Cold War Communism in East Germany and Poland
The Cold War was an ideological War that happened between the Soviet Union and the United States, and it started after the Second World War. After the Second World War, Germany was defeated, and France and Britain were left exhausted and drained. The Soviet Union and the United States were also drained, but they remained with considerable power, and they rose to the status of superpower. The Soviet Union and the United States became rivals via mutual distrust and conflicting ideologies, and they were looking for power. The Soviet Union aimed to see to communism spread in Eastern Europe so that it will have a buffer zone of friendly states that will act as a defence against Germany. In the year 1946, Eastern Europe became under the influence and control of the Soviet Union. This made Europe to be divided into East bloc (Soviet Union territory) and West bloc (The United States and the western democracies). An iron curtain separated Europe.
The aftermath effects of the Second World War are what influenced the Cold War Communism in Germany. About a quarter of the housing was destroyed, there was a large collapsing of the economic infrastructure, inflation became rampant, and there was food shortage. After Germany surrendered unconditionally, it was divided into four regions. Berlin remained inside the region of the Soviet while the other three allies’ zones merged to form West Germany. The Russian region became East Germany. West Germany became a democracy of the Western that was surprisingly stable. The establishment of East Germany was as a Stalin-style Socialist state, and it was the Warsaw Pact’s member (Ash, 2014). It came to have advanced living standard and economies of the states of the Soviet-bloc. But it remained behind West Germany. The government of East German was developed into a dictatorial and centralized era. The State Security Police ensured that what the Soviet expected of the citizens was maintained. Ideas that were not in line with the regime and free speech were not allowed, and intellectual and artistic programs were greatly put into control.
The division and partition of Germany put a barrier between the relations of both East Germany to West Germany and Russia to the United States. Russia and USA were trying to forgive the Germans for the Second World War and at the same moment attempting to ensure that the Germans could never again start the expansionism that had caused the First and the Second World Wars. At the time of the Cold War, Germany was the center for all the tensions that arose between Communism and Democracy (Ash, 2014). Germany’s strategic location as the gateway between West and East Europe made it be the best place for such political struggles to happen. When Russia tried to have its territories expanded in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the German’s rising power checked them. Thus, after the fall of Germany in the Second World War, Russia tried to start its expansion in Europe. After the Second World War ended, Russia was left in possession of all of Germany. This made the powers in Europe not to be balanced, and Russia replaced Germany as the nation that was becoming too big. England never tried to stop the expansion of Russia as it could have done before. They intentionally did this because they felt it was better to let Russia have parts of Germany over getting other regions that would have given Russia the way to the Mediterranean.
The overall reason for having Germany divided was to control it until another government was reinstated. Russia, France, England, and America had regions of Germany that they temporarily controlled. Decision making was done by a council a council of the four countries for the time they were still in occupation of Germany. The representatives from each country could then carry out the council’s decisions in their territories. The Russians were seen to exploit the other powers. The proposals that were made to the council could be effected only if the there was a unanimous vote. The Soviets used this the same way they handled the UN’s Security Council. The other powers were annoyed with Russia as they used their veto power in the UN Security Council to have every proposition vetoed. By doing this, they were able to prevent any actions that went against their best interests. The Russians were able to control East Germany in a manner that they wished since no proposition could stop them from doing the same could be allowed.
The neglect that East Germany underwent via the hands of the Communists led to economic problems, and social issues as the Eastern and Western Germans became apart as people. Up to date the wounds that the Communist Party caused to the East Germans have not been fully repaired. East Germany’s reconstruction would almost make the West bankrupt. A large part of East Germany was not reconstructed, and most of its produce was shipped to Russia (Ash, 2014). There was a social split between Western and Eastern Germans. The lives of the Western Germans greatly improved after the Second World War, but the lives of the Eastern Germans were mired in the destruction caused by the war that the communist regime could not fix. Such differences made the East Germans to see their relatives in West Germany as privileged and pampered. These economic and social issues are still being repaired, and social schism’s end does not look to insight.
In 1963, East Germany’s Communist government started to build a wall between West and East Berlin. The wall was built to prevent Western fascists from getting to East Germany and ensuring that they undermined the socialist state. The wall primarily aimed at stemming mass movements from East to West. The wall remained until the year 1989 when the leader of the Communist Party in East Germany announced that people were now allowed to cross the border any time they wanted to cross. The Berlin wall remains to be the most enduring and powerful symbols of the cold war. West Berlin’s existence, a capitalist city within East Germany which was a communist, was like a bone in the throat of the Soviet. The Russians started to manoeuvre so that they could drive the western allies out of the city in the year 1948, a Russian blockade in Western Berlin attempted to starve the western friends from Berlin. The western friends chose to supply their regions via space. This effort by the western allies was known as Berlin Airlift, and it stayed for about a year. Over 2 million tons of food and other commodities were delivered to West Berlin. In the year 1949, the Soviets decided to call off their blockade.
After about 10 years of calm, in 1958 tensions flared again. In the following 3 years, the successful launch of the Sputnik satellite made the Soviets be emboldened. They were also embarrassed by the continuous flow of refugees to the West from East Germany which also made threats as the western allies resisted. Conferences, Summits, and other negotiations failed to resolve this matter. The flow of refugees continued, and this resulted in permission be given to East Germany to stop the emigrants from crossing their border (Garthoff, 1994). This was when the policemen, soldiers and volunteer construction employees decided to build a wall that separated one side of Berlin from the other. Before the wall was put in place, Berliners could move around the city freely. Trains and subway lines could carry people forth and back. After building the wall, it was not possible to cross from East to West Berlin without going through one of the three checkpoints that were put in place.
Building the wall stopped the flow of refugees who crossed from East to West, and it defused the crisis over Berlin. President Kennedy was not happy about the wall, but he conceded that the wall was much better than war. With time the officials of East Germany replaced the makeshift wall with a wall that was harder to scale, and it was sturdier. The wall was constructed 12 feet tall and 4 feet tall with an enormous pipe that made it difficult to climb the wall. On the Eastern side, there was a death strip with vicious dogs, floodlights, machine guns, and the soldiers who were patrolling the boundary were given shooting orders to shoot any escapees they saw (Ash, 2014). At least 160 people who tried to escape were killed. However, escaping from East Germany was still possible as over 5000 people from East Germany managed to escape to the West, and the over 5000 people included 600 border guards. These people crossed the border by using air balloons to fly over the walls, getting over the barbed wire, driving at high speeds via the unfortified parts of the wall, and crawling via the sewers.
In the year 1989, the Cold War started to thaw across Eastern Europe, and the Communist Party’s spokesperson announced a shift in the relations of his city with the West. Citizens became free to cross the borders of the country. Both West and East Berliners went to the wall; they drank champagne and chanted open the get over 1 million Eastern Germans went to West Berlin to take part in the celebration that was organized (Ash, 2014). People knocked the wall using picks and hammers as bulldozers and cranes took down several sections of the wall. The Wall was destroyed, and Berlin became unified for the first time since the end of the Second World War. The uniting of West and East Germany became official on 3 October 1990 a year after the Berlin wall had fallen.
At the end of the Second World War, the Soviet pushed out the Germany forces from Poland. Stalin had said before that imposition of Communism on Poland was as bad as getting a saddle on a calf. After the Second World War, he imposed it which was very contradicting with what he had said before. The Communism roots had never run deep in Poland. There was another complication to the imposition of Communism in Poland when the prewar decision by Stalin decided to destroy the old Polish Communist Party and get it away from the Communist International since it had a nationalist tint. As the Second World War was coming to an end, the Polish Communists had become divided and weaker. Those who were fighting as independent soldiers became openly distrustful of the operatives of Polish who were coming back from Moscow where they had gone for exile. One such group came to the town of Chelm, and under the Red Army’s protection, they decided to proclaim a provisional government.
Kremlin put the Chelm group in place to counter the claims to Western-oriented exile legitimacy of Poland government in London. As troops of Soviet-occupied Poland, the heads of the government that was based in London decided to be part of the government of unity in a reluctant manner because they feared that if they failed to join, Russian puppets would have all the power (Kemp-Welch, 2008). The fears increased after the Yalta and Potsdam agreements whereby the powers from Western acceded to the fact of Eastern occupation by the Soviet military. After two years of awkward coalition, the Polish satraps of Stalin started moving to put in place the Soviet-style control over the social and economic life of Poland. In the year 1946, a national referendum called for the nationalization of heavy industry and medium and also giving the Communists a decisive role in national matters. The national referendum is believed to have been rigged.
During this period the bands that were anti-communist took up arms, and this is referred by poles as a partisan war. Having the help of the Russians, the Communists went ahead to abolish factions and people associated with the wartime in England. Stanislaw who was the best politician of this time was forced into flight, and his friends were imprisoned after being accused of treachery (Kemp-Welch, 2008). In the year 1948, the communists forced the merging of the prewar Polish Socialist Party’s elements that were surviving to create the Polish United Workers Party. This merging which has had control since then decided to paper on most antagonistic factions, this included prewar clandestine Communists and some followers of the prewar national hero of Poland, Marshall Josef.
With this party’s formation, the Stalinist terror and consolidation period gained momentum. The church was under growing attack. In the early 1950s after the apostasy of Tito, show trials and waves of purges shook the bureaucracy and army. The education in Poland was patterned after the Soviet model, and this was the first deviations that appeased the resentments and feelings of the Polish. After the death of Stalin in 1953, these resentments gained expression and force. By around 1955, over 90000 political prisoners had been set free. There was more discontent in 1956, and this led to protests by workers in Poznan, two months before Budapest rose, where Nagy raised same calls for national Communism (Hixson, 1998). The surge was realized by Wladyslaw’s appointment, a man who had been chased from the movement and even sent to jail on the orders of Stalin. He had fought as a guerrilla fighter, and after he emerged as the movement leader, he stopped the unrest. Gomulka accepted the mistakes by the party and asked for sacrifice from the employees, and he promised great changes.
Initially, the crowds were happy. The church got enough freedom, and for some time there was a great tolerance to different views. But in the year 1968 as a result of an intrigue caused by hard-line opponents, Gomulka was forced to allow a campaign against activists who were students and the campaign developed into a campaign that was full-scale anti-Semitic. This campaign sent most of the Jewish that were remaining in Poland into the flight (Ash, 2014). In the year 1970, another generation of employees went to the streets to ensure that food prices were reduced but police shot and killed scores. This made the rule of Gomulka to collapse. Edward Gierek, the new leader of the party, chose to reassure and appease a nation that was alienated and redevelop a party that was weakening with consumerism. Huge amounts of money were loaned from the West so that they could build factories that would manufacture exports so that the livings standards could be raised. After a few years, the factories were never completed, and Poland suffered from huge debts.
The workers who were shot at in the year 970 and the students who had held protests in the year 1968 joined together their efforts, and this finally led to solidarity as both a union and a movement. After a Polish Pope was selected in 1978, autonomous emergence made several Poles to emerge from caution, silence, and cynicism (Kemp-Welch, 2008). About a half of the nation was in solidarity, and thousands of workers who were mostly youths got the courage to leave the Communist Party. A nightmare happened to the party and its ideologies after his mass movement from the party happened. An electrician by the name Lech Walesa came out of Lenin, a shipyard with callouses on his hands and challenged those who claimed to rule in the form of working class. He came from a peasant background, and he had decided to demand greater freedom and a stop to the monopolies of parties.
The party turned to Gen. Jaruzelki in response to the demands. Communist generals should serve people rather than leading parties. Here the party followed the old Polish traditions and not the new Communist traditions. The general moved with solidarity which made him declare martial law in the year 1981. After this decision, there were massive defections that hit the party, mostly from younger workers. In some areas, the soldiers and police officers were the only party members (Hixson, 1998). The general tried to spend the early part of his time on a course that was zigzag in efforts to hold off Westernizing liberals and pro-Moscow hard-liners in the party and preserve some role for his party and end an economic boycott by the West.
The economic reforms caused strikes in the summer and spring of 1988. The Solidarity movement asked for pluralism of economic reforms. When the Round Table negotiations were held, they led to the gradual creation of the Third Polish Republic. The leaders of the Polish Communist recognized the social movement in the year 1989. The Solidarity movement was, therefore, able to participate in the first elections that were semi-legal since World War II. The elections that were done on 4th and 8th June saw the Communist Party collapse. Mazowiecki became the first leader who was not communist in Eastern Europe. Majority Polish Sjem endorsed him. This endorsement was because of the coalition between the agricultural party, Solidarity, and Democratic Party. The victory of the candidates from the trade union in these elections caused a peaceful anti-Communist wave of revolutions in Eastern and Central Europe.