45 Years Ago Today...
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Berlin Wall (German: Berliner Mauer), an iconic symbol of the Cold War, was initially constructed starting on August 13, 1961 and dismantled in the weeks following November 9, 1989. Part of the Iron Curtain, the Berlin Wall was the most prominent part of the GDR border system.
Conceived by the East German administration of Walter Ulbricht and approved by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, the wall was a long separation barrier between West Berlin and East Germany (the German Democratic Republic), which closed the border between East and West Berlin for a period of 28 years. It was built during the post-World War II period of divided Germany, in an effort to stop the drain of labour and economic output associated with the daily migration of huge numbers of professionals and skilled workers between East and West Berlin, and the attendant defections, which had political and economic consequences for the Communist bloc. It effectively decreased emigration (escapes - "Republikflucht" in German) from 2.5 million between 1949 and 1962 to 5,000 between 1962 and 1989.
However, the creation of the Wall was a propaganda disaster for East Germany and for the communist bloc as a whole. It became a key symbol of what Western powers regarded as Communist tyranny, particularly after the high-profile shootings of would-be defectors. Political liberalization in the late 1980s, associated with the decline of the Soviet Union, led to relaxed border restrictions in East Germany, culminating in mass demonstrations and the fall of the East German government. When a government statement that crossing of the border would be permitted was broadcast on November 9, 1989, masses of East Germans approached and then crossed the wall, and were joined by crowds of West Germans in a celebratory atmosphere. The Wall was subsequently destroyed by a euphoric public over a period of several weeks, and its fall was the first step toward German reunification, which was formally concluded on October 3, 1990.