The Berlin Blockade

After the Second World War, Germany was in ruins. Many cities had been bombed, even destroyed, during the allied campaign, and many people had been forced to flee to safety. The allied forces divided Germany into four occupation zones, with Berlin (which was in the USSR occupation zone) also divided into four zones. These operational divisions were a source of friction between the allied powers, particularly between the USSR and the others. While the German citizens were starving and industrial and agricultural production needed to be kick-started, the allied powers could not agree on a new currency. Eventually, the USA, Great Britain and France, introduced the Deutsche Mark without Soviet consent. The Soviet-Union was offended and decided to block all transport going to the western occupation zones of Berlin.Thus began the Berlin blockade, a period when the western powers airlifted basic commodities from West Germany to Berlin. At the height of the crisis, an American or British aircraft containing milk, flour and other goods, would land in Berlin every few minutes. In retrospect, the Berlin Blockade was a decisive moment in the evolution of the Cold War and it had become clear to all of the Allies and the Germans themselves that it would be a long time before German unification.

This source collection has been created by Rick Hoefsloot and supported by Chris Rowe of the Historiana editing team. Developed under the project ‘Innovating History Education for All.

After the unconditional surrender of Germany, the country was in ruins. Many cities had been destroyed, like for example Köln. In this aerial photograph, taken just after the war in 1945, the destruction is clearly visible and, apart from the cathedral, most of the city is in ruins.There is some evidence that US and British bombers did not seriously damage the cathedral because it was a highly visible landmark for their navigators

Bombed cities Aerial Photograph of Köln, 1945. (Flickr Commons, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

After the unconditional surrender of Germany, the country was in ruins. Many cities had been destroyed, like for example Köln. In this aerial photograph, taken just after the war in 1945, the destruction is clearly visible and, apart from the cathedral, most of the city is in ruins.There is some evidence that US and British bombers did not seriously damage the cathedral because it was a highly visible landmark for their navigators

Bombed cities Aerial Photograph of Köln, 1945. (Flickr Commons, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Ethnic German refugees

At the same time, massive flows of German refugees streamed back to Germany. The German minorities historically living in Poland and Czechoslovakia, were expelled by the new authorities. On the picture, we see a group of refugees leaving Danzig (now Gdansk). The city that had long been a source of Polish-German tensions, as it was close to the ever changing Polish-German border.Refugees leaving the city of Danzig. February 1945. (Bundesarchiv Bild, 146-1996- 030-01A, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Ethnic German refugees

At the same time, massive flows of German refugees streamed back to Germany. The German minorities historically living in Poland and Czechoslovakia, were expelled by the new authorities. On the picture, we see a group of refugees leaving Danzig (now Gdansk). The city that had long been a source of Polish-German tensions, as it was close to the ever changing Polish-German border.Refugees leaving the city of Danzig. February 1945. (Bundesarchiv Bild, 146-1996- 030-01A, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Refugees in Berlin

Also here in central Berlin, many Germans were displaced. On this photograph we can clearly see the devastation caused by the war in the background, while at the front of the picture the German refugees are having a rest next to their carriages with their belongings.German refugees sitting at the roadside in Berlin. (Imperial War Museum, IWM (BU 11351), available to be re-used under the IWM Non Commercial Licence)

Refugees in Berlin

Also here in central Berlin, many Germans were displaced. On this photograph we can clearly see the devastation caused by the war in the background, while at the front of the picture the German refugees are having a rest next to their carriages with their belongings.German refugees sitting at the roadside in Berlin. (Imperial War Museum, IWM (BU 11351), available to be re-used under the IWM Non Commercial Licence)

The division of Germany

On this map of Germany in 1945, we can see the division of Germany made by the allied forces. Firstly, we can see the parts of pre-war Germany that became Polish. These are the areas the ethnic Germans were expelled from. The red and purple areas came under the control of Soviet Forces, while the British, French and American all controlled zones in the west of Germany. On 12 January 1947, the British and American occupation authorities merged their zones, and on 8 April 1949, the French zone was also added. This brought about the division between East and West Germany. Map showing the four occupation zones. (Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5)

The division of Germany

On this map of Germany in 1945, we can see the division of Germany made by the allied forces. Firstly, we can see the parts of pre-war Germany that became Polish. These are the areas the ethnic Germans were expelled from. The red and purple areas came under the control of Soviet Forces, while the British, French and American all controlled zones in the west of Germany. On 12 January 1947, the British and American occupation authorities merged their zones, and on 8 April 1949, the French zone was also added. This brought about the division between East and West Germany. Map showing the four occupation zones. (Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5)

The division of Berlin

On this map we can see the same four powers’ division of Berlin. The occupation zones of France, Great-Britain and the United States would eventually merge into what was to become West-Berlin. Map showing the four occupation zones in Berlin (Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

The division of Berlin

On this map we can see the same four powers’ division of Berlin. The occupation zones of France, Great-Britain and the United States would eventually merge into what was to become West-Berlin. Map showing the four occupation zones in Berlin (Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Marshall Plan

In 1948, the US decided to invest in German businesses, and reconstruct the German and other European economies. The first paragraph of the Economic Recover Act of 1948 reads: ‘An act to promote world peace and the general welfare, national interest, and foreign policy of the United States through economic, financial, and other measures necessary to the maintenance of conditions abroad in which free institutions may survive and consistent with the maintenance of the strength and stability of the United States.’ Here, we can hear an extract from the speech which George C. Marshall delivered when he announced his ‘European Recovery Program’. Picture: (OECD, free for non-commercial re-use) Audio: Speech by George C. Marshall at Harvard University, 5 June 1947. (George C. Marshall Foundation, Public Domain)

The Marshall Plan

In 1948, the US decided to invest in German businesses, and reconstruct the German and other European economies. The first paragraph of the Economic Recover Act of 1948 reads: ‘An act to promote world peace and the general welfare, national interest, and foreign policy of the United States through economic, financial, and other measures necessary to the maintenance of conditions abroad in which free institutions may survive and consistent with the maintenance of the strength and stability of the United States.’ Here, we can hear an extract from the speech which George C. Marshall delivered when he announced his ‘European Recovery Program’. Picture: (OECD, free for non-commercial re-use) Audio: Speech by George C. Marshall at Harvard University, 5 June 1947. (George C. Marshall Foundation, Public Domain)

Black market & barter trade

Even with the Marshall plan the situation in German cities was still poor. As the four occupation powers had not reached an agreement on a common currency for Germany, the Reichsmark (which had been the German currency since 1924) plummeted. People resorted to the black market. In the picture, we see three young boys trading American cigarettes, which for many had replaced the Reichsmark as the main form of payment. Young boys trade cigarettes on a black market, 1948. (Bundesarchiv Bild, 183-R79014, CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Black market & barter trade

Even with the Marshall plan the situation in German cities was still poor. As the four occupation powers had not reached an agreement on a common currency for Germany, the Reichsmark (which had been the German currency since 1924) plummeted. People resorted to the black market. In the picture, we see three young boys trading American cigarettes, which for many had replaced the Reichsmark as the main form of payment. Young boys trade cigarettes on a black market, 1948. (Bundesarchiv Bild, 183-R79014, CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Introduction of the Deutsche Mark

On the 20th of June 1948, the three Western powers introduced the Deutsche Mark as a solution to the severe economic crisis in Germany. Previously all of occupied Germany, including the Soviet zone, had used the Reichsmark. But hyperinflation, severe shortages and the black market had meant that it was now virtually worthless. Monetary reform was needed but the Western powers introduced the new Deutsche Mark in the Trizone (but not in Berlin) without consultation with the Soviets. This annoyed the Soviet authorities. Two days later, 22nd June 1948, the Soviets introduced a new currency in their occupation zone and across the whole of Berlin. Annoyed by this, the Western authorities then responded by introducing the DM in their sectors of Berlin, thus ramping up the tension even more. The blockade began on the 24th. One of these new Deutsche Marks, is depicted on this picture. 1 Deutsche Mark, 1948 series. (Imperial War Museum, IWM (CUR 16850), available to be re-used under the IWM Non Commercial Licence)

Introduction of the Deutsche Mark

On the 20th of June 1948, the three Western powers introduced the Deutsche Mark as a solution to the severe economic crisis in Germany. Previously all of occupied Germany, including the Soviet zone, had used the Reichsmark. But hyperinflation, severe shortages and the black market had meant that it was now virtually worthless. Monetary reform was needed but the Western powers introduced the new Deutsche Mark in the Trizone (but not in Berlin) without consultation with the Soviets. This annoyed the Soviet authorities. Two days later, 22nd June 1948, the Soviets introduced a new currency in their occupation zone and across the whole of Berlin. Annoyed by this, the Western authorities then responded by introducing the DM in their sectors of Berlin, thus ramping up the tension even more. The blockade began on the 24th. One of these new Deutsche Marks, is depicted on this picture. 1 Deutsche Mark, 1948 series. (Imperial War Museum, IWM (CUR 16850), available to be re-used under the IWM Non Commercial Licence)

The Soviet Union block all rail, road and canal traffic

After the US, Great-Britain and France introduced a new Deutsche Mark on the 20th of June 1948, the Soviet Union cut off all access by train, road or canal going to West-Berlin. They saw it as a measure to create a separate West-German state, and wouldn’t comply. While historians trace the start of the Berlin Blockade to the closure by the Soviet authorities of the rail and road corridors into Berlin through their zone of occupation on 24 June 1948 the Soviets had started doing this arbitrarily in the spring of that year. As this official document shows, the first temporary blockade was on 2 April 1948. This was lifted on 10 April after the Americans started an air lift of supplies and personnel on a smaller scale to the one that was introduced after 24 June. Over the next two months there were further temporary interruptions in the road and rail access so the Americans continued their airlift. Classified message to US war department, 2 April 1948. (Harry S Truman Library and Museum, War Department Classified Message Center, Incoming Classified Message. April 2, 1948, Free to re-use)

The Soviet Union block all rail, road and canal traffic

After the US, Great-Britain and France introduced a new Deutsche Mark on the 20th of June 1948, the Soviet Union cut off all access by train, road or canal going to West-Berlin. They saw it as a measure to create a separate West-German state, and wouldn’t comply. While historians trace the start of the Berlin Blockade to the closure by the Soviet authorities of the rail and road corridors into Berlin through their zone of occupation on 24 June 1948 the Soviets had started doing this arbitrarily in the spring of that year. As this official document shows, the first temporary blockade was on 2 April 1948. This was lifted on 10 April after the Americans started an air lift of supplies and personnel on a smaller scale to the one that was introduced after 24 June. Over the next two months there were further temporary interruptions in the road and rail access so the Americans continued their airlift. Classified message to US war department, 2 April 1948. (Harry S Truman Library and Museum, War Department Classified Message Center, Incoming Classified Message. April 2, 1948, Free to re-use)

The Berlin Blockade

To enforce the new measures taken by the USSR to restrict transport to and from Berlin, many roadblocks were set up by the Soviet forces. In this picture, we see one such roadblock being built at Friedrichstrasse in central Berlin.Building of roadblock at Friedrichstrasse, Berlin, 11-05-1949. (Bundesarchiv bild, 183-S85102, Heilig, Walter, CC-BY-SA 3.0)

The Berlin Blockade

To enforce the new measures taken by the USSR to restrict transport to and from Berlin, many roadblocks were set up by the Soviet forces. In this picture, we see one such roadblock being built at Friedrichstrasse in central Berlin.Building of roadblock at Friedrichstrasse, Berlin, 11-05-1949. (Bundesarchiv bild, 183-S85102, Heilig, Walter, CC-BY-SA 3.0)

The Berlin Airlift

As a response to the Berlin Blockade, the Western powers decided to use the air corridors to airlift basic commodities and other goods into Berlin. Flour, potatoes, milk and even candy were airlifted into West-Berlin. It was a huge scale operation and it featured a lot in both Soviet and Western propaganda. It also had a major impact on the everyday lives of German citizens in West Berlin. General Lucius D. Clay was a key figure in the Berlin Airlift, as he was the commander of the American zone in Berlin. He was a strong advocate of the airlift, even when hid superiors in Washington and at US Command Europe were opposed to it. He stressed that the airlift was not a military operation but a political one. In an interview in 1974, he described the conversation he had with President Truman when the latter gave him the green light: “We went into his office and he said something like this, ‘You're not feeling very happy about this are you, Clay?’” I said, “No, Sir, I'm not. I think that this is going to make our efforts a failure, and I'm afraid what will happen to Europe if it does fail.” He said, “Don't you worry, you're going to get your airplanes.”Picture and interview with Lucius D. Clay. (Harry S Truman Library and Museum, Oral History Interview with Lucius D. Clay, Public Domain)

The Berlin Airlift

As a response to the Berlin Blockade, the Western powers decided to use the air corridors to airlift basic commodities and other goods into Berlin. Flour, potatoes, milk and even candy were airlifted into West-Berlin. It was a huge scale operation and it featured a lot in both Soviet and Western propaganda. It also had a major impact on the everyday lives of German citizens in West Berlin. General Lucius D. Clay was a key figure in the Berlin Airlift, as he was the commander of the American zone in Berlin. He was a strong advocate of the airlift, even when hid superiors in Washington and at US Command Europe were opposed to it. He stressed that the airlift was not a military operation but a political one. In an interview in 1974, he described the conversation he had with President Truman when the latter gave him the green light: “We went into his office and he said something like this, ‘You're not feeling very happy about this are you, Clay?’” I said, “No, Sir, I'm not. I think that this is going to make our efforts a failure, and I'm afraid what will happen to Europe if it does fail.” He said, “Don't you worry, you're going to get your airplanes.”Picture and interview with Lucius D. Clay. (Harry S Truman Library and Museum, Oral History Interview with Lucius D. Clay, Public Domain)

The Western powers’ air corridors

Given the strict Soviet controls on the overland transport of freight, the only option open to the western powers was to fly in goods to Berlin using the agreed special air corridors. These corridors were designed to ensure that Soviet and Western airplanes were not flying in the same airspace. There were three main corridors. Two went from the British sector to Gatow airport in Berlin. The third went from the American sector to Tempelhof airport. This was by far the largest corridor. The red dots on this map represent the airports from which the planes departed and the routes they took. Map of the air corridors to Berlin. (Wikimedia Commons, CC SA- BY 3.0)

The Western powers’ air corridors

Given the strict Soviet controls on the overland transport of freight, the only option open to the western powers was to fly in goods to Berlin using the agreed special air corridors. These corridors were designed to ensure that Soviet and Western airplanes were not flying in the same airspace. There were three main corridors. Two went from the British sector to Gatow airport in Berlin. The third went from the American sector to Tempelhof airport. This was by far the largest corridor. The red dots on this map represent the airports from which the planes departed and the routes they took. Map of the air corridors to Berlin. (Wikimedia Commons, CC SA- BY 3.0)

The Berlin Airlift

At the height of the crisis, a plane coming with goods from western Germany would land every few minutes at one of the Berlin Airports. In this picture, taken at Frankfurt airport, we can see the kind of products that were flown in to Berlin. For example, huge amounts of milk and flour had to be transported.Goods about to be loaded in Frankfurt, West-Germany for transport to Berlin. (Bundesarchiv Bild, 146-1985-064-04A, CC-BY-SA 3.0)

The Berlin Airlift

At the height of the crisis, a plane coming with goods from western Germany would land every few minutes at one of the Berlin Airports. In this picture, taken at Frankfurt airport, we can see the kind of products that were flown in to Berlin. For example, huge amounts of milk and flour had to be transported.Goods about to be loaded in Frankfurt, West-Germany for transport to Berlin. (Bundesarchiv Bild, 146-1985-064-04A, CC-BY-SA 3.0)

The Berlin Airlift

The air corridors had a busy schedule and careful and thorough planning was needed. Here we see a British officer and a US officer working on a map of Berlin and its air corridors to ensure that the flight schedules made most effective use of the air corridors in terms of frequency of flights and the number of planes able to simultaneously fly through the corridors at different heights. British and American officers consulting map of air corridors. (Imperial War Museum, IWM (TR 3841), available to be re-used under the IWM Non Commercial Licence)

The Berlin Airlift

The air corridors had a busy schedule and careful and thorough planning was needed. Here we see a British officer and a US officer working on a map of Berlin and its air corridors to ensure that the flight schedules made most effective use of the air corridors in terms of frequency of flights and the number of planes able to simultaneously fly through the corridors at different heights. British and American officers consulting map of air corridors. (Imperial War Museum, IWM (TR 3841), available to be re-used under the IWM Non Commercial Licence)

The Gatow Air DisasterExcerpt from A.A.P Reuters message 7 April 1948.

Within these air corridors, Soviet fighters started to ‘buzz’ Western Cargo planes and passenger airlines. This entailed Soviet fighter planes flying across along the routes taken by Western planes. On 5 April 1948, this manoeuvre went terribly wrong when a Soviet fighter collided with a British passenger plane near Gatow Airport, while it was flying in the Hamburg-Berlin Air corridor. Both the British and the Soviets held their own enquiries and each found the other’s pilot to be at fault.(Russian fighter collides in mid-air with British plane near Berlin, The Cairns Post, 7 April 1948, Free to quote)

The Gatow Air DisasterExcerpt from A.A.P Reuters message 7 April 1948.

Within these air corridors, Soviet fighters started to ‘buzz’ Western Cargo planes and passenger airlines. This entailed Soviet fighter planes flying across along the routes taken by Western planes. On 5 April 1948, this manoeuvre went terribly wrong when a Soviet fighter collided with a British passenger plane near Gatow Airport, while it was flying in the Hamburg-Berlin Air corridor. Both the British and the Soviets held their own enquiries and each found the other’s pilot to be at fault.(Russian fighter collides in mid-air with British plane near Berlin, The Cairns Post, 7 April 1948, Free to quote)

Gatow Airport

On the ground it was mostly German citizens who were recruited to unload the planes. Here we see two German citizens unloading a transport plane while a member of British RAF air crew looks on.British transport plane being unloaded at Gatow Airport, Berlin (Imperial War Museum, IWM (MH 30692), available to be re-used under the IWM Non Commercial Licence)

Gatow Airport

On the ground it was mostly German citizens who were recruited to unload the planes. Here we see two German citizens unloading a transport plane while a member of British RAF air crew looks on.British transport plane being unloaded at Gatow Airport, Berlin (Imperial War Museum, IWM (MH 30692), available to be re-used under the IWM Non Commercial Licence)

Gatow Airoport

In this picture we can see a sign showing the number of cargo sorties (403) that had arrived at Gatow airport on the previous day. The sign also shows the total number of cargo sorties so far during the whole of the Berlin Airlift(17883). In front of the sign, pilots are enjoying a break. Western pilots drinking tea at Gatow Airport (Imperial War Museum, IWM (MH 30689) available to be re-used under the IWM Non Commercial Licence)

Gatow Airoport

In this picture we can see a sign showing the number of cargo sorties (403) that had arrived at Gatow airport on the previous day. The sign also shows the total number of cargo sorties so far during the whole of the Berlin Airlift(17883). In front of the sign, pilots are enjoying a break. Western pilots drinking tea at Gatow Airport (Imperial War Museum, IWM (MH 30689) available to be re-used under the IWM Non Commercial Licence)

The Rosinenbomber

A feature of the Berlin airlift which became very popular with German children was known as the Rosinenbomber (“Raisin bomber”) while the US pilots called them ‘candy bombers’. As they flew into Tempelhof airport the pilots would drop gum, candy and chocolate over West Berlin using hankerchief parachutes. The ‘inventor’ of this idea was an American pilot, Gail Harvorsen. This initiative led to joyous crowds of children welcoming the incoming flights. In this picture we can see one of these ‘raisin bombers’ landing at Tempelhof.Berlin children watching one of the ‘raisin bombers’ landing at Tempelhof airport. (USAF, 070119-F-0000R-101, USGOV-PD, free to re-use)

The Rosinenbomber

A feature of the Berlin airlift which became very popular with German children was known as the Rosinenbomber (“Raisin bomber”) while the US pilots called them ‘candy bombers’. As they flew into Tempelhof airport the pilots would drop gum, candy and chocolate over West Berlin using hankerchief parachutes. The ‘inventor’ of this idea was an American pilot, Gail Harvorsen. This initiative led to joyous crowds of children welcoming the incoming flights. In this picture we can see one of these ‘raisin bombers’ landing at Tempelhof.Berlin children watching one of the ‘raisin bombers’ landing at Tempelhof airport. (USAF, 070119-F-0000R-101, USGOV-PD, free to re-use)

Stimulation of the local Berlin economy

The Berlin Airlift even brought a new range of work possibilities for local Berliners. In this picture, we can see German construction workers waiting to begin the construction of Gatow airport’s third runway. Indeed, the huge operation involved in the airlift required all the Berlin airports in the western zones to expand. Constant repair work to existing runways was also essential.Construction of the third Gatow runway. (Imperial War Museum, IWM (BER 49-152-001), available to be re-used under the IWM Non Commercial Licence)

Stimulation of the local Berlin economy

The Berlin Airlift even brought a new range of work possibilities for local Berliners. In this picture, we can see German construction workers waiting to begin the construction of Gatow airport’s third runway. Indeed, the huge operation involved in the airlift required all the Berlin airports in the western zones to expand. Constant repair work to existing runways was also essential.Construction of the third Gatow runway. (Imperial War Museum, IWM (BER 49-152-001), available to be re-used under the IWM Non Commercial Licence)

Groceries from East Berlin

For the ordinary West-Berliners, there was also the possibility of buying groceries in East Berlin, although they had to pass through the military checkpoints. In this picture, a woman who has just bought potatoes in East Berlin, is having her identity papers checked before re-entering West Berlin.Buying potatoes in East-Berlin, 21 April 1949. (Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S84620, Kemlein, Eva, CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Groceries from East Berlin

For the ordinary West-Berliners, there was also the possibility of buying groceries in East Berlin, although they had to pass through the military checkpoints. In this picture, a woman who has just bought potatoes in East Berlin, is having her identity papers checked before re-entering West Berlin.Buying potatoes in East-Berlin, 21 April 1949. (Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S84620, Kemlein, Eva, CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Willy Brandt’s view on the Blockade

“At the beginning of the blockade the supplies in the west sectors were enough to guarantee the barely sufficient rations for approximately four weeks at maximum. In the first months just enough food was brought in by air to secure the further issue of the rations and to save the Berliners from starving to death…. The stock of coal was supposed to last for thirty days but it was impossible to replenish it to the same extent as the urgently- needed food. Apartments and the greater part of offices – even the administration buildings – could no longer be heated. Every family got for the whole winter allotment of twenty-five pounds of coal and three boxes of wood. Some fuel was smuggled in by black-marketeers. Most of the families were glad when they could keep one room of their apartment moderately warm for a few hours of the day….Electric current was only available for four hours daily, usually in two periods of two hours each….. The Berliners did not waver, though in addition to hunger and cold – particularly in the first months of the blockade – they were subjected to vicious fear propaganda. The Soviets declared that all of Berlin was theirs, and their newspapers in German language didn’t cease to foretell the realization of that claim. They spread rumours of different kinds, they didn’t spare threats and intimidations. Thus, here and there, doubts arose as to whether one would be able to resist the Russian pressure in the long run. The retaliation and vengeance in case of a defeat would be terrible.” Willy Brandt. At the time of the airlift he was an assistant to the Mayor of West-Berlin. Here he speaks about his experiences during the Airlift/ Blockade. He gives a clear picture of what life was like, and how the goods brought in by the airlift were still not enough. (Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F057884-0009, Public Domain)

Willy Brandt’s view on the Blockade

“At the beginning of the blockade the supplies in the west sectors were enough to guarantee the barely sufficient rations for approximately four weeks at maximum. In the first months just enough food was brought in by air to secure the further issue of the rations and to save the Berliners from starving to death…. The stock of coal was supposed to last for thirty days but it was impossible to replenish it to the same extent as the urgently- needed food. Apartments and the greater part of offices – even the administration buildings – could no longer be heated. Every family got for the whole winter allotment of twenty-five pounds of coal and three boxes of wood. Some fuel was smuggled in by black-marketeers. Most of the families were glad when they could keep one room of their apartment moderately warm for a few hours of the day….Electric current was only available for four hours daily, usually in two periods of two hours each….. The Berliners did not waver, though in addition to hunger and cold – particularly in the first months of the blockade – they were subjected to vicious fear propaganda. The Soviets declared that all of Berlin was theirs, and their newspapers in German language didn’t cease to foretell the realization of that claim. They spread rumours of different kinds, they didn’t spare threats and intimidations. Thus, here and there, doubts arose as to whether one would be able to resist the Russian pressure in the long run. The retaliation and vengeance in case of a defeat would be terrible.” Willy Brandt. At the time of the airlift he was an assistant to the Mayor of West-Berlin. Here he speaks about his experiences during the Airlift/ Blockade. He gives a clear picture of what life was like, and how the goods brought in by the airlift were still not enough. (Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F057884-0009, Public Domain)

The propaganda value of the Airlift

The Airlift also had significant propaganda value. The huge scale of the operation gave inspiration to posters like the one depicted here. It reads: ‘Milk… new weapon for Democracy!’ Below it is a description of the planes built for this purpose by the Douglas corporation, a plane manufacturer based in the United States.Milk…a new weapon of Democracy. (Flickr Commons, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The propaganda value of the Airlift

The Airlift also had significant propaganda value. The huge scale of the operation gave inspiration to posters like the one depicted here. It reads: ‘Milk… new weapon for Democracy!’ Below it is a description of the planes built for this purpose by the Douglas corporation, a plane manufacturer based in the United States.Milk…a new weapon of Democracy. (Flickr Commons, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Gathering support for the Marshall Plan

The Berlin Airlift was also used to gain further support for the Marshall Plan. The airlift was presented as an example of what the westerns powers could accomplish. In this poster the caption reads they used the airlift among others in this poster. The poster shows the custom barrier being raised and the caption says “The way is clear for the Marshall Plan”. The flags on the truck indicate that closed borders will not prevent Western cooperation.Marshall plan poster, 1949. (Bundesarchiv, Plak 005-002-008 / CC-BY-SA)

Gathering support for the Marshall Plan

The Berlin Airlift was also used to gain further support for the Marshall Plan. The airlift was presented as an example of what the westerns powers could accomplish. In this poster the caption reads they used the airlift among others in this poster. The poster shows the custom barrier being raised and the caption says “The way is clear for the Marshall Plan”. The flags on the truck indicate that closed borders will not prevent Western cooperation.Marshall plan poster, 1949. (Bundesarchiv, Plak 005-002-008 / CC-BY-SA)

Soviet propaganda

Soviet propaganda had a different focus. For them, the Berlin Airlift remain a clear provocation against the USSR, and the peace agreement that was made after the war. The Western Powers had not acted according to the Allied Control Council statement by implementing the new Deutsche Mark in their zones, and were still trying to provoke the Soviets with the airlift. This propaganda poster states: ‘For a stable peace! Against those who would ignite a new war’’. In the bottom right corner, we can see a money grabbing uncle Sam along with Winston Churchill, clearly fearing the Soviet unity.Soviet Propaganda poster 1949. (Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (269) Repro. # LC-USZC4-3342, Public Domain)

Soviet propaganda

Soviet propaganda had a different focus. For them, the Berlin Airlift remain a clear provocation against the USSR, and the peace agreement that was made after the war. The Western Powers had not acted according to the Allied Control Council statement by implementing the new Deutsche Mark in their zones, and were still trying to provoke the Soviets with the airlift. This propaganda poster states: ‘For a stable peace! Against those who would ignite a new war’’. In the bottom right corner, we can see a money grabbing uncle Sam along with Winston Churchill, clearly fearing the Soviet unity.Soviet Propaganda poster 1949. (Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (269) Repro. # LC-USZC4-3342, Public Domain)

The end of the Blockade‘Hurray, we are still alive!’

In accord with the four Power Agreement of 4 May, 1949 the USSR lifted the blockade on 12 May. It was once more possible to travel by road from Berlin to Hannover, which the persons depicted in this photograph are celebrating. The sign on the car reads: ‘Hurra wir leben noch’, ‘Hurray, we are still alive’. Imperial War Museum, IWM IWM (BER 49-164-009) available to be re-used under the IWM Non Commercial Licence)

The end of the Blockade‘Hurray, we are still alive!’

In accord with the four Power Agreement of 4 May, 1949 the USSR lifted the blockade on 12 May. It was once more possible to travel by road from Berlin to Hannover, which the persons depicted in this photograph are celebrating. The sign on the car reads: ‘Hurra wir leben noch’, ‘Hurray, we are still alive’. Imperial War Museum, IWM IWM (BER 49-164-009) available to be re-used under the IWM Non Commercial Licence)

Checkpoints reopened

In this picture we can see one of the allied checkpoints at the border of West-Berlin up and running again after the lifting of the blockade. This is the Dreilinden checkpoint, also known as ‘Checkpoint Bravo’ which was situated south-west of Berlin on the main route between through East Germany to the British sector of West Germany.Dreilinden Allied Checkpoint again open, May 1949. (Imperial War Museum, IWM IWM (BER 49-176-004) available to be re-used under the IWM Non Commercial Licence)

Checkpoints reopened

In this picture we can see one of the allied checkpoints at the border of West-Berlin up and running again after the lifting of the blockade. This is the Dreilinden checkpoint, also known as ‘Checkpoint Bravo’ which was situated south-west of Berlin on the main route between through East Germany to the British sector of West Germany.Dreilinden Allied Checkpoint again open, May 1949. (Imperial War Museum, IWM IWM (BER 49-176-004) available to be re-used under the IWM Non Commercial Licence)

Creation of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the German Democratic Republic (DDR)

On 23 May 1949, the trizone of the British, French and American sectors established the Federal Republic of Germany. The decision to create the German Democratic Republic in the Soviet occupied East Germany followed on 7 October 1949. In this picture, we see the first president of the DDR, Wilhelm Pieck, reading out the constitution of the new state.Wilhelm Pieck reading out the Constitution of the DDR in Berlin on 7 October, 1949 (Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S88612, CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Creation of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the German Democratic Republic (DDR)

On 23 May 1949, the trizone of the British, French and American sectors established the Federal Republic of Germany. The decision to create the German Democratic Republic in the Soviet occupied East Germany followed on 7 October 1949. In this picture, we see the first president of the DDR, Wilhelm Pieck, reading out the constitution of the new state.Wilhelm Pieck reading out the Constitution of the DDR in Berlin on 7 October, 1949 (Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S88612, CC-BY-SA 3.0)

As East-Berlin was quickly depopulating during the new Berlin crisis between 1958 and 1961, the Soviets and the DDR government began the construction of the Berlin wall. In this picture, we can see East-German construction workers on the Berlin Wall in November 1961.

The Berlin WallConstruction workers on the Berlin Wall, November 1961. (UK National Archives, Berlin Wall 20-11-1961, Free to re-use)

As East-Berlin was quickly depopulating during the new Berlin crisis between 1958 and 1961, the Soviets and the DDR government began the construction of the Berlin wall. In this picture, we can see East-German construction workers on the Berlin Wall in November 1961.

The Berlin WallConstruction workers on the Berlin Wall, November 1961. (UK National Archives, Berlin Wall 20-11-1961, Free to re-use)