The Berlin Wall separated the people of East Berlin from the people in West Berlin. It separated families, kept people from their jobs, and caused people to die. It was erected in an effort to save East Berlin's economy, but in the end it did so much more. The fleeing of residents of East Berlin to West Berlin affected the Soviet Union and East Berlin in two ways.
The first of which was economic. By 1958, 15% of the population of East Berlin had fled to West Berlin. East Berlin's economy provided much for the Soviets and among these 15% were doctors, lawyers, businessmen, and other essential figures for the East Berlin economy. The birth rate in East Berlin was higher than the death rate, but still 250, 000 people were leaving every year.
In 1961 alone, 5, 000 doctors, 20, 000 engineers and technicians, and 17, 000 teachers left East Berlin. All together in the years from 1954 through 1960, 4, 600 doctors, 15, 885 teachers, 738 university teachers, 15, 536 engineers and technicians moved from East Berlin to West Berlin. Besides these professionals, 11, 705 students with initial intentions of working in East Berlin left to work in West Berlin after getting their free education from East Berlin. This hit East Berlin very hard, for it needed these potential workers to rebuild the country after the destruction caused by World War II.
Walter Ulbricht, the leader of the East German communist party and president of the Privy Council, was greatly distressed by the fleeing of East Berlin's citizens, for it hurt his 7 year plan to bring East Berlins economy to the same level as West Berlin's. Walter Ulbricht ordered regular police spot checks of anyone carrying a suitcase, but this barely had any impact on the number of East Berlin citizens fleeing. Citizens making many trips with very little baggage at once easily avoided them. Ulbricht tried very hard to convince Soviet Union to take over West Berlin, but the Soviet Union wanted to keep peace with westerners.
Finally, the Soviet leader, Stalin, backed Ulbricht and declared that West Berlin must be turned into a "free city" in six months. The Western powers did not comply with these demands and Stalin, after six months, did nothing in retaliation for being ignored. During the six months that Stalin spoke of, the citizens of East Berlin feared their time was running short to flee to West Berlin, so in those six months, more people fled than had previously been fleeing. Walter Ulbricht's seven-year economy plan forced farmers to share their land, which upset farmers and caused them to flee to West Berlin. Also, Ulbricht put so much pressure on factory workers to increase industrial output, that many factory workers fled to West Berlin to escape it.
This obviously upset Ulbricht and he was able to convince the Soviet Union that the only way to stop the mass fleeing of East Berlin's citizens was to use force. Ulbricht had earlier promised " There are people in West Germany who want us to mobilize the construction workers of the GDR or build a wall. I am not aware of any such plans. No one has the intention of constructing a wall." Ulbricht ultimately changed his mind. From July 17 until August 2, 1945, a conference was held by the victorious powers that had defeated Germany. Truman, Churchill and Stalin met at Cecilienhof castle in Potsdam near Berlin.
The Potsdam agreement was established, which determined the shape of post war Europe. The Berlin wall went up in the night of August 13, 1961, while most people were sleeping. By the evening of the following morning most of the first phase of the construction of the wall was completed and the border between West Berlin and East Berlin was closed. The original elements and large square blocks were first used on August 15, 1961.
It was completely up within a month. On the West Berlin side of the wall, there were 90 checkpoints on the 45-kilometer border, which is 2 checkpoints every kilometer. On the East side of the wall, there were 78 checkpoints. A second build was added in addition to the original build to prevent escaping in June 1962. These first two generations were eventually replaced by a third generation in 1965, which itself was replaced by a fourth generation, named Stutzwandelement UL, in 1975, which lasted until the wall was torn down permanently. A single segment of the fourth generation wall was 11.
81 feet high, 3. 937 feet wide, weighed 2, 750 kilograms, and sold for 359 East German marks per segment. There were about 45, 000 of these segments in the Berlin wall and ended up costing 16 million East German marks. (Note: at the time a loaf of bread was 1. 04 marks.
) From July 17 until August 2, 1945, a conference was held by the victorious powers that had defeated Germany. Truman, Churchill and Stalin met at Cecilienhof castle in Potsdam near Berlin. The Potsdam agreement was established, which determined the shape of post war Europe. On the morning of June 17, 1953, many citizens awoke to radio news that workers in East Berlin were rioting in the streets. It soon escalated and just before noon, they were marching through the Brandenburg Gate with the intension to consolidate with workers in West Berlin. However, it all came to a quick end when Russian tanks drew up and fired into the unarmed crowd.
American troops and British troops made a show of force with tanks and troops, but they did not intervene. Decades passed, however, and the fight for freedom did not weaken. Once in a while, someone tried to get through to the west. Only a few made it, and in all, 70 people lost their lives trying to get to the other side. In the mid 1980's there was a change in east-west relations. "The freeze of the cold war started to thaw." - Ursula Dixon, a citizen who experienced the fall of the Berlin wall first hand.
Mikhail Gorbachev became the new leader in the Soviet Union, and voiced his opinion about the need for reconstruction of his own country and the world in general. "It is not easy to change the approaches on which East-West relations have been built for fifty years. But the new is knocking on every door and window." -Gorbachev. On October 8, 1989, a group of pacifists held a candle light vigil in a church in the city of Leipzig. Thousands took to the streets shouting, "No more violence!" and "Join us, Join us!" More and more people were joining in as the sounds echoed through every street. By October 16, the number of protesters had reached millions.
"Loudspeakers could be heard throughout the city," says Dixon. The protesters words of opposition were as follows: "We have worked our fingers to the bone for this country, and we are not standing by to see it all fall into ruins. The truth has come to light. A nation that cannot keep their young at home has no future. We, the people, Demand: 1.
) The right to free access of information. 2. ) We demand the right to open political discussions. 3. ) We demand the freedom of thoughts and creativity. 4.
) We demand the right to maintain a plural ideology. 5. ) We demand the right to dissent. 6. ) We demand the right to travel freely. 7.
) We demand the right to exert influence over government authority. 8. ) We demand the right to re-examine our beliefs. 9. ) We, the people, demand the right of voice an opinion in the affairs of state." The government of East Germany felt compelled to give in.
A train left Prague for the west, filled with East Germans. In 1989, many East Germans were escaping to West Germany through other countries, such as Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Poland. Meanwhile, other East Germans broke out in protests for their freedom. In response to the widespread demonstrations the government of East Germany ended all restrictions on westward travel and emigration on November 9, 1989. On this day, East German television announced new travel regulations. East German citizens could now travel without restriction to the west.
The Wall was opened. It took the world by surprise. Thousands of East Berlin citizens made their way through open checkpoints. East Germans began to tear down the wall and began to flee into West Germany to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall.
West Berliners were there to welcome them and announced that citizens from the East would receive welcome money in the amount of DM 100. The main route of West Berlin, the Kurfuerstendamm had to be closed due to the endless flow from the East to the West. In the evening of November 11 th the first concrete slab was removed form the wall. On November 12 th, the Wall was opened at Potsdamer Platz. On the opening of Potsdamer Platz, the Philharmonic orchestra in West Berlin held a benefit concert for the people of the East.
They played Beethoven's Seventh Symphony opus 92. The wall was opened by December 22 nd as thousands listened to symphonies and Christmas concerts. This monstrous barrier, which had caused so much grief and pain for so many, and become nothing but a sad memory. But the most amazing wonder of it all was that it happened without violence. It happened because people wanted to live in peace and freedom. By October of 1990, East and West Germany were united as the single non-communist country of Germany.
On October 3, 1990 a memorable celebration took place for both East and West Germany. Two countries were united as one after forty years of separation. Everything had been set; the price of unification had been taken into consideration, terms had been set, treaties had been signed, and Germans were aware that costs other than money would have to be considered such as time it would take to heal old wounds. With the knowledge of this, the Germans still held out their arms to help the easterners in any way they could. The future of Germany seemed bright to many, but there were those who were already doubtful of what lay ahead for the future of their country. During a short period of time Helmut Kohl predicted that the annual price of reuniting Germany was going to cost 40 billion deutsche marks ($22.
4 billion). After taking into consideration how outdated and bankrupt East Germany was as well as other costly steps there were to be taken, the price had climbed to DM 1. 5 trillion ($1 trillion). No one had really been aware of how bad East Germany's economy had become.
Not many had known that the eastern Germans would have to wait years, even decades before they would reach the standard of living the western Germans were enjoying. Now the repugnant truth was known. Business and industry had failed to modernize because funds had been directed elsewhere by the government. Production of manufactured goods had dropped 50 percent in the nine years before the fall of the wall in 1989. It wasn't long before German economy finally started to improve. The Coca-Cola Company had invested over DM 800 million in the region in 1989.
McDonald's planned to achieve a similar success with one hundred new restaurants by the year 2000. Other companies from France, the Netherlands, and Austria began moving in. A renewal of small business also gave Germany a hopeful future as well. The East was changing; improvement in the economy was becoming significant.
Easterners were encouraged and believed that one day the East would catch up with the western economy. But the question was, how long would it take? The economic depression was too significant to just to disappear with a few new businesses. Change was on its way, but not quick enough for most Germans. The East had only a future of rough times and sacrifice. The west stood by and grew unhappy as they watched all their money flow into the endless reunification of Germany.
Not only were economic issues a big problem for the reunification of Germany, but satisfying peoples' demands for domestic issues were equally as challenging. Choosing the site for the capital of Germany was a heated issue that was debated across the country. The debate was centered around the question of keeping the government in Bonn, the "provisional capital," or to move back to Berlin, the former capital. The chancellor, the Bundestag, and key officials would make the move to Berlin while thousands of lesser officials would continue to govern from Bonn. Finally, in the year 2000, Berlin became the capital of Germany for good. Other issues such as abortion, which was very liberal in East Germany and demands for educational reform, were brought to the government.
In answer to the contradiction between East and West Germany, the bundestag finally passed a compromise bill, loosening the law to allow more abortions, while still keeping certain restrictions. The demands for educational reform were not as quickly answered as the demands of the easterners about abortion. Western schools, filled to capacity before reunification, were very crowded with easterners looking for better education. The country really needed money to set up new education and training programs for new teachers.
Kohl's government was able to set aside DM 7 billion to meet the most urgent needs. As the Germans had different outlooks on different issues, they had grown to feel more differently towards each other than they did when the wall first came down. The obstacles were more than economic and political issues. Over the past forty years, many differences had developed between the two countries. Many easterners were unprepared for a life in a free society. The westerners were a modern and fast-paced society, while on the other hand the easterners were decades behind the West.
Westerners were tired of the easterners who constantly whined about their trouble and did nothing to change them. They felt that if reunification were to succeed, it would be because of their western support, western ingenuity, and western money. Easterners complained that the westerners were extremely arrogant because they had so much money and would come to East Germany to purchase goods because everything is cheaper there. They felt that the westerners were possessive and viewed themselves as superior to the easterners. Eastern Germans had never dreamed that reunification would bring this many differences and division. This left them disillusioned just as freedom itself.
Living in a democracy was not as carefree as they had imagined. Still the easterners struggled, but some eastern-oriented political groups gained support. The disagreements would still stand until both sides forgot at least some of their differences. Reunification would not be complete until more Germans came together and remembered that they had once been partners in making a dream come true. Regardless of continued tension, experts predict that the German people will succeed. As proof, many easterners have adopted the western motto: work hard and gather the benefits later.
Instead of complaining, citizens are working hard and rebuilding their lives. Many westerners have found that the higher taxes have not really changed their lives. However they have taken the wait-and-see attitude, hoping that the worst of their reunification troubles are over. While progress is being made between the Germans, experts believe that corrections in economic, political and social policies could help speed up the process of reunification.
The new Germany is blessed with funds, expertise, and the drive to succeed. Reshaping and changing the lives of millions of people is not an easy task, but many Germans are willing to continue until the work is finished. Their reunification is dream is somewhat stifled, but it still survives with the hope of many Germans. Bishop Martin Kruse, former leader of the West German Protestant church, expressed a steadfast hope that is shared by millions of Germans: "What becomes of all this will be left to history and the hand of God. I am neither a prophet nor a politician, but I believe that we are growing together, not apart." It may take years, decades, or even centuries until Germany is unified as one without all the troubles that have slowed the process, but with the hope and drive in the Germans heart, it can and will be finished. Works Cited " Berlin Wall." The World Book Encyclopedia.
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