During the Cold War era, one of the most captivating stories was the division of Berlin into East and West. West Berlin became an isolated island within East Germany, surrounded by Soviet-controlled territory. Many people wondered how West Germany, located hundreds of kilometers away, managed to access this enclave. In this article, we will dive into the various methods used to ensure access to West Berlin.
After World War II, Germany was divided into four occupation zones controlled by the Allied powers: the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and France. The city of Berlin, located in the Soviet occupation zone, was also divided into four sectors.
Construction of Autobahn A115
One of the crucial lifelines connecting West Germany to West Berlin was the Autobahn A115, also known as the AVUS. This highway, constructed between 1913 and 1921, played a significant role during the Cold War. The AVUS provided a direct route for West Germans to travel between the two separated parts of the city.
The Berlin Airlift
After World War II, tensions between the Soviet Union and the Allies intensified, leading to the Soviet blockade of West Berlin in 1948. In response, the Allies conducted the Berlin Airlift, a massive operation to supply West Berlin with essential goods and prevent a humanitarian crisis. Over 200,000 flights transported supplies, including food, fuel, and medicine, to the city.
The Transit Agreement
To establish a more reliable means of access, West Germany and the Soviet Union signed the Transit Agreement in 1971. This agreement allowed free access for West Germans traveling to and from West Berlin by rail or road through East German territory. It guaranteed their safe passage, with restrictions placed on the number of vehicles and passengers allowed.
The Trans-Berlin Autobahn
As part of the Transit Agreement, an autobahn was constructed called the Transitstrecke, or “Trans-Berlin Autobahn”. This highway provided a direct connection between West Germany and West Berlin, passing through East German territory without the need for border controls. This route saved considerable time and provided a more convenient passage for West Germans.
The Transit Trains
In addition to the autobahn, transit trains were introduced, allowing West Germans to travel by rail between West Germany and West Berlin. These trains would pass through East Germany without stopping at any stations, ensuring a swift and uninterrupted journey.
The access to West Berlin from West Germany was a complex and strategically significant challenge during the Cold War. The construction of the Autobahn A115, the Berlin Airlift, and the Transit Agreement helped establish a reliable connection between East and West. These initiatives not only facilitated the movement of people and goods but also provided symbolic support to the people of West Berlin, proving that they were not completely isolated from the democratic world.