This 9th November we see the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Many of us remember that exciting day when news reports started flooding the world that the Berlin Wall had fallen.
How it All Started After World War II the country of Germany was divided up into two separate countries. East Germany became a communist country under the control of the Soviet Union. At the same time West Germany was a democratic country and allied with Britain, France, and the United States. The initial plan was that the country would eventually be reunited, but this didn’t happen for a long time.
The City of Berlin Berlin was the capital of Germany. Even though it was located in the eastern half of the country, the city was controlled by the four major powers that fought the Nazis; the Soviet Union, the United States, Britain, and France.
Defections As people in East Germany began to realize that they did not want to live under the rule of the Soviet Union and communism, they started to leave the eastern part of the country and move to the west. These people were called defectors. Over the course of the years 1949 to 1959, over 2 million people left the country. In 1960 alone, around 230,000 people defected.
Building the Wall Finally, the Soviets and the East German leaders had had enough. On August 12th and 13th of 1961 they built a wall around East Berlin to prevent people from leaving. At first the wall was just a barbed wire fence. Later it would be rebuilt with concrete blocks 12 feet high and four feet wide. The wall became the symbol of the “Iron Curtain” that separated the democratic western countries and the communist countries of Eastern Europe throughout the Cold War.
There were also many guard towers along the wall. Guards were ordered to shoot anyone attempting to escape.
It is estimated that around 5000 people escaped over or through the wall during the 28 years it stood. Around 200 were killed trying to escape.
The Fall of the Wall 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 civil unrest, the East German government announced on 9th November 1989 that all East German 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. Over the next few weeks, euphoric people and souvenir hunters chipped away parts of the Wall. To this day sections of the wall still survive in Berlin.