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Issue #1712      November 25, 2015

Taking issue – Rob Gowland

The Berlin Wall – built to keep people out not in

A young comrade asked us the other day about the “notorious” Berlin Wall. The modern history textbooks she had been provided with at school were proving a tad unsatisfactory. And no wonder! They all adhered to the official Western line that the inhabitants of the GDR, like all the people of the USSR and Eastern Europe, were imprisoned behind the Iron Curtain, unable to escape but yearning to be free, to live like the people in the West that they supposedly envied so much.

According to this Western propaganda line, to prevent these unfortunate souls from making their escape to the West and the benefits of capitalism, the evil Reds in the GDR built a wall across Berlin, to the consternation of Berliners.

That’s it, a simple scenario that anyone can understand. Only one slight problem, apart from the Wall itself, the rest of it is nonsense.

To understand the Berlin Wall, one has to go back to 1945, and the fall of Hitler’s capital to the advancing Soviet Army. The capture of Hitler’s bunker wiped out the seat of Nazism. Shortly afterwards, the victorious Soviet leadership allowed their Anglo-US allies in the anti-fascist alliance to enter the city that the Soviet army had captured at such cost.

Like Vienna, the German capital was to be divided into four zones of occupation (Soviet, British, US and French), as were both Austria and Germany. This had been agreed at the Yalta conference of the Big Three (Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt), whose decisions in no way envisaged permanent partition. The four-power occupation of Germany and Austria was meant to be a temporary measure, intended to last only while the two countries were de-Nazified.

But the boardrooms of Wall Street and the City of London were not at all interested in de-Nazification: their goal was to push the beastly Bolsheviks back from the Elbe all the way to Moscow and beyond – hopefully into oblivion! This also accorded with the Pentagon’s plans for the post-war supremacy of US imperialism.

The four-power occupation of Germany and Austria was not allowed to operate successfully. The de-Nazification process was made inoperable in the three Western zones of both countries. In the Soviet zone, all former Nazi judges, for example, were dismissed and replaced with anti-fascists. In the Western zones, on the other hand, former Nazi judges were retained. In fact, anti-fascists, many only recently released from Nazi concentration camps, found the de-Nazification laws being used against them, initially to disarm the anti-fascist militias that had taken over from the Nazi police and other officials and to reinstate Nazi officials, later to bar Communists and other anti-fascists from any kind of public office.

In Germany, the shift on the part of the Western powers from anti-fascism to anti-Communism was particularly pronounced, and did not balk at violent sabotage. The Berlin underground rail system was initially operated by the authorities in the Eastern (Soviet) sector, but this was sabotaged by rampant damage to the trains whenever they ran through the western parts of the city, culminating in the planting of a bomb on a train. The underground had to be restricted to the east.

Then the currency in the western zones was arbitrarily changed, effectively creating two Germanys. The border between the eastern and western zones was mined – on the Western side, not the Soviet. Even the status of Berlin as the capital of a single Germany under four-power occupation was unilaterally changed, with the Berlin airlift attempting to force the de-facto recognition of the western part of the city as an official outpost of the Western-occupied part of the country only.

Despite constantly sabotaging the operation of the four-Power occupation of the country and its capital, the US in particular invoked the four-Power occupation status when it suited their purposes, especially whenever they wanted to send military personnel into the eastern part of the country on scouting (read spying) expeditions. They self-righteously declared that it was their “right” under the terms of the Occupation!

Eventually, the Western powers intensified their drive to prevent the USSR (and German Communists) from having any say in German affairs by formally establishing the Federal Republic of Germany out of the three Western zones and installing the pro-Nazi Konrad Adenauer as Chancellor. The concept that Germany was a country temporarily divided into four zones of occupation was decisively rendered a fiction.

The anti-fascists of the largely rural eastern zone then set about trying to make the best of the situation by founding the German Democratic Republic, which the West of course refused even to recognise.

The division of Germany was brought about by the West, as the means of securing German capitalism from Bolshevik collectivisation, and to allow Germany to be re-armed and relaunched against the Bolshevik scourge in the East. Throughout the 1950s the West (mainly the USA) poured money into Western Germany, to re-establish the great German corporations that US and British capital had maintained strong links with right through the War, and to simultaneously score propaganda points off the capital-deficient east.

In the east of Germany, education, the judiciary, the landed estates, the factories, all had been de-Nazified. Companies that had done well out of servicing the Nazi regime, like photographic outfit Zeiss, for example, were nationalised. Their bosses, in fact all their top brass, shot through to the West at the first opportunity, taking with them all the formulae for Zeiss lenses. Engineers and technicians in the East had to rediscover them before the nationalised company could operate effectively. Such sabotage was commonplace while the former supporters of Hitler and co who lost their positions or their property looked for the chance to “escape” to the West.

Chances weren’t hard to find, for although the border between the two countries was closed, in Berlin it was wide open. Consequently, over 70 Western intelligence services had stations in West Berlin. It was a gateway to all of Eastern Europe.

For a decade, the attempts of the new GDR government to industrialise and rebuild the economy of the eastern region were systematically frustrated by massive, well-orchestrated sabotage from the West, by way of West Berlin.

If the GDR government announced plans to develop, say, ship-building or the chemical industry, specialists in those industries would soon receive letters, notes under doors, visits from “friends”, offering extremely well-paid positions in the West, complete with large flat and flash car.

Times were tough and many took these offers, as they were meant to.

They simply crossed over into West Berlin and went to the addresses they’d been given and that was that. A well-organised brain-drain was bleeding the GDR’s economy through an open wound called the border with West Berlin.

All the socialist countries of Eastern Europe were nations under siege, but none more so than the GDR. In addition to the usual propaganda weapons – Voice of America, BBC, Vatican Radio, Radio Free Europe, and innumerable others – the GDR had to contend with West German TV, which ran a deliberate policy of eschewing any criticism of life in the West and presenting instead a glossy, false picture of capitalism, more so than anything Australian TV has ever attempted. Why? Because most of the GDR was able to pick up West German TV.

The decision to close the open border between East and West Berlin was made at 4pm on August 12, 1961. It was put into effect without any announcement, at midnight the following Sunday.

The West was caught flat-footed. Dozens, perhaps hundreds of agents were stranded on the wrong side of the new border – the hastily erected “wall”. The black-marketeering in East Berlin using Western currency that had been encouraged by certain Western agencies came to a shuddering stop.

From the day the Wall was erected the economy of the GDR never looked back. It developed steadily to become the tenth leading industrialised country in the world.

In comparison, from the day the Wall came down, the economy of eastern Germany went down the drain. Its massive, extremely efficient collectivised farms, that could easily feed the whole of Germany, saw their markets handed over lock, stock and barrel to the less efficient but privately-owned farms of Western Germany. Companies or industries that had been nationalised, complete with all the innovations and investment that the GDR had put into them, were handed over to the Western companies that had owned them before nationalisation, companies that in many cases had co-operated with Hitler.

For the people of the GDR, who had been told by Western politicians that if they voted to unify with West Germany, they would retain all the benefits they already enjoyed (under Socialism) plus lots of consumer goods and the ability to travel anywhere at will, the fall of the Wall was a disaster. They lost their industries, their agriculture, their jobs, their public housing, their free health care, their union holidays, their free education, their government funded arts and culture, etc. Many have had to migrate to other European countries in search of work.

The people who glibly rejoice in the anniversary of the “fall of the wall,” in the ending of the “partitioning of Germany”, should remember who divided Germany in the first place, and should spare a thought for the working people of eastern Germany, the victims of the “fall of the wall”.

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