Monday, November 09, 2009

Fall of the Iron Curtain

Exactly 20 years ago the Berlin Wall came down. Few young people realize how important November 9, 1989 actually was and how it effects their lives today. Before that date, the world was divided into East and West and this wasn't merely geographically. Virtually every country on the globe had taken side, willingly or not. The Cold War raged over the world for almost 45 years and it was often far from cold in many Asian, African, Middle eastern and South American countries.

The fall of the Berlin Wall wasn't the beginning of the end, but became a symbol of the dissolving of the Iron Curtain and the start of the reunification of the (East) German Democratic Republic and the (West) German Federal Republic. It was the result of a long struggle for independence in several countries of the Soviet Union. A struggle that was initiated bravely by the Polish trade union Solidarnosc, publicly and strongly supported by the Polish born Pope John Paul II.

The fall of the Wall without any violence or intervention by East German or Soviet forces encouraged other countries to initiate their own fight for independence. Soon after, the Soviet Union collapsed which changed the global picture completely. There's plenty information available on the Internet about the Wall, why and how it was build, how it was to live behind the Wall before 1989 and how it changed the world.

The Guardian's Berlin Wall: 20 Years On brings a five episode video series with the complete story on the Berlin Wall. The Woodrow Wilson Center presents many important documents on The Rise and Fall of the Berlin Wall, a part of their Cold War International History Project. Another great resource is Dismantling the Iron Curtain on the National Security Archive. If you want to discover how the Wall was constructed and its military aspects, I can highly recommend US Army Border Operations. More about the Cold War is found on this blog post. Lots of info to read and videos to watch, but certainly worth while!

Escape from the GDR is a very good six-part 50 minutes documentary on Youtube about the history of the Wall (each next part in the top left corner at the end). More video's are found on the English pages of the Chronik der Mauer website.

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