Workers building the Berlin Wall, 1961

UCSB Hist 133c, L12:
The Berlin Wall
lecture on Feb. 6, 2006 (L11; L13)

by Professor Harold Marcuse (homepage)
created Feb. 10, 2006, updated 2/13/06, 11/9/08

1969 film

Economic Causes
Political Causes
Role of Elites

Introduction (back to top)

  • "History of the Federal Republic" (1969 films), 16 mins. bridging parts I & II (1952-57)
  • Main impression: overcoming difficulties until full sovereignty
    • Rearmament through EDC & NATO; French come around
    • Soviet movement towards unified Germany (but 1953)
  • Then glamorous prosperity
    • "generational" value difference: older prefers stability and security;
      younger more interested in promise and potential
    • victory in world cup, fashions, cars
    • Erhard: "Wir sind wieder wer!" (We are somebody again!)

Economic Causes of the Berlin Wall (back to top)

  • Investment: LPG billboard with graph of collectivization
    • Western aid flowed into Germany
    • Soviets took ca. 25% out as reparations
  • Eastern transition to state-run socialist economy
    • emphasis on heavy industry, not consumer goods
    • cheaper foodstuffs
    • agricultural reform: 1960: from 45% to 85% collectivized
    • billboard at the LPG (Landwirtschaftliche ProductionsGenossenschaft=Agricultural Production Community) in Torgau (Elb river, where US & SU armies met in Apr. 1945)
      • after 7-year-plan implemented in 1958, accelerated collectivization

Political Causes (back to top)

  • Stalin's 1952 note
  • West German military buildup

    Ulbricht and Grotewohl standing behind Nikita Khrushchev at a July 1958 speech in East Berlin
    • 1955 Hallstein doctrine (named for Adenauer's foreign policy advisor):
      • West Germany would not recognize or trade with any 3rd nation that recognized East Germany as a sovereign state
      • Used West German economic power and aid to developing countries to pressure them
      • Soviet Union was excepted from this
      • West Germany broke off relations with Yugolavia in 1957 and Cuba in 1963
      • [Became less effective in 1960s, limited flexibility in foreign policy, was implicitly abandoned when diplomatic relations were begun with Romania in 1967 and Yugoslavia in 1969. Replaced by Willy Brandt's Ostpolitik--see Lect. 15]
  • Khrushchev, Nov. 27, 1958 ultimatum: Allies must create a neutral, demilitarized Berlin in 6 months (May 27), or the Soviet Union would allow East Germany to exercize its sovereignty over the access routes to Berlin (it had already begun to harrass ground transportation from the West)
    • Feb./July 1959, Geneva 4-power conference: defused by negotiations
  • Wall did not restrict 4-power status, so Western powers (JFK) didn't see need to intervene

Role of Elites (back to top)

Adenauer and Ulbricht: for neither was a united Germany a priority; both were interested in creating "their" kind of Germany in the part that they controlled. The Time covers are from August 1961 (Ulbricht) and January 1953 (Adenauer).Walter Ulbricht, cover of Aug. 25, 1961 Time

  • Walter Ulbricht
    • born 1893 in Leipzig, son of a tailor, learned cabinetmaking
    • 1912: joined the SPD
    • 1915-1918: service in World War I
    • 1919: member of the newly founded KPD
    • 1923: member of the KPD central committee
    • 1926-28: member of the Saxony Landtag
    • 1928-33: member of the KPD delegation in the Reichstag
    • 1933: emigrated to France
      1938: emigrated to the Soviet Union
    • 1943: co-founder of the "National Committee of Free Germany"
    • 1945: returned to Berlin to reestablish the KPD, had leading functions
    • 1950-53: general secretary of the SED
      1953-71: first secretary of the SED
    • 1960-73: head of the Council of State after Wilhelm Pieck's death
    • 1973: died on Aug. 1Konrad Adenauer, Time's 1952 Man of the Year
  • Konrad Adenauer (1876-1967)
    • son of a Catholic church official
    • 1901: finished law school, begins legal career
    • 1905: joins Center party
      1906: Cologne city council
      1909: Cologne vice mayor
      1917: lord mayer (age 41)
    • 1918: delegate in Prussian parliament
    • 1923: possibility of independent Rhineland
    • 1926: possible candidate for chancellor
    • 1933-45: "inner emigration" (brief arrest)
    • 1945: mayor of Cologne
    • 1946: chairman of newly founded CDU
    • 1949: elected to Bundestag; edges out Schumacher by 1 vote for Chancellor
    • 1950-1966: chairman of the CDU
    • 1952: does not accept Stalin's "note": offer of possible unification
    • 1953: reelected Chancellor
    • 1955: travels to Moscow and obtains release of German POWs after Germany regains sovereignty under the Paris Treaties
    • 1957: reelected chancellor as CDU/CSU obtain an absolute majority in Bundestag elections
    • 1961: doesn't interrupt campaign to go to Berlin until more than a week after the wall goes up; CDU/CSU loses absolute majority in election
    • 1962: severely weakened by covering for a minister who had the offices of the Spiegel newsmagazine raided for publishing an expose on the military's unpreparedness.
      announces that he will resign as chancellor in fall 1963.

Information (spin) (back to top)

Various officials pushed responsibility back and forth. While many individual Berliners did not want the wall, many felt that the situation without it was untenable. They believed the propaganda of its necessity.

  • Khrushchev in Moscow, June 21, 1961: West (& JFK's) fault
  • E. German decree, August 13, 1961: FRG continues revanchist Nazi policies
  • US Secretary of State Rusk, Aug. 13, 1961: GDR denying rights to its citizens
  • Western Allied Commandants, Aug, 15, 1961: USSR is violating agreements

peOple (back to top)Berlin border crossing, 1964

  • Easterners were "voting with their feet"
  • Statistics E-> W migration
    1949: 130,000
    1953: 330,000
    1959: 144,000
    1960: 199,000
    1961: 155,000 Jan-July;
                52,000 Aug-Dec.
    (688 doctors, 296 dentists, 2648 engineers)
  • Westerners stood by
    • Eisenhower/JFK (Dulles): we won't start war
    • Adenauer: campaigning in election, didn't come to Berlin until Aug. 22 (probably cost him the absolute majority in the September election)

Links (back to top)

prepared for web by Harold Marcuse, Feb. 10, 2006, updated: see header
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