On May 8, 1945, World War II in Europe has ended. Germany is divided into East Germany controlled by the Soviet Union and West Germany is controlled by the Allies. Berlin is divided into four sections with the Soviet Union controlling East Berlin and France, Great Britain and the United States controlling the three sections in West Berlin.
On June 24, 1948, the Soviets form a blockade around West Berlin, cutting it off from the western free world.
On June 25, 1948, the United States begins the Berlin Airlift, flying supplies into West Berlin.
On May 12, 1949, the Soviets realize their blockade of West Berlin is futile against the airlift, thus ending the blockade.
On May 24, 1949, West Germany formally becomes the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG).
On September 30, 1949, the Berlin Airlift into West Berlin ends.
On October 7, 1949, East Germany formally becomes the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Note that many communist countries use the term ‘Democratic’ in their name. Most Americans confuse democracy and republic. President James Madison once stated:
“Democracy was the right of the people to choose their own tyrant.”
As opposed to a republic where people elect officials to do the will of the people. America was originally established as a republic, but over the last century, we have moved to being a democracy and even an ineptocracy which is defined as:
“A system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.”
On May 26, 1952, the communist government of East Germany closes the borders between East and West Germany.
On December 11, 1957, East German government makes it a crime to leave the country without a pass. Violators are subject to 3 years in prison.
On August 13, 1961, East German and East Berlin communists begin erecting an impassable border between East and West Berlin. They start with barbed and razor wire which eventually leads to the Berlin Wall.
On August 14, 1961, East Berlin closes the Brandenburg Gate.
On August 26, 1961, East Berlin closes all remaining avenues of passage between East and West Berlin. Once again, West Berlin is shut off by the Soviet backed German communists. The reason for this move is that tens of thousands of German citizens were entering West Berlin and then escaping to the rest of Europe and even on to America.
On February 9, 1984, Soviet leader Yuri Andropov dies.
On February 13, 1984, Konstantin Chernenko becomes the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.
On March 10, 1985, Chernenko dies.
On March 11, 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev becomes the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and take command of the Soviet Union. Gorbachev inherited a number of problems created by his predecessors. Gorbachev also launched into a nuclear arms race with the US and President Ronald Reagan.
During Gorbachev’s term, he introduced two controversial programs in an attempt to improve the government relationship with the Soviet people. They were ‘glasnost’ and ‘perestroika.’ Glasnost, meaning ‘openness’ was intended to make the Soviet government more transparent to the people. Perestroika, meaning ‘restructuring’ referred to Gorbachev’s attempts to change the Soviet political and economic systems before they collapsed and destroyed the nation.
On this day, June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan visits West Berlin and delivers his historic speech, calling for Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev to open and tear down the Berlin War. His speech in part stated:
“Chancellor Kohl, Governing Mayor Diepgen, ladies and gentlemen: Twenty-four years ago, President John F. Kennedy visited Berlin, speaking to the people of this city and the world at the City Hall. Well, since then two other presidents have come, each in his turn, to Berlin. And today I, myself, make my second visit to your city.
We come to Berlin, we American presidents, because it’s our duty to speak, in this place, of freedom. But I must confess, we’re drawn here by other things as well: by the feeling of history in this city, more than 500 years older than our own nation; by the beauty of the Grunewald and the Tiergarten; most of all, by your courage and determination. Perhaps the composer Paul Lincke understood something about American presidents. You see, like so many presidents before me, I come here today because wherever I go, whatever I do: Ich hab noch einen Koffer in Berlin. [I still have a suitcase in Berlin.]…
Behind me stands a wall that encircles the free sectors of this city, part of a vast system of barriers that divides the entire continent of Europe. From the Baltic, south, those barriers cut across Germany in a gash of barbed wire, concrete, dog runs, and guard towers. Farther south, there may be no visible, no obvious wall. But there remain armed guards and checkpoints all the same–still a restriction on the right to travel, still an instrument to impose upon ordinary men and women the will of a totalitarian state. Yet it is here in Berlin where the wall emerges most clearly; here, cutting across your city, where the news photo and the television screen have imprinted this brutal division of a continent upon the mind of the world. Standing before the Brandenburg Gate, every man is a German, separated from his fellow men. Every man is a Berliner, forced to look upon a scar…
In the 1950s, Khrushchev predicted: “We will bury you.” But in the West today, we see a free world that has achieved a level of prosperity and well-being unprecedented in all human history. In the Communist world, we see failure, technological backwardness, declining standards of health, even want of the most basic kind–too little food. Even today, the Soviet Union still cannot feed itself. After these four decades, then, there stands before the entire world one great and inescapable conclusion: Freedom leads to prosperity. Freedom replaces the ancient hatreds among the nations with comity and peace. Freedom is the victor.
And now the Soviets themselves may, in a limited way, be coming to understand the importance of freedom. We hear much from Moscow about a new policy of reform and openness. Some political prisoners have been released. Certain foreign news broadcasts are no longer being jammed. Some economic enterprises have been permitted to operate with greater freedom from state control.
Are these the beginnings of profound changes in the Soviet state? Or are they token gestures, intended to raise false hopes in the West, or to strengthen the Soviet system without changing it? We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace.
General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” [Emphasis mine]
On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall is opened for access between East and West Berlin. Many families separated for 28 years are finally reunited.
On December 22, 1989, East Berlin reopens the long closed Brandenburg Gate.
On October 3, 1990, East and West Germany were officially reunited under the name of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Sources for the above includes: Berlin Wall Timeline; The Berlin Wall; 25 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About the Berlin Wall; Berlin Wall; Glasnost and Perestroika, “Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall” President Ronald Reagan; Reagan Challenges Gorbachev to Tear Down the Berlin Wall; Gorbachev’s Policies of Glasnost and Perestroika: Explanation and Significance; This Day in Pictures: Remembering Reagan and His Famous Line, ‘Tear Down This Wall!’; Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev Biography; Ronald Reagan: “Tear Down this Wall”.