Berlin: a city divided by more than a wall
Here's a riddle: What city in Europe used to be one city and has now been divided into cities belonging to two different countries? Answer: Berlin.
Berlin is no longer one big city as it was before and during World War II. That war lasted from 1939 until 1945. The Americans, the French, the British, and the Russians won that war.
Because Germany lost that war, the capital city, Berlin, was divided into two cities. These cities are East Berlin and West Berlin.
Right after the war, the Russians controlled East Berlin. At the same time the Americans, the British, and the French (Known as the Western powers) took charge of West Berlin.
Today, West Berliners run their own government. The same is true for the East Berliners. But just as they did after the end of the war, the Americans, British, and French still station troops in West Berlin. The Russians or Soviets do the same in East Berlin.
East Berlin is the capital of East Germany, also known as the German Democratic Republic (GDR). East Germany is a communist country. This makes it very different from West Germany, which belongs to the capitalist or Western or noncommunist world. Another name for West Germany is the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG).
West Berlin is not the capital of West Germany. That honor belongs to Bonn.
There's a good reason why West Berlin is not the capital city of West Germany.
While West Berlin is part ofm West Germany -- even though in most respect it governs itself -- it is not inm in West Germany.
West Berlin is like an island surrounded on all sides by East Germany. It is cut off from the rest of West Germany by more than 100 miles of East German territory.
West Berlin is not cut off from West Germany. It is also separated from East Berlin by a huge wall, sometimes as much as 14 feet high. The wall is known as the Berlin Wall. It is one of the most heavily guarded fortifications in the world.
The Berlin Wall is 28 miles long and is built of large concrete slabs topped by barbed wire. It is guarded by East German troops at official crossing points and from observation turrets.
Work was started on the Berlin-Wall just over 20 years ago on Aug. 13, 1961.
Before the wall was built, thousands of East Germans escaped to West Berlin and the West. Many fled because they didn't want to live under comunism. Some escaped because they wanted to earn more money.
So the wall was built by East German police and Army to keep East Germans inside their territory.
In the 20 years since the wall was built more than 185,000 East Germans have escaped to the West, including 2,746 soldiers and police guards.
To escape, East Germans have dug tunnels, swum across border lakes, jumped from railway trains, and used secret compartments of cars. Some have actually scaled the wall, unnoticed or disguised themselves by dressing up in American Army uniform.
One of the most daring escapes occurred when two families floated across the border in a homemade hot-air balloon.
Not everyone has been so successful. In the last 20 years, 178 people have been killed trying to reach the West.
Fewer people escape these days. One reason is that East German security is getting stricter. Also agreements have been made in recent years to make travel between East and West Berlin easier.
Soon after the wall was built, the West Berliners felt sorry for the East Germans and started to mock them. This had an opposite effect. Many East Berliners and East Germans were determined not to feel inferior. They developed a sense of patriotism. The quality of their goods improved.
West Berlin is a much brighter, more prosperous place than East Berlin. But the differences between the two cities are not as great today as they were at the end of the war.