08 Nov, 2014
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The 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall is being celebrated on 9 November 2014. The fall of the Berlin Wall, which started on 9 November 1989, is one of the most significant events in modern times. The wall was used to separate West Berlin from the portion of Berlin under the possession of East Germany. A series of programmes are being organised to mark this occasion.
Who built the Berlin Wall?
The erstwhile East Germany was also known as the socialist Germany or the German Democratic Republic (GDR). The construction of this wall started in 1961 and it existed for around 28 years before its dismantling was started in 1989.
Why was the Berlin Wall built?
The Berlin Wall was constructed primarily to protect the population of East Germany from fleeing to the affluent West Germany. It is believed that around 3.5 million East Germans fled their country for better opportunities and standard of living.
Events that resulted in the need to construct the Berlin Wall
East Germany came into existence on 7 October 1949 following a long series of post World War II conflicts, controversies and events that separated Germany into two parts. East Germany was supported by the Eastern Block, primarily the Soviet Union while West Germany was supported by western powers such as United States, Britain, France and other countries. West Germany (also known as the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG) took the capitalist path of economy and governance while East Germany adopted the socialist or the Russian model of development.
West Germany progressed by leaps and bounds and in just 20 years provided incredible standard of living to its populace. On the other hand East Germans toiled hard to sustain a comparable living standard in difficult economic conditions. This led to an almost exodus of East Germans to West Germany. These East Germans generally entered through the Western occupied zones and the so-called inner German border between the two countries. The inner German border was closed in 1952. Slowly much of these slip-routes were closed by East Germany, mainly on advice of the Soviet leaders. However, the border between the Western and Eastern sectors of Berlin remained open and this became the main escape route for East Germans to move into the rich West Germany.
On 11 December 1957, East Germany introduced a new passport law that reduced the overall number of refugees leaving Eastern Germany. This move, however, put even more pressure on the West Berlin route for the East Germans to slip into West Germany. After East Germany’s new railway system was completed in 1961, it became more practical for closing the West Berlin route as doing so earlier would have cut off much of the railway traffic in East Germany.
On 12 August 1961 the order to close the Berlin border and erect a wall across East and West portions of Berlin was signed by East German leaders. By the morning of 13 August the border with West Berlin was closed. Slowly the infamous Berlin Wall was constructed which meant that the vast majority of East Germans could no longer travel or immigrate to West Germany. Berlin soon went from being the easiest place to make an unauthorized crossing between East and West Germany to being the most difficult.
The wall was often called the “Wall of Shame” or the “Iron Curtain” which restricted the freedom of movement.
The Fall of the Berlin Wall
After several weeks of civil unrest, the East German government announced on 9 November 1989 that all GDR citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin. Crowds of East Germans crossed and climbed onto the wall, joined by West Germans on the other side in a celebratory atmosphere. The date on which the Wall fell is considered to have been 9 November 1989, but the Wall in its entirety was not torn down immediately.
The fall of the Wall marked the first critical step towards German reunification, which formally concluded a mere 339 days later on 3 October 1990 with the dissolution of East Germany and the official reunification of the German state along the democratic lines of the West German government.
Photo Courtesy : The Telegraph (For the above photo of Berlin Wall)