Berlin, capital and chief urban centre of Germany. The city lies at the heart of the North German Plain, athwart an east-west commercial and geographic axis that helped make it the capital of the kingdom of Prussia and then, from 1871, of a unified Germany. Berlin’s former glory ended in 1945, but the city survived the destruction of World War II. It was rebuilt and came to show amazing economic and cultural growth. Germany’s division after the war put Berlin entirely within the territory of the German Democratic Republic (GDR, or East Germany). The city itself echoed the national partition—East Berlin being the capital of East Germany and West Berlin a Land (state) of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, or West Germany). West Berlin’s isolation was later reinforced by the concrete barrier erected in 1961 and known as the Berlin Wall. Its status as an enclave made Berlin a continuous focus of confrontation between the Eastern and Western powers as well as a symbol of Western lifestyle for 45 years. The fall of the East German communist regime—and the accompanying opening of the wall—in late 1989 unexpectedly raised the prospect for Berlin’s reinstatement as the all-German capital.
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