How did the Soviet Union Build the Berlin Wall?
The Berlin Wall, a symbol of division during the Cold War, was built by the Soviet Union to separate East and West Berlin. In this blog post, we will delve into how the Soviet Union constructed this infamous barrier.
1. The Background
Before we explore the construction of the Berlin Wall, it is essential to understand the context behind its erection. After World War II, Germany was divided into four occupation zones, which were controlled by the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, and France.
However, tensions between the Soviet Union and the Western Allies started to escalate, leading to the division of Berlin, the capital of Germany, into four sectors as well. The Soviet Union controlled East Berlin, while the other sectors were controlled by the Western Allies.
2. The Decision to Build
In the 1950s, East Germany faced increasing economic difficulties due to massive migration to the more prosperous West Germany. To combat this significant problem, the Soviet Union decided to build a physical barrier that would prevent East Germans from fleeing to the West.
The construction of the Berlin Wall was officially approved by the East German leadership, in consultation with Soviet authorities, on August 12, 1961.
3. The Construction Process
The construction of the Berlin Wall took place almost overnight, with military precision and utmost secrecy. It was implemented in several phases:
Phase 1: Barbed Wire Fence
On the night of August 12, 1961, East German troops and police began stringing barbed wire along the entire 155-kilometer (96-mile) length of the boundary between East and West Berlin. This initial phase aimed to mark the border and prevent unauthorized crossings.
Phase 2: Concrete Wall
Following the installation of the barbed wire fence, a sturdier concrete wall was constructed. 3.6-meter (12-foot) high and over 150 kilometers (93 miles) long, the wall was reinforced with concrete slabs, steel mesh, and watchtowers to further impede escape attempts.
Phase 3: Enhancements
Over time, the Berlin Wall underwent continuous enhancements to deter potential escapees. These included the addition of guard towers, anti-vehicle trenches, and more complex security measures.
4. The Impact
The construction of the Berlin Wall had a profound impact on the people and the city itself:
- Divided Families: The wall separated families and friends, who were now unable to see each other without government permission.
- Loss of Freedom: The wall restricted the movement of East Berliners and prevented them from accessing better opportunities and a higher standard of living in the West.
- Escaping Attempts: Many daring individuals tried to escape, often resorting to risky methods such as digging tunnels or using homemade hot air balloons.
5. The Fall of the Wall
After nearly three decades of separation, the Berlin Wall finally fell on November 9, 1989. This event marked the reunification of East and West Berlin, ending a significant chapter in German history.
The fall of the Berlin Wall was a result of widespread protests, political changes, and the eventual collapse of the Eastern Bloc.
Tip: Further Reading
If you want to learn more about the Berlin Wall and its historical significance, I recommend exploring books such as “The Berlin Wall: A World Divided, 1961-1989” by Frederick Taylor and “Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-1956” by Anne Applebaum.
Understanding how the Soviet Union built the Berlin Wall gives us insights into the historical and political climate of the time. The wall remains a poignant reminder of the consequences of division and serves as a symbol of hope for a world without barriers.
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