Reflecting on the Berlin Wall

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall. The wall represented so much to people and nations around the world, and despite its destruction in 1989, the memory of its significance endures to this day. Half a century after its construction, what meaning does the Berlin Wall hold for us? Two Princeton University Press authors examine this question in different lights.

In Driving the Soviets up the Wall: Soviet-East German Relations, 1953-1961, Hope M. Harrison examines the Wall as a symbol of the Cold War, telling “the behind-the-scenes story of the communists’ decision to build the Wall in 1961.”  Her book explores the relationships between nations within the Soviet bloc as they dealt with the issues of immigration and liberalization.  Her narrative provides new insights into how the Wall was viewed by Soviets, and how the initial decision to build the wall was reached.

Mary Elise Sarotte’s 1989: The Struggle to Create Post-Cold War Europe takes a look at the tumultuous period following the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Her book tries to understand how various pressures affected the development of the post-1989 world, and how the events of 1989 affected and continue to affect our world today.

Both authors present pictures of the Berlin Wall in ways that ask us to redefine its importance in our lives.  The Cold War was a major defining aspect of the United States’ identity in the last century, and its legacy continues to affect America today.  With the 50th anniversary of the Wall’s construction upon us, it is worth while to take time to reflect on the Wall, the War, and the vast changes in the world from 1961, to 1989, to the present day.