The Berlin Wall is one of the most famous icons of the Cold War. Built on August 13, 1961, it was located in the heart of Berlin, seperating the West Side, which was controlled by the Allies, and the East Side, which was controlled by the Soviets. It was 26 miles long, 12 to 15 ft high, and about 4 ft wide.
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Plans for the wall came about in early 1950s for economic reasons. The East Berlin economy was falling apart due to the thousands of people escaping to West Berlin for a better life in a democracy. Fearing that the regime would collapse with the continued economic pressure, the East German premier Walter Ulbricht pondered the idea to close the border completely to West Berlin. The final decision to create some kind of border between East and West Berlin came about after the Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev declared the Berlin Ultimatum in 1958, saying that he wanted the Western Allies out of West Berlin, and that the city should be an "independent political unit, a free city".

At first, hundreds of Soviet and East German troops were sent to the border to enforce the new border policy. However, after a few weeks, a wall was built as a permanent border between East and West Berlin. As years went by, the border was fortified with armed guards with dogs, barbed wire, electric alarms, trenches, and even mines. President John F. Kennedy of the United States, the leader of the Western Allies, responded by saying that "as long as West Berlin rights were not being challenged, the US could not interfere".

Despite President JFK's decision to not interfere with the construction and fortification of the wall, tension between the Soviets and the Western Allies escalated. Tension was so high over the construction of the wall that in October 1961, US and Soviet tanks confronted each other at Checkpoint Charlie, a gate in the border between East and West Berlin controlled by the US.

external image d2jNvMR_IOouBrLrIhtC3nwlH4PIngNIJv0h2nsIyJp8vPaK2p-BcraWUXuESlqrZgmyTs8ZkNxfZl4L_n4Nnpo1KJwPMvx6KB3oOZKR0hBlvHnqMwAfter the wall was built, the population in East Berlin and the overall economy stabilized. Because the closing of the border hadn't been publicly announced to the people in East Berlin, East German propaganda declared that the wall had been built as an "anti-facist protection wall".

Throughout the 1960s and 1970's many hundreds of people tried to escape over the Berlin Wall. Underground tunnels allowed people to crawl under the wall undetected.

As the 1980's approached, political turmoil engulfed East Germany, especially in Berlin. Known as the Democratic Revolution, protesters were fed up with their oppressive government, putting pressure on East German government SED (Socialist Unity Party). Finally, on November 9, 1989, Gunter Schabowski, a member of SED, held a televised press conference announcing that the new decree that opened up the border between East and West Berlin would go into effect "immediately, with no delay". Hundreds of protesters swarmed to the wall and started chiseling it away piece by piece. The whole world watched as the Berlin Wall was torn down.

Today, the Berlin Wall and its effect on the American people is clear: its a clear symbol of the struggle between communism and democracy during the Cold War. Although it doesn't have a direct effect on American society, its remains remind us of the fear and iron-gripping power the Soviet Union had over their citizens. When the wall fell in the late 1980s, it gave the American people hope that the Cold War would end and that the Soviet Union could fall apart, ending decades of post World War 2 tension between the United States and the Soviet Union. Berlin Wall Video