Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Berlin Wall = Berliner Mauer

This is a special card I received in early April through a swap with user Morgaine. I saw that I had several US state map cards that she didn't have in her enormous collection, and in return she sent me this very special card. The Berlin Wall was erected in 1961 and remained in place until 1989. 

At the end of World War II, Germany was divided into four occupation zones, one-quarter each being occupied by the US, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. Additionally, Berlin, the German capital, was divided into four zones, although it was technically located squarely in the Soviet occupation zone. 

As time passed, West Germany, or the Federal Republic of Germany, developed a Western capitalist economy and experienced great economic growth. East Germany, or the German Democratic Republic, established an authoritarian-type government with a Soviet-style planned economy. It did not experience the economic growth seen in the west, and many East Germans wanted to emigrate to West Germany.

As tensions grew between capitalist countries and the Soviet Bloc, East German leaders met with Joseph Stalin in 1952 and decided that movement between East and West Germany (and any crossing of Soviet borders, period) was no longer tolerable, and a barbed wire fence was erected to prevent border-crossing from West to East Germany. The border continued to remain open in Berlin, however, until 1961. Between 1952 and 1961, many people emigrated from East Germany to the West, a phenomenon that includes the "Brain Drain," or the mass exodus of scholars from East Germany (most famously, perhaps, was Albert Einstein). It is estimated that 20% of all East Germans left for West Germany and elsewhere by 1961.

The Berlin Wall became a symbol for the Cold War struggle between the West and the Soviet Union, and its dismantling in 1989 signaled a victory for peace among the participating nations.



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