When the citizens of Berlin went to sleep on August 12, 1961, they were unaware of just how their world was going to change when the sun rose on August 13. A city divided by political ideologies was about to be physically divided by a wall that would divide the world.
The division that impacted Berlin began at the end of World War II. Once Hitler was removed from power and the war was officially over, Germany was divided among the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union. Even though the city of Berlin was firmly in the section under the control of the Soviet Union, it was divided similarly among the four countries.
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Over time, animosity grew between the Soviet Union and the three other countries. The Soviet Union wanted Berlin to be ruled the same way as the other places under Soviet rule while France, the United States, and the United Kingdom felt democracy was the way to go. East Berlin was the part of the city under communist rule and it quickly deteriorated in comparison to the western portion of the city.
In 1948, conditions in East Berlin were so bad that an aid attempt was made. The three democratic nations that shared Berlin, along with other democratic nations of the world, put together an aid package that included food, clothing, and other supplies deemed necessary. The operation known as the Berlin Airlift was not successful. The failed attempt to assist East Berlin caused the Soviet Union to isolate their portion of the city even further. Over the next 12 years, tension and animosity over Berlin between the Soviet Union and the rest of the world grew, culminating in the construction of the Berlin Wall.
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Shortly after midnight, on August 13, on the order of Nikita Khrushchev, the first pieces of construction material that would become the Berlin Wall were put into place. Over 100 miles of barbed wire ran along the streets of what would become the dividing line between the East and West. By the time the sun rose on Berlin on August 13, East Berlin was completely sealed off from the rest of the city. Over time, a solid wall built of concrete stood six feet high and stretched for 96 miles. Standing on top of the wall to discourage defection were guards from the Soviet Union that were armed with automatic weapons.
The Berlin Wall not only divided a city but families. The rapidness of how the Soviet Union divided Berlin made it virtually impossible for families in different parts of the city to unite before the city was sealed off. The Berlin Wall rapidly became a symbol of oppression and was targeted by leaders of democratic countries as the world was attempting to triumph over communism. One of the more famous speeches during the Berlin Wall Era came at the hands of President Kennedy in 1963.
Defections from East Berlin to the west were an almost everyday occurrence. Defection became such a problem for the Soviet Union that they were forced to increase the height of the wall and to publically execute those who attempted to flee but were captured.
The Soviet Union was starting to crumble in the 80s. As the Soviet Union weakened, the United States strengthened. This strength helped the people of East Berlin begin to realize that freedom would soon be within their grasp.
Finally, the Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989.
Dismantling of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Photograph by Alexandra Avakian. pic.twitter.com/wrhwYNYkU1
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[Image Via YouTube]