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Did West Germany Build the Berlin Wall?

by | Mar 7, 2024 | World War Tour Berlin

When discussing the Berlin Wall, it is essential to clarify that it was not West Germany, but rather East Germany, officially known as the German Democratic Republic (GDR), that constructed and maintained the infamous barrier. The Berlin Wall stood as a physical division between East and West Berlin from 1961 until its eventual fall in 1989.

The Purpose of the Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall was built by the GDR as a means to prevent the mass exodus of its citizens to West Germany. During the early years of the Cold War, a significant number of East Germans were leaving the country, seeking better living conditions and political freedom in the West. This massive wave of migration posed a significant challenge for the GDR government.

The Construction of the Berlin Wall

The construction of the Berlin Wall began during the night of August 12, 1961. Overnight, barbed wire barriers were put up, subsequently replaced by a more substantial concrete wall. East German soldiers guarded the wall, and an extensive border area was established to prevent unauthorized crossings.

Features of the Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall was not just a simple wall but a complex barrier system. It consisted of:

  • Concrete Walls: The main structure of the wall was made of reinforced concrete, standing approximately 12 feet high.
  • Guard Towers: Watchtowers were strategically positioned along the entire length of the wall for constant surveillance.
  • Anti-Vehicle Trenches: To deter any attempts to break through the wall, deep trenches were present on the East German side.
  • Death Strip: The area between the inner and outer walls, known as the Death Strip, was laden with mines, traps, and floodlights, making it incredibly dangerous to cross.
  • Checkpoint Charlie: This iconic checkpoint served as one of the few official border crossings between East and West Berlin.

The Impact of the Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall had a significant impact on the lives of those directly affected by it:

Social Impact

The wall not only physically separated families and friends but also divided the cultural, economic, and political institutions of the two German states. Many East Germans who attempted to cross the wall were arrested, imprisoned, or even killed.

Symbol of the Cold War

The Berlin Wall became a powerful symbol of the division between the communist and capitalist spheres during the Cold War. It represented the ongoing struggle between democracy and totalitarianism.

Peaceful Revolution and Fall of the Wall

In the late 1980s, mounting pressure from citizens, combined with shifts in Soviet policies, led to a peaceful revolution in East Germany. This ultimately resulted in the opening of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, and the subsequent reunification of East and West Germany on October 3, 1990.

In Conclusion

The Berlin Wall was constructed by the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) to prevent mass migration to West Germany. Its physical and symbolic significance lasted for nearly three decades, ultimately ending with its fall in 1989. The Berlin Wall stands as a reminder of the socio-political complexities and the human desire for freedom and unity.

Did West Germany Build the Berlin Wall?