Aug 21, 2011
The erection of the Berlin Wall gave the world a very real and permanent face to Churchill’s metaphorical “Iron Curtain”.
While the divide between the Soviet and Western spheres of influence had long since become an accepted reality, the wall gave it a physical personification. The no-man’s land, guardtowers and dead bodies represented a very real change in the way each side viewed post WWII Europe. While the construction of the Berlin Wall was a dangerous escalation in an already volatile 1961, the acceptance of the wall by Kennedy and the rest of the Western allies symbolized a tacit understanding that East Germany and everything in between it and the Soviet Union had been lost. Where as before West Berlin offered an escape hatch for the people behind the Iron Curtain to escape, the Wall slammed that door shut.
The situation in central Europe became permanently demarcated by the Wall. The Soviets would no longer attempt to force the issue of access to and control of West Berlin, as any Soviet move across the Wall would be surely met with a swift, and nuclear response from NATO. In exchange, the East Germany regime and Soviet control over Eastern Europe was secured through the elimination of the threat that mass refugee exodus posed to each. The Wall, in its own perverted way, brought the situation of in Europe to a dark equilibrium, one that held right up until its gates were flung open in 1989.