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Berlin Wall Brain Drain
Transcript of Berlin Wall Brain Drain
By Hugo Douglas
Why was the Berlin Wall built?
The East German Party Leader Walter Ulbrich claimed that West Germany owed East Germany $17 billion, in lost labor and reparations.
On the other end of the spectrum, the West German economy was flourishing. This was due to a number of reasons including the marshal plan & lower tariffs, taxes and free trade.
East German Propaganda
In an East German propaganda booklet, the government claims that 'flight from the republic' is ethically and politcally wrong. The booklet stated that " Those who let themselves be recruited objectively serve West German Reaction and militarism, whether they know it or not. Is it not despicable when for the sake of a few alluring job offers or other false promises about a "guaranteed future" one leaves a country in which the seed for a new and more beautiful life is sprouting"
In a letter written by Yuri Andropov (an East German official) in August 1958, he stated that there was a 50% increase in the number of academics among defectors. This was the beginning of a series of events that threatened the political viablility, that is the possibility of continuing the state of East Germany, without closing the border.
Living on the East Working on the West
Their was also a minority of people who lived in the socialist East and went to work each day in the capitalist West (mostly trained professionals). Walter Ulbrich, the East German socialist party leader, called the problem "
". There was approximately 50,000 East Berliners working in the West.
Farming sector decline
In June of 1948 the Soviets blocked all terrestrial access to Berlin. The plan was to isolate West Berlin from the Western world, forcing it to succumb to communism. The American, British, Australian, New Zealand and Canadian air force responded by airlifting necessities to West Berlin for 11 months. By the end of the airlift more cargo was being transported into Germany than before the Blockade.
Despite the largely negative effects the mass emigration of Eastern Germans, it did give some possible benefits for the government. The first is that anti-communists/soviets left East Germany, which is attributed to the slightly smaller scale democratic revolution in East Germany, than other Eastern Bloc countries.
In 1949 there was 144,000 East German defecters, in 1960 there 200,000 defecters, in just the first seven months of 1961 alone there was 207,000 defecters. Towards the latter date East Germany was starting to have entire towns without their own physicians and crops growing wild with no one to harvest them.
The largest reason for the East German government to build the wall was in fact the brain drain. Since the end of WW2 approximately 20% of all East Germans emigrated to the booming economy that was West Germany (Or sometimes via another route i.e. going through a third world country). The emigrants were typically young & educated, which resulted in a lack of trained professionals back in East Germany, hence the term 'Brain Drain'. There was also other more minor issues such as keeping western spies out.
The East German government called the wall the 'Anti-Fascist protection rampant'. This inferred that Western Germany had not been de-nazified. This was in fact just propaganda to provide an excuse for the wall.
In stark contrast the West Berlin mayor Willy Brandt coined the term 'Wall of Shame'. He denounced the constriction of free movement by the East German Government.
When JFK visited West Berlin on the 26th of June 1963 he famously said "I take pride in the words Ich bin ein Berliner"-I am a Berliner. And when Ronald Reagan visited in June 1987 he said "Mr Gorbachev tear down this wall". The Berlin wall was always high on Washington's agenda.
World War II left a large social scar throughout Germany. An entire generation of workers was lost. This resulted in fewer Germans being of working age. The problem shrank in West Germany because of all the young emigrants but grew in East Germany.
Before World War II, 70.5% of East Germany was of working age, by 1961 (the year the wall was built)it was 61%. This was even more pronounced in professionals i.e. Doctors, Lawyers, Scientists, Educators etc... This was the Brain Drain
The East German economy did not revert to it's pre-war state and most German industry was confiscated by the soviets because the owners were nazis.
This factors created a huge Push and Pull effect on East Germans. Approximately 3.5 million East Germans left from the years after WWII to 1961. The soviets tried whatever they could to stop the drain except all else failed.
Inner German Border
The construction of the Inner German border began in 1949 and lasted until 1952 when it was closed and formed what was known as the iron curtain between the Eastern and Western bloc. This stopped people from leaving East Germany through the zonal borders, but the brain drain contiued because of one problem, West Berlin. Refugees could simply travel to West Berlin and then to the rest of the Western word. By 1958 90% of all emigrants left via West Berlin
Furthermore the East German government was starting to become infamous for breaking human rights
Along with intelligentsia, tens of thousands of farmers left East Germany, particurlarly wealthier farmers. This was because the government attempted to share wealth and have communal farms. The farmers felt at a loss from this because all the property, equipment ect... had worked for was now owned by the 'people'. This left about 10% of culturable land empty. Furthermore because the goods farmers produced had a set price, determined by the government farmers were unable to turn profits and produced enough food to sustain themselves only. This lead to food shortages, and other shortages in different industries.
This created what became known as the shortage economy, where everyhting was hard to find and supply was no where near the level of demand. This is one of the 'Push' factors in emigration. As the economy continued to fail, people in skilled profeesions, whose labor was highly valued could only earn as much as the stagnant economy would pay them. In the West the economy was booming and there was oppurtunity instead of destitude.
Even now in 2014 the brain drain continues in East Germany where the median income is still 70% of the west. It is an improvement on the 40% when the the wall was torn down but young people are still looking for work in the West, leaving an ageing generation behind. In the state of Saxony nearly one quarter of the population is over 65.
The Soviet government was also highly concerned about Berlin wall. East German was a Soviet puppet state, they gave the permission for East Germany to build the wall. The soviets also later trained the border guards who were much more hardline than the East German trained guards, who often were unwilling to shot defecters. Furthermore the soviets were capable of invading West Berlin as was shown in the Checkpoint Charlie standoff.
The American NSA (National Security Agency), was the only american intellegence organization that knew of the brain drain problem, and the East German requirement to stop it.