Historical story

US had no problem with the Berlin Wall

On August 13, Germany commemorated the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the construction of the Berlin Wall. In August 1961, construction was strongly condemned by the United States Kennedy administration. That same government, incidentally, did not take any action, because at the same time it recognized the benefits. This is evident from recently released documents from the CIA.

When the East German government decided it would build a wall to permanently separate West and East Berlin, US President Kennedy called it an "inhumane act to imprison civilians in their own country." But that was it.

Previously classified US intelligence documents show that the US government actually didn't have as big of a problem with the Wall as it made it out to be.

The documents have been requested and published online by the National Security Archive , part of George Washington University . The researchers invoked the Freedom of Information Act , the US version of our Government Information Act.

Dean Rusk, Kennedy's secretary of state, believed the wall could help restore stability to the Berlin region. Another senior government official – US Ambassador to the Soviet Union Llewellyn Thompson – wrote in the weeks leading up to the Berlin Crisis:“Both we and the West Germans believe it is in our best interest that East German refugees in East Germany stay.”

Tensive situation

The Western intelligence services had learned that East German citizens were living with the fear that the GDR government of Walter Ulbricht would decide to permanently close access to West Berlin. The refugee crisis and the idea that every day could be "a last chance for escape" destabilized East Berlin and made the Soviets nervous about the already tense situation in divided Germany.

In the early 1960s, communist East Germany faced an economic disaster. Hundreds of people fled from East Berlin every day to the capitalist West of the city. Away from poverty and dictatorship, towards freedom.

Because East Berlin was literally in danger of emptying, East German President Walter Ulbricht and Soviet Union leader Nikita Kruchev decided that the border should be closed.

The American and West German intelligence services were aware that 'tough measures' would be taken to prevent the exodus. Although Ulbricht announced in a speech as early as August 10 that the point had been reached "this far and no further," Western intelligence was at the very least surprised when the East Germans began building a wall on August 13. The president was also not informed in advance.

Words, not deeds

The government decided to condemn the construction of the wall only in words. “The Communist authorities are denying their citizens the right to choose a free world instead of living in a world of coercion,” said Minister Rusk.

This is where it initially stopped. The Americans decided not to take any further measures. If the East Germans were to stay at home from now on, that would have a stabilizing effect. A popular uprising in East Germany was not considered in the US interest at the time. Later in 1961, tensions came to a head when the Soviets demanded that the Allied troops leave West Berlin.

The West Berlin city government was embarrassed by the American refusal to take action against their city walls. To calm things down somewhat, Kennedy sent his Vice President Lyndon Johnson to Berlin to encourage the West Berliners. Kennedy himself didn't show up until July 23, 1963, when he famously 'Ich bin ein Berliner' speech.