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Berlin Wall
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What was the impact of the destruction of the Berlin Wall on East-West relations and the Cold War?

Since 1961, the Berlin Wall had been the symbol of the Cold War and the division of Germany and Europe into East and West.  In the late 1980s, however, the situation changed dramatically.  Change began in the Soviet Union when Mikhail Gorbachev became the new head of the communist party in 1986.  He initiated new policies of perestroika (reorganizing the economy) and glasnost' (openness).
Quickly the winds of reform blew into Eastern Europe, and the situation of the communist regime deteriorated in East Germany.  During the summer of 1989, there were mass escapes (via Hungary) fromthe country and mass demonstrations in Leipzig, Berlin and other cities.  Just as the GDR prepared to celebrate its fortieth anniversary, on 18 October, the hard-line communist government of Erich Honecker resigned.  On 9 November the new East German government opened its country's borders with West Germany (including West Berlin).  By 11 November, the wall had ceased to function.
The opening of the wall brought the almost thirty-year division of Berlin to an end, and the subsequent reunification (October 1990) of Germany ended the forty-five-year occupation of the city. With a few segments preserved as a monument, the wall has been completely removed.  During its existence, about five thousand East Germans had managed to cross the Wall (by various means) and reach the West safely, while another five thousand had been captured by East German.  Almost two hundred more died during attempts to cross the wall.

1948, June:  Berlin airlift began.
1949, May:  Berlin airlift ended.
1961, 13 August:  Berlin Wall erected.
Berlin Wall
1989, 15 January;  Demonstrators in Leipzig call for freedom of speech.
1989, 1 September:  An increasing number of East Germans began to flee to West.
1989, 11 September:  Hungary opened its border to West; 15,000 East Germans escape via Hungary and Austria.
1989, 19 September:  The democratic "New Forum" alliance founded in East Germany.
1989, 18 October:  Erich Honecker resigned.
1989, 9 November:  Egon Krenz and the SED government announced at a press conference that restrictions on travel abroad for East Germans had been lifted.
1989, 10 November:  Almost two million East Germans enter West after lifting of restrictions.
1989, 11 November:  Berlin Wall ceased to exist as a barrier.
1989, 28 November:  Chancellor Kohl announced plan for german unity.
1990, 18 March:  free elections held in East Germany.
1990, 3 October:  Germany re-united.

WWW sites
There are quite a few sites devoted to the Wall.
  • Berlin Wall, a personal view of Berlin and the effect of the Berlin wall on the city and its inhabitants by Chris De Witt (contains photographs).
  • The Berlin Wall (auf Deutsch and in English) contains info on the Background, Construction, Measurements and Fall of the Wall.
  • There is a short history of the city of Berlin.
  • The Berlin Wall is a short history of significant events concerning the Berlin Wall from its construction in August 1961 to its fall in November 1989, including a list of related links and photos.
  • There is a Fall of the Berlin Wall with a short chronology page.
  • Die Mauer-seite (auf Deutsch) includes both Mauerbau and Mauerfall projects.
  • A Photo Exhibition of the Berlin Wall is straight-forward.
  • A Chronicle of unification.
  • On 9 November 1997 a CNN story described the German celebration of the anniversary of the Wall.
Some scattered sources include:
The Letter From Chairman Khrushchev to President Kennedy on a German Peace Treaty, September 29, 1961.
Die Rede des Präsidenten John F.Kennedy vor dem Rathaus Schöneberg, Berlin Wall speech, Ich bin ein Berliner," 26 June 1963; (German translation & English recording).
The John F. Kennedy Speech at the Berlin Wall, 1963 (part of an exhibition at the Library of Congress [WAV (297K)].
You can also order pieces of the Wall.  There are several such sites.

Still more:

Recommended Books
Books devoted specifically to the Wall include:
  • John Marks, The Wall (1998)
  • Katie Hafner, The House at the Bridge:  A Story of Modern Germany (1995)
  • James McAdams, Germany Divided:  From the Wall to Reunification (Princeton, 1993)
  • Gale Stokes, The Walls Came Tumbling Down (New York:  Oxford University Press, 1992)
  • Doris Epler, The Berlin Wall:  How It Rose and Why It Fell (1992)
  • Leland Rice, Photographs of the Berlin Wall (1991)
  • Jerry Bornstein, The Wall Came Tumbling Down (New York, 1990)
  • Peter Wyden, WALL:  The Inside Story of Divided Berlin (New York:  Simon and Schuster, 1989)
  • John Delman, Flashpoint:  The Division of Berlin (Vero Beach, 1988)
  • Norman Gelb, The Berlin Wall:  Kennedy, Khrushchev and a Showdown in the Heart of Europe (New York, 1986)  [THE BEST]
Some interesting articles include:
  • William Ellis, "The Morning After:  Germany Reunited," National Geographic, September 1991, pp. 2-41.
  • "The Boy Who Died On The Wall," Life Magazine, August 1962, pp. 16-22.
  • Don Cook, "Digging a Way to Freedom," The Saturday Evening Post, 1 December 1962, pp. 30-37.
  • "The Other Side Of The Wall," The New York Times Magazine, 8 October 1961, pp. 4-5.

Related Events
Berlin Air Lift
Germany 1945
Germany 1990
Berlin Wall 1961

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