A move to test our ability and our will to resist.
President Truman, speaking in 1949
The climax of the struggle for power over Germany and Europe.
Avi Shlaim, Britain, the Berlin Blockade and the Cold War (1983)
The first major crisis of the Cold War, setting up the stage for the decades of tension that were to follow.
Rebecca Byrnes (an Australian student) on Suite 101.com
The first point where war between the two superpowers was possible.
‘Booji’, a contributor to www.debatewise.com
The USSR had already disagreed with Britain and the USA at Potsdam
(July 1945) about what should be done with Germany. Germany had been split into four
There had been particular disagreement about
reparations: Britain and America had wanted Germany to recover
economically, but the Russians had gained the right to take 10% of the
industrial equipment of western Germany, and as whatever they wanted from
their own zone in eastern Germany:
in Russia's zone, was also split into 4 zones. But
Berlin was entirely within - and surrounded by - the Russian zone.
Blockade: a siege.
Blockade web sites:
the Cold War - basic overview
The airlift - comprehensive Wikipedia account
to Berlin (excerpts from a book)
Tribute by Warren Christopher,
US Secretary of State, 1994
Telegram from A Paniushkin,
Soviet ambassador to the US,
setting out the Soviet position
Victory - an interview with Stalin in the Russian newspaper Pravda,
US State Department memo setting out the US position
Flim clips and YouTube:
Berlin Airlift -
Berlin Airlift -
British newsreel (excellent narrative account)
Caused The Berlin Blockade, 1948–49?
of the first events of the Cold War was the Berlin blockade and airlift of
Describe what happened.
1. Think of as many reasons as you can why, in the period 1945-49, Germany was often at the centre of the Cold War.
was just getting started (e.g. Czechoslovakia, March 1948)
Stalin wanted to destroy Germany – Britain and the USA wanted to rebuild
Russians were taking German machinery back to the USSR. In January 1947,
Britain and the USA joined their two zones together to try to get German
industry going. They called the new zone Bi-zonia (‘two zones’).
Congress voted for
Marshall Aid on 31 March 1948.
Russians started searching all road and rail traffic into
On 1 June, America and France announced that they wanted to create the
new country of West Germany; and on 23 June they introduced a new currency
into ‘Bizonia’ and western Berlin.
The next day the Russians stopped all road and rail traffic into
The Soviet Union saw the 1948 Berlin crisis as an attempt to undermine
Soviet influence in eastern Germany; Stalin
said he was defending the east German economy against the new
currency, which was ruining it.
The western powers said
Stalin was trying to force them
out of Berlin.
[The Americans had
introduced a new currency into Berlin.]
Old money flooded into the Soviet Zone. Some
restrictions were placed on links between Berlin and western zones, but
the Soviet side was ready to supply food to all Berlin.
Yet every day 380 American planes flew into Berlin. It was simply
a propaganda move intended to make the cold war worse.
From a Russian history book.
Britain and America tried to restore German prosperity in their sectors, but the Russians systematically looted their zone. This Low cartoon of October 1946 shows Bevin (British foreign minister) and Byrnes (America) trying to get the lorry of a 'united Germany' going, while the Russian foreign minister Molotov sits smugly on his motorbike, having stolen the wheels - 'Pity you fellows can't get your part going. I fixed mine OK', he is saying..
Click here for the interpretation
This cartoon by the British cartoonist
Illingworth appeared in the Daily Mail on 9 September 1948. Stalin
has blocked the mousehole, and toys with a mouse labelled 'Berliners',
whilst the other 'western powers' scuttle around in alarm.
American Army wanted to fight its way into Berlin – that would have
caused a war. Instead, Truman decided to supply Berlin by
The situation was bad at first, but things
got better as the
blockade went on. On 12 May 1949, Stalin re-opened the borders.
The blockade lasted 318 days (11 months).
In the winter of 1948–49 Berliners lived on dried potatoes, powdered eggs and cans of meat. They had
four hours of electricity a day.
airlift was codenamed 'operation Vittles'; the first flight was on 26
authorities offered to provide West Berlin with essential supplies -
this offer was rejected.
275,000 flights carried in 1˝ million tons of supplies. A plane landed every 3 mins.
On 16 April 1949, 1400 flights brought in 13,000 tons of supplies in one day – Berlin only needed 6,000 tons a day to survive.
Some pilots dropped
chocolate and sweets.
The airlift continued until 30 September 1949, in order to build up a
reserve of supplies.
The USA stationed B-29 bombers (which could carry an atomic bomb) in Britain.
The American airmen were regarded as
This cartoon of 14 July 1948 by EH
Shepard for the British magazine Punch shows Stalin
watching as storks fly coal and food into Berlin.
2. Working as a whole class,
draw a spidergram to show all the reasons why the Berlin blockade
3. What were the results of the Berlin Blockade.
War got worse
almost started an all-out war.
and West Germany
split up. In May 1949, America, Britain and France united their zones into
the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). In October 1949, Stalin
set up the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) .
and the Warsaw Pact
1949, the western Allies set up
(North Atlantic Treaty Organisation)
as a defensive alliance against Russia. NATO countries surrounded Russia;
in 1955, the Soviet Union set up the Warsaw Pact – an alliance of
Berlin, the USA and the USSR realised that they were in a competition for
world domination. They began to build up their armies and weapons.
The crisis was planned in Washington behind a
smokescreen of anti-Soviet propaganda... The self-blockade of the Western powers hit the West Berlin population with harshness. The people were freezing and starving. In the Spring of 1949 the USA was forced to yield
From a Russian history book.
We demonstrated to the people of Europe that we would act resolutely, when their freedom was threatened. Politically it brought the people of Western Europe closer to us.
President Truman, speaking in 1949.
Neither side gained anything. The USSR had not gained control of Berlin. The West had no guarantees that land communications would not be cut again. Above all confrontation made both sides even more stubborn.
Historian Jack Watson writing in 1984.