The introductory chapter explains the book's main objectives, particularly its attempt to examine the history of the Berlin Wall from a comparative East–West perspective that focuses on two key issues: the Wall's concrete human costs—especially the numerous violent deaths that took place there—and its broader uses in Cold War legitimization battles between the two Germanys. It explains how this approach can cast new light on the broader history of divided Germany and provides a brief overview of the book's structure. The introduction closes with a concise survey of key political and social developments in Berlin and Germany as a whole from the end of the Second World War to the beginning of the 1960s, culminating in the acute refugee crisis that the GDR faced by 1961.
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