the Berlin Wall & Beyond
The end of World War II led to the division of Europe into two opposing ideological camps. Once united as allies in their war against the Nazis, the United States and the Soviet Union became the world’s competing powerbrokers for the next 40 years. Amidst the redrawing of national boundaries and the political realignments taking shape, Berlin quickly became the symbolic capital of the Cold War. Only four short years after the end of World War II, the western sectors of Berlin—during the airlift—had been transformed, in western eyes, from a bastion of Nazism to the symbolic last outpost of democracy under threat in Europe. The spatial division of Germany between East and West reflected, in fact, the pattern for the entire continent.
Up until 1961, Berlin, though divided, still had borders that remained somewhat permeable. But when tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States increased in the late 1950s over Berlin, East Germans began escaping to the West in record numbers. In order to stem the growing flow of refugees from the German Democratic Republic into the West, the East German government built a wall to cut off future access to West Berlin. No longer divided merely by the metaphoric “Iron Curtain,” Berlin, Germany, and Europe were now divided by an 800-mile inner German border. Between August 1961 and November 1989, at least 81 people were killed trying to escape; another 5,000 made it to the West and about as many tried and failed.
If the Wall was a symbol of the division of Germany and Europe, the fall of the Wall came to signify East German liberation, German unification, and the end of the Cold War. Today, Berlin symbolizes the new political order and finds itself, once again, at the heart of Europe. On the domestic front, German unification has posed numerous challenges. Between the reunification of Germany and the dismantling of the Soviet Union in 1991, Germany’s new parliament voted to move the capital of the new Germany to Berlin. Yet even today, the capital of unified Germany remains a city of contradictions and jarring discontinuities. It bears the scars of destruction and division. Berlin’s demons may never be fully exorcised, but it is the struggle with the ghosts of its past and the formulation of new visions for the future that makes this “unfinished metropolis“ the most compelling of cities.
 Richie Faust’s Metropolis, p.xvii.