Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Berlin Wall

Something that will no doubt make me very popular....Looking back it was probably inevitable that something like the Berlin Wall would be constructed. When I was growing up and the wall fell in '89 the impression that I got was that it went across the whole country, separating East from West and that the fall meant that East and West Germany were no longer separated. That indeed came to be, but the Berlin wall itself was something else besides what people framed it as. The first thing is that it wasn't just a wall separating one half of a city from another but went around all of Allied occupied Berlin. Berlin was located within the Soviet zone of occupation, which became the German Democratic Republic or East Germany, in fact located well within it, so it was surrounded by the East. The only connections between Berlin and West Germany were by military aircraft, secured train, and eventually by a secured highway going across East German territory. Because Berlin was the capitol of Nazi Germany it was collectively occupied by the allies, being the French, the British, the U.S., and the Soviets. But with the formation of the GDR the capitol was moved to Bonn.

This meant that the part of Berlin now connected to West Germany was in a unique situation. People from all over the GDR could go to West Berlin, defect, and then take a flight or train ride to the West and start a new life. Considering that the Soviet controlled GDR and the U.S. allied Federal Republic of Germany, which is what West Germany was, were regarded as the two states between which World War III was most likely to be started the presence of an enemy zone within one of the countries that people inside of it had easy access too does not make a lot of sense. The construction of the wall and the shutting off of travel between East and West Berlin was, then, probably an inevitability, just as much as the U.S. probably wouldn't have tolerated a Soviet controlled city in the middle of Kansas that people could fly to and from the Soviet Union through.

It may be nice to believe in some sort of ideal where the only obstacle to the wall was the meanness of the Soviets, but despite Bush Sr.'s "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down your wall!" sound bite, as long as the West was prepared to nuke the East through NATO and U.S. bases located in West Germany it was not fucking likely that the Wall would come down.

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