The Road To The Wall / Berlin Wall Documentary Film Video is a public domain video from the Directorate of Armed Forces Information and Education, by CBS Films. Produced by Robert Saudek, it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short. This program has been declared obsolete for use within the sponsoring agency, but may have content value for educational use. Producer: Department of Defense. Creative Commons license: Public Domain.
The Berlin Wall (German: Berliner Mauer) was a physical barrier completely encircling West Berlin, separating it from the German Democratic Republic (GDR) (East Germany), including East Berlin. The longer inner German border demarcated the border between East and West Germany. Both borders came to symbolize the Iron Curtain between Western Europe and the Eastern Bloc.
The wall separated East Germany from West Germany for more than a quarter of a century, from the day construction began on 13 August 1961 until the Wall was brought down on 9 November 1989. During this period, at least 98 people were confirmed killed trying to cross the Wall into West Berlin, according to official figures. However, a prominent victims' group claims that more than 200 people were killed trying to flee from East to West Berlin. The East German government issued shooting orders to border guards dealing with defectors, though such orders are not the same as shoot to kill orders which GDR officials denied ever issuing.
When the East German government announced on 9 November 1989, after several weeks of civil unrest, that all GDR citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin, crowds of East Germans climbed onto and crossed the wall, joined by West Germans on the other side in a celebratory atmosphere. Over the next few weeks, parts of the wall were chipped away by a euphoric public and by souvenir hunters; industrial equipment was later used to remove almost all of the rest of it.
The fall of the Berlin Wall paved the way for German reunification, which was formally concluded on 3 October 1990.
By the early 1950s, the Soviet approach to controlling national movement, restricting emigration, was emulated by most of the rest of the Eastern Bloc, including East Germany. The restrictions presented a quandary for some Eastern Bloc states that had been more economically advanced and open than the Soviet Union, such that crossing borders seemed more natural—especially between where no prior border existed between East and West Germany.
Up until 1952, the lines between East Germany and the western occupied zones could be easily crossed in most places. On April 1, 1952, East German leaders met the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in Moscow; during the discussions Stalin's foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov proposed that the East Germans should "introduce a system of passes for visits of West Berlin residents to the territory of East Berlin [so as to stop] free movement of Western agents" in the GDR. Stalin agreed, calling the situation "intolerable". He advised the East Germans to build up their border defenses, telling them that "The demarcation line between East and West Germany should be considered a border and not just any border, but a dangerous one ... The Germans will guard the line of defense with their lives."
Consequently, the Inner German border between the two German states was closed, and a barbed-wire fence erected. The border between the Western and Eastern sectors of Berlin, however, remained open, although traffic between the Soviet and the Western sectors was somewhat restricted. This resulted in Berlin becoming a magnet for East Germans desperate to escape life in the GDR, and also a flashpoint for tension between the superpowers--the United States and the Soviet Union.
In 1955, the Soviets passed a law transferring control over civilian access in Berlin to East Germany, which officially abdicated them for direct responsibility of matters therein, while passing control to a regime not recognized in the west. When large numbers of East Germans then defected under the guise of "visits", the new East German state essentially eliminated all travel to the west in 1956. Soviet East German ambassador Mikhail Pervukhin observed that "the presence in Berlin of an open and essentially uncontrolled border between the socialist and capitalist worlds unwittingly prompts the population to make a comparison between both parts of the city, which unfortunately, does not always turn out in favor of the Democratic [East] Berlin.