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The Berlin Wall

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At the end of World War II, with Europe in shambles, what remained of formerly Nazi Germany was divided. The Allied forces divided the country into four zones, controlled by Americans, British, French and the Soviet Union.

Berlin

The capital city of Berlin was particularly problematic, as the city was located deep within the Soviet sector, but the city was divided into corresponding Allied control. The British, French, and Americans were able to agree on plans for the reconstruction of Germany, but the Soviet Union under Stalin refused to cooperate. When the non-Soviet occupied territories began experiencing rapid economic growth and development, East Berliners living in East Germany, then known as the GDP (German Democratic Republic), began immigrating West, and hundreds of thousands were successful.

In 1957, in an effort to control the people living in the GDP section of Berlin, a passport system was instituted. In August of 1961, the East German government constructed a wall that essentially closed the border between East and West.

There was an immediate effect. Families were split. People who worked on the East but lived in the West lost their jobs, and vice versa.

Living with the wall

For the next twenty-eight years, travel between the two cities was heavily restricted. Thousands attempted to escape, and about 5,000 were successful. Others weren’t as lucky and were killed in their attempts. By 1989, toward the inevitable end of the Cold War, the end of the wall was in sight. Throughout September, protesters on both sides of the wall, in what has been called a ‘peaceful revolution,’ began calling for the end of the wall. And on November 9th, the announcement came that people would be allowed to travel freely between the two sides of Berlin.

The fall

Immediately, ecstatic East Germans began gathering at the wall, demanding to be allowed to cross, resulting in a celebration with people from the West helping people over the wall, out of the control of the two governments. People even began to chisel away at the concrete wall in an effort to collect souvenirs. The following weekend, bulldozers began to destroy the wall to open previously closed roads, and by October of the following year, Germany was reunited.

Check out the videos below for more about this major event in history.

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Justin Finch reports from Berlin.

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An explanation of what led to the wall...and what eventually brought it down.

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Justin Finch reports from Germany.

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