Building of Berlin Wall I

Program Information

Series: A Moment in Time
Duration: 00:03:49
Year Produced: 2010
Description:

At the height of the Cold War, with tensions at a fevered pitch, the Soviet Union and its East German client state--in an act of self-preservation--built a wall around West Berlin.

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Transcript

Lead: At the height of the Cold War, with tensions at a fevered pitch, the Soviet Union and its East German client state--in an act of self-preservation--built a wall around West Berlin.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: The Cold War lasted from 1946 until the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. For much of that time, the city of West Berlin was the cockpit of low-grade superpower rivalry. In the summer of 1961, events in Berlin threatened to spark a much wider conflict.

During the interwar period, prior to the Nazi takeover in 1933, Berlin was one of the loveliest, most cosmopolitan cities in Europe. Its center was repeatedly bombed in the closing years of World War II, reducing its handsome boulevards and parks to ruin. After the war, as punishment for its aggression, the victorious Allied powers divided Germany into four zones of roughly equal size, each administered by one of the allies: United States, Britain, France and the Soviet Union. Its capital city received like treatment.

As the years passed and it became clear that the Soviets had no intention of permitting the re-unification of Germany, the western allies formed West Germany and merged their zones in Berlin under a unified municipal government. Increasingly, West Germany--with its modified market economy--grew more and more prosperous. In contrast, East Germany with its command economy and heavily dependent on Soviet subsidies, slipped farther behind economically. Nowhere was the demonstrated contrast between the two systems more acute than in Berlin. Because work was plentiful and the payment in West German marks worth more, thousands of East Berliners crossed the border each day to work in West Berlin. They saw the marked difference and, during the 1950s, many East Berliners crossed the border and never looked back.

Next time: A line drawn.

Research by Elizabeth Lacy, at the University of Richmond, this is Dan Roberts.