The Iron Curtain symbolized the ideological and physical boundary dividing Europe into two separate areas from the end of World War II in 1945 until the end of the Cold War in 1991. On either side of the "Iron Curtain", states developed their own economic and military alliances:
- The Eastern Bloc's Council for Mutual Economic Assistance and the military Warsaw Pact on the east side, with the Soviet Union as most important member of each.
- The European Community and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on the west and south, with the United States of America occupying bases in Western Europe as the area's largest (foreign) military presence.
Physically, the "Iron Curtain", which the communists referred to as the "anti-fascist barrier", took the shape of border tank-traps, hugely high barbed-wire and electrified fences, minefields and machine-gun emplacements, between the countries of Western and Eastern Europe, most notably the Berlin Wall, which served as a longtime symbol of the Curtain as a whole.
Demolition of the "Iron Curtain" started in Hungary during the summer of 1989 (for example: removal of Hungary's border fence and the Pan-European Picnic) when thousands of East Germans began to emigrate to West Germany via Hungary on September 11, foreshadowing the initial "fall" of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 (although this did not immediately herald the fall of the GDR).
- "Archive: Freedom! The Berlin Wall". Time. 20 November 1989. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,959058,00.html. Retrieved 5 May 2010.