Two years before in West Berlin, then President Ronald Reagan stated in a speech,”General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate. More than two more years after this speech, the Berlin Wall will be no longer.
The Inglorious History of the “Iron Curtain”
On August 13, 1961 barbed wire fencing is built along with concrete barriers and the border between East and West Berlin is shut. The Berlin Wall ultimately became a 96-mile long barrier positioned around West Berlin. Just two days later, the first recorded violation is tried as 19-year-old border guard Conrad Schumann successfully escapes to West Germany. Gunter Litfin a young tailor’s apprentice is the first man to be shot and killed in an escape attempt on August 24, 1961. During the next years, over 10,000 people attempted escapes with about 5,000 of these succeeding.
In a speech presented at the Berlin Wall on June 26, 1962, President John F. Kennedy says,”There are several people in the world who really do not understand, or say they do not, what’s the greatest issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin.” In this exact same speech he admits,”Ich bin ein Berliner” (I am a Berliner). Finally after months of lengthy negotiations, both sides reach an agreement that allow West Berliners to visit relatives in east Berlin. Three decades later, negotiations for more access between both sides of the town fail as East German officials order stricter control on the border and build additional sections to the wall.
In the seventies and eighties, many critical events occur that will finally bring an end to the Berlin Wall and Communism. In 1977, three teenagers are killed during a clash between protesters and East German police. Reform escalates throughout the seventies and culminate in an agreement between the Communist government and striking shipyard workers in Poland. The attack is directed by Lech Walesa who helps to cause the formation of trade unions, finally resulting in the anti-Communist Solidarity movement.
In early 1989, the last remaining sections of the”Iron Curtain” are dismantled as Hungary disables their electrical alarm system, cuts through the barbed wire on the Hungarian-Austrian border, and eventually reopens the border with East Germany. Three months later, 13,000 East Germans escape to the West through Austria. East Germany’s leader, Erich Honecker is forced from office just 38 days later. Five days after the Berlin Wall came down.
On December 3, 1989, George H.W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev run a shipboard summit at Malta. Afterward, in the press conference, Soviet spokesman Gennady Gerasimov says,”From Yalta to Malta, the cold war ended at 12:45 p.m. today.” In the next years, Communists in Prague step down, Hungary elects a non-Communist government, Germany unifies, Lech Walesa is elected president in Poland, and the Soviet Union dissolves. Due to the events and efforts of so many people dedicated to liberty, the Berlin Wall is no more and millions are now able to live free.