The Cold War
The Cold War (approx. 1947-1991) is one of my favorite wars to learn about. It is also the most recent, meaning that many of the major people, places and things are still around making it twice as cool to learn about. When we went to Germany a few days ago, more specifically Berlin, we got to learn all about it and specifically from the end of WWII to the accidental fall of the Berlin Wall.
The hotel we stayed at was two blocks away from what is known today as Checkpoint Charlie, one of the most famous military checkpoints between East and West Berlin. East and West Germany came about by the defeat of Germany in WWII (1945), The Marshall Plan, and Joseph Stalin. When WWII ended, the Allies (America, England, France, and Russia) split Germany and Berlin into four, but to simplify this, we will just call it two sides; the East, the communist side and West, the capitalist side. As you could imagine that didn't go too well. And to make matters worse, Joseph Stalin (Russian leader) wanted all of Berlin. As tensions rose between the two sides, Stalin stopped the train that was used to transport food from West Germany to its people in West Berlin, with hopes that it would cause the capitalist West side to give up on West Berlin all together. The US did not give up on West Berlin though and instead responded with the Berlin Airlift, arguably the greatest logistical feat in all of history.
The Berlin Airlift was a plan which had planes taking off from West Germany and landing in West Berlin every 60 seconds with food and necessities to supply the entire city. This went on for 14 months. At that point Stalin realized his effort to stop this wasn’t working, and he let the train run again and claimed that they had been doing repairs on it.
Although this was a victory for the West, everything was not back to normal. People from Communist Germany and Berlin (the East) did not like it (maybe because everything was shared and after a while all there was left to share was misery) so they would try to escape over the border from East and West Germany. At this time (1947-1961) there was not a border between East and West Berlin. The lack of a wall led to a mass exodus into West Berlin from all directions. This led to the Berlin Wall. In about 12 hours the Russians had a barbed wire fence surrounding West Berlin.
As the years passed and dictators came and went, the people of East Berlin were becoming poorer and poorer and so was the USSR. In the West, capitalism thrived and the Marshall Plan that had been applied to 22 European countries was working. The tensions between the US and USSR were less direct but still obvious through wars of ideology fought in Vietnam and Korea (Did you ever wonder how that crazy North Korean dictator got into power?).
Roughly 45 years later in Berlin, an unexpected and mistaken announcement came from the Communist spokesperson during a news conference. When asked by an Italian reporter when people would be allowed to cross the wall, he incorrectly replied ‘immediately’. People left East Berlin and went to West Berlin while Mikhail Gorbachev (Russia's leader at the time) ended the Communist regime of the USSR. The Cold War was one of my favorite subjects before visiting Berlin, but now it has become an even more exciting topic and a lot more relevant for me.