30 years ago, some people in Germany were isolated from the rest of the world. They were trapped inside the Berlin Wall that was a guarded concrete barrier that physically and ideologically divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989.
Construction of the Wall was commenced by the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany) on 13 August 1961. The Wall cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany, including East Berlin.
The Eastern Bloc portrayed the Wall as protecting its population from fascist elements conspriring to prevent the «will of the people» in building a socialist state in East Germany. GDR authorities officially referred to the Berlin Wall as the Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart.
The West Berlin city government sometimes referred to it as the «Wall of Shame», a term coined by mayor Willy Brandt in reference to the Wall`s restriction on freedom of movement. The wall came to symbolize physically the «Iron Curtain» that separated Western Europe and the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War.
U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised Reagan on Friday, saying he «courageously denounced the greatest threat to that freedom, the Soviet Empire, the evil Empire.» Reagan held a speech in 1987, but John F Kennedy said «Ich bin ein Berliner» in a speech in West Berlin, on June 26, 1963.
That speech is widely regarded as the best-known speech of the Cold War and the most famous anti-communist speech.
Kennedy aimed to underline the support of the United States for West Germany 22 months after Soviet-occupied East Germany erected the Berliin Wall to prevent mass emigration to the West. The message was aimed as much at the Soviets as it was at Berliners and was a clear statement of U.S policy in the wake of the construction of the Berlin Wall.
Another phrase in the speech was also spoken in German, «Lasst sie nach Berlin kommen» (Let them come to Berlin»), addressed at those who claimed «we can work with the Communists», a remark at which Nikita Khrushchev scoffed only days later.
Chancellor Angela Merkel thanked the United States for its support in reunification in a speech on Friday. Kennedy`s speech «Ich bin ein Berliner», and Ronald Reagan`s memorable Berlin sentence from 1987, «Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall,» as well as Barrack Obama`s speech at the Brandenburg Gate in 2016, are in all German`s memories.
Germany`s capital, Berlin was deep within the area controlled after World War II by the Soviet Union. Initially governed in four sectors controlled by the four Allied powers (United States, United Kingdom, France and the Soviet Union).
Tensions of the Cold War escalated until the Soviet forces implemented the Berlin Blockade, which the Western allies relieved with the dramatic airlift. Afterward, the sectors border between East and West was closed everywhere but in Berlin.
Hundreds of thousands of East Germans defected to the West via West Berlin, a labour drain that threatened East Germany with economic collapse.
In 1961, the East German government under Walter Ulbricht erected a barbed-wire barrier around West Berlin, officially called the antifaschistischer Schutzwall (anti-fascist protective barrier).
The East German authorities argued that it was meant to prevent spies and agents of West Germany from crossing into East. However, it was universally known as the Berliin Wall and its real purpose was to keep East German citizens from escaping to the West.
The Wall closed the biggest loophole in the Iron Curtain, and Berlin went from being one of the easiest places to cross from East Europe to West Europe to being one of the most difficult.
The West, including the U.S., was accused of failing to respond forcefully to the erection of the Wall. Officially, Berlin was under joint occupation by the four allied powers, each with primary responsibility for a certain zone.
Kennedy`s speech marked the first instance where the U.S acknowledged that East Berlin was part of the Soviet bloc along with the rest of East Germany. On July 25, 1961, Kennedy insisted in a presidential address that the U.S would defend West Berlin, asserting its Four-Power rights, while making it clear that challenging the Soviet presence in Germany was not possible.
30 years ago, in 1989, a series of revolutions in nearby Eastern Bloc countries, Poland and Hungary in particular, caused a chain reaction in East Germany that ultimately resulted in the demise of the Wall.
After several weeks of unrest, the East German government announced on 9 November 1989 that all GDR citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin. Crowds of East Germans crossed and climbed onto the Wall, joined by West Germans on the other side in a celebratory atmosphere.
The «fall of the Berlin Wall» paved the way for German reunification, which formally took place on 3 October 1990.
Some people in Berlin say that they are more divided today than 30 years ago. It actually started right after World War II. East Germany differed from West Germany (Federal Republic of Germany), which developed into a Western capitalist country with a social market economy and a democratic parliamentary government.
Continual economic growth starting in the 1950`s fueled a 20-year «economic miracle». As West Germany`s eceonomy grew, and its standard of living steadily improved, many East Germans wanted to move to West Germany.
Today, we can see that it all boil down to one ting: The richest people in Germany live in the West.
Big companies and high income is missing in the East were only 36 og Germany`s 500 biggest companies have headquarters. In 1991, East Germany`s GDP per capita was equivalent to just 43 percent of that in West Germany, but now it`s 75 percent (2018). According to a poll, most East Germans still feel like «second class citizens.»
About 2 million people have left the East for the West after the fall of the wall, and two thirds of them were women. The Eastern population is older, poorer and more male. Only two soccer teams out of 18 are from the East. Interestigly, the far-right is doing it better in the East.
It all goes back to Stalin and the Communists. The German Democratic Republic (GDP, East Germany) was declared on 7 October 1949. By a secret treaty, the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs accorded the East German state administrative authority, but not autonomy. The Soviet permeated East German administrative, military and secret police structure and had full control.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said schools were «a justifiable source of pride for the East Germans.» OECD said that while education system in the former West focused on dividing children into different ability groups early on, the Eastern system was more equitable.
But after the fall of the wall, the East was eager to do everything in the Western way, even education. The education system in the East become more unequal. Kids drops out of school and are worce off in the East than in the West. In West Germany, people look back at East Germany in a very negative sense.
The West are more conservative and religious. Politically, Germany is still very divided. Voters in the former Communist states are voting the far-right AfD.
You can see what the communists have done to the mindset and the community. We know the story of one of the founders of Google, Sergei Brin. His parents escaped from Moscow to the United States. They separated the kids on the school. Brin couldn`t participate with the other kids in gym and matematics.
Indoctrination of Marxism-Leninism became a compulsory part of the school curricula, sending professors and students fleeing to the West. The East Germans created an elaborate political police apparatus that kept the population under close surveillance, inluding Soviet SMERSH secret police.
Who wants to live in a hell like this? The emigrants tended to be young and well-educated, leading to the brain drain feared by officials in East Germany. They stated «the flight of the intelligentsia has reached a particularly critical phase.»
The loss was disproportionately heavy among professionals, engineers, technicians, physicians, teachers, lawyers and skilled workers. The brain drain of professionals had become so damaging to the political credibility and economic viability of the East Germany that the re-securing of the German communist frontier was imperative.
Following World War II, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin headed a group of nations on his Western border, the Eastern Bloc, that then included Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, which he wished to maintain alongside a weakened Soviet-controlled Germany.
As early as 1945, Stalin revealed to German communist leaders that he expected to slowly undermine the British position within the British occupation zone, that the United States would withdraw within a year or two, and that nothing would then stand in the way of a unified communist Germany within the bloc.
The major task of the ruling communist party in the Soviet zone was to channel Soviet orders down to both the administrative apparatus and the other bloc parties, which in turn would be presented as internal measures.
Property and industry was nationalized in the East German zone. If statements or decisions deviated from the described line, reprimands and punishment would ensure, such as imprisonment, torture and even death.
In 1949, following disagreements regarding reconstruction and a new German currency, Stalin instituted the Berlin Blockade, preventing food, materials and supplies from arriving in West Berlin. The United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and several other countries began a massive «airlift», supplying West Berlin with food and other supplies.
The Soviets mounted a public relations campaign against the Western policy change. Communists attempted to disrupt the elections of 1948, preceding large losses therein, while 300,000 Berliners demonstrated for the international airlift to continue. In May 1949, Stalin lifted the blockade, permintting the resumption of Western shipments to Berlin.
After the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe at the end of World War II, the majority of those living in the newly acquried areas of the Eastern Bloc aspired to independence and wanted the Soviets to leave.
Taking advantage of the zonal border between accupied zones in Germany the number of GDR citizens moving to West Germany totaled 187,000 in 1950. 165,000 in 1951. 182,000 in 1952, and 331,000 in 1953.
One reason for the sharp 1953 increase was fear of potential further Sovietization, given the increasingly paranoid actions of Joseph Stalin in late 1952 and early 1953.
The fall of the Berlin Wall is a symbol of the Cold War in post-World War II Europe. The Wall separated East and West Berlin for 28 years, and it illustrated the gap between two political ideologies; Capitalism and Communism.
On Saturday 9 November, Berlin will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the peaceful revolution and the fall of the wall.