The Path to the Berlin Wall

Critical Stages in the History of Divided Germany


The long path to the Berlin Wall began in 1945, when Josef Stalin instructed the Communist Party to take power in the Soviet occupation zone while the three Western allies secured their areas of influence. When Germany was split into separate states in 1949, Berlin remained divided into four sectors, with West Berlin surrounded by the GDR but lingering as a captivating showcase for Western values and goods. Following a failed Soviet attempt to expel the allies from West Berlin with a blockade in 1948–49, a second crisis ensued from 1958–61, during which the Soviet Union demanded once and for all the withdrawal of the Western powers and the transition of West Berlin to a “Free City.” Ultimately Nikita Khrushchev decided to close the border in hopes of halting the overwhelming exodus of East Germans into the West.

Tracing this path from a German perspective, Manfred Wilke draws on recently published conversations between Khrushchev and Walter Ulbricht, head of the East German state, in order to reconstruct the coordination process between these two leaders and the events that led to building the Berlin Wall.

  • Berghahn Books; April 2014
  • ISBN 9781782382898
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF format
  • Title: The Path to the Berlin Wall
  • Author: Manfred Wilke
  • Imprint: Berghahn Books

In The Press

“...constitutes a superlative model of combining biography with the study of nationalism. The latter constitutes the most novel contribution of this well-researched, straightforward historical depiction of Kohl’s ideology and its impact upon the continuing development of German national identity... Recommended” · Choice

About The Author

Born in 1941 in Kassel, Germany, Manfred Wilke received his PhD in economic and social sciences from the University of Bremen in 1976 and his post-doctoral degree in sociology from Freie Universität Berlin in 1981. From 1985–2006, he was Professor of Sociology at the Berlin School of Economics, during which he participated in both Enquête Commissions of the German Bundestag on the history of the SED dictatorship. He also served as Research Director of the Research Association on the SED State at Freie Universität Berlin from 1992–2006.