Is The Berlin Wall A German National Symbol?

The Berlin Wall was a physical symbol of the difference between the West and East Berliner. This physical border became a border of culture that divided social contexts and expressive forms. Communities along borders in all different places and countries are constantly defined and redefined by the changes in borders, finding an identity is difficult for people who live in these areas.

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How did the wall change the traditions for these two separate Berlins? How did this wall affect the sense of home for the East and West Berliners? How did this wall change and affect these peoples identity? I have found interviews and accounts from Berliners who remember the building of the wall, Berliners who lived close to the wall, Berliners who grew up during this time and especially remember a divided Berlin and some refugees who had escaped to the West Berlin side from East Berlin.

Before beginning with the separation and difference in these two Berlins, we must look at Germany as a whole. Starting with what Mary Beth Stein, (PhD) calls the German problem. The German national identity has been said to show feelings of inferiority, in which was seen to cause extreme nationalistic motives which ultimately brought about the creation of the German Reich, the need to show the world that the German nationality was of value. Germany was in a tough position after 1945, not only because of the events leading up to the wall, but mostly because of the extreme German nationalism which caused World War Two that ended up being extreme misfortune for Germany, and now they could not control their own political fate because of the defeat and surrender after the war. Now, not only could the entirety of Germany find an identity, but they were being split into two separate identities, both competing for legitimacy while trying to represent and signify their nation.

One issue that was faced by these two new German states was a historical and political aspect. What were the select aspects of German national identity that could be carried on throughout the years but was still far enough from the most recent German experience? After 1945, two Germanies were continuing forward with different aspects of the German past, while both still wanting to maintain legitimacy. This was extremely difficult in the years from 1945-1949, when Germany was going through a denazification cleanse formulated by the Allies in the Allied occupation zones.

Many German national symbols were eradicated like the national anthem and the flag which can be a symbol of identity and sovereignty. Later, both German states brought back the original black, red and gold flag which was associated with the liberal-democratic tradition and the revolution of 1848. The GDR (German Democratic Republic) eventually adds the emblem of a hammer and compass that is circled by a wreath in 1959.

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