"An Iron Curtain has descended across the continent. Behind that line lie all of the capitals of the ancient states of central and eastern Europe . . . all these famous cities and populations around lie in the Soviet sphere and all are subject . . . to a very high and increasing measure of control from Moscow." With this section of Winston Churchill's famous speech in 1946 at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, he coined the term "Iron Curtain." Most people believe that Winston Churchill was referring directly to the Berlin Wall, but he was actually talking about the general closing off of Soviet satellite countries in Eastern Europe. Even though the wall itself was not built until 1961, the Berlin Wall was the enduring symbol of that "Iron Curtain." Understanding the reason for its construction, the heartache it caused, and the joy over its fall helps modern students relate to its symbolic role as an "Iron Curtain" (Rise).
The Berlin Wall was erected for one main reason: to keep East Berliners from escaping to West Berlin. After WWII, Berlin, the capital of Germany, was a ruined city. The WWII victors, the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union, divided Germany and Berlin in four sectors, each controlled by one of the four countries. At first, Berlin citizens could move freely between the sectors to work or to visit with friends and family. The American, British, and French sectors became democratic and capitalist, and the Soviet sector became a communist dictatorship. By 1948, the Soviet Union and democratic allies began to fight over how to govern Berlin, and on April 1, 1948 the Soviet Union blockaded routes in and out of East Berlin which trapped some two million Berliners with little food or fuel to live. The allies decided they needed to do something. So, they came up with the idea of the Berlin Airlift, which flew planes with food and supplies for the West Berliners, and the Soviets lifted the blockade in 1949 (Burkhardt).