'The Gates in the Wall Stand Open Wide.' What Happened the Day the Berlin Wall FellBreaking News
tags: Cold War, Germany, BERLIN WALL
Albinko Hasic is a PhD student at Syracuse University, whose research concerns propaganda.
On June 12, 1987 — more than 25 years after the Berlin Wall first divided the city’s East and West — U.S. President Ronald Reagan gave a famous speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, challenging his Soviet counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev by declaring, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”
Only a few years later, on Nov. 9, 1989, it was not Mr. Gorbachev but the German people who finally tore down the barrier. The story of the Berlin Wall is one of division and repression, but also of the yearning for freedom — and the events that led up to its toppling are no exception.
The Wall Rises
Following World War II, at the Yalta and Potsdam peace conferences, it was determined among the war’s victors that Germany’s territories would be split into four “Allied occupation zones.” The eastern part of the country went to the Soviet Union, while the western part went to the United States, Great Britain and eventually France. Berlin, as the capital, would be likewise split.
On May 23, 1949, the three Allied zones became the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) while the former Soviet occupation zone became the German Democratic Republic (GDR) on Oct. 7, 1949.
Because the city of Berlin was located entirely within the Soviet zone of occupation, West Berlin became an island within Communist East Germany. The economy in West Germany, as a result of the help provided by its occupying forces, quickly grew. The opposite occurred in East Germany. Valuable assets were shipped back to the Soviet Union and economic recovery was slow and stagnant. With many East Berliners fleeing that situation, a physical barrier between the two sides of Berlin, known as the Berlin Wall (die Berliner Mauer), was built starting in August of 1961. It became an ugly scar on the German landscape and a symbol of division in the country.