a small intro into the History of Berlin

 During the Yalta conference in 1945, the Allies decided to divide both Germany and Berlin into four sectors, each of which would be controlled by one of the allied powers. The Soviet forces retreated from the Western sections, which they had up until then occupied. Tensions quickly arose between the Western Allies and the Soviets. The Western Allies' establishment of; the bi- and trilateral zones resulting in the formation of the Federal Republic of Germany, the establishment of the West German D-Mark which completely devalued the Reichmark, were seen by the Soviets as violations of the pact made with the Allies. The Soviets interpretation of an end to the Yalta agreement enabled them to exclude themselves from the Marshall Plan, which they believed would mean the end of their economic independence. While Soviet war reparations were extracted entirely from the eastern occupation zone, the Western economy was slowly being rebuilt through the Marshall Plan.
October 20th, 1946 all four occupying forces gathered for the first city council assembly for greater Berlin. When the three Western occupying forces officially established the Federal Republic of Germany on May 23rd, 1949, Article 23 of the new constitution specified the inclusion of all of Berlin into the Federal Republic. The consequent establishment of the GDR on October 7th, 1949, also revealed a similar stipulation in their constitution, which declared that Germany was an undividable republic with its capital being Berlin. As Berlin was situated in the Soviet controlled Eastern section, the Soviets assumed Berlin to be under their jurisdiction just as the Western Allies considered Berlin to be under their administration. Both newly formed states declared Berlin to be theirs without ever officially claiming control.

On December 5th, 1948, a renewed attempt at a city council assembly took place in West Berlin, since the Soviets had not permitted the assembly to take place in the Eastern Sector. However, days before the SED (Social Unity Party of Germany) had already held a city council assembly with hundreds of supposed delegates from East Berlin companies during which the democratically elected Magistrate was deposed of and replaced by the newly elected Mayor of East Berlin, Friedrich Ebert. Therefore, the beginning of 1950 saw the break-up of both the Allied cooperation and joint administration of Berlin. The constitution of West Berlin came into effect without the support of the East. According to Article 2, paragraph 1, of this constitution, Berlin was considered part of the German Federal Republic, meaning belonging to the West. However, as Cold War tensions rose, the dispute over total of occupation over Berlin became a moot point.

THE BERLIN BLOCKABE AND BERLIN AIRLIFT

June 1948, Soviet troops blocked off several streets and public transportation routes leading from the Soviet controlled zones to West Berlin, in hopes of forcing the Western powers to allow the Soviet zone to start supplying Berlin with food and fuel, thereby giving the Soviets control of over the entire city. Food rations stamps were distributed to West Berliners, but the majority were never used. West Berliners' felt that their political and economical allegiance with the West was being threatened by the Soviets' actions. In response, the Western Allies organized the Berlin Airlift, which enabled food and fuel supplies to be flown into West Berlin. Despite an official end to the blockade on May 12, 1949, the Airlift continued up until September 1949. Part of the Airlift included an expansion of the Tempelhof Airport by American military engineers. Since some of the planes delivering goods also contained sweets for children, the aircrafts were nicknamed "Raisin Bombers" by German children. The Soviets' goal of making West Berliners dependent on goods solely from the East had completely failed. Furthermore, the Blockade resulted in an even stronger solidarity and allegiance between West Berliners and West Germany altogether. There was now not only an economical but also a political division within the city.

UPRISING OF 1953 in EAST GERMANY

June 17th, 1953, a strike by East Berlin construction workers turned into a widespread uprising against the regime of the German Democratic Republic. A small group of approximately sixty construction workers began a strike as result of pending pay cuts should the workers not meet their quotas. Starting from the former Stalinallee, now Karl-Marx Allee, the strikes attracted many East Berliners and as they pulled through the city onwards to Postdamer Platz the group garnered support from West Berliners. As media coverage spread, strikes and protests spread in other GDR provinces. As the situation threatened to spiral out of control, the East German government called in Soviet troops for help. Violent clashes between police and unarmed civilians resulted in the deaths of 153 people. The East German government spun the events and denounced them as a 'counter revolutionary resistance' spurred by the West because of the participation of West Berliners, the RIAS negative media reports and attacks on police. The planned pay cuts were later rejected, however the East German government established a party loyal task force to quell any future uprisings.
 

BUILDING OF THE BERLIN WALL 

August 13th, 1961, the East German government began constructing the Berlin Wall, which would officially divide Berlin. East Germany was on the verge of bleeding dry due to the mass emigration of East German citizens to West Germany. The GDR had secretive plans of hindering any further emigration by erecting a wall. Heavily armed American troops stood by as the first barbed wire and cement blocks were laid at Potsdamer Platz. Although the Western Allies had been warned of drastic measures to seal off West Berlin, no one was sure of when or to what extent. Since Western entry points were not being sealed off no military aggression took place.

President Kennedy visited Berlin in 1963. In front of the town hall of Schöneberg, he declared his famous words: "Ich bin ein Berliner." This speech was a great morale boost for West Berliners, who lived in an enclave deep inside East Germany and feared a possible East German occupation. However, the inaction of the Allies was worrisome. The Western Allies and the GDR considered the Wall as a form of political stability.
The Four Powers Agreement on Berlin, signed September 3rd 1971, essentially affirmed the existing status of the city. The Agreement envisaged that although the western parts of the city were not a constituent part of the Federal Republic, the "ties" between the two were to be maintained and further developed.

 

BORDER CROSSINGS

 Along the Berlin Wall, there were approximately twenty-five border crossing stations; thirteen street-, four train- and eight water- crossing points. The border crossings between the two states were most heavily guarded from the Eastern authorities and naturally exiting the GDR was very difficult due to border controls and GDR restrictions. On the West Berlin side there were police and custom agents and there were normally no complicated controls for people passing through. However, people were occasionally questioned as to their travel destination and outstanding arrest warrants when trying to cross over the transit lines. The Allies established Checkpoint Bravo and Checkpoint Charlie, which were hugely representative and had little to do with the control of passengers entering and leaving the GDR.
 

BERLIN WALL VICTIMS

 In the twenty-eight years the Berlin Wall existed, nearly eighty-six people were killed while attempting to escape. Despite this, there is still heated debate over the exact number of Berlin Wall victims and most consider the number of victims to be much higher especially because of the clandestine nature of the GDR regime. The first fatal shots were fired August 24th 1961, when Günther Litfin a twenty-four year old who tried to escape over the border at the Friedrichstrasse train station, was shot down. Peter Fechter bled to death in the middle of the so-called 'no man's land'. Two children between the ages of ten and thirteen were killed by over forty shot wounds in 1966. The last deadly incident on the border was on the 6th of February, 1989, when Chris Gueffroy also bled to death.
It is estimated almost 75,000 people were forced to face charges of 'fleeing the republic' in GDR courts. According to paragraph 213 of the GDR penal code, "Republikflucht" (escape from the republic) was to be punished by an imprisonment of up to two years. Military or Stasi agents caught trying to escape almost never got off without at least five years imprisonment. Life was dangerous for the border soldiers too. The most well known case was the death of Reinhold Huhn a soldier who was shot by an escapee. Naturally, the GDR regime used such cases to further spread their propaganda and to emphasize the necessity of the Berlin Wall.
 

REUNIFICATION

 During a state visit to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the GDR, the guest of honor, Mikhail Gorbachev, held a speech in which he emphasized that he would not allow the GDR to enforce a restrictive policy regarding citizens who were defecting from East Germany by traveling through Hungary and Czechoslovakia. On November 9th, border soldiers misunderstood a press conference statement made by Politburo member, Günther Schabowski, and mistakenly allowed a mass of people to cross over the border at the Bornholmer street crossing. The soldiers were under the impression that the Politburo had made a decision to open the borders, although no definite decision had been made. The East German regime was slipping into a chaotic state, especially after the October resignation of the party leader, Erich Honecker.

Thousands of Berliner climbed the wall and danced on top, right in front of the Brandenburg Gate. This time no soviet tanks rolled through Berlin. The wall was not seal up again- instead it was torn down and some Berliners hammered away at the wall and even took pieces home with them.

From this point on East Berlin Mayor, Tino Schwierzina and West Berlin Mayor, Walter Momper, worked together diligently to take on the overwhelming task of organizing the reunification of the two parts of the city.
October 3rd, 1989 Germany, including Berlin, was reunified. Shortly after on December 2nd, the first elections for the House of Representatives for a unified state took place. 1991, Berlin regained its title and position as the national capital of Germany. The Bundesrat (Federal Council), the Bundestag (Parliament) and the Bundespräsident (President of the State) held their first joint council in Berlin on July 31st, 2000.