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In 1961, a wall appeared in Berlin. It was built by the German Democratic Republic, controlled by the communist authorities and the Soviet Union. The purpose of the appearance of such a structure was the fence of the eastern part of Berlin. So the socialist country was further removed from the Western free world.
Over time, the Berlin Wall became a real symbol of the Iron Curtain, the border between the communist bloc of countries and the rest of the world. She stood for almost thirty years.
When East Germany gave its citizens the opportunity to visit the Western part of the country, there was no point in the wall. But its demolition was started a few months later, which marked the beginning of the unification of the divided country.
Berlin Wall myths
The Berlin Wall is part of the history of not only Germany, but the whole world. Its appearance is directly related to the Second World War, which divided the country. And although today the Wall, as such, no longer exists, some of its parts stand in Berlin, recalling the past. It becomes clear that until recently Germany was different, they were ready to kill their own compatriots who were trying to move to the West. The Berlin Wall is a real monument of history, surrounded by its own legends and myths.
Even before the appearance of the Berlin Wall, Berliners could not move freely around the city. Before the wall appeared, Berliners moved freely from the west to the east and back. People were shopping, working, going to the movies - ordinary life flowed. In Berlin there were underground metro lines going from one district of Berlin to another, you could walk freely around the city. The invisible border ran along streets and houses, canals. Officially, 81 street checkpoints and metro crossings worked. But the townspeople also used hundreds of illegal routes. Every day tens of thousands of people moved from one part of the city to another. But then a wall appeared, which was designed to keep specialists from leaking to a more prosperous country. As a result of an acute political crisis, the GDR authorities decided to close the border. There are only three checkpoints left: Alpha, Bravo and Charlie. Gradually their number increased to 12. But only diplomats and officials could pass through them. Travelers required special permission, which was very difficult to obtain.
The Berlin Wall was one and solid. People think the Berlin Wall was a long, continuous structure. In fact, there were two walls, they ran parallel to each other, and there were about 150 meters between them. In this space, known as the "death strip", there were watchtowers, barbed wire stretched out, searchlights were shining, dogs were on duty, "hedgehogs" stood against vehicles. The armed guards were ordered to shoot anyone who tried to cross the lane. In total, the wall stretched for 155 kilometers, 43 of which fell on the separation of East and West Berlin. True, this did not deter hundreds of people from escaping.
The Berlin Wall was impossible to cross. Despite the thoroughness of the structure, about five thousand people managed to cross the border. Exotic methods were sometimes chosen for this. So, 28 people were able to leave for West Berlin through a hand-made tunnel 145 meters long. People used hiding places in cars, flew on hang gliders and balloons, climbed on a rope thrown between houses, swam along rivers and canals. There was even an attempt to break through the wall with a bulldozer. And the luckiest ones just crossed the border. However, not all attempts ended in success. From 100 to 200 people were killed by the authorities while trying to cross the border, and hundreds went to jail.
The wall has always been called Berlin. Today it is precisely this name that is considered generally accepted. The East German government called the wall the "Antifaschistisher Schultzwall" (anti-fascist defensive wall). In this country, fellow citizens were constantly being told that fascists had settled in the western, "bad" part of the country. In fact, it limited the freedom of the citizens of the GDR themselves. Propaganda did its job, denigrating fellow Germans. True, the citizens of the GDR soon realized against whom the wall was actually set. The wall that appeared in August 1961 surprised the capitalist government of the FRG. For two weeks during the construction of the anti-fascist defensive wall, the leader of East Germany, Walter Ulbricht, instilled in his people that they were "sealing the cracks in houses and holes" where the worst enemies of the German people could get through. The authorities suggested that the wall was designed to protect the people from danger, although the purpose was to keep them from escaping to the civilized world. And the FRG authorities gave the wall their nickname. The West Berlin Senate used the phrase of politician Willy Brandt, who called the object "The Wall of Shame". This is the term that appeared at the dead ends that appeared from behind the wall, and at the memorial to victims of unsuccessful escapes. But in the early 1970s, the term was withdrawn from official use in the West. It was believed that this prevents the rapprochement of the two German states.
The Berlin Wall appeared at the insistence of the Soviet authorities, not the Germans. It is generally accepted that the Soviet Union firmly controlled the entire socialist bloc. Therefore, the initiative to build the wall came from Moscow. In fact, such a judgment is far from the truth. The truth is that in 1952 the Soviet Union closed the border between East and West Germany. And Berlin at that time was under the joint control of France, USSR, USA and Great Britain. The city remained outside this process. The decision to build the wall was made by Walter Ulbricht, the leader of the GDR. He saw that East Germans were increasingly trying to escape to the West through the non-communist-controlled part of Berlin. Ulbricht turned to the Soviet leaders for advice, but they did not like the idea. They believed that such a radical closure of the border in Berlin would not only be technically impossible, but also embitter citizens. And only 8 years later, the Kremlin agreed to the construction of the wall. Khrushchev gave Ulbricht the opportunity to begin preparations. The German authorities created top-secret groups and began stockpiling cement pillars and barbed wire. A plan was secretly developed to block the metro, streets and railways. When the construction of the wall began, more than a thousand people were leaving East Germany every day. Ulbricht was determined to stop them. On the night of August 12-13, 1961, East German soldiers fenced off 30 miles with wire, and the next day, the pouring of the concrete foundation began.
The Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989. Perestroika in the Soviet Union affected the countries of the socialist camp. In May 1989, Hungary destroyed the fortifications on the border with Austria. The inhabitants of the GDR began to flee en masse to the west through their neighbor in the socialist camp. A political crisis erupted in the country. In October, the leadership of the SED resigned, and on November 4, a mass rally was held in Berlin demanding freedom. On November 9, 1989, the chairman of the GDR government, Gunther Schabowski, announced the new rules for entering and leaving the country. Citizens could now obtain visas to travel to Germany. This news made Berliners happy and hundreds of thousands of people rushed to the border, overcoming the resistance of the security forces. A national holiday began. The wall itself was then only slightly damaged. East Germans simply climbed over it en masse. Only a few days later, people began to demolish the wall, and most of its blocks - generally in weeks. Active demolition began in October 1990, after the official unification of Germany. But even this took several months. The wall was almost completely removed only by 1992, retaining some of its parts as a reminder of the past. And it took a date to mark the fall of the Berlin Wall. So November 9, 1989 became the day of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The main culprit behind the fall of the Berlin Wall was President Reagan. The famous Reagan phrase is well-known: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." She gave birth to the image of the American president as the main initiator of the fall of the wall. But this is the wrong approach. The famous phrase was said in June 1987, two years before the historical events. And the General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev himself has already launched perestroika, which eventually tore down the wall. In 1989, the GDR was rocked by massive popular disturbances. Thousands of people fled, seeking refuge at the embassies of Western countries. East German leaders have appealed to Gorbachev, calling for the abandonment of former rigid rules for issuing visas to leave the country. Such permission was rarely given to people. As a result of the protests, the authorities decided to simplify the regime of leaving the country without special requirements. The changes were supposed to be announced at a press conference by Communist Party spokesman Gunter Schabowski. But he did not prepare well for the performance. When asked about the time the new law came into force, he replied: "Immediately, without delay." This was a signal for the people, who seemed to be allowed to leave the country without hindrance. In fact, it was about the possibility of obtaining visas.
The fall of Berlin became a celebration for all Germans. It is generally accepted that the fall of the Berlin Wall became a national holiday for all Germans. And the whole democratic world was delighted with this event. In fact, for many Germans, especially those in the East, unification proved to be difficult. Mass unemployment arose in the country, resentment and mistrust flourished, and the combination of Western and Eastern cultures became a big problem. Even today, half of West Germans believe they have benefited from the historic reunification. In the east of the country, this figure was 15%. But the Germans remember November 9 for another reason. On this day in 1938, the Nazis began to attack synagogues and Jewish businesses. That pogrom was called the Night of Broken Glass Windows or Kristallnacht. In the history of Germany, these events have remained an unpleasant and painful spot; I do not want to celebrate anything on this day. Until the 2010s, Germany did not celebrate the fall of the wall. Even after the popular politician Wolfgang Thierse urged his colleagues to muster up their courage and remember what is in modern German history and positive moments, the events of 1989 were not celebrated. Only in honor of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 2014, mass festivities were organized. To the sounds of "Ode to Joy", accompanied by the speech of Chancellor Angela Merkel, more than 8 thousand air lanterns rose into the sky. Both Mikhail Gorbachev and former Polish President Lech Walesa attended the celebration.
Berlin was the only city divided by a wall after World War II. Most people believe that only Berlin is in the strange position of a divided city. In fact, Austria found itself in a similar situation, which was conquered by the Allies. The reason for the disagreement was that the West viewed this country as a victim of Nazi aggression. Nevertheless, Austria always had a very close relationship with Germany, so that the Allies carefully controlled the situation there. Four zones were created, which were managed by France, the USA, Great Britain and the USSR. Vienna, like Berlin, was also divided into sections. But in this case, it was about five districts. Four were controlled by the Allies, and the fifth by the Allied Control Commission. The division existed from 1945 to 1955, when Austria gained full independence. But the division of Berlin lasted 35 years longer. And in Germany, the allies developed much more tense relations. There was no wall in Vienna, as in Berlin, but that one was built against the wishes of the USSR. It was East German officials who decided to insulate themselves from their neighbor.
The fall of the Berlin Wall has made Western leaders happy. Today it seems to us that the West is undoubtedly delighted with the fall of the wall and the rebirth of a united Germany. Wasn't Ronald Reagan himself calling for the demolition of this shaft? That's just a flawed approach. It turns out that both French President Francois Mitterrand and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher did not want the reunification of Germany and the events of November 9, 1989. The British were generally so unhappy that they directly declared to Gorbachev their unwillingness to unite Germany. This move could undermine the stability of international relations and threaten world stability. Mitterrand was upset about the fall of the wall, as he was afraid of the spread of Nazi ideals throughout Europe. We think such fears are far-fetched, but this is the opinion of Germany's closest neighbors. In the last century, they were twice attacked by the powerful Germans. Both leaders understood that a united Germany would quickly rise from the ashes and gain dominance on the continent. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl tried to calm his colleagues and their fears. It's just that Europe still could not move away from the consequences of the Second World War. And Germany was also to become the largest economy in Europe, the country with the largest population and a recent history of dictatorship. Western leaders feared a powerful and influential competitor.
Western leaders reacted negatively to the construction of the Berlin Wall. The Berlin Wall has become a symbol of undemocraticism. It seems that its construction should have outraged the entire advanced community. But this is a delusion. The division of Berlin created problems for both the Soviets and Western leaders. Today there are historians who see involvement in the construction of the wall and US President John F. Kennedy. In 1961, no Western leader mentioned West or East Berlin in his public speeches. And suddenly John F. Kennedy told the whole world that the United States would defend its obligations to the residents of the western part of the city. After such an act, Nikita Khrushchev clearly understood that the United States was interested in part of Berlin belonging to the allies. Kennedy also understood that with the possibility of an unhindered presence in Berlin for the Americans, it was technically easy to observe what was happening in the eastern, Soviet, part of the city. And the wall was not a hindrance to this. In the very first days after the start of the construction of the country, the American President rested in Giannis Port and did not cause any concern about what was happening. But other Western leaders called for the wall to be removed. Back in Washington, Kennedy declared that the US simply had no choice. Tanks could have been sent to destroy the wall, but the Germans would have built a new one. So the US did nothing to keep East Germans free.
The Berlin Wall was built overnight. The story that the massive wall was built overnight amazes gullible tourists. However, the real terms turned out to be more impressive. During that very first night, only the wire fence was deployed, but at a distance of 87 miles. And the construction of the wall was a gradual process. The first fence appeared in 1961, and the second only in 1962, at a distance of 100 meters. This is how a death strip appeared, filled with sand and obstacles. Over the next three years, the first fence was moved, and the second was strengthened. In 1965, the wall became actually concrete. The reason for such a slow erection of the shaft was the reluctant desire of the USSR to take this step. The wall was finally completed by 1975.It turned into a complex engineering structure called "Grenzmauer 75". Concrete blocks with a height of 3.6 meters could be extended upwards if necessary. The Germans built watchtowers, brightly illuminated the territory, and erected complex barriers. There were patrols inside the strip, and the sand zone was designed to fix the traces of intruders. By the late 1980s, it was planned to install video cameras and motion detectors. The complex was virtually impenetrable. So the wall, the remains of which we see today, is not original. This is the fourth generation of the protective barrier built by the Germans.
The Berlin country hit the residents of East Berlin. Also suffered from its construction in West Berlin. Up to 60 thousand people went there every day to work. With the advent of the wall of these in-demand specialists, the western part of the city was lost, so that it suffered economically.
The Berlin Wall was built only to restrict the freedoms of East Germans. Back in the 1950s, Western countries launched a real campaign of sabotage in East Germany. The goal was to break the economy and undermine the country's political system. In the US, activists and youth were trained and funded. Even terrorists acted to make the communists look bad. Western agents committed explosions, damaged equipment and machines, poisoned cows, put poisons in food, and attacked activists. The American Woodrow Wilson International Center itself admitted in its report that the open border in Berlin exposes the GDR to massive espionage and sabotage. The construction of the wall provided security for the state. Until that moment, all the calls of the authorities of the GDR and the USSR to their allies to moderate such activities remained unheard.
The wall was a ground barrier. An invisible border was also laid underground. The subway has been operating in Berlin for a long time. But after the ban on crossing the border, trains were able to go only within their own side. True, there were three branches that went along the western part, but also passed through the eastern one. The stations on the other side were guarded, and trains were forbidden to stop at them. The stops were called "ghostly". And the Friedrichstasse station in East Berlin was used as an interchange for passengers from the western part of the city. But it was only possible to get out of it with a special permission. When the wall fell, people were surprised to find that the ghost stations have remained virtually unchanged since 1961, retaining both their signs and their announcements.