Twenty Years After -- Part 3: The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Posted by Peter A. Kraemer
November 9, 2009

About the Author: Dr. Peter Kraemer serves as a Historian at the U.S. Department of State.Part 1: The Rise of the Berlin Wall | Part 2: The U.S. and the Berlin Wall

But the Berlin Wall also has a good side, if you will. In the sense that, remember I was talking earlier about the streams of refugees out of East Germany. The Berlin Wall did stop the flow of refugees. Five thousand people escaped over, under, and around the wall between 1961 and 1989.

But compare that with 2.7 million people leaving during the course of the 1950s. And without taking away anything from the suffering of those people who lived behind the wall, the Berlin Wall did bring a measure of stability to the situation. There may have been greater violence if the wall not been constructed, but we can only conjecture as to that.

One thing that I would say when we’re talking about the fall of the wall, we talk about the wall as an oppressive force. And there’s no question that the wall is… The Berlin Wall represents the failure to find to find a solution – not the failure of the west, but the failure of the communist governments to find a solution to their problems. Walls of any kind in history represent failures because they are ultimate solutions. They are non-negotiable entities, right? You cannot negotiate with a wall.

And so the fall of the wall is in many ways is the failure of the communist ideology, it’s the failure of centrally planned authorities to dictate to the people what they shouldn't and should think, what they should do and how they should practice their lives.

Related Information: Voices of U.S. Diplomacy and the Berlin Wall Online Exhibition


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