Research Paper on The Berlin Wall

Date:  2021-04-21 15:47:42
7 pages  (1895 words)
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University of California, Santa Barbara
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After World War II, Germany was divided into four occupation zones managed by the Allies powers; the United Kingdom, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States. Although Berlin lay in the Soviet Union occupation zone, as the capital, it was also divided into four occupation zones, each of which was managed by the allies (Harrison 1). France, UK, and the US merged their occupational zones to become West Berlin while Soviet's occupation zone became East Berlin, and when the border between East and West Germany was closed in 1952, Berlin remained the only place where people could easily cross the border (Harrison 1). Consequently, West Berlin was an island of democracy and capitalism within East Germany, and it lured many East Germans who had been frustrated by communism and therefore, a hindrance to mass migration which made communism and the Soviet Union look inferior was required: this barrier was the Berlin Wall. The Berlin Wall, whose construction began in 1961, refers to the 140-kilometer wall built between East and West Berlin (Harrison 3). It was constructed by the Communist government of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). The East Germany's official reason for building the Berlin Wall was to prevent Western "fascists" entry into East Germany to stop them from undermining the socialist state (Ahonen 43). However, the main aim of the wall was to curb mass defections into West Germany from East Germany. The East Germany's government wanted to control the migration of skilled employees into West Germany to reduce brain drain. Although the Berlin Wall was significant, it was a bad idea since it was restrictive and had more disadvantages than advantages.

To begin with, the Berlin Wall was a very controversial structure. The wall extensively affected the lives of German people politically, socially and economically. The wall was also a key battleground between the two world superpowers; the United States and the USSR. The Wall was a physical mark of "Iron Curtain" that separated Eastern and Western Europe (Harrison 6). It exemplified the contrast between the Eastern Communists and the Western capitalists; thus demonstrating conflict and division between the German people.

Secondly, the construction of the Berlin Wall restricted movement for Berlin residents. Before its construction, Berlin residents enjoyed free movement within the city. Citizens could work, shop or live in either East or West Berlin. Train services carried people around the city with no hindrance. After the construction of the wall, movement between East and West Berlin became impossible except by use of any of the three checkpoints; Helmstedt, Dreilinden, and Friedrichstrasse in central Berlin (Harrison 4). This meant that classmates, families, lovers, friends, employers and employees were viciously separated from each other. Basically, with the restriction of movement between East and West Germany, families with members in both parts of Germany were separated. The wall made it impossible for these families to assemble. Interestingly, people now needed a visa to visit their families. To make matters worse, East German soldiers screened people thoroughly before permitting them to enter or leave East Germany. Most citizens in East Germany believed that the wall was built specifically to avoid them defecting to West Germany. Restriction of movement led to several attempts by East Germany residents to defect to the West, although most of these attempts were unsuccessful. Separation of families, for instance, led to unimaginable anguish to members of these families. This desperation motivated people to contemplate escaping. Such suffering could have been avoided if the wall had not been erected.

Additionally, the Berlin Wall was a hindrance to the development of East Germany. The flow of technical know-how from the more developed West was restricted. With the adoption of communism in East Germany, many professors and students chose to migrate to West Germany since although the wall reduced brain drain of professional from East Germany, the industrial growth in the East was static due to lower technological advancement as compared to the West (Ross 28). Even today, states in the former West are richer than states in the former East. These states have a household wealth of more than double the states in former East. Unemployment is more prevalent in the East than the West. Had Germany recovered from the World War II as a united country, such discrepancies could not have occurred.

Also, the construction of the Berlin Wall led to the loss of civil identity to the city, construction of separated suburbs, and closure of links between two parts of a city (Harrison 5). Berlin became two cities with parallel amenities. There were main operas, universities, and zoos in both areas of the city since both governments wanted to develop a self-reliant city with all amenities available (Berdahl 59). The role of Berlin as the economic, social and political capital of Germany diminished, and cities with smaller populations such as Frankfurt flourished more. It was after the fall of the Wall when Berlin once again became the capital of a united Germany.

Interestingly, the Berlin Wall acted as a propaganda tool for both East and West Germany. East Germany explained how it was using the Wall to protect its citizens from fascism and described the use of the wall as protection against agents of capitalism (Berdahl 147). They even claimed that American spies were using Berlin to spy on and sabotage Communist countries. They legitimized the Wall and showed it as a measure of last resort against Western aggression. West Germany used the wall to portray oppression of Germans on the other side of the wall and demonstrate the superiority of capitalism since they were wealthier than East Germans (Ahonen 44). The wall was used by Western countries to indicate how Communist government oppressed their citizens. The Wall became a vital battle tool in fierce publicity campaigns whose aim was building legitimacy and mutual identity at home and sabotaging the other Germany (Ahonen 40). West Germany's media and political elite had a public narrative that West Germany was the genuine successor to the German Reich because of its democratic government in contrast with the authoritarian government in the East. Such propaganda would have been avoided if the wall had not been built.

Also, the construction of Berlin Wall led to cultural inconsistencies between the East and West Germany citizens. While East Germans who grew under a communist regime show a strong collective mentality, an impulse to heed to authority but the lack of ambition, the West Germans who grew in a capitalistic environment are more individualistic and are more likely to start a venture(Major 113). This comes from an influence of fewer than 45 years of communism whereas these people had a common culture before the advent of communism. In West Germany, for instance, most people vote for a particular political party while East Germans are still trying out several political parties (Kempe 82). Due to lack of exposure during the communism period, racism is more prevalent in the East. When the wall was constructed, the East Germany's youth were angry that popular Western culture was inaccessible. This is reason enough why the Berlin wall was one of the worst things that ever happened in the History of Germany.

Furthermore, the building of the Berlin Wall led to increased tensions between communist states and capitalist states. The culmination of several events including the Berlin blockade, the airlift, and the Berlin Wall brought the world to the brink of nuclear warfare since these crises led to the formation of military co-operations (Harrison 4). The capitalist powers formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) while the Communist bloc countries formed the Warsaw Pact; organizations that sought to defend members in case of attack by a rival nation (Kempe 93). Formation of military alliances made international diplomacy tense and volatile. Political scientists used their work to determine the role of the Berlin Wall in the tensions between the US President John F Kennedy and the Soviet President Nikita Khrushchev (Ross 27). The speech by President Ronald Reagan at Brandenburg Gate was to call upon the Soviet Union to demolish the Berlin Wall, and this exposed the presence of the world's superpowers in the Berlin Wall (Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum). The climax of these tensions was the Berlin Crisis of 1961 when the Soviet Union ordered Western powers to withdraw all their armies from Berlin within six months to make the city demilitarized (Major 91). The crisis, which threatened to get violent, was finally solved through negotiations but it led to the proliferation of nuclear weapons in Europe. These tensions only reduced when the Wall came down. The fall of Berlin Wall symbolized the end of the Cold War. Tensions which had engulfed the whole world reduced and peaceful co-existence between countries were encouraged as, for example, USSR broke up into several countries led by Russia (Kempe 88). This showed the collapse of communism and the triumph of capitalism. In fact, it was only after the fall of the Wall that Germany was reunited; hence, building it had not been a good idea in the first place.

On the other hand, though, despite the many adverse effects of the Berlin Wall, there was a positive impact that not only benefitted the communist bloc but also the Western countries. The Berlin Wall brought economic stability to East Germany. The government of German Democratic Republic was able to eliminate migrations to the West Germany and assert control over its citizens since the brain drain of professionals was destroying the political tenability and economic viability of East Germany, and it was imperative to secure the German communist borders (Pearson 64). This means that the wall initiated a period of domestic stability for the East Germany and importantly aided economic growth in East Germany during the 1960s by ending the labor drain and exerting the government's control over currency and trade (Ross 26). Its economy started to grow despite the people's discontent with the Berlin Wall and economic problems due to dual currency. The people were discontented, but they later realized that it was preposterous to cross into West Germany. They had to work to develop themselves. Therefore, the wall was significant since it enabled the East Germany regime to push through their policies in the grassroots.

Also, the Berlin Wall reduced the influx of refugees into West Germany. Many economic and political refugees who wanted to seek a better life in West Germany were trapped in the East. Communism was not popular in East Germany, and many people wanted to leave. The economic pressure which could have been exerted into the economy of West Germany by resettling these refugees was reduced.

In conclusion, the Berlin Wall was a bad idea. It had more disadvantages than the advantages. Some of the disadvantages were that the movement of Berlin residents was restricted, movement between East and West Berlin became almost impossible, the city of Berlin lost its prestige as the political and economic capital of Germany, people were forcibly separated from their loved ones, the development of East Germany was hindered as the flow of information from the more technologically West Germany was restricted, tensions between the communists and capitalist states became more, and the constant use of the Wall as a propaganda tool undermined the German governments on both sides of the wall. The wall also led to the rise of two groups of Germans, each with distinct cultures. This could cause disharmony among Germans. On the other hand, however, the Berlin Wall enabled the stability of East Germa...

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