Die Berliner Luftbrücke – The Berlin Airlift

Die Berliner Luftbrücke - The Berlin Airlift

Berlin is a city full of rich history, culture and diversity. It has witnessed many deep impacts, was severely destroyed during WW II and separated afterwards. But nothing might have influenced the city more like the Berlin Blockade and the Luftbrücke: From June 1948 until May 1949, the Western Part of Berlin was blocked by the Soviet Union.

The Berlin Blockade

To understand the meaning of the Berlin Blockade, you have to know about the geographic situation and the history. The allied forces and the Soviet Union split the city into four occupation zones: The three western zones of the US, Great Britain, and France and the eastern zone of the Soviet Union. The last one was later also a part of the GDR and its capital, whereas the western parts of Berlin became part of the western Federal Republic of Germany.

To rebuild the country after the war, the three western occupants decided to introduce a new currency in the western sectors: The Deutsche Mark. The introduction of the new currency happened in 1948 without the Soviets knowing about it. The eastern occupants then feared the flooding of their zone being with the old currency, the Reichsmark. To prevent this, they had to introduce a new currency in the East, also called Mark. But the standing of Berlin was yet unsolved: The Russians planned to introduce their currency in whole Berlin, the French, British and Americans refused: The Deutsche Mark should also be the currency of West-Berlin. The tension between the Allies and the Russians grew in the following month and Berlin became more and more a game point of world politics once again.

But the Russians had one big trump in their hands: Because Berlin was just an enclave inside the eastern zone, the Soviet Forces just blocked all the entries to the western part of the city. They could do so because Berlin was still a big field expanse of rubble and was not able to take care of itself or the two million inhabitants in the western sectors. The Russians cut all entries on the land, the rivers and also railroads and the electric cables.

Die Berliner Luftbrücke - The Berlin Airlift
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The establishment of the Luftbrücke

The Allies now had two possibilities: To give up the city and make the Russians overtake their sectors or to try everything to supply the inhabitants. They did the last one. They could to so because there have been three air corridors to Berlin that had been guaranteed by a particular treaty – to be in sharp conflict to the land and the rivers where there wasn’t any treaty like that.

The Allies and especially the Americans then decided to use those corridors to supply the city by airlift. It was a huge duty for the pilots and their stuff and also for the political decision-makers. Over 8.000 tons of goods had to be delivered to the city each day: Not only food but also common products like coal or gasoline. The allied managed to do over 200.000 flights in one year to save the inhabitants of starving – and also to prove the Russians their stamina. Over one year later, they reached their goal: The Soviet Union stopped the Blockade, all the necessary goods could be delivered by land and water again. The Berliners thus are still thankful to the Americans that they have never given them up.