The Berlin Wall: A Secret History, by Frederick Taylor

secret history

Here are some extracts from Frederick Taylor’s thought-provoking article ‘The Berlin Wall: A Secret History

“The building of the Berlin Wall in August 1961 divided families and neighbourhoods in what had been the capital of Germany. The Wall represents a uniquely squalid, violent, and ultimately futile, episode in the post-war world. And we know that the subsequent international crisis, which was especially intense during the summer and autumn of 1961, threatened the world with the risk of a military conflict, one that seemed as if it could escalate at any time into nuclear confrontation between the US and the Soviet Union.”

“But was all as it seemed, with the noble democracies vainly opposing yet another Communist atrocity? Did the leaders of the West genuinely loathe the Wall, or was it – whisper if you dare – actually rather convenient to all the ­powers concerned?”

“Privately the French elite, like the British, still found the existing division of Berlin, and of Germany, perfectly satisfactory, although (in the delicate words of a recent French official publication) de Gaulle thought that ‘it was important to avoid dashing the hopes of the Germans’, whom he was courting as part of his plan for French dominance of the continent. Another great Frenchman, the Nobel prize-winning author, friend and biographer of de Gaulle, Francois Mauriac, would make the classic quip that ‘I like Germany so much, I want two of her’.”

So, in the end the fall of the Wall brought not just the end of the Cold War but the final absorption of Germany into Europe – a solution of sorts for the ‘German problem’ that had haunted the world for more than a century and brought about two catastrophic world wars.

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