International A Wall Divides Berlin
“Today the endangered frontier of freedom runs through divided Berlin.” President Kennedy, on July 22, 1961, three weeks before the Berlin Wall was erected. A grim convoy of tanks and troops wound through eastern Berlin in the predawn hours of August 13, 1961. By sunrise, East German soldiers had stretched barbed wire across the city, cutting off the Communist sector from the capitalist. The wire was soon replaced by a network of concrete walls and electrified fences, guarded by armed men, dogs, and minefields, a 30-mile-long barrier separating German from German. Churchill’s Iron Curtain metaphor had become reality. Ostensibly built to keep out saboteurs and subversives, the Berlin Wall was in fact meant to keep East Germans in. Since 1949, 2.5 million had fled the economic hardships and political repression of Germany’s Communist half, creating labor shortages and a “brain drain” of professionals and skilled workers. West Berlin, an island of democracy and capitalism in the midst of East Germany, was the principal escape route. (Since thousands of eastern Berliners worked in western Berlin before the wall was built, defectors could usually evade detection.) Through the years, the Soviets had periodically demanded that all Berlin be made a “free city,” with both Western and Soviet occupation troops withdrawn, but the Western powers, fearing a total Communist takeover, had refused. In June 1961, Khrushchev threatened to use nuclear weapons if the “Berlin question” was not swiftly resolved. When heightening tension accelerated the stampede of illegal immigrants, 30,000 East Germans defected in July, Communist authorities decided to stem the flow by force. The wall was their solution. Henceforth, travel eastward would be subject to tight restrictions and travel westward, banned. Though crowds of angry West Berliners confronted the wall builders (only to be dispersed with tear gas and water cannons) and the United...
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