When discussing the history of the Berlin Wall, the first question that often arises is whether it surrounded East Berlin or West Berlin. The Berlin Wall was a physical barrier that divided the city of Berlin from 1961 to 1989. Let’s explore the details of its construction, purpose, and impact on the two parts of the city.
The Purpose of the Berlin Wall
The construction of the Berlin Wall was initiated by the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) to prevent the mass exodus of its citizens to West Germany and West Berlin. The wall aimed to separate the capitalist influences in West Berlin from the socialist influences in East Berlin and prevent the West from “infiltrating” East Germany.
The Division of Berlin
Prior to the construction of the Berlin Wall, East and West Berlin were parts of the same city. However, after World War II, Germany was divided into four zones controlled by the Allied forces: the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and France. Berlin, located in Soviet-controlled East Germany, was also divided into four sectors.
The Eastern Sector (East Berlin)
The Eastern Sector, or East Berlin, was under the control of the Soviet Union. It became the capital of East Germany and was aligned with socialism. Many government institutions, such as the Parliament building (Volkskammer) and the Palace of the Republic (Palast der Republik), were located in East Berlin.
The Western Sectors (West Berlin)
The Western Sectors of Berlin, or West Berlin, were controlled by the United States, Great Britain, and France. West Berlin became a democratic stronghold and a symbol of freedom during the Cold War. Despite being geographically within East Germany, it was politically aligned with the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany).
The Construction of the Berlin Wall
The construction of the Berlin Wall began overnight on August 13, 1961. It consisted of concrete walls, barbed wire fences, and watchtowers, stretching a total length of approximately 155 kilometers (96 miles) across the city of Berlin.
The Inner and Outer Berlin Walls
The Berlin Wall consisted of two main sections: the inner wall and the outer wall. The inner wall was the first line of defense and included a “death strip” in between. The outer wall provided additional security and was equipped with a wide area for patrol purposes.
Despite the wall’s purpose of separation, several checkpoints were established to allow limited crossing between East and West Berlin. The most famous checkpoint, Checkpoint Charlie, became a symbol of the Cold War tensions.
The Fall of the Berlin Wall
Following years of protest and political changes in East Germany, the Berlin Wall finally fell on November 9, 1989. The reunification of Germany commenced soon after, marking the end of the Cold War era.
The Berlin Wall was constructed by East Germany to separate East Berlin, under Soviet control, from West Berlin, which aligned with the democratic West. Its purpose was to prevent mass emigration and maintain the socialist influence in East Germany. Today, the remnants of the Berlin Wall serve as a reminder of the city’s divided past and the triumph of unity.