What Was the Purpose of the Berlin Wall?

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The Berlin Wall was built to divide communist East Germany from democratic West Germany and to keep East Germans from escaping to West Germany. After World War II, defeated Germany was divided into four zones, each occupied by Allied forces: the United States, France, Great Britain and the Soviet Union. Tension between the communist territory and the democratic territories mounted, and the Berlin Wall was built to separate them.

According to About.com, in 1949, the three democratic territories controlled by France, Great Britain and the United States combined to form West Germany. The Soviet-controlled territory quickly followed suit, forming East Germany. The democratic West Germany developed quickly, experienced rapid economic growth and was dubbed the “economic miracle.” East Germany’s economic development, however, stalled. Viewing East Germany as a conquest, the Soviets pillaged the East German side for factory equipment and sent it back to the Soviet Union.

Another major difference between the countries was freedom. While freedom flourished on the democratic West German side, freedom was severely restricted in East Germany. As a result, by the 1950s, many East Germans packed their bags and moved to West Germany, which presented much more opportunity. By 1961, East Germany had lost a large portion of its population and workforce. Nearly 2.5 million people had fled to West Germany. Desperate to keep the remainder of the dwindling East German population, the Soviets built the Berlin Wall along the border of the two territories. The wall was constructed nearly overnight and was designed to keep East Germans from fleeing across the border. East Germans caught crossing the wall were shot, but even this did not keep people from attempting to leave.