The Berlin WallWhy was the Berlin Wall built?

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marbar57 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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It is post-World War II Germany.  The two biggest conquering world powers, the United States and the USSR, are distrustful of each other.  Although they fought for a common cause during the war, their political systems (Democracy vs Communism) have created a breach that will prove to be too wide to cross. 

As an aftermath of the war, these two countries, along with Great Britain and France, divide Germany into four sectors.  The Russian sector is by far the largest, encompassing all of Eastern Germany and part of the city of Berlin.  For the first ten years after the war, people were free to travel back and forth between the sectors, but the Russians began to notice an alarming trend.  East German schools were spending a great deal of money educating German citizens, and turning out highly skilled doctors, scientists, engineers, and technicians.  According to "Why the Berlin Wall was built," we read:

"Education was free in East, but it cost money in West. So of course German students went to East German schools to get their education for free, then returned to work in West Germany where they could earn more money."

Between 1954 and 1960, East Germany lost over 35,000 very educated people to the west!  They needed these scholars and citizens to rebuild their war-torn country so they took drastic steps to close off their country and keep their citizens from leaving. 

In June 1961, communist leaders officially closed the border between the sectors and began construction of the wall.  Hundreds of miles of land were cleared to create a "no-man's land on either side of the wall.  This was designed to provide a clear line of fire upon those trying to escape.  Mines, barbed wire, guard towers, and attack dogs completed the picture of terror!  Families were split apart and overnight many citizens were trapped on the east side.

For thirty years, many brave people tired of the oppression of Communism tried to escape to freedom.  Some made it; some didn't, but their stories are compelling nonetheless.  Then in 1987, President Ronald Reagan appealed to the then General Secretary of Russia, Mikhail Gorbachov, to "tear down this wall!" as a symbol of enlightenment and increasing freedoms for the people under his rule.  This set about a chain of events that eventually resulted in the taking down of the wall in 1989.




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