Tensions have risen in the conflict between East and West Germany as the communist regime in the East has continued to deny the citizens within this region the ability to travel freely. The escalation of conflicts between these two regions have culminated over East Germany’s construction and enforcement of the Berlin Wall, a divisive catalyst for the divisions between the two areas. Currently, over 1,000 guards and military personnel have attempted to escape from the eastern region, as well as several millions of civilians. This move and the continued rise of the communist presence in East Germany has facilitated a platform through which vast discrepancies have arisen in the political and social atmospheres of both regions. As more civilians attempt to pass through to West Germany, the government in East Germany has developed a system that they hope will curb the significant declines in population. This system largely revolves around the Berlin Wall, approximately 30 miles of barbed wire and concrete structures built directly in the heart of the city of Berlin.
Approximately four million people have left East Germany, and migrated to West Germany, since the collapse of the Nazi regime in 1949. With the fall of the Nazi party in the area, the communist regime was able to swiftly move in and seize control of East Germany. One prominent area within Germany for many citizens in both regions has been that of Berlin, a cultural hub located directly on the border between the divided Germany. Originally, West Berliners were allowed the ability to leave their region and visit friends and family in East Berlin. The government of East Germany has issued over 170,000 one-day passes, allowing for continued visits into the region by individuals who live outside of East Germany’s control. Yet, the effects of citizens leaving East Germany caused the government to respond harshly by erecting the Berlin Wall in 1961. Much of the emphasis that East Germany placed on its development of the wall has also included the expansion of western culture, such as movie and fashion, into the region. Fearing the influence that exposure to these aspects of Western culture could have on the citizenry, the government chose to place high restrictions on the citizens in East Germany. This could largely be seen as a result of the influx of Western culture into West Germany, due to the occupation of this region by many of the Allied forces and their constituents.
The remainder of the Allied Forces, predominantly led by the United States and Britain, began building a capitalist democracy style of government in West Germany. By early 1961, over four million East Germans had begun the move to West Germany, increasing tensions between the two regions. In June 1961, President John F. Kennedy made the decision to meet with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev at a summit in Vienna, Austria to attempt to reestablish connections between the two superpowers. This event was unsuccessful in this regard, and further supplanted the tensions between the two areas.
As the potential threat of engagement between the two superpowers increased, so did the anxieties of the Soviet powers. In turn, Khrushchev made the final decision to increase the fortifications of the Berlin Wall, increasing it from a barbed wire fence to a more present concrete wall encasing the border between East and West Berlin. The wall has since been met with intense scrutiny and controversy. While it can be said that it was intended to deter people from leaving the city, many still found a way to do so regardless. “Since the first hysterical days after the Communist wall went up on August 13, 1961, the students of West Berlin have welded themselves, in groups and cells, through one escape operation after another, into one of the most extraordinary resistance movements which the world has seen since the days of World War II.” (Cook, 30)
Various escape methods such as tunnels have been erected to attempt to flee the city, allowing for thousands to do so and leave the communist government present in East Germany. As a direct result of the construction of the wall, there has been an escalation of tensions between the United States and Russia. One of the primary attributes of these tensions is in the difference of political ideologies between communism and capitalist democracy, which have since been fueled by the increasing nuclear arsenals that these countries possess. Communications on both sides have deteriorated, with the focal point being in attempting to regulate the nature of the wall itself. Evidence of this collapse of communications came in the form of a National Security Council Meeting on July 19, 1961, in which the President raised among various questions the notion of “whether the proposed military build-up would increase the credibility of the U.S. Nuclear deterrent.” (Office of the Historian, 220)
In the summer of 1963, President Kennedy attempted to assert the United States’ presence and opinion of the matter, by visiting Berlin. While there, he was met by a large crowd, most of whom were elated to see him there in support. At Berlin, Kennedy emphasized the importance of negotiations and attempted to show that there is a platform for the two sides to agree upon. With the increasing rise of refugees coming from East Berlin, it is likely that the communist government will continue to make efforts to stifle the migration of its citizens. What is yet to be seen is how this will affect both the already disenfranchised members of East Germany, and the international community who are patiently waiting to see a resolution to the conflict.