The Berlin Wall: Book Review In August 1961, Berlin, Germany was seperated by a border of barbed wire. People of East Berlin could no longer enter West Berlin. The Berlin Wall tells about this event and what led to this event. Norman Gelb, the author, tells of the actions of the communistic East Berlin and the democratic West Berlin.
The book begins by explaining how the wall was put up. East Berlin put it up because of the refugees that were leaving East Berlin by the thousands to live in West Berlin. The amount of people leaving threatened the existence of the communistic party in East Berlin, and so it was decided by the political party there, the German Democratic Republic, that something had to be done.
At 1:00 am on August 13, 1961, the Berlin Wall was built. It first started out as a border made of barbed wire and cement posts.
Soon the supply of cement was running out, so streets were being torn up to make the wall. West Berliners looked on in disbelief at the overturned trees, trenches, and barbed wire. Yet they couldn't do anything about it because on the opposite side was guards with guns pointing directly at them. After the work on the wall was completed, it was 10-13 feet high. If it were straight, it would have been 103 miles long.
On the communistic East side there was another smaller wall. The land inbetween these walls were extremely dangerous. Guard patrolled this area with guns. This didn't stop people from trying to get through though. People went to all extremes trying to get to the other sides, including crashing through the wall with cars.
The book then goes back World War Two to show how this all began. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and United States president Dwight Eisenhower had mixed opinions on what to do about Berlin and the Soviets. They both knew the Soviets couldn't be trusted. When the American army was going to invade Berlin, Eisenhower had them stop. Three days later, the Soviets successfully captured Germans capitol and ended World War Two in Europe.
Germany was then divided into four sectors between the Soviet Union, United States, England and Russia. East Germany was controlled by the Soviets. West Germany, also known as The Federal Republic, was controlled by England and the United States. The French had still not yet been assigned a section. When American troops were coming into their section of Berlin, they were told that they couldn't yet because Berlin was still in rubbles. It became clear that the Soviets attitude was "What's mine is mine; what's yours is negotiable." In the summer of 1959, the four powers met in Geneva to discuss Germany. When Krushchev, from the Soviet party, made unreasonable commands and were denied those, he walked out of the conference. Soon West Berlin was under control of the allies and East Berlin under the control of the Soviets. By 1961, when the wall went up, 2,800,000 East Berliners had moved to West Berlin since 1949, when the German Democratic Republic was founded. The Soviets wanted the Western allies out of Berlin, but since that wouldn't happen, a wall seperating the two would be the next best solution.
Berliners didn't know about the wall, but they did think something was going to happen. Some West Berliners thought East Germany was planning on seizing a West Berlin government building. One reporter, Kellet Long stated, "Berlin is holding it's breath." Soon the wall went up.
According to Gelb, the United States took what was happening in Berlin lightly. When Berlin Task Force officer, John Ausland, was called and told that trouble was fomenting in Berlin, Ausland said to call back later and went back to sleep. When the news finally reached John F. Kennedy, president at the time, the message was still unclear. No one knew what was going on. What was clear though, was that West Germany was not in control of Berlin.
When the wall went up there were protests. East Berliners could not go into West Berlin, but West Berliners could go into East Berlin, if they showed their passport and had peaceful intentions. At 10:00 a.m. the following morning after the wall was put up, 150 Berliners rallied at Potsdamer Platz. They yelled at the work crews and armed guards putting up the wall. By 10:30 a.m., there were 500 ralliers, and by 11:00 a.m., there were 2,000. It was during this time that escaping from East Berlin was most easy because there was no second wall yet. People would swim across rivers and West Berliners would pull them out on the other side. As time went on, the wall became harder and harder, till almost impossible to cross.