In order to understand who controlled East and West Berlin, it is essential to delve into the history and political context of Berlin after World War II. Following the German surrender in 1945, the victorious Allies divided Germany into four occupied zones: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union. This division also extended to the capital city of Berlin, which was located deep within the Soviet zone.
The Division of Berlin
East and West Berlin resulted from the division of Germany and Berlin itself. The Soviet Union controlled the eastern part of Berlin, while the other Allies controlled the western part. This division was not initially intended to be permanent, but as tensions between the Soviet Union and the Western Allies grew, it became clear that Berlin was to become a significant symbol of the Cold War.
East Berlin emerged as the capital of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), often referred to as East Germany, which was established as a socialist state by the Soviet Union in 1949. The Soviet Union exercised full control over East Berlin, including political, economic, and administrative matters. The East German government implemented Soviet-inspired policies and collectivized industries.
West Berlin, on the other hand, was encompassed by the Federal Republic of Germany, often referred to as West Germany. Despite being located deep within East Germany, West Berlin was administered by the three Western Allies (United States, United Kingdom, and France). It quickly became a symbol of democracy and economic prosperity in the face of the socialist ideology promoted in East Berlin.
The Berlin Wall
The division between East and West Berlin became physically manifest with the construction of the Berlin Wall. Erected by the East German government on August 13, 1961, the wall was intended to prevent citizens from fleeing East Berlin to the more prosperous West. The wall effectively isolated East Berlin and became a potent symbol of the divided Cold War world.
East Berlin’s Control of the Wall
East Berlin controlled the wall, with extensive security measures in place to prevent unauthorized crossings. The East German government stationed soldiers, known as border guards, along the wall equipped with orders to shoot anyone attempting to escape. This control over the wall served as a physical manifestation of the Soviet Union’s grip on East Berlin.
West Berlin’s Perspective
From the perspective of West Berlin, the wall represented a tangible reminder of the ongoing struggle against communist control. The Western Allies ensured the safety and security of West Berlin, providing supplies and demonstrating their commitment to preserving the democratic way of life within the city.
The Fall of the Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall stood for nearly three decades, symbolizing the division between East and West. However, in response to mounting pressure for reform and increased freedom, the East German government made a surprising announcement on November 9, 1989. They declared that the borders between East and West Germany would be open, effectively dismantling the Berlin Wall.
This historic decision sparked scenes of jubilation as East and West Berliners came together to tear down the wall. The fall of the Berlin Wall was a powerful symbol of the end of the Cold War and paved the way for the reunification of Germany.
East Berlin was controlled by the Soviet Union and eventually became the capital of East Germany, while West Berlin was administered by the Western Allies and represented democracy and economic prosperity. The division was physically enforced by the Berlin Wall, which separated the two parts of the city for almost three decades. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 marked a significant turning point in history, symbolizing the end of the Cold War and leading to the eventual reunification of Germany.