CAIRO – 16 August 2022: Two days after the free passage between East and West Berlin was closed with barbed wire, the East German authorities began building the Berlin Wall to permanently close access to the West.
For the next 28 years, the heavily fortified Berlin Wall remained the most tangible symbol of the Cold War - the "Iron Curtain" dividing Europe.
The end of World War II in 1945 saw the division of Germany into four Allied occupation zones. Similarly, Berlin, the German capital, was divided into sectors of occupation, even though it was located deep in the Soviet zone.
The future of Germany and Berlin was a major sticking point in the post-war treaty talks. Tensions increased when the United States, Britain and France moved in 1948 to unite their areas of occupation into a single independent entity - the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). In response, the Soviet Union launched a land blockade of West Berlin in an attempt to force the West to abandon the city.However, a massive airlift by Britain and the United States kept West Berlin supplied with food and fuel. In May 1949, the Soviets ended the defeated siege, according to History.
By 1961, Cold War tensions over Berlin were rising again. For East Germans dissatisfied with life under the communist regime, West Berlin was a gateway to the democratic West. Between 1949 and 1961, about 2.5 million East Germans fled from East Germany to West Germany, mostly via West Berlin. By August 1961, an average of 2,000 East Germans were crossing into the West each day, and many of the refugees were skilled workers, professionals, and intellectuals. Their loss had a devastating impact on the East German economy.
To stem migration to the West, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev recommended that East Germany close access between East and West Berlin. On the night of August 12-13, 1961, East German soldiers laid more than 30 miles of barbed wire across the heart of Berlin. East Berliners were barred from entering West Berlin. The number of checkpoints through which Westerners can cross the border has been greatly reduced.
The West surprisingly threatened to impose a trade embargo on East Germany as a retaliatory measure. The Soviets responded that such an embargo would be answered by imposing a new land blockade on West Berlin. When it became clear that the West would not take any major action to protest the shutdown, the East German authorities became emboldened, closing more and more checkpoints between East and West Berlin. On August 15, they began replacing the barbed wire with concrete. The East German authorities declared that the wall would protect their citizens from the malign influence of decadent capitalist culture.