Modern History: The Cold War
Studies of Beliefs and Ideas: The Cold War
The Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall
The Cold War was a conflict which lasted from 1945 to 1991. At the close of the Second World War, two superpowers had emerged, the United States and the Soviet Union. These nations were allied during World War Two and had supressed their mutual hostility in order to defeat the Nazi regime. High levels of distrust and differing ideologies existed between the superpowers. After the defeat of their common enemy these two countries ultimately came into conflict. Germany was divided after their defeat in World War Two and this was followed by further divisions throughout Europe into pro-US capitalism in the west and pro-USSR communism in the east. These divisions ultimately fuelled the Cold War tensions between the superpowers and culminated in the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961. The erection and evolution of the Berlin Wall furthered divisions within Germany and significantly impacted people’s lives, socially, politically and economically and from 1961 until its voidance in 1989. In an attempt to understand the significance of the Berlin Wall, it is important to investigate how the division of Germany influenced tensions between the superpowers after World War Two, how this division led to the erection of the Berlin Wall, the social, political and economic impacts of the wall on peoples’ lives, and the influences of its fall.
Germany’s division at the close of World War Two sparked the beginnings of tension and mistrust between the emerging superpowers of the world. In July 1945 the allied nation’s leaders met at the Potsdam Conference. It was decided by Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin and Harry Truman that Germany and its capital would each be divided into four zones between the main allied nations; Britain, the United States, France and the Soviet Union (Malone, 2009). Berlin was a key position during the cold war, all of the leaders were aware of the strategic importance of Berlin and nobody was willing to give that up. The hostility developing between the US and USSR led to the division of Germany into two different states, East Germany and West Germany, Europe was beginning to be divided into pro-US and pro-USSR (S. Sheehan, 2004). This can be corroborated in Richard Malone’s ‘Analysing Modern History’ (Malone, 2009) where he makes clear the division of Germany as central to the tensions between the superpowers by 1948. He mentions that the allies would never agree on a united Germany. The US and USSR both tried to influence the world, through their regions, in favour of their own interests, based on very different ideas about the organisation of society (S. Sheehan, 2004). The actions of each nation contributed to the growing tensions. This quote from President John F Kennedy from 1960 is an example of how the tensions were beginning to surface:
“For this is not a struggle for supremacy of...