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Top 10 Historian Comments About The Berlin Wall

Ronald Reagan

The Berlin wall refers to a barrier that was erected between 1961 and 1989 and divided West Berlin and East Berlin from the surrounding East Germany. The wall was erected by the German Democratic Republic and construction is known to have started around August 31st 1961.

The wall or barrier was composed of guard towers which were placed along the barrier and circumscribed a large area which was referred to as the death strip. The death strip contained anti vehicle trenches, fakir beds and other defenses that were used to deter people escaping from East Germany towards West Germany.

The division occurred due to conflict between two factions namely the Western powers and the Eastern Bloc. The Western powers consisted mainly of US and Britain among others while the Eastern bloc consisted of Soviet Russia and other nations.

Below are Top 10 Historian Comments About The Berlin Wall.

FILE - This April 4, 1984 black-and-white file photo shows President Ronald Reagan faces reporters at the beginning of a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Second presidential terms are never easy. More often, they’re fraught with peril, frequently marred by scandal, failure, hubris, and burnout and souring relations with Congress. (AP Photo/Ira Schwarz, File)

Former President Ronald Reagan

The former president at the Brandenburg gate gave a speech where people got to hear the famous quote

“Mister Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

At the speech, the former president issued the challenge to Mikhail Gorbachev and ended up earning mixed reviews. The famous quote from the former president helped to spearhead the demolition in 1989.

Frederick Taylor, British Historian

Taylor had the following quote regarding the Berlin wall.

“The Berlin Wall acted as a barrier silencing a subsequent international crisis,that threatened the world with the risk of a military conflict, one that could escalate at any time into nuclear confrontation between the US and the Soviet Union.”

Mikhail GorbachevMikhail Gorbachev

The quote from Gorbachev was

“We initiated the reforms because they were overdue. We were responding to the demands of the people who resented living without freedom and isolated from the rest of the world.”

Fredrick Taylor

The British historian who wrote a book titled the Berlin Wall, spoke a famous quote in line with the demolition of the barrier. The quote was

“The wall was an exemplar of mutual convenience as it was more convenient to the Western democracies than their rhetoric suggested.”

John Lewis Gaddis

He is an American historian who has been awarded the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Biography and the National Humanities award. The historian famous quote regarding the Berlin wall was

“The United States and Soviet Union didn’t want a military conflict…only… but they wanted to conduct a surgical operation, which was represented by the Berlin wall.”

Jeremy Isaacs

The British television executive and producer has won many Bafta awards and his famous quote regarding Berlin wall was

“The wall came to symbolize Europe’s division, at the heart of the Cold War.”

Gorbachev’s Sinatra Doctrine

His quote was

 “In just a few years, which is a very short time in history’s span—the main pillars of the totalitarian system in the Soviet Union were dismantled and the ground readied for a democratic transition and economic reforms. Having done that in our country, we could not deny the same for our neighbors.”

Jeffrey A. Engel

“For world leaders such as Mikhail Gorbachev, George Bush and Margaret Thatcher, the global battle of communism vs capitalism framed their entire world view. Each recalled the struggles of World War II. Yet each had risen to power in the years that followed believing their own society held the key not only to Cold war victory but to the future itself.”


Hachette’s famous quote was

“The objectives of the USSR remained the same ones-fight against capitalism and export of Communism. The change in strategy led to the build up of the Berlin wall since it represented the opportunity of fighting against capitalism.”

Fareed Zakaria

“The Berlin wall was not the only barrier to fall after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of Cold war. Traditional barriers to the flow of money, trade, people and ideas also fell.”

In conclusion, several historians have provided quotes regarding the Berlin wall and they include Jeffrey A. Engel, Hachette, Fredrick Taylor and Ronald Reagan among others.

Historians and the Berlin Wall


Understanding why it was built

Even if historians could agree entirely about the Berlin Wall there is a lot of common ground as to why it was built. It was built to keep the East Germans in their country before they had all left for West Germany. The only people that seemed to want to stay were the members of the SED or Communists, the secret police, and members of the armed forces. Seriously though the Berlin Wall probably kept the communists in power, and meant they had enough people to rule over.

3987002744_a0a62fec10Put simply the East German government could not afford for any more of its people to leave for West Germany via East Berlin. Between 1949 and the building of the Berlin Wall two million people had left that way. For much of 1961 a 1,000 East Germans were leaving everyday. The Berlin Wall stopped all of that, literally over night.

People were shot dead trying to climb over it, thousands of others were jailed for attempting to escape.

The conventional view – the Soviet Union was to blame for the Berlin Wall

The conventional view, and the one put forward from 1961 onward was that the Soviet Union was to blame for the decision to put up the Berlin Wall, and that the East German government had to go along with the policy dictated by the Kremlin. This perspective was certainly one, which fitted in with the Cold War mentalities of both superpowers, that policy decisions were made to test the resolve of the other. Neither superpower particularly wanted to admit to the other one that it was not in total control of its allies actions and policies.

For Western historians and politicians alike blaming the Soviet Union for the Berlin Wall made perfect sense of the known facts as well as the assumption that the Soviets could tell all member states of the Warsaw Pact exactly what to do, and when to do it. For the right wing Western perception of the Soviet Union as an evil empire this scenario fitted nicely. Yet this works on the assumption that the East German leadership was meek and mild with no ability to get Moscow what it wanted to be done.

Secret Soviet and East German sources reveal something completely different

Some historians in the West especially left wing ones had not always been convinced that the main momentum or urge to build the Berlin Wall had come from the Soviet Union. Their idea was that Warsaw Pact states had greater influence on the Kremlin, Eat Germany being one of them.

Top secret Soviet papers published at the start of the 21st century shed different light on who was primarily responsible for getting the Berlin Wall built. The main mover for the wall was the East German leader, Walter Ulbrechet. He had been seeking Soviet support for stopping East Germans from fleeing to the West since 1953.

The Soviets even suggested that the East German regime should make life in the country easier so that fewer people would try to leave. By 1961 so many East Germans were leaving that they reluctantly agreed to the building of the Berlin Wall. Once it was built the Soviets did not want to lose face by insisting that it was pulled down.

Controversial Berlin Wall


Why the Berlin Wall was erected in the first place

As consequence of Germany’s defeat in World War II the country had been divided into four zones of occupation, as was Berlin. By 1948 the Soviet Union had decided to blockade the American, British, and French zones of Berlin to force them out of the city. Thanks to the Berlin airlift that attempt failed. Yet it persuaded the other powers to combine their zones to form West Germany. In response the Soviets installed a communist led East Germany. The East German regime was concerned about its citizens visiting West Berlin and then claiming political asylum. It decided that the construction of the Berlin Wall would be the most effective means of preventing its citizens defecting to West Berlin. The controversial aspect was that the regime ordered its border guards to shoot people they caught attempting to cross the wall that did not surrender as soon as they were challenged.

The Berlin Wall used as an excuse to kill without a trial

As the Berlin Wall was constructed in 1961 it was not really a surprise that it further damaged the relationship between the superpowers and their allies in NATO and the Warsaw Pact respectively but it made the Western countries angry too. The East German authorities seemed to be more interested in killing the people its guards caught attempting to get over, or indeed under the wall. The zone around the Berlin Wall was among the most heavily guarded areas in the world, a potent symbol of the Cold War itself. Perhaps only the border between North and South Korea were more heavily monitored. The East Germans ensured that there were numerous watchtowers along the entire length of the wall itself. Each watchtower was fitted with a heavy machine gun and a powerful searchlight, making it very difficult for potential escapees to remain undetected and able to escape to West Berlin. There were also regular foot patrols with heavily armed soldiers and guard dogs just in case any escapees had managed to evade being detected by the watchtowers.

It was often assumed in the West that the soldiers guarding the Berlin Wall had been instructions to operate a shoot to kill policy towards escapees. There were allegations that those spotted attempting to breach the wall’s considerable security measures were generally shot dead without there been any shouts to surrender, or any warning shots. The East German leadership were publicly unrepentant every time it was announced that anybody had been shot dead in the process of attempting to escape over the Berlin Wall. As far as they were concerned they had the right to prevent any of their citizens leaving for West Berlin by shooting them dead without any trial, and after the escapees were supposed to be warned to give themselves up (yet often were not).

This policy was cited as evidence of the callous disregard of human rights by the East German government.

The end of the Berlin Wall and why nobody was punished

1107-Berlin-Wall-970-630x420The Berlin Wall became redundant in November 1989 when revolution removed Erich Honecker from power. From the summer of 1989 East Germans had been able to reach the West as Hungary had opened its borders. Most of the Berlin Wall has subsequently been demolished, and its removal was widely welcomed.

A detested symbol of communism had gone, as had communism. Still several hundred East Germans had met their deaths attempting to gain their freedom. Their families did not even have the consolation of seeing anyone convicted of manslaughter, as the terminally ill Honecker was allowed to die in exile.