Breaking down walls, physical and immaterial

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berlin wall

How border security was once maintained with an iron fist before the digital age brought with it an era of peace 

Maintaining country borders has been enforced for as long as organised human society has been about. Humans have always sought to protect their territory and property and this is seen no better than in how regulated and regimented our borders are. 

What is interesting above all to note about this is that all borders are rudimentary and immaterial; built upon nothing more than trust and belief. Some borders are more rigid and agreed upon than others and nowadays a lot of these boundaries have been universally established. But during times of uncertainty and turbulence the lines can be blurred: in the wake of World War II there rose from its sordid ashes a different kind of conflict, one rife with political manipulation and proxy wars that threatened to drag the world back once again into the throes of war. There was no better microcosm on Earth for the turmoil of the Cold War than Germany as it attempted to rebuild itself, freed from the chains of the Nazi regime. We’ll take a look at how new and emerging borders that don’t exist anymore were swiftly regulated and maintained by the relevant powers with the aid of good old-fashioned authoritarian threats of violence and subjugation. 

These methods are in stark contrast to the ones employed today: with the awakening of the digital age and computer-aided automation in the last three decades playing a huge part in ushering in a new era of peace and convenient but fair security screening at border checkpoints. 

The rise and fall of the Berlin Wall 

Germany’s economy and society was left crippled after their defeat at the hands of the Allied and Soviet forces at the close of World War II and it was the responsibility of these victorious political powers to reshape Germany into a country that would never again threaten the world. The first step in this rehabilitation was the seizure of the country and namely Berlin by the Allied and Soviet forces. The German capital was divided into subsidiaries, governed by the English, Americans and Russians. Though the aforementioned countries had banded together to banish a common evil, it was clear post-war just how differing the political ideologies of the East and West were. Russia chose to govern the eastern side of the country with a communist iron fist, while the western regions were governed more democratically. This divide caused a rising tension between the nations, exacerbated by the commencement of the Cold War, where any direct confrontation could escalate into global war. And so one morning in August 1961 residents of the impoverished East Berlin awoke to find a wall being constructed, dividing the city in two.  

To read the full article, check out our June issue here.

Media contact 

Rebecca Morpeth Spayne, 

Editor, Security Portfolio 

Tel: +44 (0) 1622 823 922

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