Berlin

Cold War Berlin

more than a year ago

If families in Washington and Moscow felt threatened by the Cold War – and by the missiles that could cover the 7,841km between them in the time Carl Lewis could win an Olympic sprint – imagine how Berliners must have felt on the cold front, warily watching the nuclear-loaded giants that occupied them, held back from one another by a primitive concrete wall. Every year on November 9, the city celebrates and commemorates the fall of the Berlin Wall.

After the Second World War, Germany was carved up between the Soviets, Americans, British and French victors. Each received a large chunk of the country to administer, plus a symbolically important slice of Berlin. Because of Berlin’s location, the three western sectors (collectively named West Berlin) ended up being surrounded by the Soviet administered areas of East Berlin and East Germany. Stalin’s 11-month blockade of West Berlin in 1948-49 was a bitter taste of relations to come. British and American forces heroically supplied the cut-off West Berliners in an air operation that became known as the Luftbrücke (air bridge). The Luftbrücke memorial, a rising half-arch in front of Tempelhof Airport (F-4) was nicknamed the ‘claw of hunger’ by Berliners who lived through those dark months. Germany was divided into the Federal Repuplic of Germany (West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) in 1949, and though East Germans were not permitted to emigrate to West Germany, they could easily slip through the loophole of yet undivided Berlin. After losing a couple of million of its young, educated and skilled citizens to the West, East Germany finally stitched up the hole in their Berlin pocket by erecting The Wall. At 01:00 on August 13, 1961, soldiers fenced off the 160km-long border surrounding the Western sectors.

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