The Impact of the …

The Impact of the Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall is the most important symbol of the era after World War II. Although it was built only in 1961, the collapse was exactly at the time of the political system change erecting the wall.


The symbol of the fighting powers

The importance of the Berlin Wall can be measured on two levels. At first the upper level meaning is connected to the political battles of the Great Powers. The winners of the World War II had a contract in Yalta, then in Potsdam in 1945 about the border changes of whole Central Europe. At the conferences they didn’t have a formal conversation about the sphere of interests, but behind the front away to Germany the Soviets in east and the Americans in west began to reorganizing the countries. This process had the so called Eastern Block as a victim, which consisted of Hungary, too. In the countries of the Eastern Block the Soviet power’s influence won on both political, social and economic territory. Among the models got from Moscow with little anomaly there was the type of people’s democracy, which meant rather a dictatorship. On the other side there was the western type of democracy (real democracy), which the United States (USA) protected mostly. The leader states of Europe were exhausted after the two world wars, they renovated only themselves. With more decades after the World War II they managed only to create a new political and economic community, which is now called European Union. On the other hand this European community showed an instable unite till now. So on the western side the USA remained alone as a super power. The competition called the Cold War expanded slowly to the whole world. The USA and the Soviet Union created a two-pole world. Every continent had al least one USA- and Soviet friend state, which was supported with money, products, or in worse cases with gun. At many times the superpowers took a state or a nation as a tool for tactic steps making crisis hot spots. All over the world the Korean, the Vietnam and the Afghanistan war belonged to the well-known conflicts. In Europe the Greek civilian war was such this tactic step, or the Hungarian freedom war in 1956, when it was the victim for the solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict by the Suez Chanel. The creation of two Germany belonged also to this group.

Along the 19th Century the new idea, the nationalism unified the puzzled German regions, creating a strong, Europe-wide dominating Germany. For the winners the conclusion of two world war was to durable weakening and peaceful reorganizing Germany. Their common occupation and durable standage had this goal. In the reorganization after the world wars the USA and the Soviet Union didn’t cooperate with each other, they tried to have a bigger and bigger influence on the own territory not harming the other’s sphere of interest. The Soviets controlled the eastern side of Germany, where they supported only a Soviet friend leadership. The solution of the strained competition shown at the diplomatic and economic steps was the foundation of German democratic Republic (GDR) in east and Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) in west in 1949.

Berlin was shared after the World War II as well. The city was situated inside the country under the control of soviet allies, so they committed everything the westerns to leave Berlin. (??) Finally, Western-Berlin till the system change remained the exclave of FRG. Between the two countries a so called iron curtain was earlier erected, which contained several fences, alarm systems and land mines together. The traffic between the two city side still was enough free because of the special situation, and that was very important in the view of ordinary life. A lot of civilians worked or visited their families on the other side. The economic (and other) differences between the two Germanys and of course the two Berlins achieved higher levels (??) by the ’50s, people from the eastern side moved to west in bigger and bigger wave. The process resulted serious demographic crisis in the GDR. More than three million left the country, and mostly from the younger generations. The leadership tried to stop the phenomenon in pretty brutal method. They inhibited the mass movement with erection of the Berlin Wall. The fast, systematic work after a serious secret preparation made the world to be highly surprised: The 43 kilometers wall was built during a few days in August 1961. Later its defense was reinforced and total lines of houses were destroyed in this affair. The border guards got a command to shoot at the illegal movers immediately. Moreover for the successful shooting they got a big premium. In the hope of better life more hundreds tried to cross even so. The wall during its total life had 136 victims. The last case was in 1989. From the recent view it is very scary that after a half year anybody could cross the border freely.

Two German lifes

So the Berlin Wall has an other meaning that called the dividing role inside the German folk. During the history there were some cases when borderlands or sometimes bigger country sides changed their mother countries. At a few times the border was drawn in a so brutal method when it divided the settlement. This happened in a Hungarian village, which was shared by Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union in 1945. That split happened also inside the German and Berlin folk, which became measurable at the time of reunification and remained recently. The successful West-German companies met a few eastern competitor, and most of them was closed or merged by a western one. The venture capital, the creativity together focuses mainly on the territory of former FRG. In contrast there is a big eastern unemployment, highly above the average level. In Leipzig, Dresden and other important towns the house blocks built in the ’70-80s are demolished halfly or totally. The well-known case of tearing a nation into two sides is the problem of North and South Korea. The strict, sometimes cruel system of the northern leadership can remain, although they have only one weak partnership with China. The poverty and famine are a daily routine, the people are not really honoured there. South Korea chose an other way and managed to rise up among the developed countries thanks to its economic achievements. Unfortunately in their case there is no solution: The difference of each other in the political ideas and their economy can’t let them get closer to each other, this will determine their situation in the future. The states got in the same group with the GDR turned their political orientation back to the original, western one after 1989. With the demolition of the Iron Curtain the space is opened again between the western and eastern half of Europe to make relationships and get to know each other. Before 1989 only a few people had a chance to do it, those whom the state party took a reliable person. But while a lot of Eastern Europeans tried to be informed about the western life and culture, that was not right in the opposite, because the Western Europeans lost their interests of the east at the same time of building the Iron Curtain. However, by the ‘90s they became opened again, as we could see their role in the control of the South Slavic crisis. The European Union dominated by the west is slowly affiliating every country of the region, but this organization works on more rational foundation rather than the former Eastern Block economy alliance (Comecon). The changeable world economy and the more opened state together let the union members harmonize their system getting closer to each other.


Where else (??), united Germany?

Berlin became the centre of the German administration and several state companies again. Since the system change there have been big infrastructural investments in whole city, which the private capital also found. Because of its past the city is very open, sensitive for all social problems. The new Berlin is colorful according to the origins of its inhabitants, thus we can take it one of the Europe’s cultural centers. But the Germans cannot be real optimistic. Looking at the economic issues the city rises high from its surroundings of eastern lands, and is not able to pull them up. The decreasing economic performance pushes the population into the direction of nostalgic feelings. On the eastern side there was a revolution of the left-wing party rose up from ruins of state party. The communist ideas can attract big crowd, although most of them doesn’t have an own experience of the past. Those people wish the utopist version of ’70-’80s back in contrast with the cruel world of capitalism. In their eyes the dictatorship committed deaths at that time become a nice world, so they focus only at good achievements. However, the believers of old idea mean only one minority of the colorful German society, and supposedly the same mistake nobody wants to make once again.

László Ladjánszki