The Berlin Wall and the Press

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Explore: The Berlin Wall, communism, the Soviet blockade, the Iron Curtain, freedom of the press, the Cold War, censorship, propaganda, Post-World War II European history, communication technologies, the first draft of history, the power of the press.

The Berlin Wall was the only wall in history built to keep a nation's people locked inside. For 28 years, it stood as grim testimony to an epic confrontation between open and closed societies. Journalists Tom Brokaw, Daniel Schorr, Charles Wheeler, John Simpson, Erdmute-Reiss Geherendt and Adam Kellett-Long explain how news and information helped topple one of the world's biggest symbols of oppression.


This video and viewing guide examine the relationship between the press and the city of Berlin, beginning after World War II. Following the defeat of Nazi Germany, the Allies — Britain, France, the United States and the Soviet Union — split Germany into four sectors; they did likewise with the capital city of Berlin, located entirely within the Soviet Union's eastern sector. A stark contrast quickly arose between the British, French and American western sectors and communist-controlled East Germany and East Berlin. While reconstruction progressed and news flowed in the West, in the East, conditions remained poor, and access to information was restricted. Ultimately, to stop the flow of educated professionals from leaving East Berlin for the western half of the city, the East German government erected the Berlin Wall in 1961. The wall became a symbol of the Cold War, as tensions simmered and governments on both sides spread propaganda about their neighbors. Some daring East Berliners risked their lives to escape over or under the barrier, and those who stayed behind began a long fight for freedom. In 1989, as the Soviet Union moved toward dissolution, a surprise announcement ended nearly three decades of division in Berlin. Learn more about the role of the press in a free society and its power to shape politics and history.

Recommended grade levels: High school; college (Note: This video contains violent images.)

Essential Questions:

  • How did East Berlin differ from West Berlin after World War II? What led to these differences? Why were so many people leaving East Berlin?
  • How did the role of the press differ in East and West Berlin?
  • What events led to the construction of the Berlin Wall?
  • What events led to the fall of the Berlin Wall?
  • How did the residents of East and West Berlin contribute to the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall?
  • How did the press contribute to the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall?
  • What is the role of the press in shaping politics and government policies?
  • What is propaganda? What is its role in society?