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This Happened

This Happened—November 9: The Cold War Begins To Crumble

The beginning of the collapse of the Berlin Wall, which allowed East Germans to cross into the West, marked a new epoch in world history.

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Amid revolutions that led to the collapse of the Soviet-led communist bloc, the tearing down the wall on Nov. 9, 1989, is considered the symbolic end of the Cold War, culminating in the dissolution of the USSR in 1991.

Why was the Berlin Wall built?

Constructed by the communist German Democratic Republic (GDR), in 1961, the wall was designed to stop its citizens from passing from East German to the West. For decades, the Berlin wall divided the city, which had been partitioned after World War II, both physically and ideologically.

What did the Berlin Wall symbolize?

One of the most infamous symbols of the Cold War, the wall separated families and prevented East Germans from leaving, dampening the dreams of those who fell on the wrong side. Those who wanted to cross were met with guard towers with machine guns ready to shoot them if they tried to cross the “death strip”, laid with beds of nails and other booby traps. An estimated 140 people are believed to have died trying to cross into West Germany.

Why was the Berlin Wall taken down?

After 28 years of forced separation, people had become increasingly discontent living behind the wall and tensions were at their peak. After a broadcast was made by a GDR politician stating that border crossings would be allowed, people rushed to the border stops. After crowding the walls, ordinary people called “wallpeckers” descended upon the wall and began to break it down with various tools, marking the beginning of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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Society

To Tackle Hunger, Brazil Needs To Tackle Racism First

The fight against hunger should be a top priority in Brazil — provided it's addressed as a whole. And to do that, the country needs to face its structural racism issues, an issue newly-reelected President Lula da Silva vowed to tackle.

Photo of a man carrying food packages as residents of a favela in Santa Cruz, Brazil, receive aid.

Residents of a favela in Santa Cruz, Brazil, receive food packages.

Jones Manoel and Tiago Paraíba

It’s 2023, and over half of Brazil’s population is impacted by a hunger crisis. That is the shocking news from the Brazilian Research Network on Sovereignty and Food and Nutritional Security (PENSSAN).

After making strides in the first part of the 21st century, by 2020, hunger in Brazil had returned to 2004 levels. But now the problem is even worse. According to PENSSAN, 125 million Brazilians, or 58% of the country, face food insecurity, defined in various stages of severity by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, with technical “hunger” being the most severe. The number of Brazilians facing hunger has jumped from 9% to 15%, a return to 1994 levels, which corresponds to 33 million Brazilians.

This stunning step backwards has occurred in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the pandemic is not solely to blame. An economic crisis, lack of agrarian reform, inflationary effects on the cost of food, and a systematic dismantling of public policy to assist poor families have combined to make a bad situation worse. In Brazil, already one of the most unequal countries in the world, that has meant that in the past two years an additional 14 million people have found themselves dealing with hunger on a daily basis.

In the 1940s, the doctor and anti-hunger activist Josué de Castro called Brazil “a country of the geography of hunger.” In Brazilian history — from the colonial period to the development of capitalism and the formation of the Republic — high prices, deprivation, a lack of access to basic rights, and hunger have been present in the daily lives of working people. Concentration of land-ownership and wealth in the hands of a few have marked Brazil’s history.

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