Why Was the Berlin Wall Built?
Editor’s Note: A core neoconservative myth of the modern era is that President Ronald Reagan’s order to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this Wall” marked the final phase of the Cold War and proved Reagan’s greatness.
A counter-analysis holds that the Cold War had essentially ended in the 1970s with the failure of the Soviet Union to keep pace with the West and that Reagan unnecessarily heated the Cold War back up to justify a costly military buildup and horrendous bloodshed in Third World hotspots. [See Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]
In this guest essay – from www.killinghope.org – author William Blum looks even further back at another question, what was behind the building of the Berlin Wall at the dawn of the Cold War:
Within a few weeks many of the Western media can be expected to turn on their propaganda machines to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, November 9, 1989.
All the Cold War clichés about The Free World vs. Communist Tyranny will be trotted out and the simple tale of how the wall came to be will be repeated: In 1961, the East Berlin communists built a wall to keep their oppressed citizens from escaping to West Berlin and freedom.
Why? Because commies don't like people to be free, to learn the "truth". What other reason could there have been?
First of all, before the wall went up thousands of East Germans had been commuting to the West for jobs each day and then returned to the East in the evening. So they were clearly not being held in the East against their will. The wall was built primarily for two reasons:
1. The West was bedeviling the East with a vigorous campaign of recruiting East German professionals and skilled workers, who had been educated at the expense of the Communist government. This eventually led to a serious labor and production crisis in the East. As one indication of this, the New York Times reported in 1963: "West Berlin suffered economically from the wall by the loss of about 60,000 skilled workmen who had commuted daily from their homes in East Berlin to their places of work in West Berlin." [See NYT, June 27, 1963, p.12]
2. During the 1950s, American Cold Warriors in West Germany instituted a crude campaign of sabotage and subversion against East Germany designed to throw that country's economic and administrative machinery out of gear. The CIA and other US intelligence and military services recruited, equipped, trained and financed German activist groups and individuals, of West and East, to carry out actions which ran the spectrum from terrorism to juvenile delinquency; anything to make life difficult for the East German people and weaken their support of the government; anything to make the commies look bad.
It was a remarkable undertaking. The United States and its agents used explosives, arson, short circuiting, and other methods to damage power stations, shipyards, canals, docks, public buildings, gas stations, public transportation, bridges, etc; they derailed freight trains, seriously injuring workers; burned 12 cars of a freight train and destroyed air pressure hoses of others; used acids to damage vital factory machinery; put sand in the turbine of a factory, bringing it to a standstill; set fire to a tile-producing factory; promoted work slow-downs in factories; killed 7,000 cows of a co-operative dairy through poisoning; added soap to powdered milk destined for East German schools; were in possession, when arrested, of a large quantity of the poison cantharidin with which it was planned to produce poisoned cigarettes to kill leading East Germans; set off stink bombs to disrupt political meetings; attempted to disrupt the World Youth Festival in East Berlin by sending out forged invitations, false promises of free bed and board, false notices of cancellations, etc.; carried out attacks on participants with explosives, firebombs, and tire-puncturing equipment; forged and distributed large quantities of food ration cards to cause confusion, shortages and resentment; sent out forged tax notices and other government directives and documents to foster disorganization and inefficiency within industry and unions ... all this and much more. [See Killing Hope, p.400, note 8, for a list of sources for the details of the sabotage and subversion.]
Throughout the 1950s, the East Germans and the Soviet Union repeatedly lodged complaints with the Soviets' erstwhile allies in the West and with the United Nations about specific sabotage and espionage activities and called for the closure of the offices in West Germany they claimed were responsible, and for which they provided names and addresses.
Their complaints fell on deaf ears. Inevitably, the East Germans began to tighten up entry into the country from the West.
Let's not forget that Eastern Europe became communist because Hitler, with the approval of the West, used it as a highway to reach the Soviet Union and wipe out Bolshevism forever. After the war, the Soviets were determined to close down the highway.
In 1999, USA Today reported: "When the Berlin Wall crumbled, East Germans imagined a life of freedom where consumer goods were abundant and hardships would fade. Ten years later, a remarkable 51% say they were happier with communism." [USA Today, Oct. 11, 1999]
About the same time a new Russian proverb was born: "Everything the Communists said about Communism was a lie, but everything they said about capitalism turned out to be the truth."
William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II.
To comment at Consortiumblog, click here. (To make a blog comment about this or other stories, you can use your normal e-mail address and password. Ignore the prompt for a Google account.) To comment to us by e-mail, click here. To donate so we can continue reporting and publishing stories like the one you just read, click here.
Back to Home Page