Travel: Cold War Remnants

It is hard to walk through Berlin without seeing the lasting impacts of the Cold War in its streets. In the aftermath of fall of Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union had already positioned itself in power over the nations it had annexed, laying a foundation for the Eastern Bloc.  They effectively became Soviet Socialist Republics.

Early on, Winston Churchill expressed concerns that the soviet leader, Joseph Stalin was unreliable. It is during this, that he delivered his famous “Iron Curtain” speech, encouraging an Anglo-American alliance for defense. Germany was in no position to fend for itself against the onslaught of Allied disagreements over the best method of reinstating democratic governance.

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The primary nations involved all formed alliances amongst themselves, effectively snatching up zones of occupation to prevent the further encroachment of communism. This eventually culminated in the creation of the Berlin Wall. East Germany was losing many of its young and educated professionals to the West. Despite an ultimate to restrict this exodus, the allied forces refused to accede, and on August 13, 1961, a barrier was erected over night. The wall divided families that were a mere 2 km apart, and permission to cross was difficult to obtain and rarely granted.

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This is not to say that certain reforms were ineffective. In speaking with local Germans, certain chains in the East were considered beneficial. One example is the mandatory care and check-ups of children; If a mother failed to bring her offspring to medical practitioners within a certain period of time, it would be documented, and officials would go for a consult at their residence. I concede that this may seem overbearing, however as in present, many children still suffer due to malnutrition, and stringent religious beliefs that reject modern medicine. Note that I am citing but one example.

Despite this, many still sought to escape the oppression of soviet communism, and the limitations put on individual freedom. For example, the wall  divided families that were a mere 2 km apart, and permission to cross was difficult to obtain and rarely granted. Families were divided.

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I would have made the same choice. Some individuals were successful, coming up with inventive ideas such as secret compartments, flying contraptions, tunneling, or even fake identity papers. Some were not; an estimated 600 people died during their attempt, or after due to sustained injuries.

On 12 June 1987, Ronald Reagan challenged Mikhail Gorbachev, then the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, to tear down the wall as a symbol of increasing freedom. In late 1989, “Peaceful Revolution” a non-violent protest sparked. Since no one wanted to take responsibility for issuing violent action, the police stood by. Eventually, the Politburo voted to allow migration of Germans from East to West; On November 9, 1989 thousands of citizens began climbing over, and tearing down the wall.

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Today, the East Side Gallery is possibly one of the largest, and oldest, open-air galleries in the world.

It stands as an international memorial for freedom, rejecting the stigmas of oppression,  restrictions of rights, and emphasizing the expression of individualism.

It was some breathtaking artistry.

I particularly liked the statement expressed here.

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