Even before the end of World War II the Allies agreed to require Germany’s unconditional surrender, and to then divide the country into zones from which reparations were to be collected from at the Yalta Conference.
: Around this time, tensions over ideologies between the East and West were gaining strength. These tensions would eventually contribute to the breakdown of the four zone compromise in favor of a two-bloc conflict that would see a wall physically divide Berlin and stand for nearly thirty years as a symbol of these Cold War tensions. The four zones were an idea agreed upon at the Yalta Conference. It was a compromise between the superpowers. Each could gain reparations to their respective countries and control a zone of Germany and Berlin (both were divided, despite Berlin technically being part of the Soviet Zone). In a further show of cooperation, another compromise was made between the Western Zones and the Soviet Zone where the west would supply industrial equipment to the east and the east would supply raw materials to the west. The Collapse of the four zones: The plan for the zones collapsed after a combination of conflicting ideologies and goals became clear between the west and the East. The west wanted to rebuild itself along with Germany to prevent another Treaty of Versailles situation, clear in the creation of the Marshall Plan.
Stalin rejected this offer on multiple grounds, one of which included the prioritization of the reconstruction of western Europe over the U.S.S.
R., which was devastated by WWII. The Soviets wanted heavy reparations from Germany, to strip the country, and to not only repair their own state but to also become a more dominant power in Europe as tensions over ideologies leading up to the Cold War heated up. The rejection of the Marshall plan by the Soviets revealed some of the U.S.
S.R.’s intentions and made many in the west suspicious, adding further tension. In 1946, reparation agreements broke down and the Western Zones, consisting of the French, British, and American Zones, merged.
A new conflict emerged between the two new halves of Berlin, the Eastern Zone worried about the power the new combined West had. The two new halves became known as the Western and Eastern Blocs during the Cold War. On June 23, 1948, the west powers introduced a new form of currency into the western zones and a day later the east imposed the Berlin Blockade. The west countered this with a massive Allied airlift, lifting the blockade. The east was pulled tighter to the Soviets and isolated from the west. Over the course of 12 years between 2.5 and 3 million East Berliners, often skilled laborers, professionals, and intellectuals, left their small Soviet satellite for the much more prosperous west. In August, 1961, Walter Ulbricht, the Communist leader of East Germany, was given permission by Nikita Khrushchev, Soviet Premier, to try to stop the floods of leaving people.
: The Berlin wall was the Soviets’ solution to preventing escapes to the other bloc and its construction began the night of August 12, 1961, to August 13, 1961. It began with miles of barbed wire, and soon was replaced by a six-foot high wall with spotlights, machine gun posts, and guard towers. The morning of August 13, 1961, saw, even with just the barbed wire, the separation of families and friends in the city. The division was complete, leaving the Federal Republic and the German Democratic Republic clear in their border, and the wall to become a famously contested site for the legitimacy between the two governments a symbol of Cold War divisions. The Wall was used in political battles around the world and in the media, often used to show parallels.
It wasn’t until the 70s and 80s that divergences between the blocs became clear, during the period of detente, and even then, they were not harbingers of doom to the east as their implications were yet to be seen. In hindsight, the wall was always a sign of failure on GDR because it was created to prevent their citizens from leaving to go to the west. In later years the GDR balanced the gain from western interaction and the potential upset of ideals it may cause.
It did this with the policy of Abgrenzung which was a restrictive policy that allowed censoring the population and ruling them with an authoritarian hand. As general conditions and freedoms decreased in the Eastern Bloc the Wall became more hated, seen as a symbol of oppression and tyranny. In 1963, Kennedy gave his famous “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” speech in front of the Wall to celebrate the city as a symbol of resistance to such oppressions. Finally, in the 1980s, with the decline of the Soviet Union, East Germany implemented a number of reforms. On November 9th, 1989, masses on both sides started to climb over and dismantle the wall and on October 3rd, 1990, a formal treaty of unification was signed.