How the Berlin Wall Fell

How the Berlin Wall Fell


30 years ago, the Berlin Wall which divided
east from west fell in a quite sudden turn of events, eventually resulting in German
reunification and signaling the end of the Cold War, but how did the wall fall? Furthermore, why was it built, and how did
it become so synonymous with the Cold War as a whole? First some background, after World War II,
Germany and Austria were partitioned amongst the Allied Powers under provisional governments
established to make sure there wouldn’t be any of that Reich stuff again. Austria was allowed to reunify under the promise
that they never unite with Germany and also promise to stay neutral between the interests
of the Soviets and the other three, while Germany‘s easternmost bits were ceded to
Poland and Russia. The rest of Germany was split between English,
French, American, and Soviet jurisdiction under a kind of temporary arrangement (oh
and Saarland also got to do its own thing for a few years). But remember kids, there is nothing as permanent
as a temporary solution. These four powers didn‘t exactly get along
after the fall of their common enemy, or well really three of them didn‘t get along with
the other, so when the US, UK, and France made plans for Germany that conflicted with
Russian plans, the USSR decided to keep its slice as a puppet state of its own, creating
the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), contrasting with the Federal Republic of Germany
(then known as West Germany). Now as I‘m sure some people in the comments
have already pointed out without waiting for me to actually say it, Berlin also got this
treatment, and so the western half of Berlin became an island within the DDR. Westerners could drive in but of course that
was a bit easier said than done sometimes, as was the case with Easterners, except they
weren‘t supposed to be going to West Berlin. You see, emigration wasn‘t exactly something
that Eastern Bloc countries always approved of, especially if you were a young professional
educated in the East, but in Berlin it was pretty easy to just walk across the border
and go to the west from there, which over 3 million people[1] did in the first couple
decades after the war. Knowing this, the East German officials decided
to build a wall around West Berlin to keep the Easterners in the East. [Almost everyone hated that]
Now since West Berlin was actually an enclave in the middle of the DDR, the wall didn‘t
go through Berlin, but all the way around the west, so there wasn‘t any “going around”
the wall. Also… it wasn‘t just a wall they put up
and left there, it was actually two walls sandwiching in a sandpit which was often nicknamed
the Death Strip. Why was it nicknamed the Death Strip? Good question! Well, it‘s really only to do with the electric
fences, guard dogs, tank traps, constant illumination at night, spike strips, and guard towers with
guards who weren‘t just going to let you go under the radar for 20 Marks. Also, the smaller inner wall was itself guarded
on the eastern side, so if you have a piece of the wall that has graffiti on it, it was
probably from the western side. Actually all things considered it‘s probably
just a random piece of concrete with green paint on it being sold to clueless tourists
for €8. Seriously, don‘t buy too much of that stuff…
buy KhAnubis merch instead! Of course, plenty escape attempts were still
made, from people swimming across the Spree River, to hang gliding across, to inspiring
stories for the one German car company that can apparently get away with nostalgia. Hundreds of people tried to escape[2], many
of them successful, but many were either detained or simply killed on the spot. As such, the wall became a gruesome and poignant
symbol of the brutality of the regime and what lengths it would apparently go to to
limit freedom of travel, and thus arguably tarnished the reputation of the DDR. The Brandenburg Gate became trapped between
the walls, effectively becoming the gate that no one could go through, and a few certain
S- and U-Bahn stations either became border stations or were closed completely, now no
more than ghost stations. By the latter half of the 1980‘s, Socialist
regimes all across Central and Eastern Europe started to strain at the advent of mass protests
demanding for political and personal freedoms, and many lightened the restrictions on travel,
with Hungary even dismantling the electric fence on the Austrian border. As the DDR also became overwhelmed by protests
and exit visa applications, the government decided to also ease travel restrictions,
as declared in a press statement by Günter Schabowski. However, when a reporter asked when the changes
were due to take effect, Schabowski shrugged and simply said “to the best of my knowledge,
immediately”. This drove huge crowds to the border, crowding
the checkpoints until the confused guards relented and let the crowds through. Within a few hours people were starting to
chip away at the wall, within a few days construction crews were helping to dismantle the wall,
and within a year Germany became one united country again. The DDR was effectively annexed into the Federal
Republic of Germany, laws were altered, currency was exchanged, and passports were replaced. There was no more East or West, this country
was now just “Germany”. In the 30 years following the wall‘s fall,
East and West Germany have united seamlessly, but not necessarily evenly. Formerly East German states still have much
weaker economies than their western counterparts[3][4], and the divide in Berlin can still be seen
from space at night, each side using different light bulbs. Reunification also cost a lot of money for
the West[5], several hundred billion euros have been put into various projects to improve
the ailing infrastructure of the East. Throughout its existence, the DDR— while
not by any means a poor country— still struggled financially and was kept afloat by Moscow,
as its planned economy never exactly took off, especially after all those war reparations. This meant that roads, railways, buildings,
power plants, and many other things had to be improved to the, shall we say, higher living
standards of the West. Although it was tough, these subsidies were
said to have brought along Germany‘s second financial boom. Life expectancies even increased, but unemployment
is still once again higher in the former eastern states and many easterners have now flocked
to the west. There‘s no getting around it, German reunification
was though, to blatantly understate it, but it showed that even a presence that seemed
as powerfully permanent as the Berlin Wall, what literally divided a city and symbolically
the world, could still be brought down. Thanks as always for watching, and thank you
all so much for bearing with me these last few weeks. If you haven’t already heard, I got my laptop
stolen a few weeks ago in Vienna and I had to wait three weeks for a new one, but now
it’s all back to the every Sunday schedule from here! As always, be sure to like the video, support
the channel on Patreon, and subscribe to learn something new every Sunday.

35 Comments on "How the Berlin Wall Fell"


  1. It seems to me that the map of areas is false in Austria, France controlled the most westerly one.

    Well done me, it seems to me that this is my first comment under one of your videos and it's to point out a mistake. 🙁

    Reply

  2. So, at least we know that if Trump ever gets to build his wall, it won't be a permanent thing. It will also be brought down.

    Reply

  3. Inaccuracy : the west german state was foundet before the east german state therefore it was just an reaction to western division. Stalin wanted a united germany and the division was the west‘s fault.

    Reply

  4. The wall wasn't really built because the migration but more because border guards were being killed by us backed agencies and even after the wall was built the people that went to the west were looking for higher education (like doctor) and got a home

    Reply

  5. that does not tell us how the wall it self fell. you are talking why but not how the actual wall fell. if it even fell over at all. there are pictures of parts being hoisted away. but that is not falling.

    Reply

  6. Top 10 most anticipated comebacks

    When learning about German reunification I can't help but compare it to the possibility of a Korean reunification. Korea's reunification will cost much more than Germany's, so much so that many Younger Koreans don't even want to reunite with the North. Korea's a lot like Germany as far as physical manifestations of the Cold War go

    Reply

  7. There is a slight factual mistake here at 1:13 – France did not get along well with its American and British allies so it wasn't exactly a 3 v 1 scenario

    Reply

  8. I think I saw you coming out of the U1 in Warschauer, close to the East Side Gallery a few days ago. Or at least it was someone who was wearing the hat.

    I briefly tried to say hi, but I was running late for work and this person looked busy.

    Props man, good channel.

    Reply

  9. 2:18 wohh! That's expensive !!!
    I picked up a small piece of wall in 2009 (YES, it was still there .. some) while it was getting taken down.

    Reply

  10. The map at 6:36 doesn't seem to be correct. The state with the highest unemployment rate is Bremen, and they only have ~10%, while this one shows states with up to 20%.

    Reply

  11. The U-Bahn and S-Bahn didn’t stop anywhere in East Berlin, except for Fredrichstraße, which was a border check point.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *