that separated the two sides of Germany, the Berlin wall also acted as a propaganda tool for both East and West Germany. East Germany explained how it was using the wall to protect its citizens from fascism and described the use of the wall as protection against agents of capitalism (Berdahl 147). They even claimed that American spies were using Berlin to spy on communist countries. They legitimized the wall and showed it as their last option against Western aggression. On the other side, West Germany used the wall to portray oppression of Germans and demonstrated the superiority of capitalism since West German was wealthier than East Germans (Ahonen 44). The wall was used by Western countries as an example of how communist governments oppressed their citizens. The wall became a dynamic tool in a battle of intense publicity campaigns, which aimed to build legitimacy and mutual identity at home as well as to damage East Germany (Ahonen 40). West Germanys media and political elite perpetuated a narrative that West Germany was the genuine successor to the German Empire because of its democratic government in contrast with the dictatorial government of East Germany. Had the Berlin Wall not been built, the negative talk that existed during that time would not have occurred. The absence of the Berlin Wall would have decreased the misery of Berlin citizens because the government would have focused their energies on improving the socioeconomic welfare of its citizens instead of spending their time on political matters.
The construction of the Berlin Wall led to cultural inconsistencies between the East and West German citizens. While East Germans who grew under a communist regime showed a strong united approach to issues, an impulse to heed to authority, but had a lack of ambition; the West Germans who grew in a capitalistic environment were more individualistic and were more likely to take risks (Major 113). Based on the fact that communism was in existence in Eastern Germany for forty-five-years, it destroyed the common culture among the German people. In West Germany, most people vote for a particular political party while East Germans remain undecided between several political parties (Kempe 82). Due to lack of exposure during the communist period, racism is more prevalent in the East of Germany in the West of Germany. When the wall was constructed, East Germanys citizens, especially the young adults, were angry that popular Western culture became inaccessible. These continuing effects are enough to show why the Berlin Wall was one of the cruelest things that ever happened in the history of Germany and brought more misery than advantages.
Moreover, the building of the Berlin Wall led to increased tensions between communist states and capitalist states. The climax of several events including the Berlin blockade, the airlift, and the Berlin Wall brought the world to the edge of nuclear warfare since these crises led to the formation of military co-operations (Harrison 4). The capitalist powers formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) while the Communist bloc countries formed the Warsaw Pact. The above-mentioned organizations defended their member countries in case of an attack by a rival nation (Kempe 93). The formation of military alliances made international diplomacy tense and unstable. Political scientists have asserted that the Berlin Wall heightened tensions between the United States President, John F. Kennedy and the Soviet President, Nikita Khrushchev (Ross 27). The speech by President Ronald Reagan at Brandenburg Gate demanded the Soviet Union demolish the Berlin Wall revealing that the United States was more powerful that the Soviet Union (Reagan 65). The climax of tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union manifested in the Berlin Crisis of 1961 when the Soviet Union ordered Western powers to withdraw all their...
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