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The History of the Berlin Wall: Its Rise, Fall and Symbolism

Gaynor Borade Apr 28, 2019
Germany stayed in the spotlight before, during and after World War II. Not only was the nation the seat of aggressive military operations, it was also the first target of the Cold War between the Communist and Capitalist blocs.
1943: The allies managed to contain Germany's aggressiveness. With the Russian tip-over and consistent defeat of the German military, entering and capturing the capital Berlin had become easier. While the Americans stormed in from the West, the Russians swept the East.
In 1945, Adolf Hitler had to succumb to the powerful intervention of the two reigning super powers and his eventual suicide and the submission of the Japanese in the East announced the end of the war.
The entry into Berlin by the two super-powers and the installation of their military resulted in a Cold War. The need to establish supremacy led to mad race to spread capitalism or communism across the continents. Berlin was the first victim.

What Kept Them Separated

The Berlin Wall was more than 140 kilometers long. The area between the fences were razed and the section came to be known as The Death Strip. It was covered with gravel, reinforced concrete, and a smooth piping to make it difficult to scale. There were mesh fences, anti-vehicle trenches and more than 116 watchtowers.
There were border crossings designed, for Berliners, foreigners and military personnel. Vehicle and pedestrian passes were also within the lay-out. There were four autobahns and access to West Berlin via four railway routes and ferries.


The Berlin Wall or Berliner Mauer was exactly what the name suggests. It was a physical barricade of sorts, separating the German Democratic Republic in the West from the Communist presence in the East. This demarcation was also referred to as the 'Iron Curtain'.
However, the implication of this stronghold went beyond Germany. It segregated western and eastern Europe and in time took the shape of power blocs extending over the continents. The wall symbolized the power crazy race for supremacy between capitalist USA and Communist Russia.
1961: The Berlin Wall separated East and West Germany ever since its construction on August 13, 1961.There were barbed wire fences along the 97 miles. The barrier was built with concrete elements and minefields were a part of the design.
During this period, the venue was at the receiving end of speculation and ridicule, much to the exhausted spirit of the Germans. People were killed while attempting to cross the Wall to meet or live with relatives. Passports were required to cross over officially, even for work daily, which of course was rare. 'Shoot at sight' orders were common.
West Germany was developed into a capitalist nation with a democratic government. On the other hand, East Germany, was established as authoritarian. They followed the communist planned economy. East Germans could not travel to West Germany.
Families were split, people lost their jobs in a suddenly hostile land. However, a common observation was that West Germany's economy and standard of living improved tremendously and there was a general unrest among the East Germans.

The Final Countdown

1989: Finally, on November 9, the wall did come down as a result of the intervention of Soviet leader Gorbachev. The crowds on either side were in a frenzy.
The celebratory atmosphere and joy was a feast for the media and families reunited. The euphoric environment called for souvenir hunters, who spared not a tiny chip of concrete or the industrial equipment that was used for the demolition.
1990: German reunification, which was denied due to the Berlin Wall after World War II, was also the outcome of the demolition of the same structure, on October 3, 1990.