Creation of the Berlin Wall

Author: Siegmann, Horst. Source: Wikimedia Commons

At the end of the 2nd World War Berlin was divided into 4 zones – an American, English, French and Soviet. Similarly Germany was divided into West Germany (BRD) and East Germany (DDR) with a new inner German border.

The border could be crossed most places but in 1952 DDR and the Soviet Union decided to close it due to migration and too easy access into DDR for Western agents. Barbed wire fences were raised along the border. This resulted in Berlin becoming the easiest way out of East Germany. Up till 1961 around 3.5 million East Germans are expected to have left DDR to the West.

To put a stop to this population drain the erection of the Berlin Wall was initiated on August 12th 1961. By morning on the 13th the border was closed. Families were unable to rejoin if they were on separate sides and workers were kept from attending their jobs.

This link contains the debates in the Danish Parliament for the years 60-61, 61-62, 62-63, 63-64, 64-65.

  • Can you identify an increase in the words representing the events in Berlin in Danish Parliament? Try ”berlin” and ”berlin*” in the corpus. Are both words good ways to search for our subject? includes all stems / variations of a word (berlin* = berlin, berlins, berlinske, berlinerne, berlinmuren etc)

The newspaper Berlingske brings alot of noise to a search for berlin*as the newpaper is mentioned much more often than the city Berlin. Try adding “Berlingske” to the stop word list

Synonyms can be combined with | (pipe). A combined search could be ”berlin|berlins|berlinmur” which gives a general representation of how often the subject has been discussed in the Danish Parliament.

Try searching for other words that can tell you something of the era like DDR, Østtyskland or your own ideas. Maybe Word2Vec can help you in this proces.

Fall of the Wall

Berlin Schabowski auf Pressekonferenz by Thomas Lehmann
Berlin Schabowski auf Pressekonferenz. Photographer: Thomas Lehmann. Source: Wikimedia Commons

In the late 1980’ies public uprisings and political change took place several places across Eastern Europe – especially in Poland and Czechoslovakia. Combined with open borders between East Germany and Czechoslovakia the flow of people through Prague resulted in East Germans gradually becoming able to leave DDR for the West once again. To alleviate the pressure on the Czechoslovakian and Hungarian borders the option for exiting DDR directly to the West was introduced on November 9th 1989.

In Berlin this was announced by the local Communist Party Spokesman Schabowski. At a press conference this surprised everyone – probably also Schabowski – as he read out loud a note handed to him shortly before the beginning of the conference. Read Günter Schabowski’s Press Conference in the GDR International Press Center 6:53 – 7:01 p.m.

Immediately after both East and West Berliners started moving to the Wall. The guards had not been informed and had no clue how to handle the new rules. Within hours they simply opened the gates and people started flooding through rejoining loved ones after 28 years.

Click on this link to use the corpus which includes discussions in the Danish Parliament for the years 87-88, 88-89, 89-90, 90-91.

  • Do a search for ”berlin|berlins*|berlinmur*” in this second corpus and compare it to your previous results. Does Berlin remain as frequent or “hot” a topic around the erection of The Wall as it does at the fall of The Wall?
  • Consider words that represent the Eastern Block like DDR*, USSR*, East Germany, Warsaw Pact etc.
  • Are they as frequent or representative in both corpora? Does this say something about the focus or context for the discussion in the Danish Parliament? For instance USSR* is barely used around 1961 but around 1989 it is much more frequent.

Smurf is a graphical representation of the words used in Danish Newspapers from around 1750. Go to Smurf

  • Try comparing the frequency or “popularity” of words in the corpora from the Danish Parliament and the Danish newspapers in Smurf.
  • One comparison could be USSR*. The word hardly occurs in the Parliament around 1961 but is this also the case in newspapers?
  • Sovjet* is practically non-existent in the Parliament in 1961 but what about the papers?

The End of The Cold War

Souvenirverkäufer by Peter R. Asche. Source: Wir waren so Frei

Some researchers prefer a perspective that focus on demonstrations in the former East-Bloc countries, whereas other researchers prefer a perspective that focus on a hard pressure of the USA. Can our data set illuminated these perspectives?

  • Which keywords would you select for doing this analysis?
  • Is it possible to identify tendencies in form of word frequencies that would support these perspectives?
  • Reflect on the limitations and possibilities of the digital approach to analysis
  • Build a Story Map and show your results

The Fall of the Wall and European Integration

The EU Emblem. Source: europa.eu

France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg established the EC (European Economic Community) in 1957. The basic idea was to create economic stability in the countries through a common market and a gradual alignment of the Member States’ economic policies.

This aimed to increase “interdependence” amongst the member states through increased stability, living standards and establish better relations to avoid future wars between countries. In the decades following the start of the EC, a number of new member states joined the community, such as Denmark in 1973, who had accepted the membership by referendum in 1972.

Throughout the 1980s Greece, Portugal and Spain also joined the EC. In 1993, the European cooperation was intensified with the Maastricht Treaty, which changed the EC to the EU (European Union). However, by a Danish vote, the Maastricht Treaty was rejected and adjustments were made with the Edinburgh Agreement, which the Danes finally approved on 18 May 1993. Prior to both votes, supporters of the creation of the EU tried to link the fall of the Wall, Germany’s reunification and the end of the cold war with the need for increased European integration. A central argument was the need to “bind” a strong united Germany to the rest of Europe.

How does this linking appear in the available source material? Examples for initial analysis could be:

  • Use Voyant Tools and relevant data from Folketingstidende to examine if the word “maastrichttraktaten” appears along concepts such as “murens fald”, “tysklands genforening”, “kolde krigs afslutning” and similar concepts.
  • Is there a change in the way politicians perceive Europe after the fall of the Wall? Do concepts like “østeuropa”, “østblokken” disappear and are there other concepts taking over? Maybe Word2Vec can help you find similar terms.

Smurf is a graphical representation of the words used in Danish Newspapers from around 1750.

  • Is there a change in the way newspapers perceive Europe after the fall of the Wall? Do concepts like “østeuropa”, “østblok” disappear and are there other concepts taking over?
  • Were there differences in how the necessity of the Maastricht Treaty was expressed in the Folketing compared to the newspapers?

Digital Photo Story

Potsdam Glienicker Brücke by Wolfgang Heinrich. Source: Wir waren so frei

The digital archive “Wir Waren so Frei” is full of images and audio visional sources from 1989 and 1990. The sources are naturally influenced by the patterns of thought of that time. 

Examine the sources in “Wir waren so Frei” and Wilson Archive and produce a digital photo story in Story Maps considering the following issues:

  • The collective consciousness
  • The world of ideas
  • What did they imagine?
  • What did they dream about?
  • What was their self-perception?

Espionage and the KGB

Jeseník dalekohledem by Vlastimil. Source: Wikimedia Commons

In the Cold War between the US and USSR, the superpowers and their allies relied heavily on intelligence. The KGB (English: Committee for State Security) was the main intelligence agency for the Soviet Union from 1954 until its break-up in 1991. Its main functions were foreign intelligence, counter-intelligence, operative-investigatory activities, combating nationalism, dissent and anti-Soviet activities as well as guarding the Soviet government, the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the USSR state border. Whereas the CIA was notorious for its ‘covert actions’, the KGB undertook multiple similar ‘active measures’.

The Wilson Center’s Digital Archive contains multiple Cold War document collections with declassified (and to some extent English translated) records from government and intelligence service archives from all across the globe. Specifically for the Datasprint 2019 a “KGB dataset” has been created comprising KGB related documents from various Wilson Center collections.

Is it possible to identify – with the data at hand – any changes in KGB focus points from the 1950s to the end of the Cold War (e.g. shifts in relation to geography, events or persons)?

Questions to consider:

  • Which types of data are included in the KGB dataset (look for metadata, tags, headlines, etc.)? (Python/Jupyter)
  • How many documents are included in the KGB dataset and how are they distributed across the period of the Cold War? (Python/Jupyter)
  • Which Wilson Center collections have been used for creating the KGB dataset? (Python/Jupyter)
  • Are there any delimitations you want to make in advance before starting to analyze the data (e.g. related to type of data, to certain time intervals, to specific subjects, locations, organizations, etc.)?
  • Can any of the other Wilson Center datasets supplement your analysis?

Be creative and test your own thesis

Do you have your own thesis that you want to examine with the available data? You are welcome to be creative with the datasets. Here are some resources which might come in handy on your journey into the data:

Voyant Tools – Be careful loading large corpora of text in (such as lots of Folketingstidende)

Smurf –  visualises how use of language in Danish newspapers has evolved since the 18th century.

Word2Vec – Algorithm that takes in a word and finds words that appear in similar context. Both Folketingstidende and Danish Newspaper as corpora.