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In the early hours of August 13, 1961,
East German construction workers flanked by soldiers and police
began tearing up streets and erecting barriers throughout the city of Berlin
and its surroundings.
This night marked the beginning of one of history's most infamous dividing lines,
the Berlin Wall.
Construction on the wall continued for the next decade
as it cut through neighborhoods,
separated families,
and divided not just Germany, but the world.
To understand how we got to this point,
we have to go back to World War II.
America, Britain, and France
joined forces with the Soviet Union against the Axis Powers.
After they defeated Nazi Germany,
each of the victorious nations occupied part of the country.
The division was meant to be temporary,
but the former allies found themselves at odds
over their visions for post-war Europe.
While Western powers promoted liberal market economies,
the Soviet Union sought to surround itself with obedient Communist nations,
including a weakened Germany.
As their relations deteriorated,
the Federal Republic of Germany was formed in the West
while the Soviets established the German Democratic Republic in the East.
The Soviet satellite countries restricted Western trade and movement,
so a virtually impassable border formed.
It became known as the Iron Curtain.
In the former German capital of Berlin, things were particularly complicated.
Although the city lay fully within the East German territory of the GDR,
the post-war agreement gave the allies joint administration.
So America, Britain, and France created a Democratic enclave
in Berlin's western districts.
While East Germans were officially banned from leaving the country,
in Berlin, it was simply a matter of walking,
or riding a subway, streetcar or bus,
to the Western half,
then traveling on to West Germany or beyond.
This open border posed a problem for the East German leadership.
They had staked a claim to represent the Communist resistance against Hitler
and portrayed Western Germany as a continuation of the Nazi regime.
While the U.S. and its allies poured money into West Germany's reconstruction,
the Soviet Union extracted resources from the East as war reparations,
making its planned economy even less competitive.
Life in East Germany passed under the watchful eye of the Stasi,
the secret police whose wiretaps and informants monitored citizens
for any hint of disloyalty.
While there was free health care and education in the East,
the West boasted hire salaries,
more consumer goods,
and greater personal freedom.
By 1961, about 3.5 million people, nearly 20% of the East German population,
had left, including many young professionals.
To prevent further losses,
East Germany decided to close the border, and that's where the Berlin Wall came in.
Extending for 43 kilometers through Berlin,
and a further 112 through East Germany,
the initial barrier consisted of barbed wire and mesh fencing.
Some Berliners escaped by jumping over the wire
or leaving from windows,
but as the wall expanded, this became more difficult.
By 1965, 106 kilometers of 3.6-meter-high concrete barricades had been added
topped with a smooth pipe to prevent climbing.
Over the coming years, the barrier was strengthened with spike strips,
guard dogs,
and even landmines,
along with 302 watchtowers and 20 bunkers.
A parallel fence in the rear set off a 100-meter area called the death strip.
There, all buildings were demolished and the ground covered with sand
to provide a clear line of sight for the hundreds of guards
ordered to shoot anyone attempting to cross.
Nevertheless, nearly 5,000 people in total managed to flee East Germany
between 1961 and 1989.
Some were diplomats or athletes who defected while abroad,
but others were ordinary citizens who dug tunnels,
swam across canals,
flew hot air balloons,
or even crashed a stolen tank through the wall.
Yet the risk was great.
Over 138 people died while attempting escape.
Some shot in full view of West Germans powerless to help them.
The wall stabilized East Germany's economy by preventing its work force from leaving,
but tarnished its reputation,
becoming a global symbol of Communist repression.
As part of reconciliation with the East,
the Basic Treaty of 1972 recognized East Germany pragmatically
while West Germany retained its hope for eventual reunification.
Although the Eastern regime gradually allowed family visits,
it tried to discourage people from exercising these rights
with an arduous bureaucratic process and high fees.
Nonetheless, it was still overwhelmed by applications.
By the end of the 1980's,
the liberalization of other Eastern Bloc regimes
caused mass demonstrations for free travel and demands for democracy.
On the evening of November 9, 1989,
East Germany tried to defuse tension by making travel permits easier to obtain.
But the announcement brought thousands of East Berliners
to the border crossing points in the wall,
forcing the surprised guards to open the gates immediately.
Rejoicing crowds poured into West Berlin
as people from both sides danced atop the wall.
And others began to demolish it with whatever tools they could find.
Although the border guards initially tried to maintain order,
it was soon clear that the years of division were at an end.
After four decades, Germany was officially reunified in October 1990.
And the Soviet Union fell soon after.
Today, parts of the wall still stand as a reminder
that any barriers we put up to impede freedom,
we can also break down.


【TED-Ed】柏林圍牆落下與起來 (The rise and fall of the Berlin Wall - Konrad H. Jarausch)

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gotony5614.me97 發佈於 2017 年 8 月 17 日
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