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Berlin: The Soviets advance into the city

Berlin: The Soviets advance into the city


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Here we see the different Soviet armies involved in the final advance into Berlin

Berlin 1945: End of the Thousand Year Reich, Peter Antill. This book describes the events in the climactic battle for Berlin, looking at the Soviet advance towards Berlin and the Germans' final resistance. Illustrated with a host of maps, colour plates and photographs, it provides a vivid portrayal of the death throes of the Third Reich and the end of the war in Europe, exploring the strategy of both sides and the tactics of impromptu urban warfare. For the Soviets, Berlin was the ultimate prize after almost four years of bloodshed but the cost of taking the city would prove to be staggering. [see more]


There had always been tensions in the alliance between the Western powers, in particular, Britain and America, and the Soviet Union. Conservative, Capitalist and pro-democratic politicians in the West fervently disagreed with the Communist dictatorship in the East.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had been a fervent anti-Communist since the early days of the USSR and had taken a leading role in the 1919 intervention that tried to suppress the nascent Communist nation. He even considered re-arming Germany once Hitler was gone, to oppose Russia. Hitler’s dreams of bringing Britain into an alliance against the Russians were not as unrealistic as they now seem in retrospect.

Stalin, meanwhile, was ambitious to expand the influence of his state and its ideology.


Berlin blockade, international crisis that arose from an attempt by the Soviet Union, in 1948–49, to force the Western Allied powers (the United States, the United Kingdom, and France) to abandon their post-World War II jurisdictions in West Berlin. …

The Cold War was a political, ideological and cultural struggle between the democratic capitalist West and communist nations in eastern Europe and Asia. 3. By 1950 Europe’s capitalist and communist nations were divided by an ‘Iron Curtain’, while the Asian hemisphere was transformed by a communist victory in China.


1791: Brandenburg Gate dedicated

Frederick I’s successor, Frederick William II, commissioned the Brandenburg Gate to represent peace. The gate was intended to mirror the gateway to the Acropolis in Athens, as demonstrated by its Neoclassical architecture. Today, it is one of the most instantly recognisable Berlin landmarks. After Napoleon’s army defeated the Prussian stronghold, he marched under the gate to mark the triumph. During Nazi rule it was used it as a party symbol and was one of the few Berlin structures still standing after World War II. Today, the gate retains its original message of peace, also representing freedom and the unity of Berlin after the fall of the Soviet rule in East Berlin.


Contents

Etymology Edit

Berlin lies in northeastern Germany, east of the River Elbe, that once constituted, together with the River (Saxon or Thuringian) Saale (from their confluence at Barby onwards), the eastern border of the Frankish Realm. While the Frankish Realm was primarily inhabited by Germanic tribes like the Franks and the Saxons, the regions east of the border rivers were inhabited by Slavic tribes. This is why most of the cities and villages in northeastern Germany bear Slavic-derived names (Germania Slavica). Typical Germanized place name suffixes of Slavic origin are -ow, -itz, -vitz, -witz, -itzsch and -in, prefixes are Windisch and Wendisch. The name Berlin has its roots in the language of West Slavic inhabitants of the area of today's Berlin, and may be related to the Old Polabian stem berl-/birl- ("swamp"). [26] Since the Ber- at the beginning sounds like the German word Bär (bear), a bear appears in the coat of arms of the city. It is therefore a canting arm.

12th to 16th centuries Edit

The earliest evidence of settlements in the area of today's Berlin are remnants of a house foundation dated to 1174, found in excavations in Berlin Mitte, [27] and a wooden beam dated from approximately 1192. [28] The first written records of towns in the area of present-day Berlin date from the late 12th century. Spandau is first mentioned in 1197 and Köpenick in 1209, although these areas did not join Berlin until 1920. [29] The central part of Berlin can be traced back to two towns. Cölln on the Fischerinsel is first mentioned in a 1237 document, and Berlin, across the Spree in what is now called the Nikolaiviertel, is referenced in a document from 1244. [28] 1237 is considered the founding date of the city. [30] The two towns over time formed close economic and social ties, and profited from the staple right on the two important trade routes Via Imperii and from Bruges to Novgorod. [12] In 1307, they formed an alliance with a common external policy, their internal administrations still being separated. [31] [32]

In 1415, Frederick I became the elector of the Margraviate of Brandenburg, which he ruled until 1440. [33] During the 15th century, his successors established Berlin-Cölln as capital of the margraviate, and subsequent members of the Hohenzollern family ruled in Berlin until 1918, first as electors of Brandenburg, then as kings of Prussia, and eventually as German emperors. In 1443, Frederick II Irontooth started the construction of a new royal palace in the twin city Berlin-Cölln. The protests of the town citizens against the building culminated in 1448, in the "Berlin Indignation" ("Berliner Unwille"). [34] [35] This protest was not successful and the citizenry lost many of its political and economic privileges. After the royal palace was finished in 1451, it gradually came into use. From 1470, with the new elector Albrecht III Achilles, Berlin-Cölln became the new royal residence. [32] Officially, the Berlin-Cölln palace became permanent residence of the Brandenburg electors of the Hohenzollerns from 1486, when John Cicero came to power. [36] Berlin-Cölln, however, had to give up its status as a free Hanseatic city. In 1539, the electors and the city officially became Lutheran. [37]

17th to 19th centuries Edit

The Thirty Years' War between 1618 and 1648 devastated Berlin. One third of its houses were damaged or destroyed, and the city lost half of its population. [38] Frederick William, known as the "Great Elector", who had succeeded his father George William as ruler in 1640, initiated a policy of promoting immigration and religious tolerance. [39] With the Edict of Potsdam in 1685, Frederick William offered asylum to the French Huguenots. [40]

By 1700, approximately 30 percent of Berlin's residents were French, because of the Huguenot immigration. [41] Many other immigrants came from Bohemia, Poland, and Salzburg. [42]

Since 1618, the Margraviate of Brandenburg had been in personal union with the Duchy of Prussia. In 1701, the dual state formed the Kingdom of Prussia, as Frederick III, Elector of Brandenburg, crowned himself as king Frederick I in Prussia. Berlin became the capital of the new Kingdom, [43] replacing Königsberg. This was a successful attempt to centralise the capital in the very far-flung state, and it was the first time the city began to grow. In 1709, Berlin merged with the four cities of Cölln, Friedrichswerder, Friedrichstadt and Dorotheenstadt under the name Berlin, "Haupt- und Residenzstadt Berlin". [31]

In 1740, Frederick II, known as Frederick the Great (1740–1786), came to power. [44] Under the rule of Frederick II, Berlin became a center of the Enlightenment, but also, was briefly occupied during the Seven Years' War by the Russian army. [45] Following France's victory in the War of the Fourth Coalition, Napoleon Bonaparte marched into Berlin in 1806, but granted self-government to the city. [46] In 1815, the city became part of the new Province of Brandenburg. [47]

The Industrial Revolution transformed Berlin during the 19th century the city's economy and population expanded dramatically, and it became the main railway hub and economic center of Germany. Additional suburbs soon developed and increased the area and population of Berlin. In 1861, neighboring suburbs including Wedding, Moabit and several others were incorporated into Berlin. [48] In 1871, Berlin became capital of the newly founded German Empire. [49] In 1881, it became a city district separate from Brandenburg. [50]

20th to 21st centuries Edit

In the early 20th century, Berlin had become a fertile ground for the German Expressionist movement. [51] In fields such as architecture, painting and cinema new forms of artistic styles were invented. At the end of the First World War in 1918, a republic was proclaimed by Philipp Scheidemann at the Reichstag building. In 1920, the Greater Berlin Act incorporated dozens of suburban cities, villages, and estates around Berlin into an expanded city. The act increased the area of Berlin from 66 to 883 km 2 (25 to 341 sq mi). The population almost doubled, and Berlin had a population of around four million. During the Weimar era, Berlin underwent political unrest due to economic uncertainties but also became a renowned center of the Roaring Twenties. The metropolis experienced its heyday as a major world capital and was known for its leadership roles in science, technology, arts, the humanities, city planning, film, higher education, government, and industries. Albert Einstein rose to public prominence during his years in Berlin, being awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921.

In 1933, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power. NSDAP rule diminished Berlin's Jewish community from 160,000 (one-third of all Jews in the country) to about 80,000 due to emigration between 1933 and 1939. After Kristallnacht in 1938, thousands of the city's Jews were imprisoned in the nearby Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Starting in early 1943, many were shipped to concentration camps, such as Auschwitz. [52] Berlin is the most heavily bombed city in history. [ citation needed ] During World War II, large parts of Berlin were destroyed during 1943–45 Allied air raids and the 1945 Battle of Berlin. The Allies dropped 67,607 tons of bombs on the city, destroying 6,427 acres of the built-up area. Around 125,000 civilians were killed. [53] After the end of the war in Europe in May 1945, Berlin received large numbers of refugees from the Eastern provinces. The victorious powers divided the city into four sectors, analogous to the occupation zones into which Germany was divided. The sectors of the Western Allies (the United States, the United Kingdom, and France) formed West Berlin, while the Soviet sector formed East Berlin. [54]

All four Allies shared administrative responsibilities for Berlin. However, in 1948, when the Western Allies extended the currency reform in the Western zones of Germany to the three western sectors of Berlin, the Soviet Union imposed a blockade on the access routes to and from West Berlin, which lay entirely inside Soviet-controlled territory. The Berlin airlift, conducted by the three western Allies, overcame this blockade by supplying food and other supplies to the city from June 1948 to May 1949. [55] In 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany was founded in West Germany and eventually included all of the American, British and French zones, excluding those three countries' zones in Berlin, while the Marxist-Leninist German Democratic Republic was proclaimed in East Germany. West Berlin officially remained an occupied city, but it politically was aligned with the Federal Republic of Germany despite West Berlin's geographic isolation. Airline service to West Berlin was granted only to American, British and French airlines.

The founding of the two German states increased Cold War tensions. West Berlin was surrounded by East German territory, and East Germany proclaimed the Eastern part as its capital, a move the western powers did not recognize. East Berlin included most of the city's historic center. The West German government established itself in Bonn. [56] In 1961, East Germany began to build the Berlin Wall around West Berlin, and events escalated to a tank standoff at Checkpoint Charlie. West Berlin was now de facto a part of West Germany with a unique legal status, while East Berlin was de facto a part of East Germany. John F. Kennedy gave his "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech on June 26, 1963, in front of the Schöneberg city hall, located in the city's western part, underlining the US support for West Berlin. [57] Berlin was completely divided. Although it was possible for Westerners to pass to the other side through strictly controlled checkpoints, for most Easterners, travel to West Berlin or West Germany was prohibited by the government of East Germany. In 1971, a Four-Power agreement guaranteed access to and from West Berlin by car or train through East Germany. [58]

In 1989, with the end of the Cold War and pressure from the East German population, the Berlin Wall fell on 9 November and was subsequently mostly demolished. Today, the East Side Gallery preserves a large portion of the wall. On 3 October 1990, the two parts of Germany were reunified as the Federal Republic of Germany, and Berlin again became a reunified city. [59] Walter Momper, the mayor of West Berlin, became the first mayor of the reunified city in the interim. City-wide elections in December 1990 resulted in the first "all Berlin" mayor being elected to take office in January 1991, with the separate offices of mayors in East and West Berlin expiring by that time, and Eberhard Diepgen (a former mayor of West Berlin) became the first elected mayor of a reunited Berlin. [60] On 18 June 1994, soldiers from the United States, France and Britain marched in a parade which was part of the ceremonies to mark the withdrawal of allied occupation troops allowing a reunified Berlin [61] (the last Russian troops departed on 31 August, while the final departure of Western Allies forces was on 8 September 1994). On 20 June 1991, the Bundestag (German Parliament) voted to move the seat of the German capital from Bonn to Berlin, which was completed in 1999.

Berlin's 2001 administrative reform merged several boroughs, reducing their number from 23 to 12.

In 2006, the FIFA World Cup Final was held in Berlin.

In a 2016 terrorist attack linked to ISIL, a truck was deliberately driven into a Christmas market next to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, leaving 12 people dead and 56 others injured. [62]

Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) opened in 2020, nine years later than planned, with Terminal 1 coming into service at the end of October, and flights to and from Tegel Airport ending in November. [63] Due to the fall in passenger numbers resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, plans were announced to temporarily close BER's Terminal 5, the former Schönefeld Airport, beginning in March 2021 for up to one year. [64] The connecting link of U-Bahn line U5 from Alexanderplatz to Hauptbahnhof, along with the new stations Rotes Rathaus and Unter den Linden, opened on 4 December 2020, with the Museumsinsel U-Bahn station expected to open around March 2021, which would complete all new works on the U5. [65] A partial opening by the end of 2020 of the Humboldt Forum museum, housed in the reconstructed Berlin City Palace, which had been announced in June, was postponed until March 2021. [66]

Topography Edit

Berlin is in northeastern Germany, in an area of low-lying marshy woodlands with a mainly flat topography, part of the vast Northern European Plain which stretches all the way from northern France to western Russia. The Berliner Urstromtal (an ice age glacial valley), between the low Barnim Plateau to the north and the Teltow plateau to the south, was formed by meltwater flowing from ice sheets at the end of the last Weichselian glaciation. The Spree follows this valley now. In Spandau, a borough in the west of Berlin, the Spree empties into the river Havel, which flows from north to south through western Berlin. The course of the Havel is more like a chain of lakes, the largest being the Tegeler See and the Großer Wannsee. A series of lakes also feeds into the upper Spree, which flows through the Großer Müggelsee in eastern Berlin. [67]

Substantial parts of present-day Berlin extend onto the low plateaus on both sides of the Spree Valley. Large parts of the boroughs Reinickendorf and Pankow lie on the Barnim Plateau, while most of the boroughs of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, Steglitz-Zehlendorf, Tempelhof-Schöneberg, and Neukölln lie on the Teltow Plateau.

The borough of Spandau lies partly within the Berlin Glacial Valley and partly on the Nauen Plain, which stretches to the west of Berlin. Since 2015, the Arkenberge hills in Pankow at 122 meters (400 ft) elevation, have been the highest point in Berlin. Through the disposal of construction debris they surpassed Teufelsberg (120.1 m or 394 ft), which itself was made up of rubble from the ruins of the Second World War. [68] The Müggelberge at 114.7 meters (376 ft) elevation is the highest natural point and the lowest is the Spektesee in Spandau, at 28.1 meters (92 ft) elevation. [69]

Climate Edit

Berlin has an oceanic climate (Köppen: Cfb) [70] the eastern part of the city has a slight continental influence (Dfb), especially in the 0 °C isotherm, one of the changes being the annual rainfall according to the air masses and the greater abundance during a period of the year. [71] [72] This type of climate features moderate summer temperatures but sometimes hot (for being semicontinental) and cold winters but not rigorous most of the time. [73] [72]

Due to its transitional climate zones, frosts are common in winter, and there are larger temperature differences between seasons than typical for many oceanic climates. Furthermore, Berlin is classified as a temperate continental climate (Dc) under the Trewartha climate scheme, as well as the suburbs of New York, although the Köppen system puts them in different types. [74]

Summers are warm and sometimes humid with average high temperatures of 22–25 °C (72–77 °F) and lows of 12–14 °C (54–57 °F). Winters are cool with average high temperatures of 3 °C (37 °F) and lows of −2 to 0 °C (28 to 32 °F). Spring and autumn are generally chilly to mild. Berlin's built-up area creates a microclimate, with heat stored by the city's buildings and pavement. Temperatures can be 4 °C (7 °F) higher in the city than in the surrounding areas. [75] Annual precipitation is 570 millimeters (22 in) with moderate rainfall throughout the year. Snowfall mainly occurs from December through March. [76] The hottest month in Berlin was July 1834, with a mean temperature of 23.0 °C (73.4 °F) and the coldest was January 1709, with a mean temperature of −13.2 °C (8.2 °F). [77] The wettest month on record was July 1907, with 230 millimeters (9.1 in) of rainfall, whereas the driest were October 1866, November 1902, October 1908 and September 1928, all with 1 millimeter (0.039 in) of rainfall. [78]

Climate data for Berlin (Schönefeld), 1981–2010 normals, extremes 1957–present
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 15.1
(59.2)
18.0
(64.4)
25.8
(78.4)
30.8
(87.4)
32.7
(90.9)
35.4
(95.7)
37.3
(99.1)
38.0
(100.4)
32.3
(90.1)
27.7
(81.9)
20.4
(68.7)
15.6
(60.1)
38.0
(100.4)
Average high °C (°F) 2.8
(37.0)
4.3
(39.7)
8.7
(47.7)
14.3
(57.7)
19.4
(66.9)
22.0
(71.6)
24.6
(76.3)
24.2
(75.6)
19.3
(66.7)
13.8
(56.8)
7.3
(45.1)
3.3
(37.9)
13.7
(56.7)
Daily mean °C (°F) 0.1
(32.2)
0.9
(33.6)
4.3
(39.7)
9.0
(48.2)
14.0
(57.2)
16.8
(62.2)
19.1
(66.4)
18.5
(65.3)
14.2
(57.6)
9.4
(48.9)
4.4
(39.9)
1.0
(33.8)
9.3
(48.7)
Average low °C (°F) −2.8
(27.0)
−2.4
(27.7)
0.4
(32.7)
3.5
(38.3)
8.2
(46.8)
11.2
(52.2)
13.5
(56.3)
13.0
(55.4)
9.6
(49.3)
5.4
(41.7)
1.4
(34.5)
−1.6
(29.1)
5.0
(41.0)
Record low °C (°F) −25.3
(−13.5)
−22.0
(−7.6)
−16.0
(3.2)
−7.4
(18.7)
−2.8
(27.0)
1.3
(34.3)
4.9
(40.8)
4.6
(40.3)
−0.9
(30.4)
−7.7
(18.1)
−12.0
(10.4)
−24.0
(−11.2)
−25.3
(−13.5)
Average precipitation mm (inches) 37.2
(1.46)
30.1
(1.19)
39.3
(1.55)
33.7
(1.33)
52.6
(2.07)
60.2
(2.37)
52.5
(2.07)
53.0
(2.09)
39.5
(1.56)
32.2
(1.27)
37.8
(1.49)
46.1
(1.81)
515.2
(20.28)
Mean monthly sunshine hours 57.6 71.5 119.4 191.2 229.6 230.0 232.4 217.3 162.3 114.7 54.9 46.9 1,727.6
Average ultraviolet index 1 1 2 4 5 6 6 5 4 2 1 0 3
Source: DWD [79] and Weather Atlas [80]
Climate data for Berlin (Tempelhof), elevation: 48 m or 157 ft, 1971–2000 normals, extremes 1878–present
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 15.5
(59.9)
18.7
(65.7)
24.8
(76.6)
31.3
(88.3)
35.5
(95.9)
38.5
(101.3)
38.1
(100.6)
38.0
(100.4)
34.2
(93.6)
28.1
(82.6)
20.5
(68.9)
16.0
(60.8)
38.5
(101.3)
Average high °C (°F) 3.3
(37.9)
5.0
(41.0)
9.0
(48.2)
15.0
(59.0)
19.6
(67.3)
22.3
(72.1)
25.0
(77.0)
24.5
(76.1)
19.3
(66.7)
13.9
(57.0)
7.7
(45.9)
3.7
(38.7)
14.0
(57.2)
Daily mean °C (°F) 0.6
(33.1)
1.4
(34.5)
4.8
(40.6)
8.9
(48.0)
14.3
(57.7)
17.1
(62.8)
19.2
(66.6)
18.9
(66.0)
14.5
(58.1)
9.7
(49.5)
4.7
(40.5)
2.0
(35.6)
9.7
(49.4)
Average low °C (°F) −1.9
(28.6)
−1.5
(29.3)
1.3
(34.3)
4.2
(39.6)
9.0
(48.2)
12.3
(54.1)
14.3
(57.7)
14.1
(57.4)
10.6
(51.1)
6.4
(43.5)
2.2
(36.0)
−0.4
(31.3)
5.9
(42.6)
Record low °C (°F) −23.1
(−9.6)
−26.0
(−14.8)
−16.5
(2.3)
−8.1
(17.4)
−4.0
(24.8)
1.5
(34.7)
6.1
(43.0)
3.5
(38.3)
−1.5
(29.3)
−9.6
(14.7)
−16.0
(3.2)
−20.5
(−4.9)
−26.0
(−14.8)
Average precipitation mm (inches) 42.3
(1.67)
33.3
(1.31)
40.5
(1.59)
37.1
(1.46)
53.8
(2.12)
68.7
(2.70)
55.5
(2.19)
58.2
(2.29)
45.1
(1.78)
37.3
(1.47)
43.6
(1.72)
55.3
(2.18)
570.7
(22.48)
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 10.0 8.0 9.1 7.8 8.9 7.0 7.0 7.0 7.8 7.6 9.6 11.4 101.2
Source 1: WMO [81]
Source 2: KNMI [82]
Climate data for Berlin (Dahlem), 58 m or 190 ft, 1961–1990 normals, extremes 1908–present [note 2]
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 15.2
(59.4)
18.6
(65.5)
25.1
(77.2)
30.9
(87.6)
33.3
(91.9)
36.1
(97.0)
37.9
(100.2)
37.7
(99.9)
34.2
(93.6)
27.5
(81.5)
19.5
(67.1)
15.7
(60.3)
37.9
(100.2)
Average high °C (°F) 1.8
(35.2)
3.5
(38.3)
7.9
(46.2)
13.1
(55.6)
18.6
(65.5)
21.8
(71.2)
23.1
(73.6)
22.8
(73.0)
18.7
(65.7)
13.3
(55.9)
7.0
(44.6)
3.2
(37.8)
12.9
(55.2)
Daily mean °C (°F) −0.4
(31.3)
0.6
(33.1)
4.0
(39.2)
8.4
(47.1)
13.5
(56.3)
16.7
(62.1)
17.9
(64.2)
17.2
(63.0)
13.5
(56.3)
9.3
(48.7)
4.6
(40.3)
1.2
(34.2)
8.9
(48.0)
Average low °C (°F) −2.9
(26.8)
−2.2
(28.0)
0.5
(32.9)
3.9
(39.0)
8.2
(46.8)
11.4
(52.5)
12.9
(55.2)
12.4
(54.3)
9.4
(48.9)
5.9
(42.6)
2.1
(35.8)
−1.1
(30.0)
5.0
(41.1)
Record low °C (°F) −21.0
(−5.8)
−26.0
(−14.8)
−16.5
(2.3)
−6.7
(19.9)
−2.9
(26.8)
0.8
(33.4)
5.4
(41.7)
4.7
(40.5)
−0.5
(31.1)
−9.6
(14.7)
−16.1
(3.0)
−20.2
(−4.4)
−26.0
(−14.8)
Average precipitation mm (inches) 43.0
(1.69)
37.0
(1.46)
38.0
(1.50)
42.0
(1.65)
55.0
(2.17)
71.0
(2.80)
53.0
(2.09)
65.0
(2.56)
46.0
(1.81)
36.0
(1.42)
50.0
(1.97)
55.0
(2.17)
591
(23.29)
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 10.0 9.0 8.0 9.0 10.0 10.0 9.0 9.0 9.0 8.0 10.0 11.0 112
Mean monthly sunshine hours 45.4 72.3 122.0 157.7 221.6 220.9 217.9 210.2 156.3 110.9 52.4 37.4 1,625
Source 1: NOAA [84]
Source 2: Berliner Extremwerte [85]

Cityscape Edit

Berlin's history has left the city with a polycentric organization and a highly eclectic array of architecture and buildings. The city's appearance today has been predominantly shaped by the key role it played in Germany's history during the 20th century. All of the national governments based in Berlin – the Kingdom of Prussia, the 2nd German Empire of 1871, the Weimar Republic, Nazi Germany, East Germany, as well as the reunified Germany – initiated ambitious reconstruction programs, with each adding its own distinctive style to the city's architecture.

Berlin was devastated by air raids, fires, and street battles during the Second World War, and many of the buildings that had survived in both East and West were demolished during the postwar period. Much of this demolition was initiated by municipal architecture programs to build new business or residential districts and the main arteries. Much ornamentation on prewar buildings was destroyed following modernist dogmas, and in both postwar systems, as well as in the reunified Berlin, many important heritage structures have been reconstructed, including the Forum Fridericianum along with, the State Opera (1955), Charlottenburg Palace (1957), the monumental buildings on Gendarmenmarkt (1980s), Kommandantur (2003) and also the project to reconstruct the baroque façades of the City Palace. Many new buildings have been inspired by their historical predecessors or the general classical style of Berlin, such as Hotel Adlon.

Clusters of towers rise at various locations: Potsdamer Platz, the City West, and Alexanderplatz, the latter two delineating the former centers of East and West Berlin, with the first representing a new Berlin of the 21st century, risen from the wastes of no-man's land of the Berlin Wall. Berlin has five of the top 50 tallest buildings in Germany.

Over one-third of the city area consists of green space, woodlands, and water. [11] Berlin's second-largest and most popular park, the Großer Tiergarten, is located right in the center of the city. It covers an area of 210 hectares and stretches from Bahnhof Zoo in the City West to the Brandenburg Gate in the east.

Among famous streets, Unter den Linden and Friedrichstraße are found in the city's old city centre (and were included in the former East Berlin). Some of the major streets in City West are Kurfürstendamm (or just Ku´damm) and Kantstraße.

Architecture Edit

The Fernsehturm (TV tower) at Alexanderplatz in Mitte is among the tallest structures in the European Union at 368 m (1,207 ft). Built in 1969, it is visible throughout most of the central districts of Berlin. The city can be viewed from its 204-meter-high (669 ft) observation floor. Starting here, the Karl-Marx-Allee heads east, an avenue lined by monumental residential buildings, designed in the Socialist Classicism style. Adjacent to this area is the Rotes Rathaus (City Hall), with its distinctive red-brick architecture. In front of it is the Neptunbrunnen, a fountain featuring a mythological group of Tritons, personifications of the four main Prussian rivers, and Neptune on top of it.

The Brandenburg Gate is an iconic landmark of Berlin and Germany it stands as a symbol of eventful European history and of unity and peace. The Reichstag building is the traditional seat of the German Parliament. It was remodeled by British architect Norman Foster in the 1990s and features a glass dome over the session area, which allows free public access to the parliamentary proceedings and magnificent views of the city.

The East Side Gallery is an open-air exhibition of art painted directly on the last existing portions of the Berlin Wall. It is the largest remaining evidence of the city's historical division.

The Gendarmenmarkt is a neoclassical square in Berlin, the name of which derives from the headquarters of the famous Gens d'armes regiment located here in the 18th century. Two similarly designed cathedrals border it, the Französischer Dom with its observation platform and the Deutscher Dom. The Konzerthaus (Concert Hall), home of the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, stands between the two cathedrals.

The Museum Island in the River Spree houses five museums built from 1830 to 1930 and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Restoration and construction of a main entrance to all museums, as well as reconstruction of the Stadtschloss continues. [86] [87] Also on the island and next to the Lustgarten and palace is Berlin Cathedral, emperor William II's ambitious attempt to create a Protestant counterpart to St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. A large crypt houses the remains of some of the earlier Prussian royal family. St. Hedwig's Cathedral is Berlin's Roman Catholic cathedral.

Unter den Linden is a tree-lined east–west avenue from the Brandenburg Gate to the site of the former Berliner Stadtschloss, and was once Berlin's premier promenade. Many Classical buildings line the street, and part of Humboldt University is there. Friedrichstraße was Berlin's legendary street during the Golden Twenties. It combines 20th-century traditions with the modern architecture of today's Berlin.

Potsdamer Platz is an entire quarter built from scratch after the Wall came down. [88] To the west of Potsdamer Platz is the Kulturforum, which houses the Gemäldegalerie, and is flanked by the Neue Nationalgalerie and the Berliner Philharmonie. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, a Holocaust memorial, is to the north. [89]

The area around Hackescher Markt is home to fashionable culture, with countless clothing outlets, clubs, bars, and galleries. This includes the Hackesche Höfe, a conglomeration of buildings around several courtyards, reconstructed around 1996. The nearby New Synagogue is the center of Jewish culture.

The Straße des 17. Juni, connecting the Brandenburg Gate and Ernst-Reuter-Platz, serves as the central east–west axis. Its name commemorates the uprisings in East Berlin of 17 June 1953. Approximately halfway from the Brandenburg Gate is the Großer Stern, a circular traffic island on which the Siegessäule (Victory Column) is situated. This monument, built to commemorate Prussia's victories, was relocated in 1938–39 from its previous position in front of the Reichstag.

The Kurfürstendamm is home to some of Berlin's luxurious stores with the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church at its eastern end on Breitscheidplatz. The church was destroyed in the Second World War and left in ruins. Nearby on Tauentzienstraße is KaDeWe, claimed to be continental Europe's largest department store. The Rathaus Schöneberg, where John F. Kennedy made his famous "Ich bin ein Berliner!" speech, is in Tempelhof-Schöneberg.

West of the center, Bellevue Palace is the residence of the German President. Charlottenburg Palace, which was burnt out in the Second World War, is the largest historical palace in Berlin.

The Funkturm Berlin is a 150-meter-tall (490 ft) lattice radio tower in the fairground area, built between 1924 and 1926. It is the only observation tower which stands on insulators and has a restaurant 55 m (180 ft) and an observation deck 126 m (413 ft) above ground, which is reachable by a windowed elevator.

The Oberbaumbrücke over the Spree river is Berlin's most iconic bridge, connecting the now-combined boroughs of Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg. It carries vehicles, pedestrians, and the U1 Berlin U-Bahn line. The bridge was completed in a brick gothic style in 1896, replacing the former wooden bridge with an upper deck for the U-Bahn. The center portion was demolished in 1945 to stop the Red Army from crossing. After the war, the repaired bridge served as a checkpoint and border crossing between the Soviet and American sectors, and later between East and West Berlin. In the mid-1950s, it was closed to vehicles, and after the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, pedestrian traffic was heavily restricted. Following German reunification, the center portion was reconstructed with a steel frame, and U-Bahn service resumed in 1995.

At the end of 2018, the city-state of Berlin had 3.75 million registered inhabitants [2] in an area of 891.1 km 2 (344.1 sq mi). [1] The city's population density was 4,206 inhabitants per km 2 . Berlin is the most populous city proper in the European Union. In 2019, the urban area of Berlin had about 4.5 million inhabitants. [3] As of 2019 [update] the functional urban area was home to about 5.2 million people. [90] The entire Berlin-Brandenburg capital region has a population of more than 6 million in an area of 30,546 km 2 (11,794 sq mi). [91] [1]

In 2014, the city-state Berlin had 37,368 live births (+6.6%), a record number since 1991. The number of deaths was 32,314. Almost 2.0 million households were counted in the city. 54 percent of them were single-person households. More than 337,000 families with children under the age of 18 lived in Berlin. In 2014 the German capital registered a migration surplus of approximately 40,000 people. [92]

Nationalities Edit

Residents by Citizenship (31 December 2019) [2]
Country Population
Total registered residents 3,769,495
Germany 2,992,150
Turkey 98,940
Poland 56,573
Syria 39,813
Italy 31,573
Bulgaria 30,824
Russia 26,640
Romania 24,264
United States 22,694
Vietnam 20,572
Serbia 20,109
France 20,023
United Kingdom 16,751
Spain 15,045
Greece 14,625
Croatia 13,930
India 13,450
Ukraine 13,410
Afghanistan 13,301
China 13,293
Bosnia and Herzegovina 12,291
Other Middle East and Asia 88,241
Other Europe 80,807
Africa 36,414
Other Americas 27,491
Oceania and Antarctica 5,651
Stateless or Unclear 24,184

National and international migration into the city has a long history. In 1685, after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in France, the city responded with the Edict of Potsdam, which guaranteed religious freedom and tax-free status to French Huguenot refugees for ten years. The Greater Berlin Act in 1920 incorporated many suburbs and surrounding cities of Berlin. It formed most of the territory that comprises modern Berlin and increased the population from 1.9 million to 4 million.

Active immigration and asylum politics in West Berlin triggered waves of immigration in the 1960s and 1970s. Berlin is home to at least 180,000 Turkish and Turkish German residents, [2] making it the largest Turkish community outside of Turkey. In the 1990s the Aussiedlergesetze enabled immigration to Germany of some residents from the former Soviet Union. Today ethnic Germans from countries of the former Soviet Union make up the largest portion of the Russian-speaking community. [93] The last decade experienced an influx from various Western countries and some African regions. [94] A portion of the African immigrants have settled in the Afrikanisches Viertel. [95] Young Germans, EU-Europeans and Israelis have also settled in the city. [96]

In December 2019, there were 777,345 registered residents of foreign nationality and another 542,975 German citizens with a "migration background" (Migrationshintergrund, MH), [2] meaning they or one of their parents immigrated to Germany after 1955. Foreign residents of Berlin originate from about 190 different countries. [97] 48 percent of the residents under the age of 15 have migration background. [98] Berlin in 2009 was estimated to have 100,000 to 250,000 unregistered inhabitants. [99] Boroughs of Berlin with a significant number of migrants or foreign born population are Mitte, Neukölln and Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. [100]

There are more than 20 non-indigenous communities with a population of at least 10,000 people, including Turkish, Polish, Russian, Lebanese, Palestinian, Serbian, Italian, Bosnian, Vietnamese, American, Romanian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Chinese, Austrian, Ukrainian, French, British, Spanish, Israeli, Thai, Iranian, Egyptian and Syrian communities. [ citation needed ]

Languages Edit

German is the official and predominant spoken language in Berlin. It is a West Germanic language that derives most of its vocabulary from the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family. German is one of 24 languages of the European Union, [101] and one of the three working languages of the European Commission.

Berlinerisch or Berlinisch is not a dialect linguistically. It is spoken in Berlin and the surrounding metropolitan area. It originates from a Brandenburgish variant. The dialect is now seen more like a sociolect, largely through increased immigration and trends among the educated population to speak standard German in everyday life.

The most commonly spoken foreign languages in Berlin are Turkish, Polish, English, Arabic, Italian, Bulgarian, Russian, Romanian, Kurdish, Serbo-Croatian, French, Spanish and Vietnamese. Turkish, Arabic, Kurdish, and Serbo-Croatian are heard more often in the western part due to the large Middle Eastern and former-Yugoslavian communities. Polish, English, Russian, and Vietnamese have more native speakers in East Berlin. [102]

Religion Edit

According to the 2011 census, approximately 37 percent of the population reported being members of a legally-recognized church or religious organization. The rest either did not belong to such an organization, or there was no information available about them. [103]

The largest religious denomination recorded in 2010 was the Protestant regional church body—the Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia (EKBO)—a United church. EKBO is a member of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and Union Evangelischer Kirchen (UEK). According to the EKBO, their membership accounted for 18.7 percent of the local population, while the Roman Catholic Church had 9.1 percent of residents registered as its members. [104] About 2.7% of the population identify with other Christian denominations (mostly Eastern Orthodox, but also various Protestants). [105] According to the Berlin residents register, in 2018 14.9 percent were members of the Evangelical Church, and 8.5 percent were members of the Catholic Church. [2] The government keeps a register of members of these churches for tax purposes, because it collects church tax on behalf of the churches. It does not keep records of members of other religious organizations which may collect their own church tax, in this way.

In 2009, approximately 249,000 Muslims were reported by the Office of Statistics to be members of Mosques and Islamic religious organizations in Berlin, [106] while in 2016, the newspaper Der Tagesspiegel estimated that about 350,000 Muslims observed Ramadan in Berlin. [107] In 2019, about 437,000 registered residents, 11.6% of the total, reported having a migration background from one of the Member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. [2] [108] Between 1992 and 2011 the Muslim population almost doubled. [109]

About 0.9% of Berliners belong to other religions. Of the estimated population of 30,000–45,000 Jewish residents, [110] approximately 12,000 are registered members of religious organizations. [105]

Berlin is the seat of the Roman Catholic archbishop of Berlin and EKBO's elected chairperson is titled the bishop of EKBO. Furthermore, Berlin is the seat of many Orthodox cathedrals, such as the Cathedral of St. Boris the Baptist, one of the two seats of the Bulgarian Orthodox Diocese of Western and Central Europe, and the Resurrection of Christ Cathedral of the Diocese of Berlin (Patriarchate of Moscow).

The faithful of the different religions and denominations maintain many places of worship in Berlin. The Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church has eight parishes of different sizes in Berlin. [111] There are 36 Baptist congregations (within Union of Evangelical Free Church Congregations in Germany), 29 New Apostolic Churches, 15 United Methodist churches, eight Free Evangelical Congregations, four Churches of Christ, Scientist (1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 11th), six congregations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an Old Catholic church, and an Anglican church in Berlin. Berlin has more than 80 mosques, [112] ten synagogues, [113] and two Buddhist temples.

City state Edit

Since reunification on 3 October 1990, Berlin has been one of the three city states in Germany among the present 16 states of Germany. The House of Representatives (Abgeordnetenhaus) functions as the city and state parliament, which has 141 seats. Berlin's executive body is the Senate of Berlin (Senat von Berlin). The Senate consists of the Governing Mayor (Regierender Bürgermeister), and up to ten senators holding ministerial positions, two of them holding the title of "Mayor" (Bürgermeister) as deputy to the Governing Mayor. [114] The total annual state budget of Berlin in 2015 exceeded €24.5 ($30.0) billion including a budget surplus of €205 ($240) million. [115] The state owns extensive assets, including administrative and government buildings, real estate companies, as well as stakes in the Olympic Stadium, swimming pools, housing companies, and numerous public enterprises and subsidiary companies. [116] [117]

The Social Democratic Party (SPD) and The Left (Die Linke) took control of the city government after the 2001 state election and won another term in the 2006 state election. [118] Since the 2016 state election, there has been a coalition between the Social Democratic Party, the Greens and the Left Party.

The Governing Mayor is simultaneously Lord Mayor of the City of Berlin (Oberbürgermeister der Stadt) and Minister President of the State of Berlin (Ministerpräsident des Bundeslandes). The office of the Governing Mayor is in the Rotes Rathaus (Red City Hall). Since 2014 this office has been held by Michael Müller of the Social Democrats. [119]

Boroughs Edit

Berlin is subdivided into 12 boroughs or districts (Bezirke). Each borough has several subdistricts or neighborhoods (Ortsteile), which have roots in much older municipalities that predate the formation of Greater Berlin on 1 October 1920. These subdistricts became urbanized and incorporated into the city later on. Many residents strongly identify with their neighborhoods, colloquially called Kiez. At present, Berlin consists of 96 subdistricts, which are commonly made up of several smaller residential areas or quarters.

Each borough is governed by a borough council (Bezirksamt) consisting of five councilors (Bezirksstadträte) including the borough's mayor (Bezirksbürgermeister). The council is elected by the borough assembly (Bezirksverordnetenversammlung). However, the individual boroughs are not independent municipalities, but subordinate to the Senate of Berlin. The borough's mayors make up the council of mayors (Rat der Bürgermeister), which is led by the city's Governing Mayor and advises the Senate. The neighborhoods have no local government bodies.

Twin towns – sister cities Edit

Berlin maintains official partnerships with 17 cities. [120] Town twinning between Berlin and other cities began with its sister city Los Angeles in 1967. East Berlin's partnerships were canceled at the time of German reunification but later partially reestablished. West Berlin's partnerships had previously been restricted to the borough level. During the Cold War era, the partnerships had reflected the different power blocs, with West Berlin partnering with capitals in the Western World and East Berlin mostly partnering with cities from the Warsaw Pact and its allies.

There are several joint projects with many other cities, such as Beirut, Belgrade, São Paulo, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Johannesburg, Mumbai, Oslo, Shanghai, Seoul, Sofia, Sydney, New York City and Vienna. Berlin participates in international city associations such as the Union of the Capitals of the European Union, Eurocities, Network of European Cities of Culture, Metropolis, Summit Conference of the World's Major Cities, and Conference of the World's Capital Cities.

  • Los Angeles, United States (1967)
  • Madrid, Spain (1988)
  • Istanbul, Turkey (1989)
  • Warsaw, Poland (1991)
  • Moscow, Russia (1991)
  • Brussels, Belgium (1992)
  • Budapest, Hungary (1992)
  • Tashkent, Uzbekistan (1993)
  • Mexico City, Mexico (1993)
  • Jakarta, Indonesia (1993)
  • Beijing, China (1994)
  • Tokyo, Japan (1994)
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina (1994)
  • Prague, Czech Republic (1995)
  • Windhoek, Namibia (2000)
  • London, England (2000)

Since 1987, Berlin also has an official partnership Paris, France. Every Berlin borough also established its own twin towns. For example, the borough of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg has a partnership with the Israeli city of Kiryat Yam. [121]

Capital city Edit

Berlin is the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany. The President of Germany, whose functions are mainly ceremonial under the German constitution, has their official residence in Bellevue Palace. [122] Berlin is the seat of the German Chancellor (Prime Minister), housed in the Chancellery building, the Bundeskanzleramt. Facing the Chancellery is the Bundestag, the German Parliament, housed in the renovated Reichstag building since the government's relocation to Berlin in 1998. The Bundesrat ("federal council", performing the function of an upper house) is the representation of the 16 constituent states (Länder) of Germany and has its seat at the former Prussian House of Lords. The total annual federal budget managed by the German government exceeded €310 ($375) billion in 2013. [123]

The relocation of the federal government and Bundestag to Berlin was mostly completed in 1999. However, some ministries, as well as some minor departments, stayed in the federal city Bonn, the former capital of West Germany. Discussions about moving the remaining ministries and departments to Berlin continue. [124] The Federal Foreign Office and the ministries and departments of Defense, Justice and Consumer Protection, Finance, Interior, Economic Affairs and Energy, Labor and Social Affairs, Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, Food and Agriculture, Economic Cooperation and Development, Health, Transport and Digital Infrastructure and Education and Research are based in the capital.

Berlin hosts in total 158 foreign embassies [125] as well as the headquarters of many think tanks, trade unions, nonprofit organizations, lobbying groups, and professional associations. Due to the influence and international partnerships of the Federal Republic of Germany, the capital city has become a significant center of German and European affairs. Frequent official visits and diplomatic consultations among governmental representatives and national leaders are common in contemporary Berlin.

In 2018, the GDP of Berlin totaled €147 billion, an increase of 3.1% over the previous year. [1] Berlin's economy is dominated by the service sector, with around 84% of all companies doing business in services. In 2015, the total labor force in Berlin was 1.85 million. The unemployment rate reached a 24-year low in November 2015 and stood at 10.0% . [127] From 2012 to 2015 Berlin, as a German state, had the highest annual employment growth rate. Around 130,000 jobs were added in this period. [128]

Important economic sectors in Berlin include life sciences, transportation, information and communication technologies, media and music, advertising and design, biotechnology, environmental services, construction, e-commerce, retail, hotel business, and medical engineering. [129]

Research and development have economic significance for the city. [130] Several major corporations like Volkswagen, Pfizer, and SAP operate innovation laboratories in the city. [131] The Science and Business Park in Adlershof is the largest technology park in Germany measured by revenue. [132] Within the Eurozone, Berlin has become a center for business relocation and international investments. [133] [134]

Year [135] 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Unemployment rate in % 15.8 16.1 16.9 18.1 17.7 19.0 17.5 15.5 13.8 14.0 13.6 13.3 12.3 11.7 11.1 10.7 9.8 9.0 8.1 7.8

Companies Edit

Many German and international companies have business or service centers in the city. For several years Berlin has been recognized as a major center of business founders. [136] In 2015, Berlin generated the most venture capital for young startup companies in Europe. [137]

Among the 10 largest employers in Berlin are the City-State of Berlin, Deutsche Bahn, the hospital providers Charité and Vivantes, the Federal Government of Germany, the local public transport provider BVG, Siemens and Deutsche Telekom. [138]

Siemens, a Global 500 and DAX-listed company is partly headquartered in Berlin. Other DAX-listed companies headquartered in Berlin are the property company Deutsche Wohnen and the online food delivery service Delivery Hero. The national railway operator Deutsche Bahn, [139] Europe's largest digital publisher [140] Axel Springer as well as the MDAX-listed firms Zalando and HelloFresh and also have their main headquarters in the city. Among the largest international corporations who have their German or European headquarters in Berlin are Bombardier Transportation, Gazprom Germania, Coca-Cola, Pfizer, Sony and Total.

As of 2018, the three largest banks headquartered in the capital were Deutsche Kreditbank, Landesbank Berlin and Berlin Hyp. [141]

Daimler manufactures cars, and BMW builds motorcycles in Berlin. American electric car manufacturer Tesla is building its first European Gigafactory just outside of the city in Grünheide (Mark). The Pharmaceuticals division of Bayer [142] and Berlin Chemie are major pharmaceutical companies in the city.

Tourism and conventions Edit

Berlin had 788 hotels with 134,399 beds in 2014. [143] The city recorded 28.7 million overnight hotel stays and 11.9 million hotel guests in 2014. [143] Tourism figures have more than doubled within the last ten years and Berlin has become the third-most-visited city destination in Europe. Some of the most visited places in Berlin include: Potsdamer Platz, Brandenburger Tor, the Berlin wall, Alexanderplatz, Museumsinsel, Fernsehturm, the East-Side Gallery, Schloss-Charlottenburg, Zoologischer Garten, Siegessäule, Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer, Mauerpark, Botanical Garden, Französischer Dom, Deutscher Dom and Holocaust-Mahnmal. The largest visitor groups are from Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and the United States.

According to figures from the International Congress and Convention Association in 2015, Berlin became the leading organizer of conferences globally, hosting 195 international meetings. [144] Some of these congress events take place on venues such as CityCube Berlin or the Berlin Congress Center (bcc).

The Messe Berlin (also known as Berlin ExpoCenter City) is the main convention organizing company in the city. Its main exhibition area covers more than 160,000 square meters (1,722,226 sq ft). Several large-scale trade fairs like the consumer electronics trade fair IFA, the ILA Berlin Air Show, the Berlin Fashion Week (including the Premium Berlin and the Panorama Berlin), [145] the Green Week, the Fruit Logistica, the transport fair InnoTrans, the tourism fair ITB and the adult entertainment and erotic fair Venus are held annually in the city, attracting a significant number of business visitors.

Creative industries Edit

The creative arts and entertainment business is an important part of Berlin's economy. The sector comprises music, film, advertising, architecture, art, design, fashion, performing arts, publishing, R&D, software, [146] TV, radio, and video games.

In 2014, around 30,500 creative companies operated in the Berlin-Brandenburg metropolitan region, predominantly SMEs. Generating a revenue of 15.6 billion Euro and 6% of all private economic sales, the culture industry grew from 2009 to 2014 at an average rate of 5.5% per year. [147]

Berlin is an important center in the European and German film industry. [148] It is home to more than 1,000 film and television production companies, 270 movie theaters, and around 300 national and international co-productions are filmed in the region every year. [130] The historic Babelsberg Studios and the production company UFA are adjacent to Berlin in Potsdam. The city is also home of the German Film Academy (Deutsche Filmakademie), founded in 2003, and the European Film Academy, founded in 1988.

Media Edit

Berlin is home to many magazine, newspaper, book, and scientific/academic publishers and their associated service industries. In addition, around 20 news agencies, more than 90 regional daily newspapers and their websites, as well as the Berlin offices of more than 22 national publications such as Der Spiegel, and Die Zeit reinforce the capital's position as Germany's epicenter for influential debate. Therefore, many international journalists, bloggers, and writers live and work in the city.

Berlin is the central location to several international and regional television and radio stations. [149] The public broadcaster RBB has its headquarters in Berlin as well as the commercial broadcasters MTV Europe and Welt. German international public broadcaster Deutsche Welle has its TV production unit in Berlin, and most national German broadcasters have a studio in the city including ZDF and RTL.

Berlin has Germany's largest number of daily newspapers, with numerous local broadsheets (Berliner Morgenpost, Berliner Zeitung, Der Tagesspiegel), and three major tabloids, as well as national dailies of varying sizes, each with a different political affiliation, such as Die Welt, Neues Deutschland, and Die Tageszeitung. The Exberliner, a monthly magazine, is Berlin's English-language periodical and La Gazette de Berlin a French-language newspaper.

Berlin is also the headquarter of major German-language publishing houses like Walter de Gruyter, Springer, the Ullstein Verlagsgruppe (publishing group), Suhrkamp and Cornelsen are all based in Berlin. Each of which publishes books, periodicals, and multimedia products.

According to Mercer, Berlin ranked number 13 in the Quality of living city ranking in 2019. [150]

According to Monocle, Berlin occupies the position of the 6th-most-livable city in the world. [151] Economist Intelligence Unit ranks Berlin number 21 of all global cities. [152] Berlin is number 8 at the Global Power City Index. [153]

In 2019, Berlin has the best future prospects of all cities in Germany, according to HWWI and Berenberg Bank. [154] According to the 2019 study by Forschungsinstitut Prognos, Berlin was ranked number 92 of all 401 regions in Germany. It is also the 4th ranked region in former East Germany after Jena, Dresden and Potsdam. [155] [156]

Transport Edit

Roads Edit

Berlin's transport infrastructure is highly complex, providing a diverse range of urban mobility. [157] A total of 979 bridges cross 197 km (122 mi) of inner-city waterways. 5,422 km (3,369 mi) of roads run through Berlin, of which 77 km (48 mi) are motorways (Autobahn). [158] In 2013, 1.344 million motor vehicles were registered in the city. [158] With 377 cars per 1000 residents in 2013 (570/1000 in Germany), Berlin as a Western global city has one of the lowest numbers of cars per capita. [ citation needed ] In 2012, around 7,600 mostly beige colored taxicabs were in service. [ citation needed ] Since 2011, a number of app based e-car and e-scooter sharing services have evolved.

Rail Edit

Long-distance rail lines connect Berlin with all of the major cities of Germany and with many cities in neighboring European countries. Regional rail lines of the Verkehrsverbund Berlin-Brandenburg provide access to the surrounding regions of Brandenburg and to the Baltic Sea. The Berlin Hauptbahnhof is the largest grade-separated railway station in Europe. [159] Deutsche Bahn runs high speed Intercity-Express trains to domestic destinations like Hamburg , Munich, Cologne, Stuttgart , Frankfurt am Main and others. It also runs an airport express rail service, as well as trains to several international destinations like Vienna, Prague, Zürich , Warsaw, Wrocław, Budapest and Amsterdam.

Intercity buses Edit

Similarly to other German cities, there is an increasing quantity of intercity bus services. The city has more than 10 stations [160] that run buses to destinations throughout Germany and Europe, being Zentraler Omnibusbahnhof Berlin the biggest station.

Public transport Edit

The Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) and the Deutsche Bahn (DB) manage several extensive urban public transport systems. [161]

System Stations / Lines / Net length Annual ridership Operator / Notes
S-Bahn 166 / 16 / 331 km (206 mi) 431,000,000 (2016) DB / Mainly overground rapid transit rail system with suburban stops
U-Bahn 173 / 10 / 146 km (91 mi) 563,000,000 (2017) BVG / Mainly underground rail system / 24h-service on weekends
Tram 404 / 22 / 194 km (121 mi) 197,000,000 (2017) BVG / Operates predominantly in eastern boroughs
Bus 3227 / 198 / 1,675 km (1,041 mi) 440,000,000 (2017) BVG / Extensive services in all boroughs / 62 Night Lines
Ferry 6 lines BVG / Transportation as well as recreational ferries

Travelers can access all modes of transport with a single ticket.

Public transportation in Berlin has a long and complicated history because of the 20th-century division of the city, where movement between the two halves was not served. Since 1989, the transport network has been developed extensively however, it still contains early 20th century traits, such as the U1. [162]

Airports Edit

Berlin is served by one commercial international airport: Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER), located just outside Berlin's south-eastern border, in the state of Brandenburg. It began construction in 2006, with the intention of replacing Tegel Airport (TXL) and Schönefeld Airport (SXF) as the single commercial airport of Berlin. [163] Previously set to open in 2012, after extensive delays and cost overruns, it opened for commercial operations in October 2020. [164] The planned initial capacity of around 27 million passengers per year [165] is to be further developed to bring the terminal capacity to approximately 55 million per year by 2040. [166]

Before the opening of the BER in Brandenburg, Berlin was served by Tegel Airport and Schönefeld Airport. Tegel Airport was within the city limits, and Schönefeld Airport was located at the same site as the BER. Both airports together handled 29.5 million passengers in 2015. In 2014, 67 airlines served 163 destinations in 50 countries from Berlin. [167] Tegel Airport was a focus city for Lufthansa and Eurowings while Schönefeld served as an important destination for airlines like Germania , easyJet and Ryanair. Until 2008, Berlin was also served by the smaller Tempelhof Airport, which functioned as a city airport, with a convenient location near the city center, allowing for quick transit times between the central business district and the airport. The airport grounds have since been turned into a city park.

Cycling Edit

Berlin is well known for its highly developed bicycle lane system. [168] It is estimated Berlin has 710 bicycles per 1000 residents. Around 500,000 daily bike riders accounted for 13% of total traffic in 2010. [169] Cyclists have access to 620 km (385 mi) of bicycle paths including approximately 150 km (93 mi) of mandatory bicycle paths, 190 km (118 mi) of off-road bicycle routes, 60 km (37 mi) of bicycle lanes on roads, 70 km (43 mi) of shared bus lanes which are also open to cyclists, 100 km (62 mi) of combined pedestrian/bike paths and 50 km (31 mi) of marked bicycle lanes on roadside pavements (or sidewalks). [170] Riders are allowed to carry their bicycles on Regionalbahn , S-Bahn and U-Bahn trains, on trams, and on night buses if a bike ticket is purchased. [171]

Rohrpost (pneumatic postal network) Edit

From 1865 until 1976, Berlin had an extensive pneumatic postal network, which at its peak in 1940, totaled 400 kilometers in length. After 1949 the system was split into two separated networks. The West Berlin system in operation and open for public use until 1963, and for government use until 1972. The East Berlin system which inherited the Hauptelegraphenamt, the central hub of the system, was in operation until 1976

Energy Edit

Berlin's two largest energy provider for private households are the Swedish firm Vattenfall and the Berlin-based company GASAG. Both offer electric power and natural gas supply. Some of the city's electric energy is imported from nearby power plants in southern Brandenburg. [172]

As of 2015 [update] the five largest power plants measured by capacity are the Heizkraftwerk Reuter West, the Heizkraftwerk Lichterfelde, the Heizkraftwerk Mitte, the Heizkraftwerk Wilmersdorf, and the Heizkraftwerk Charlottenburg. All of these power stations generate electricity and useful heat at the same time to facilitate buffering during load peaks.

In 1993 the power grid connections in the Berlin-Brandenburg capital region were renewed. In most of the inner districts of Berlin power lines are underground cables only a 380 kV and a 110 kV line, which run from Reuter substation to the urban Autobahn, use overhead lines. The Berlin 380-kV electric line is the backbone of the city's energy grid.

Health Edit

Berlin has a long history of discoveries in medicine and innovations in medical technology. [173] The modern history of medicine has been significantly influenced by scientists from Berlin. Rudolf Virchow was the founder of cellular pathology, while Robert Koch developed vaccines for anthrax, cholera, and tuberculosis. [174]

The Charité complex (Universitätsklinik Charité) is the largest university hospital in Europe, tracing back its origins to the year 1710. More than half of all German Nobel Prize winners in Physiology or Medicine, including Emil von Behring, Robert Koch and Paul Ehrlich, have worked at the Charité. The Charité is spread over four campuses and comprises around 3,000 beds, 15,500 staff, 8,000 students, and more than 60 operating theaters, and it has a turnover of two billion euros annually. [175] The Charité is a joint institution of the Freie Universität Berlin and the Humboldt University of Berlin, including a wide range of institutes and specialized medical centers.

Among them are the German Heart Center, one of the most renowned transplantation centers, the Max-Delbrück-Center for Molecular Medicine, and the Max-Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics. The scientific research at these institutions is complemented by many research departments of companies such as Siemens and Bayer. The World Health Summit and several international health-related conventions are held annually in Berlin.

Telecommunication Edit

Since 2017, the digital television standard in Berlin and Germany is DVB-T2. This system transmits compressed digital audio, digital video and other data in an MPEG transport stream.

Berlin has installed several hundred free public Wireless LAN sites across the capital since 2016. The wireless networks are concentrated mostly in central districts 650 hotspots (325 indoor and 325 outdoor access points) are installed. [176] Deutsche Bahn is planning to introduce Wi-Fi services in long-distance and regional trains in 2017. [ needs update ]

The UMTS (3G) and LTE (4G) networks of the three major cellular operators Vodafone, T-Mobile and O2 enable the use of mobile broadband applications citywide.

The Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute develops mobile and stationary broadband communication networks and multimedia systems. Focal points are photonic components and systems, fiber optic sensor systems, and image signal processing and transmission. Future applications for broadband networks are developed as well.

As of 2014 [update] , Berlin had 878 schools, teaching 340,658 children in 13,727 classes and 56,787 trainees in businesses and elsewhere. [130] The city has a 6-year primary education program. After completing primary school, students continue to the Sekundarschule (a comprehensive school) or Gymnasium (college preparatory school). Berlin has a special bilingual school program in the Europaschule, in which children are taught the curriculum in German and a foreign language, starting in primary school and continuing in high school. [177]

The Französisches Gymnasium Berlin, which was founded in 1689 to teach the children of Huguenot refugees, offers (German/French) instruction. [178] The John F. Kennedy School, a bilingual German–American public school in Zehlendorf, is particularly popular with children of diplomats and the English-speaking expatriate community. 82 Gymnasien teach Latin [179] and 8 teach Classical Greek. [180]

Higher education Edit

The Berlin-Brandenburg capital region is one of the most prolific centers of higher education and research in Germany and Europe. Historically, 67 Nobel Prize winners are affiliated with the Berlin-based universities.

The city has four public research universities and more than 30 private, professional, and technical colleges (Hochschulen), offering a wide range of disciplines. [181] A record number of 175,651 students were enrolled in the winter term of 2015/16. [182] Among them around 18% have an international background.

The three largest universities combined have approximately 103,000 enrolled students. There are the Freie Universität Berlin (Free University of Berlin, FU Berlin) with about 33,000 [183] students, the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin (HU Berlin) with 35,000 [184] students, and the Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin) with 35,000 [185] students. The Charité Medical School has around 8,000 students. [175] The FU, the HU, the TU, and the Charité make up the Berlin University Alliance, which has received funding from the Excellence Strategy program of the German government. [186] [187] The Universität der Künste (UdK) has about 4,000 students and ESMT Berlin is only one of four business schools in Germany with triple accreditation. [188] The Berlin School of Economics and Law has an enrollment of about 11,000 students, the Beuth University of Applied Sciences Berlin of about 12,000 students, and the Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft (University of Applied Sciences for Engineering and Economics) of about 14,000 students.

Research Edit

The city has a high density of internationally renowned research institutions, such as the Fraunhofer Society, the Leibniz Association, the Helmholtz Association, and the Max Planck Society, which are independent of, or only loosely connected to its universities. [189] In 2012, around 65,000 professional scientists were working in research and development in the city. [130]

Berlin is one of the knowledge and innovation communities (KIC) of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). [190] The KIC is based at the Center for Entrepreneurship at TU Berlin and has a focus in the development of IT industries. It partners with major multinational companies such as Siemens, Deutsche Telekom, and SAP. [191]

One of Europe's successful research, business and technology clusters is based at WISTA in Berlin-Adlershof, with more than 1,000 affiliated firms, university departments and scientific institutions. [192]

In addition to the university-affiliated libraries, the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin is a major research library. Its two main locations are on Potsdamer Straße and on Unter den Linden. There are also 86 public libraries in the city. [130] ResearchGate, a global social networking site for scientists, is based in Berlin.

Berlin is known for its numerous cultural institutions, many of which enjoy international reputation. [25] [193] The diversity and vivacity of the metropolis led to a trendsetting atmosphere. [194] An innovative music, dance and art scene has developed in the 21st century.

Young people, international artists and entrepreneurs continued to settle in the city and made Berlin a popular entertainment center in the world. [195]

The expanding cultural performance of the city was underscored by the relocation of the Universal Music Group who decided to move their headquarters to the banks of the River Spree. [196] In 2005, Berlin was named "City of Design" by UNESCO and has been part of the Creative Cities Network ever since. [197] [20]

Galleries and museums Edit

As of 2011 [update] Berlin is home to 138 museums and more than 400 art galleries. [130] [198] The ensemble on the Museum Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is in the northern part of the Spree Island between the Spree and the Kupfergraben. [25] As early as 1841 it was designated a "district dedicated to art and antiquities" by a royal decree. Subsequently, the Altes Museum was built in the Lustgarten. The Neues Museum, which displays the bust of Queen Nefertiti, [199] Alte Nationalgalerie, Pergamon Museum, and Bode Museum were built there.

Apart from the Museum Island, there are many additional museums in the city. The Gemäldegalerie (Painting Gallery) focuses on the paintings of the "old masters" from the 13th to the 18th centuries, while the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery, built by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe) specializes in 20th-century European painting. The Hamburger Bahnhof, in Moabit, exhibits a major collection of modern and contemporary art. The expanded Deutsches Historisches Museum reopened in the Zeughaus with an overview of German history spanning more than a millennium. The Bauhaus Archive is a museum of 20th-century design from the famous Bauhaus school. Museum Berggruen houses the collection of noted 20th century collector Heinz Berggruen, and features an extensive assortment of works by Picasso, Matisse, Cézanne, and Giacometti, among others. [200]

The Jewish Museum has a standing exhibition on two millennia of German-Jewish history. [201] The German Museum of Technology in Kreuzberg has a large collection of historical technical artifacts. The Museum für Naturkunde (Berlin's natural history museum) exhibits natural history near Berlin Hauptbahnhof. It has the largest mounted dinosaur in the world (a Giraffatitan skeleton). A well-preserved specimen of Tyrannosaurus rex and the early bird Archaeopteryx are at display as well. [202]

In Dahlem, there are several museums of world art and culture, such as the Museum of Asian Art, the Ethnological Museum, the Museum of European Cultures, as well as the Allied Museum. The Brücke Museum features one of the largest collection of works by artist of the early 20th-century expressionist movement. In Lichtenberg, on the grounds of the former East German Ministry for State Security, is the Stasi Museum. The site of Checkpoint Charlie, one of the most renowned crossing points of the Berlin Wall, is still preserved. A private museum venture exhibits a comprehensive documentation of detailed plans and strategies devised by people who tried to flee from the East. The Beate Uhse Erotic Museum claims to be the world's largest erotic museum. [203]

The cityscape of Berlin displays large quantities of urban street art. [204] It has become a significant part of the city's cultural heritage and has its roots in the graffiti scene of Kreuzberg of the 1980s. [205] The Berlin Wall itself has become one of the largest open-air canvasses in the world. [206] The leftover stretch along the Spree river in Friedrichshain remains as the East Side Gallery. Berlin today is consistently rated as an important world city for street art culture. [207] Berlin has galleries which are quite rich in contemporary art. Located in Mitte, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, KOW, Sprüth Magers Kreuzberg there are a few galleries as well such as Blain Southern, Esther Schipper, Future Gallery, König Gallerie.

Nightlife and festivals Edit

Berlin's nightlife has been celebrated as one of the most diverse and vibrant of its kind. [208] In the 1970s and 80s the SO36 in Kreuzberg was a center for punk music and culture. The SOUND and the Dschungel gained notoriety. Throughout the 1990s, people in their 20s from all over the world, particularly those in Western and Central Europe, made Berlin's club scene a premier nightlife venue. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, many historic buildings in Mitte, the former city center of East Berlin, were illegally occupied and re-built by young squatters and became a fertile ground for underground and counterculture gatherings. [209] The central boroughs are home to many nightclubs, including the Watergate, Tresor and Berghain. The KitKatClub and several other locations are known for their sexually uninhibited parties.

Clubs are not required to close at a fixed time during the weekends, and many parties last well into the morning or even all weekend. The Weekend Club near Alexanderplatz features a roof terrace that allows partying at night. Several venues have become a popular stage for the Neo-Burlesque scene.

Berlin has a long history of gay culture, and is an important birthplace of the LGBT rights movement. Same-sex bars and dance halls operated freely as early as the 1880s, and the first gay magazine, Der Eigene, started in 1896. By the 1920s, gays and lesbians had an unprecedented visibility. [210] [211] Today, in addition to a positive atmosphere in the wider club scene, the city again has a huge number of queer clubs and festivals. The most famous and largest are Berlin Pride, the Christopher Street Day, [212] the Lesbian and Gay City Festival in Berlin-Schöneberg, the Kreuzberg Pride and Hustlaball.

The annual Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) with around 500,000 admissions is considered to be the largest publicly attended film festival in the world. [213] [214] The Karneval der Kulturen (Carnival of Cultures), a multi-ethnic street parade, is celebrated every Pentecost weekend. [215] Berlin is also well known for the cultural festival Berliner Festspiele, which includes the jazz festival JazzFest Berlin, and Young Euro Classic, the largest international festival of youth orchestras in the world. Several technology and media art festivals and conferences are held in the city, including Transmediale and Chaos Communication Congress. The annual Berlin Festival focuses on indie rock, electronic music and synthpop and is part of the International Berlin Music Week. [216] [217] Every year Berlin hosts one of the largest New Year's Eve celebrations in the world, attended by well over a million people. The focal point is the Brandenburg Gate, where midnight fireworks are centered, but various private fireworks displays take place throughout the entire city. Partygoers in Germany often toast the New Year with a glass of sparkling wine.

Performing arts Edit

Berlin is home to 44 theaters and stages. [130] The Deutsches Theater in Mitte was built in 1849–50 and has operated almost continuously since then. The Volksbühne at Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz was built in 1913–14, though the company had been founded in 1890. The Berliner Ensemble, famous for performing the works of Bertolt Brecht, was established in 1949. The Schaubühne was founded in 1962 and moved to the building of the former Universum Cinema on Kurfürstendamm in 1981. With a seating capacity of 1,895 and a stage floor of 2,854 square meters (30,720 sq ft), the Friedrichstadt-Palast in Berlin Mitte is the largest show palace in Europe.

Berlin has three major opera houses: the Deutsche Oper, the Berlin State Opera, and the Komische Oper. The Berlin State Opera on Unter den Linden opened in 1742 and is the oldest of the three. Its musical director is Daniel Barenboim. The Komische Oper has traditionally specialized in operettas and is also at Unter den Linden. The Deutsche Oper opened in 1912 in Charlottenburg.

The city's main venue for musical theater performances are the Theater am Potsdamer Platz and Theater des Westens (built in 1895). Contemporary dance can be seen at the Radialsystem V. The Tempodrom is host to concerts and circus-inspired entertainment. It also houses a multi-sensory spa experience. The Admiralspalast in Mitte has a vibrant program of variety and music events.

There are seven symphony orchestras in Berlin. The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra is one of the preeminent orchestras in the world [218] it is housed in the Berliner Philharmonie near Potsdamer Platz on a street named for the orchestra's longest-serving conductor, Herbert von Karajan. [219] Simon Rattle is its principal conductor. [220] The Konzerthausorchester Berlin was founded in 1952 as the orchestra for East Berlin. Ivan Fischer is its principal conductor. The Haus der Kulturen der Welt presents exhibitions dealing with intercultural issues and stages world music and conferences. [221] The Kookaburra and the Quatsch Comedy Club are known for satire and stand-up comedy shows. In 2018, the New York Times described Berlin as "arguably the world capital of underground electronic music". [222]

Cuisine Edit

The cuisine and culinary offerings of Berlin vary greatly. Twelve restaurants in Berlin have been included in the Michelin Guide of 2015, which ranks the city at the top for the number of restaurants having this distinction in Germany. [223] Berlin is well known for its offerings of vegetarian [224] and vegan [225] cuisine and is home to an innovative entrepreneurial food scene promoting cosmopolitan flavors, local and sustainable ingredients, pop-up street food markets, supper clubs, as well as food festivals, such as Berlin Food Week. [226] [227]

Many local foods originated from north German culinary traditions and include rustic and hearty dishes with pork, goose, fish, peas, beans, cucumbers, or potatoes. Typical Berliner fare include popular street food like the Currywurst (which gained popularity with postwar construction workers rebuilding the city), Buletten and the Berliner donut, known in Berlin as Pfannkuchen. [228] [229] German bakeries offering a variety of breads and pastries are widespread. One of Europe's largest delicatessen markets is found at the KaDeWe, and among the world's largest chocolate stores is Fassbender & Rausch. [230]

Berlin is also home to a diverse gastronomy scene reflecting the immigrant history of the city. Turkish and Arab immigrants brought their culinary traditions to the city, such as the lahmajoun and falafel, which have become common fast food staples. The modern fast-food version of the doner kebab sandwich which evolved in Berlin in the 1970s, has since become a favorite dish in Germany and elsewhere in the world. [231] Asian cuisine like Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Indian, Korean, and Japanese restaurants, as well as Spanish tapas bars, Italian, and Greek cuisine, can be found in many parts of the city.

Recreation Edit

Zoologischer Garten Berlin, the older of two zoos in the city, was founded in 1844. It is the most visited zoo in Europe and presents the most diverse range of species in the world. [232] It was the home of the captive-born celebrity polar bear Knut. [233] The city's other zoo, Tierpark Friedrichsfelde, was founded in 1955.

Berlin's Botanischer Garten includes the Botanic Museum Berlin. With an area of 43 hectares (110 acres) and around 22,000 different plant species, it is one of the largest and most diverse collections of botanical life in the world. Other gardens in the city include the Britzer Garten, and the Gärten der Welt (Gardens of the World) in Marzahn. [234]

The Tiergarten park in Mitte, with landscape design by Peter Joseph Lenné, is one of Berlin's largest and most popular parks. [235] In Kreuzberg, the Viktoriapark provides a viewing point over the southern part of inner-city Berlin. Treptower Park, beside the Spree in Treptow, features a large Soviet War Memorial. The Volkspark in Friedrichshain, which opened in 1848, is the oldest park in the city, with monuments, a summer outdoor cinema and several sports areas. [236] Tempelhofer Feld, the site of the former city airport, is the world's largest inner-city open space. [237]

Potsdam is on the southwestern periphery of Berlin. The city was a residence of the Prussian kings and the German Kaiser, until 1918. The area around Potsdam in particular Sanssouci is known for a series of interconnected lakes and cultural landmarks. The Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin are the largest World Heritage Site in Germany. [238]

Berlin is also well known for its numerous cafés, street musicians, beach bars along the Spree River, flea markets, boutique shops and pop up stores, which are a source for recreation and leisure. [239]

Berlin has established a high-profile as a host city of major international sporting events. [240] The city hosted the 1936 Summer Olympics and was the host city for the 2006 FIFA World Cup final. [241] The IAAF World Championships in Athletics was held in the Olympiastadion in 2009. [242] The city hosted the Basketball Euroleague Final Four in 2009 and 2016. [243] and was one of the hosts of the FIBA EuroBasket 2015. In 2015 Berlin became the venue for the UEFA Champions League Final.

Berlin will host the 2023 Special Olympics World Summer Games. This will be the first time Germany has ever hosted the Special Olympics World Games. [244]

The annual Berlin Marathon – a course that holds the most top-10 world record runs – and the ISTAF are well-established athletic events in the city. [245] The Mellowpark in Köpenick is one of the biggest skate and BMX parks in Europe. [246] A Fan Fest at Brandenburg Gate, which attracts several hundred-thousand spectators, has become popular during international soccer competitions, like the UEFA European Championship. [247]

In 2013 around 600,000 Berliners were registered in one of the more than 2,300 sport and fitness clubs. [248] The city of Berlin operates more than 60 public indoor and outdoor swimming pools. [249] Berlin is the largest Olympic training center in Germany. About 500 top athletes (15% of all German top athletes) are based there. Forty-seven elite athletes participated in the 2012 Summer Olympics. Berliners would achieve seven gold, twelve silver and three bronze medals. [250]

Several professional clubs representing the most important spectator team sports in Germany have their base in Berlin. The oldest and most popular first division team based in Berlin is the soccer club Hertha BSC. [251] The team represented Berlin as a founding member of the Bundesliga, Germany's highest soccer league, in 1963. Other professional team sport clubs include:


Berlin: Soviet War Memorial

One day as I took in sites in Berlin, I stumbled across a Russian memorial. Odd I thought, but not really when you think about the history of Berlin. The Soviets controlled Germany for 40+ years, so why was it out of place to see a memorial. It was, of course, located in Tiergarten just west of the city center. Built to commemorate the thousands of Soviet soldiers who died in the Battle of Berlin in 1945, the Soviet War Memorial opened just a few short months after the fall of Berlin.

Built in the British sector of West Berlin, the Allies supported its construction. Originally it stood amongst devastation of the area but now surrounded by wilderness of the reconstructed Tiergarten area. Despite sitting in West Berlin, Soviet honor guards stood watch.

Built with some of the stonework from the destroyed Reich Chancellery. Topped with a Soviet soldier and flanked by two artillery pieces and two T-34 tanks.

Even today the Soviet War Memorial is a tourist attraction, being so close to the city center, as it is within view of both the Reichstag and Brandenburg Gate. It also serves as a place of pilgrimage for former soldiers of the Soviet Union. It is also home and burial place of some 2,000 Soviet soldiers.

I found it interesting that a memorial, from another nation, was in the heart of Berlin. But then you must stop and think about the circumstances. Many people in Berlin, and Germany I am sure, are thankful for what the Soviets did. They freed the German people of the oppression of the Nazis. Of course, you were lucky if you were in West Germany or West Berlin and did not later fall under the oppression of the Soviet regime, but nonetheless the Hitler era was ended with the Soviets arrival.

However, there have been protests. During the Cold War Soviet honor guards were shot by a neo-Nazi. Other times there have been protests including vandalism of the memorial. It is a thin line the memorial walks with its reverence toward the soldiers that helped free Germany of the Nazi powers, but then turned around and held the East Germans under communist submission for decades.

I do not know what to think about it still being there. I think it is important to remember the history of one’s nation. Perhaps I am missing something, but I feel the German people are a little ahead of Americans when it comes to properly addressing the horrible issues of their own nations. I’ll save that for a later date.

Berlin is full of such rich history. Stay tuned for more as I take you on a little history tour of Berlin from the Reichstag, Berlin Wall, Brandenburg Gate, Berliner Dom, and the city itself.

What are your thoughts? Comment below remove it or let it stand?

About Eric Bynum
I am a high school history teacher who is passionate about coffee, baseball, and history. I spent three years in South Korea teaching ESL and have been a huge history fan for years. My favorite time periods are the American Civil War, WWII, and anything dealing with the history of baseball.


Berlin Wall

In post-World War II Germany, the Berlin Wall was erected on August 16, 1961, along the demarcation between the eastern sector of Berlin controlled by the Soviet Union, and the western sectors occupied by the United States, France, and Great Britain. East Germany, officially the German Democratic Republic (GDR), was a Communist state that existed from 1949 to 1990 in the former Soviet occupation zone of Germany. The Soviet sector was by far the largest and covered most of east Berlin, including Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg, Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg, and Lichtenberg. Its twofold purpose was to prevent well-educated East Germans from leaving East Germany — a "brain drain" — and to impede approximately 80 spy centers and organizations from interfering with the Russian sector.

The threat of a second Great Depression loomed large in Europe, and Germany was one of the hardest-hit areas. Most German cities had been all but obliterated, and transportation systems lay in ruins. Routinely, refugees fled from East to West in search of a society sound enough for them to work for the barest daily essentials.

In a rare move, the Allied victors decided to allay an economic crisis by helping to rebuild the most-devastated areas as quickly as possible. That effort was called the Marshall Plan, in honor of George C. Marshall, then U.S. Secretary of State, who first called for Allied participation in the restoration of Europe. The success of that strategy earned Marshall a Nobel Peace Prize.

The "Berlin Crisis" involved a controversy so bitter and so sustained that at its height, world leaders feared that a misstep could trigger a nuclear war. The crisis unfolded through a war of words, diplomatic negotiations, superpower summits, and military posturing and preparations, — thus the term "Cold War" — as East and West disputed over Berlin`s future. For presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, U.S. credibility was at stake: A failure in Berlin could disrupt NATO and weaken American influence in West Germany, the key to the balance of power in Europe. The Berlin Wall was the flashpoint of the Berlin Crisis. The Berlin Crisis was a flashpoint of the Cold War.

Berlin was considered to be the key to the balance of power in post-World War II Europe. The postwar, sequestered Soviet Union, was nevertheless active beyond its borders. Events around the world, many seemingly unrelated, represented battlefronts in the Cold War. Some battlefronts were hidden from public view for decades. Other battlefronts, like the Berlin Crisis, were highly public. The Berlin Crisis started with the 1948 Berlin blockade ordered by Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev, which led to the Berlin Airlift by the Western Allies. Cold War tensions continued to smolder for four decades after the World War II defeat of Germany. The construction and destruction of the Berlin Wall stand as milestones of the Cold War era.

In July 1958, the East German Fifth Congress ordered a wholesale collectivization of agriculture and a sharp rise in industrial output. That was part of a seven-year economic plan to bring per capita consumption in the GDR up to the level of West Germany. The plan also repressed private trade and created supply gaps behind the Iron Curtain, which became increasingly severe and oppressive. Dissatisfaction by an increasing number of people in the GDR caused them to seek refuge in the West — a major loophole in the GDR scheme of things. The border to West Berlin lay open to East Germans, and hundreds left the country daily. Nearly all of them went by subway or S-Bahn (electric commuter train), undetected among the thousands of commuters who worked or shopped in the West. Regular spot checks by the police on anyone carrying a suitcase exerted little impact. Most people easily evaded them by making repeated journeys with a few belongings at a time.

At an international press conference on June 15, 1961, the leader of the east German Socialist Unity Part of Germany (SED) and president of the Privy Council, Walter Ulbricht, answered a journalist`s question: "I understand your question as follows: There are people in West Germany who want us to mobilize the construction workers of the GDR to build a wall. I am not aware of any such plans . No one has the intention of constructing a wall." But the wall was exactly what he wanted from Khruschev.

The international political situation between NATO and Warsaw Pact nations continued to intensify. On November 27, 1958, the Soviets under Khrushchev delivered the Berlin Ultimatum in an attempt to stem the tide of refugees. The ultimatum demanded that the western allies withdraw their troops from West Berlin and that it should become a "free city" within six months. The threat of a separate peace treaty between the Soviet Union and East Germany loomed on February 17, 1959. A meeting in Vienna between President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev on June 3 and 4, 1961, failed to end the impasse. The ultimatum was a fiasco, and the situation was even worse than before. Continued tension during the six-month period had only increased the flow of refugees who feared that time was running short. When the ultimatum ran out, there was a brief respite. But as the effects of the "Seven-Year Plan" began to be felt, the flow of refugees rose again.

Construction of the Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall was erected on August 13, 1961. Early on that Sunday morning the GDR began, under Secretary General Erich Honecker, to block off East Berlin and the GDR from West Berlin by means of Barbed Wire and antitank obstacles. Streets were torn up, and barricades of paving stones were erected. Tanks gathered at crucial places. The subway and local railway services between East and West Berlin were interrupted. Inhabitants of East Berlin and the GDR were no longer allowed to enter West Berlin, amongst them 60,000 commuters who had worked in West Berlin. In the following days, construction brigades commenced to replace the provisional barriers with a solid wall.

Thousands of angry demonstrators quickly gathered on the West Berlin side of the divide. At one crossing point, protesters tried to trample down the barbed wire, only to be driven back by guards with bayonets. The West German chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, appealed for calm, saying in a broadcast to the nation the following evening: "Now, as always, we are closely bound to the Germans of the Russian zone and East Berlin. "They are and remain our German brothers and sisters. The Federal Government remains firmly committed to the goal of German unity."

Outrage from the international community erupted at the abrupt decision to cut off one side of the city from the other. A Foreign Office spokesman in London said the restrictions were contrary to the four-power status of Berlin, and therefore illegal. The American secretary of state, Dean Rusk, called it a "flagrant violation" of East-West agreements, and said there would be a vigorous protest to Russia. Yet, the reaction of the Allies was moderate, given that the three essentials of American policy regarding Berlin were not affected: the presence of allied troops, free access to Berlin, and the West Berliners` right of self-determination.

After August 23, 1961, citizens of West Berlin were no longer allowed to enter East Berlin. On September 20, the forced evacuation of houses situated immediately at the border to West Berlin began. On August 17, 1962, Peter Fechter, an 18-year-old citizen of East Berlin, bled to death after he was shot down by a East Berlin border patrol in his attempt to escape over the wall. The last to die was Chris Gueffroy on June 2, 1989. Many attempted to escape over the 28 years of the wall`s existence.

First, there was a wall that comprised concrete segments with a height of about about 13 feet, usually with a concrete tube on top of it. Behind it on the east side lay an illuminated control area — also called the "death area." Refugees who had reached that area were shot without warning. A trench that followed was intended to prevent vehicles from breaking through. Then there was a patrol track, a corridor with watchdogs, watchtowers and bunkers, and a second wall. The barrier cut through 192 streets (97 between East and West Berlin and 95 between West Berlin and East Germany), 32 railway lines, eight S-Bahns, and four underground train lines, three autobahns (freeways), and several rivers and lakes. On the waterways, the wall consisted of submerged railings under constant surveillance by patrol boat crews.

Due to the danger of escape attempts over the wall, numerous tunnels were dug, allowing about 150 East Berliners to escape undetected. As time passed, the wall was gradually perfected and became more impassible. After October 1964, it was gradually strengthened, doubled up and transformed into a "modern border," which assumed its final appearance from 1979 to 1980. The partition left West Berlin stranded in the midst of the Soviet zone, 110 miles from the border with the western zones. That unusual geopolitical situation became difficult to handle.

On June 26, 1963, President John F. Kennedy delivered a historic speech in Rudolph Wilde Square in Berlin. The square was packed with cheering West Berliners. It was a spectacle new to Kennedy — one to two million people assembled to greet him. In the midst of the Cold War he declared, “There are many people in the world who really don’t understand, or say they don’t, what is the great issue between the free world and the communist world. Let them come to Berlin.” President Kennedy, identifying with the citizens of Berlin in their quest for freedom and to be reunited with their families in East Berlin, said, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” (“I am a Berliner”).

The Iron Curtain begins to ascend

President Ronald Reagan delivered a speech at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin on June 12, 1987. His comments were to the people of West Berlin, but audible on the East side of the Berlin Wall. Part of Reagan`s intended audience was none other than Mikhail Gorbachev:

The Iron Curtain began to rise when the wall met its demise. Soon afterward, Gorbachev made his first official visit to West Germany in May 1989. While there, he announced that Moscow would no longer forcefully prevent democratic conversion of its outlying states. Hungary opened its border with Austria on September 11, 1989. The opening of the borders between East and West Berlin, which also symbolized the end of the Cold War, began on June 13, 1990.

Reconstruction of Berlin

Since the Berlin Wall became obsolete with the 1989 opening of the borders between East and West Germany, Berliners have created massive reconstruction, mostly in what was East Berlin. The heart of the city, the Mitte district, was rebuilt, though remnants of the communist regime still remain. The 19th-century Reichstag building, the new seat of the German parliament, gained a modern glass cupola to replace the original dome destroyed by fire when the Nazis came to power. A museum at the former site of Checkpoint Charlie, the famous border post in the American sector, memorializes the Berlin Wall.

The greatest reconstruction has been the reconnection of a people — reconstruction of strained relationships and cultures, not just in Germany, but across Eurasia. The terms Perestroika and Glasnost, Russian for restructuring and openness respectively, were used to describe the set of reforms instituted by Mikhail Gorbachev in the late 1980s. The terms also could be used to describe the end of the Cold War.


Berlin: The Soviets advance into the city - History

Over 50,000 soldiers and civilians died. Their bodies were left piled high beside the narrow paths in the forest.

The Red Army meanwhile pressed on into the heart of Berlin. Zhukov's and Konev's troops were still racing to be first to capture the city and in their haste many lives appear to have been needlessly lost.

Figures vary but one source says the battle for Berlin cost the Red Army some 70,000 troops.

They used tanks to force their way into the city but these were very vulnerable to Germans firing bazookas from destroyed buildings. Ultimately, however, the German forces, mostly made up of old people and members of Hitler Youth were no match for the Soviet forces.

As the Red Army took control it also wreaked revenge on the people of Berlin. Hospital records suggest some 100,000 women were raped in Berlin in the last six months of the war.

Hitler and his mistress Eva Braun committed suicide in his bunker on 30 April only hours after they were married.

By 2 May the old German parliament building, the Reichstag, had fallen. Marshal Zhukov claimed the honour of being Berlin's conqueror.


1945: The race for Berlin

During the opening months of 1945 the Allies were engaged in a bitter dash to seize German territory. Yet, says Antony Beevor, as US and Soviet forces advanced on the capital, Britain found itself increasingly sidelined.

This competition is now closed

Published: January 1, 2015 at 6:40 pm

On the afternoon of 11 January 1945, Generaloberst Heinz Guderian received the news he had been dreading. His intelligence chief confirmed that the great Soviet winter offensive was to begin the next morning. Only two days before, Guderian had warned Adolf Hitler: “The eastern front is like a house of cards. If the front is broken through at one point all the rest will collapse.” Guderian, the head of the Oberkommando des Heeres (army high command), was responsible for the eastern front. He had feared from the start that Hitler’s Ardennes Offensive the previous month (a major attack against the western Allies through the Ardennes region of southern Belgium) would leave his forces in the east at the mercy of the Red Army.

Josef Stalin did not trust his western Allies, especially that anti-bolshevik Winston Churchill. He had made a habit of rubbing-in the fact that British and American armies had suffered few casualties in the war against their common enemy while the sacrifices of the Red Army had been enormous. He even pretended that he had advanced the date of his winter offensive in order to save the Americans in the Ardennes. This was untrue. The German attack in Belgium had been halted on 26 December, while Stalin’s real reason for bringing forward the date was due to meteorological forecasts. A thaw was predicted for later in January and the Red Army needed the ground to remain frozen for its tank armies to charge forward to the river Oder.

The winter offensive began on 12 January with Marshal Ivan Konev’s 1st Ukrainian Front advancing from the Soviet bridgeheads west of the Vistula towards Upper Silesia. Over the next two days, the 2nd and 3rd Belorussian Fronts assaulted East Prussia, and Marshal Georgi Zhukov’s 1st Belorussian Front began its operation towards Berlin from south of Warsaw. Once crossings had been secured over the river Pilica, there was little to stop the 1st and 2nd Guards Tank Armies. Their headlong advance by day and night meant that all orders from the führer’s headquarters were 24 hours out of date by the time they reached German divisions.

The front collapsed even more rapidly than Guderian had feared. Some 8 million German civilians were fleeing for their lives. Hitler made things worse by his meddling, and on 31 January the first Red Army soldiers crossed the frozen Oder to form a bridgehead less than 60 miles from Berlin.

Heroic and doomed

Another reason for Stalin’s haste was to secure all Polish territory before the Yalta Conference began on 4 February 1945. He intended to impose on Poland his puppet ‘Lublin government’ and treat the Armia Kraiova, or Home Army, which was loyal to the Polish government-in-exile, as ‘fascists’, despite their heroic and doomed uprising against the Germans in Warsaw the previous year. He greatly exaggerated the incidence of German stay-behind forces in order to justify the oppression of non-communist Poles.

Any found with weapons, whether or not they helped the Red Army in its operations, were arrested by NKVD (secret police) rifle regiments. Stalin claimed that he had to secure his rear areas to ensure the resupply of his fighting formations.

The Yalta Conference, between the United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union, had been organised in order to discuss Europe’s postwar reorganisation. During the conference, Stalin took every opportunity to divide the British and the Americans.

He knew that Churchill wanted to secure freedom for Poland while Franklin D Roosevelt’s priorities were to establish the United Nations and persuade Stalin to attack Japanese forces in Manchuria and northern China.

The American president felt that he could win Stalin’s trust and even admitted to the Soviet leader that the western Allies did not agree on the strategy for the invasion of Nazi Germany. Roosevelt suggested that General Dwight Eisenhower should establish direct contact with the Stavka supreme command of the Red Army to discuss plans. Stalin encouraged the idea so that he would know what the Americans were doing, while giving nothing away himself.

Stalin made clear his contempt for the rights of smaller nations. In central Europe and the Balkans, Soviet interests were paramount. “The Polish question is a question of life and death for the Soviet state,” he said. “Poland represents the gravest of strategic problems for the Soviet Union. Throughout history, Poland has served as a corridor for enemies coming to attack Russia.” One could well argue that the origins of the Cold War lay in 1941 and the traumatic shock of the German invasion. Stalin was determined to have a security belt of satellite countries to prevent such a thing ever happening again.

Using again the argument that Poland was in the rear of his armies attacking Germany, he compared the situation to France, where he was restraining the communists from causing trouble in the rear of the western Allies. Churchill soon realised that he was out on a limb. Roosevelt, suffering from extreme ill-health, showed little interest. To Churchill’s horror, Roosevelt even announced without warning him that American forces would be withdrawn from Europe. The Americans simply wanted to finish the war. They showed little interest in the postwar map of Europe. All Churchill could ask for was free elections in Poland, but Stalin’s insistence on a government “friendly to the Soviet Union”, suggested it would be under Moscow’s control.

Ever since the breakout from Normandy led by Patton’s 3rd Army in August 1944, British influence had been fading rapidly. Field Marshal Montgomery’s repeated attempts to be appointed ground forces commander had only made things worse. They had culminated in his boasting that he had saved the situation in the Ardennes. General George C Marshall, the American chief of staff, was furious, and Eisenhower told Churchill that none of his generals were willing to serve under Montgomery again. “His relations with Monty are quite insoluble,” Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke wrote after a meeting with Eisenhower on 6 March. “He only sees the worst side of Monty.”

Montgomery had even been beaten in the race to cross the Rhine by the Americans taking the bridge at Remagen on 7 March and Patton securing a bridgehead south of Mainz. Once 21st Army Group was across the Rhine on 24 March, Montgomery lost the American 9th Army from his command, and the British were sidelined in the north. All his hopes of leading the advance on Berlin from the west were dashed. He was ordered to head for Denmark via Hamburg. Churchill’s desire to reach Berlin and “shake hands with the Russians as far to the east as possible,” was ignored. Eisenhower, who had started to believe in an Alpine Redoubt to which the remaining German forces would withdraw, intended to send the bulk of his forces across central and southern Germany.

US defers to the Soviets

Stalin, who had criticised the western Allies for advancing so slowly, reacted very differently to news of the bridge at Remagen.

He immediately summoned Marshal Zhukov to Moscow, even though he was conducting the campaign to secure the ‘Baltic balcony’ of Pomerania before attacking Berlin.

With American bridgeheads across the Rhine, Stalin now feared they might get to Berlin first. He ordered Zhukov to work through the night preparing plans for the ‘Berlin Operation’.

Zhukov later acknowledged their concern that “the British command was still nursing the dream of capturing Berlin before the Red Army”. Stalin wanted Berlin, “the lair of the fascist beast”, both for reasons of prestige and because he hoped to capture German uranium stocks and the scientists working on an atomic bomb. He knew from his spies on the Manhattan Project that the Americans were close to perfecting their own. What he did not know was that the bulk of the uranium had already been evacuated south to the Black Forest.

Eisenhower, on the other hand, considered Berlin was “no longer a particularly important objective”. On 2 March he started to request the opinion of the Soviet Stavka on strategic planning. This exasperated their British counterparts, especially Churchill. Some British officers were appalled by US deference to Stalin’s wishes, bitterly talking of American leaders using a call employed by London prostitutes when soliciting American soldiers: “Have a go, Joe.” To British outrage, Eisenhower communicated his plans to Stalin even before he told Churchill or his own British deputy, Air Chief Marshal Arthur Tedder. This signal, known as SCAF-252, became a bitter issue between the Allies.

British suspicions of Stalin’s intentions grew apace as news arrived of mass arrests in Poland, rounding up all those who did not welcome Soviet rule. Western representatives were meanwhile denied access to Poland, despite the agreement at Yalta. At the same time Stalin’s paranoia increased when he heard of American negotiations with German officers in northern Italy. He became convinced that the Germans would surrender to the British and Americans or let them through while they strengthened their forces facing the Red Army. He even feared a secret deal.

After receiving SCAF-252 on the evening of 31 March, Stalin approved Eisenhower’s plan to attack well to the south of Berlin and encouraged his fears of a German last-ditch resistance in the Alps. The next morning, Stalin summoned Marshals Zhukov and Konev. “Well, then,” he said, eyeing the two men. “Who is going to take Berlin: are we or are the Allies?” His order was to surround the city first before attacking inwards to prevent any chance of the Americans coming in from the west. The offensive with 2.5 million men was to take place “no later than 16 April”.

Later that day, which happened to be 1 April, Stalin sent his reply to Eisenhower. He assured his trusting ally that “Berlin has lost its former strategic importance” and that the Soviet command would send only “second-rate forces against it”. The bulk of the Red Army would join up with Eisenhower’s armies further to the south. They would not start their advance until the second half of May. “However, this plan may undergo certain alterations, depending on circumstances.” It was the greatest April Fool in modern history.

During the first week of April, the British 2nd Army reached Celle 25 miles north-east of Hanover, while the US 9th Army, led by General WH Simpson, was beyond Hanover and heading for the river Elbe. The 1st US Army was heading for Leipzig (125 miles south-west of Berlin) and Patton’s 3rd Army was in the Harz mountains on its way to the Czech border. By 12 April, the British were approaching Bremen and the American 9th Army had bridgeheads across the Elbe.

Simpson wanted his divisions to head straight for Berlin, but on 15 April Eisenhower stopped him there to avoid casualties. In fact Simpson’s forces would have faced little resistance since the best German formations faced east awaiting the onslaught from the rivers Oder and Neisse, which began the next day. But Eisenhower had made the right decision for the wrong reasons. Stalin was so determined to have Berlin that almost certainly he would have turned his long-range artillery and attack aircraft on US forces, claiming that the Americans were responsible for the mistake. And Eisenhower was determined to avoid clashes at all costs. Churchill wanted Patton to take Prague to pre-empt a Soviet occupation, but Eisenhower refused on General Marshall’s advice.

Berlin falls to the Soviets

While eight Soviet armies fought their way into Berlin, the British in north-west Germany, far from the centre of events, pushed on to Bremen. They occupied it on 27 April after a five-day battle. Montgomery, to Eisenhower’s frustration, crossed the lower Elbe in his usual methodical way to take Hamburg. But then news arrived that the Red Army was making a dash for Denmark ahead of him. The 11th Armoured Division rushed on to Lübeck on the Baltic coast and British paratroopers seized Wismar just two hours before Marshal Rokossovsky’s forces reached the town. Denmark was saved, but Poland, to Churchill’s bitter regret, was not.

Stalin’s intention to impose a Soviet government in Poland had become clear at the end of March when 16 Polish representatives of the government-in-exile in London were arrested despite safe-conduct passes. In May Soviet foreign minister Molotov brutally informed Edward Stettinius, the American secretary of state, that they had been charged with the murder of 200 members of the Red Army, a preposterous accusation.

Further indications of communist repression in Poland convinced Churchill that something had to be done. Within a week of Germany’s surrender, he summoned his chiefs of staff to ask them to study the possibility of forcing back Soviet troops to secure “a square deal for Poland”. The offensive should take place by 1 July 1945, before Allied troops were demobilised or transferred to the Far East.

Although the discussions were conducted in great secrecy, one of the Whitehall moles reporting to Beria, the Soviet police chief, heard of them. He sent details to Moscow of the instruction to Montgomery to gather up captured German arms in case they were needed to re-arm Wehrmacht troops. The Soviets, not surprisingly, felt that their worst suspicions had been confirmed.

Operation Unthinkable, as even Churchill called it, was a mad enterprise. British soldiers, grateful for the Red Army’s sacrifice, would almost certainly have refused to obey orders. And the Americans would surely have rejected the plan. The chiefs of staff all agreed that it was “unthinkable”. “The idea is of course fantastic and the chances of success quite impossible,” wrote Field Marshal Brooke. “There is no doubt that from now onwards Russia is all powerful in Europe.”

Churchill, the greatest war leader Britain has ever produced, was forced to face the fact that his impoverished country had lost almost all its power and influence in a dramatically changed world. Britain had helped liberate the western half of Europe at the cost of abandoning the eastern half to a Soviet dictatorship that would last for another 44 years.

Antony Beevor is one of the world’s leading historians of the Second World War. His latest book, The Second World War, is now out in paperback (Phoenix, 2014).


Supplying a City by Air: The Berlin Airlift

On June 24, 1948, the Soviet Union closed all surface routes into the western zone of Berlin. Citing "technical difficulties," the Soviets blockaded the city, hoping to force the United States, Great Britain, and France to abandon Berlin and thus sabotage currency reforms and the unification of the western zone of Germany. The Allied response was neither retreat nor war, but a unique reply made possible only by aviation - an airlift. Two days after West Berlin was sealed off, the first transport plane of "Operation Vittles" landed with vital supplies. For 18 months, American and British aircrews literally flew around-the-clock bringing coal, food, medicine, and all of the other necessities of life to the 2 million inhabitants of war-ravaged West Berlin. Despite impossible odds, the Berlin Airlift succeeded in winning this, the first battle of the Cold War.

By prior arrangement before the blockade, the US, Britain, and France had secured air rights to three narrow 20-mile-wide corridors over east Germany into Berlin. The shortest was 110 miles long. Aircraft were flown into Berlin along the northern and southern corridors. All planes leaving the city used the central corridor.

With the total support of President Harry S. Truman, the military governor of the American zone in Germany, Gen. Lucius D. Clay, organized the airlift. Although pressured by countless calls to abandon Berlin, Clay stood firm. His resolve and ability became the driving force behind this massive task.

Lt. Gen. Curtis E. LeMay, the commander of the US Air Force (USAF) in Europe, responded immediately to General Clay's request to supply Berlin by air. When asked by Clay if the USAF could deliver the coal, which was vital for Berlin's survival, LeMay responded, "We can deliver anything." He promptly arranged for additional aircraft and established the complex organization that made the airlift work. Wisely, he found the best person to run it.

In August 1948, General LeMay ordered Maj. Gen. William H. Tunner to assume command of the Combined Airlift Task Force. Tunner was experienced in the job, having organized the "Hump" operations over the Himalayas to China in World War II with great success supplying the Nationalist Chinese armies and the US 14 th Air Force in their fight against Japan. He rapidly coordinated American and British efforts into an efficient unit.

For 18 months, American and British aircrews literally flew around-the-clock bringing coal, food, medicine, and all of the other necessities of life to the 2 million inhabitants of war-ravaged West Berlin.

Douglas C-47s flew the first Airlift loads into Berlin three days after the blockade began, though they were phased out by the USAF in favor of the Douglas C-54 Skymaster. These large four-engine transports could carry up to 10 tons of supplies - four times the capacity of a C-47. Standardizing on one aircraft type also simplified the coordination of the operation as the aircraft all had the same performance characteristics. The C-54, military version of the DC-4 airliner, greatly increased the ability of the Air Force to maintain the minimum of 4,500 tons needed daily to feed the 2.5 million isolated Berliners. Because of its large capacity, the C-54 carried most of the city's coal shipments. The US Navy provided two squadrons of their R5D version of the C-54 as well. The British flew a variety of types including Avro Lancastrians and Yorks, Handley-Page Hastings, and even Shorts Sunderlands, that alighted on the Havel See (a large Berlin lake) while carrying loads of much needed salt.

Tempelhof was the principal Berlin airfield used by Operation Vittles during the Airlift. Built in 1923, this former parade ground in the heart of the city originally was a grass field. By November 1948, the US had built three modern concrete runways to withstand the constant pounding of the stream of transport planes. Royal Air Force aircraft landed at Gatow in the British sector.

To keep turnaround time to a remarkably low average of 49 minutes, crew members were not allowed to leave the immediate vicinity of their airplane when unloading the aircraft. Three vehicles met them: a mobile canteen for refreshments, a weather and operations car for briefing, and a maintenance truck for service.

Moved by the plight of the children of Berlin, one of the pilots, 1st Lt. Gail Halvorsen, cheered them up by dropping small bundles of candy tied to handkerchief parachutes as he approached Tempelhof. His gesture sparked an enthusiastic response from the Air Force and the American people as "Operation Little Vittles" became an overwhelming humanitarian and public relations success.

Typically bad weather on northern Europe struck frequently. Rain and snow hindered operations as well as Soviet harassment by intercepting fighters. Bad weather contributed to accidents as did the stress and strain of around-the-clock flying. All told, some 65 pilots, crewmembers and civilian workers perished during the Airlift. For several months in late 1948, Berlin was just barely surviving.

The key to the eventual success was not only General Tunner’s strict discipline and superb organization, but also the use of a sophisticated radio, radar, and Ground Controlled Approach system that enabled flights to continue around the clock in all but the worst weather. Air traffic controllers guided each aircraft on a straight approach at three-minute intervals. Aircraft were not stacked as this wasted much time and fuel. Planes were flown at 15-minute intervals at each 500-foot level between the altitudes of 5000 and 7000 feet.

When asked by Clay if the USAF could deliver the coal, which was vital for Berlin's survival, LeMay responded, "We can deliver anything."

Despite these difficulties, by the Spring of 1949 it was clear that the Airlift could supply Berlin from the air. To prove the point, General Tunner ordered a maximum effort on Easter 1949. Flying around the clock with every aircraft available, the US and Britain flew in 12,941 tons of supplies in 1383 flights during the “Easter Parade,” three times the daily requirement that was necessary for Berlin to survive. By the end of April, daily deliveries grew from 6,729 to 8893 tons per day, more than enough to keep the city alive.

Faced with increasing international condemnation and the fact that the airlift succeeded despite months of bad weather and Soviet harassment, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin called off the blockade and reopened the ground routes to Berlin on May 12, 1949. General Clay continued the Airlift until September to ensure that Berlin would survive the winter if the Soviets resumed the blockade. The Allies won. In the course of the Airlift, they had safely delivered an astonishing 2.3 million tons of supplies, solely by air – an accomplishment unprecedented in history.


Watch the video: Russians Enter Berlin: Final Months of World War II 1945. British Pathé (May 2022).


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