Free Walking Tour Berlin

When: Every day 10am & 12pm every day
Where: The meeting point is in front of the ehemaliges Kaiserliches Postfuhramt Berlin, Oranienburger Straße, 10117 Berlin, Germany, next to the entrance.
Price: Free

The Berlin Wall: A Symbol of Division and Cold War Tensions

by | Mar 7, 2024 | Original Berlin

During the tense years of the Cold War, the construction of the Berlin Wall by the Soviet Union in 1961 left an indelible mark on history. This formidable barrier physically and symbolically divided the city of Berlin, separating families, friends, and communities. In this article, we will explore the reasons behind the Soviet Union’s decision to build the Berlin Wall.

The Historical Context

In the aftermath of World War II, Berlin, like Germany as a whole, was divided into four occupation zones, each controlled by one of the Allied powers: the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and France. However, the ideological and political differences that emerged during the war between the Western powers and the Soviet Union started to escalate tension.

The Cold War was a period of prolonged political rivalry and military tension between the United States and its allies, known as the Western Bloc, and the Soviet Union and its satellite states, known as the Eastern Bloc. It was characterized by intense competition for influence, ideological differences, and the threat of nuclear war.

The Soviet Union’s Motivations

Hundreds of thousands of East Germans had been leaving the German Democratic Republic (GDR) for the more prosperous West Germany through the divided city of Berlin. This posed a serious problem for the Soviet Union and the East German government as they were losing a significant portion of their population, including skilled workers and professionals.

The primary motivation behind the construction of the Berlin Wall was to stem the tide of migration from East Germany to West Germany, which was seen as a direct threat to the stability of the GDR. By building a physical barrier, the Soviet Union hoped to prevent East Germans from fleeing to the West, thereby ensuring political and economic stability within its sphere of influence.

In addition to the mass exodus of its citizens, the East German government was also concerned about the impact of the brain drain. Skilled workers, intellectuals, and professionals were leaving the GDR, causing a significant loss of talent and expertise. The construction of the Berlin Wall aimed to retain skilled individuals within the country, bolstering the East German economy and infrastructure.

Political and Ideological Significance

The Berlin Wall served as a potent symbol of the ideological divisions between the capitalist West and the socialist East during the Cold War. The physical barrier represented the “Iron Curtain” that Winston Churchill had famously mentioned in his speech in 1946, highlighting the separation between the two opposing political systems.

By reinforcing the separation between East and West Berlin, the Soviet Union hoped to prevent the spread of capitalist influences and maintain strict control over the Eastern Bloc. The Wall effectively cut off West Berlin from the surrounding GDR, making it a virtual island within East Germany.

Soviet Fear of Western Influence

The Soviet Union perceived West Berlin as a hotbed for western propaganda and infiltration. East Germans often visited West Berlin to experience the higher living standards and personal freedoms enjoyed by their Western counterparts. This exposure to Western culture and ideology fuelled discontent among the East German population, increasing demands for political reform.

To counter the perceived threat of Western influence, the Soviet Union constructed a physical barrier that would restrict access to the Western-controlled sector of the city. Guards were stationed along the wall, ordered to shoot anyone attempting to cross the border illegally.

International Diplomatic Implications

The construction of the Berlin Wall further exacerbated tensions between the superpowers. The Western powers considered the wall a violation of the agreements made regarding the status of Berlin, while the Soviet Union regarded it as a necessary measure for maintaining control and safeguarding its interests.

The Berlin Wall became a focal point of the Cold War struggle and a visible representation of the division between democratic capitalism and Soviet-style communism. It turned Berlin into a microcosm of the broader ideological conflict between the superpowers.

The Aftermath

The Berlin Wall stood for over 28 years, a grim reminder of the divided world order. However, in the late 1980s, as the Cold War drew to a close, popular pressure for reunification grew. In November 1989, the wall finally fell, symbolizing the end of the Cold War and the beginning of a new era of German reunification.

Legacy and Lessons Learned

The construction and subsequent fall of the Berlin Wall had a profound impact on global politics and human history. It serves as a reminder of the devastating consequences of ideological divisions and the limitations of physical barriers in preventing the desire for freedom and reunification.

Today, the remnants of the Berlin Wall are preserved as a memorial and a symbol of hope, reminding us of the resilience of the human spirit and the power of unity.

Thank you for reading. If you're inspired by the stories of Berlin and want to delve deeper, why not join us on our Free Berlin Walking Tour? It's a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the city's rich history and vibrant culture. We look forward to welcoming you soon.


  • 3.5 hours walking tour
  • Berlin’s major highlights
  • Brandenburg Gate
  • Reichstag and Berlin Wall
  • Historical sites

Free Walking Tour Berlin

When: Every day 10am & 12pm every day
Where: The meeting point is in front of the ehemaliges Kaiserliches Postfuhramt Berlin, Oranienburger Straße, 10117 Berlin, Germany, next to the entrance.
Price: Free