What happened to Germany after the end of World War II?
Why do you think the Soviet Union was so concerned about the fate of Germany after World War II?
Any questions about the study guide material up to this point in the Cold War unit? If so, write them down here – we’ll have some time to discuss these at the beginning of class.
The Berlin Blockade
As we listen to Canadian radio coverage of the Berlin Blockade (source: Matthew Halton and Willson Woodside, “Berlin Blockade Begins,” CBC News Roundup, June 25, 1948, available from http://www.cbc.ca/archives/categories/politics/international-politics/the-rise-and-fall-of-the-berlin-wall/berlin-blockade-begins.html), answer the following questions:
What was Stalin’s objective in blockading Berlin?
Why was Berlin so important to the Allies?
How would starving out West Berlin ultimately help the USSR achieve their objectives in Germany?
The Berlin Airlift
Note: The RAF is the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom.
As we watch this video (produced during the Berlin Airlift by the British government), take notes that will help you answer the following three questions:
What messages does this video send about the Allied Powers? How?
What messages does this video send (implicitly) about the USSR? How?
How might this video be biased? What are its producers’ motives?
Your notes should fill the rest of this page.
In 1 well-developed paragraph (at least 7 complete sentences), explain: How did the Berlin Blockade and the Berlin Airlift represent the contest between Soviet expansionism and the American policy of containment during the Cold War?
Modern World History
HW 5.7: The Berlin Wall
Add the following to your unit study guide:
People: Nikita Khrushchev
Timeline: Berlin Blockade; Berlin Airlift; East Germany formed [date: October 7, 1949]; West Germany formed [date: May 23, 1949]; Berlin Wall built; Berlin Wall falls [the date can be found in the reading]
Conflicts: Berlin Crisis
Carefully read the following text (source: Newseum, “The Rise and Fall of the Berlin Wall,” http://www.newseum.org/berlinwall/).
What were the Soviet Union’s goals in constructing the Berlin Wall? To what extent did the wall achieve these goals? [At least 3 sentences]
Why did East Germans attempt to illegally cross the Berlin Wall? [At least 3 sentences]
What were the effects of the Berlin Wall, from a propaganda perspective? In other words, how did the construction of the Berlin Wall make the Soviet Union look to the rest of the world, and why? [At least 6 sentences]
Building the Wall
At 2 a.m. on Aug. 13, 1961, a low, barbed-wire barrier was strung between East and West Berlin. It effectively divided the city in half. Within days, workers cemented concrete blocks into a low wall through the city.
Moscow called the wall a barrier to Western imperialism. "It pleases me tremendously," Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev said. "The working class of Germany has erected a wall so that no wolf can break into the German Democratic Republic again."
The West Germans called it Schandmaur, the "Wall of Shame." It was rebuilt at least three times – each time bigger, stronger and more repressive – hand-mortared bricks, pre-cast blocks and finally concrete slabs. Towers, guards, and dogs stood watch over a barren no man's land. A pipe, too large in diameter for a climber's grip, ran along the top of the wall. "Forbidden zones," miles wide, were created behind the wall. No one was allowed to enter the zones. Anyone trying to escape was shot on sight.
The East German government saw the Berlin Wall as a symbol of its superior technology. But, as strong as the wall was, it would never be strong enough.
Trying to Escape
The Berlin Wall didn't stop all East Germans. An estimated 10,000 of them tried to escape to the West. About 5,000 made it.
Some escapes were ingenious. One woman hid under the hood of a car. Two families floated over the border in a hot-air balloon as big as a four-story house.
Other escapes were just plain hard work. One group took six months in 1964 to dig a 145-yard tunnel from the cellar of a former West Berlin bakery to an outhouse on the eastern side. They freed 57 East Berliners. The escape ended when East German soldiers sprayed the tunnel with machine-gun fire.
Even soldiers escaped. On Aug. 15, 1961, the first member of the East German People's Army leaped to freedom. After him, about 2,000 soldiers fled to the West.
In all, 246 people died at the wall. Perhaps the best known was 18-year-old bricklayer Peter Fechter. On Aug. 17, 1962, he tried to jump the barbed wire near Checkpoint Charlie, a key border crossing between the American and Soviet sectors of Berlin. East German soldiers fired. Fechter fell. The East Germans would not allow anyone to help him as he bled to death.
"Murderers!" yelled West Berliners.
Fechter, the wall's 50th casualty, became a symbol of all those slain at the Berlin Wall. His death was memorialized with wreaths and crosses.
Living with the Wall
"The wall must go," West Berlin Mayor Willy Brandt said. "But until it goes, the city must live."
And so it did. West Germans would hold their babies above the wall for relatives to see. They painted scenes and slogans on the wall. Others staged political rallies and concerts in front of it.
Despite the wall, East Germans learned about the West by listening to newscasts from Radio Free Europe, Radio in the American Sector, the British Broadcasting Corporation and West German stations.
News broadcasts created cracks in the so-called Iron Curtain. They were signs that Soviet-style government was not working in East Germany.
The Berlin Wall was a mighty physical structure. But it could not stop truth. Some information scaled the wall via TV and radio broadcasts. Other news made it to the eastern part of the city by word of mouth. Western billboards proclaimed messages of hope and bits of news. East Berliners could see those billboards. And some information was smuggled across the border in printed fliers and papers.
Fighting the Wall
By the 1980s, communism was bankrupt. In East Germany, wages were low. Homes bombed during World War II were still unrepaired. Citizens lived in poverty; communist leaders lived in luxury.
"The Berlin Wall," said East German leader Erich Honecker, "will still exist in 50 and in 100 years, unless the reasons for its existence are eliminated."
But the end was near. The Soviet Union no longer could afford the Cold War - decades of military, political, and economic rivalry with the United States. Two U.S. presidents who visited the wall made strong statements in support of West Berlin and democracy. In 1963, John F. Kennedy visited. In 1987, Ronald Reagan visited Berlin and demanded: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"
Earlier in the 1980s, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had introduced the policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (democratic reform). Slowly, Eastern Europeans began to test their new freedoms. Mass protests in Dresden, Leipzig and Potsdam demanded freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom to travel.
On Friday, Nov. 9, 1989, the people won. That weekend, the East German government opened its borders, allowing its citizens to visit the West. The world watched the celebrations on television. After 28 years, the Berlin Wall had fallen.