West Berlin

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Related to West Berlin: Berlin airlift, Berlin Wall


, city, Germany
Berlin (bûrˌlĭnˈ, Ger. bĕrlēnˈ), city (2021 est. pop. 3,567,000), capital of Germany, coextensive with Berlin state (341 sq mi/883 sq km), NE Germany, on the Spree and Havel rivers. Formerly divided into East Berlin (156 sq mi/404 sq km) and West Berlin (185 sq mi/479 sq km), the city was reunified along with East and West Germany on Oct. 3, 1990.


Due in part to aid from the United States and other Allied powers, West Berlin's recovery after World War II was rapid and substantial. East Berlin, however, saw a period of relative economic decline, though it became the undisputed focal point of development within the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and an important city in Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe. Berlin's economy has been primarily industrial, but is becoming increasingly focused on service-sector activities. Electronics and garments are major industries; other manufactures includes textiles, metals, porcelain and china, bicycles, and machinery. The move of the national government to Berlin prompted a building boom during the 1990s, including more than 30 major construction projects in the eastern part of the city and a large aircraft factory on its outskirts. A new central railroad station opened in 2006.

Institutions and Attractions

Berlin is a major cultural center, home to orchestras, opera companies, repertory theaters, and museums. It has an excellent public transportation system and is served by the Berlin Brandenberg airport. In the Kurfürstendamm, the main thoroughfare in the western section of the city, stands the gutted tower of the original Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, left unrestored as a reminder of World War II. A similar memorial, the unrestored remains of the St. Nicholas Church, were formerly preserved in E Berlin, but beginning in the 1980s it was reconstructed and is now part of the Berlin City Museum. The Berlin Cathedral (1894–1905), located on Museum Island (N Spree Island), also was damaged but was reconstructed (1975–2002).

The large Tiergarten park in central Berlin contains the reconstructed Reichstag building with its glass dome and the Berlin zoo. On the NE side of the park, along a bend in the Spree River, the Federal Strip houses a number of government buildings, including the enormous Chancellery (opened 2001). The concert hall of the Berlin Philharmonic is on the opposite side of the Tiergarten. At the SE end of the park is Potsdamer Platz, which was the heart of the city in the 1920s and 30s. In the 1990s, commercial and residential renewal made it the largest construction site in Europe. The State Opera is in E Berlin, on the famous Unter den Linden, which leads to the Brandenburg Gate, a triumphal arch in the classical style. South of the Opera is the Pierre Boulez Concert Hall (2017), designed by Frank Gehry, and the Barenboim-Said Academy (2016). Near the Brandenburg Gate is the city's 5.5-acre (2.2-hectare) Holocaust memorial (2005).

Among Berlin's many museums are those in the Cultural Forum in the western part of the city, including the New National Gallery and the Gemäldegarie; those in Museum Island in the eastern part of the city, including the Altes Museum, the Egyptian Museum, and the Pergamon Museum; and the Berlin Museum–Jewish Museum complex in the Kreuzberg district. Humboldt Univ. of Berlin (formerly known as the Univ. of Berlin or Frederick William Univ.) and the Free Univ. of Berlin (founded in 1948) are among the city's many educational and scientific institutions.


Early History to World War II

Berlin had its beginning in two Wendish villages, Berlin and Kölln, which were chartered in the 13th cent. and merged in 1307. It assumed importance as a Hanseatic League town in the 14th cent. and became the seat of the electors of Brandenburg (after 1701, kings of Prussia) in 1486. Berlin suffered severely from the Thirty Years War (1618–48), but Frederick William (reigned 1640–88), the Great Elector, restored and improved the city. Occupied in the Seven Years War by Austrian (1757) and Russian (1760) troops and in the Napoleonic Wars by the French (1806–8), Berlin emerged from the conflicts as a center of German national feeling and an increasingly serious rival of Vienna.

From the 18th and early 19th cent. date many of the distinguished monuments and buildings of the city (chiefly by Andreas Schlüter and Karl Friedrich Schinkel). Berlin was the center of the Revolution of 1848 against King Frederick William IV. The construction of railroads (1840–61) gave it additional importance as an industrial and commercial center. Berlin also became part of a canal system that linked it to the Oder, Elbe, and Rhine rivers and to the North Sea. In 1866 it became the seat of the North German Confederation and in 1871 it was made the capital of the German Empire. The city prospered and expanded rapidly, becoming one of the great urban centers of the world. Berlin's population had increased from 201,000 in 1819 to 914,000 in 1871; by 1900 it was 2,712,000.

The German military defeat of 1918 brought on a period of social and political unrest. After the establishment (Nov., 1918) of a Socialist government, Berlin was the scene of the abortive uprising of the Communist Spartacus party (Jan., 1919) and of the conservative putsch of 1920 (see Kapp, Wolfgang). As the capital of the Weimar Republic, Berlin suffered severe economic crises in the 1920s, but it was also a brilliant cultural center.

Throughout the Nazi regime (1933–45) Berlin remained the second largest city of Europe, a notable economic, political, and educational center, and a huge inland port with a flourishing world trade. It was also the major communications and transportation hub of Central Europe. During World War II, Berlin was repeatedly bombed from the air by the Allies, but the heaviest destruction was caused by a Soviet artillery barrage of unprecedented intensity that preceded the capture (May 2, 1945) of the city by Marshal Zhukov.

Divided Berlin

On May 8, 1945, Germany's unconditional surrender to the Allies was signed in Berlin. The division of the city into sectors by the Potsdam Conference resulted in severe tension between the Soviet Union and the Western powers. The Soviets occupied the sector that subsequently became known as East Berlin. The zones assigned to the British, American, and French occupation forces constituted West Berlin. The French occupied the NW part of the city, and the Americans and the British occupied the S districts. The joint Allied military government (Kommandatura) was not successful and virtually ceased to function when the USSR informally withdrew in 1948.

The status of Berlin became a major cold war issue, and attempts at international agreement ended in deadlock (see Foreign Ministers, Council of) as the USSR sought to remove all Western (including West German) control from West Berlin and the Western powers maintained that settlement of the Berlin problem depended on reunification of Germany. In 1948, Soviet authorities established a blockade on all land and water communications between West Berlin and West Germany. The Western powers, foremost among them the United States, successfully undertook to supply West Berlin by a large-scale airlift through three air “corridors” left open to them (see Berlin airlift). The blockade was withdrawn in May, 1949, and the airlift ended in Sept., 1949. In that year East Berlin was proclaimed the capital of the new German Democratic Republic, and in 1950 West Berlin was established as one of the states of the Federal Republic of Germany (of which Berlin was the de jure capital and Bonn the de facto capital). Workers rioted in East Berlin in June, 1953, and were suppressed by Soviet tanks.

In the following years there were several Berlin crises, as the USSR in unilateral declarations, often accompanied by harassing actions, contested the legal basis for the Western powers' presence in and access to West Berlin. Meanwhile better living conditions in the western zone had led to a massive exodus of refugees from East to West, which was both a great embarrassment for the Communists and a serious drain on the East German labor supply. To stop the flow, East Germany gave the division of the city a grimly physical form in Aug., 1961, by erecting the 29-mi (47-km) fortified Berlin Wall along the partition line, leaving only a few closely guarded crossing points.

The Western powers protested vigorously but ineffectively, and East German border guards killed dozens of persons attempting to break through the barrier. War seemed near as Soviet and American tanks faced each other at the border crossings, but after 1962 the crisis eased. In Dec., 1963, the first of several agreements was reached permitting West Berliners to visit relatives in the eastern zone. Visits across the wall and access to West Berlin from West Germany were finally regularized in the Berlin accords reached among the four powers and the two Germanys in 1972.


The tense stalemate in inter-German relations that persisted throughout most of the 1980s was dramatically broken as a result of the political upheavals that took place in East Germany in late 1989 and early 1990. Massive demonstrations in East Berlin and other East German cities led to the collapse of the Honecker regime and the dismantling of the Berlin Wall in Nov., 1989. In Oct., 1990, East and West Berlin were officially joined to form the state of Berlin, and the first city-wide elections in Berlin since 1946 were held in Dec., 1990. In June, 1991, the German Bundestag voted in favor of Berlin as the seat of the nation's legislature and government; Bonn, the capital of the former West Germany, served as the provisional seat of government until 1999, when most government functions were transferred to Berlin. In 1996 residents of Berlin voted to unite in a single state with surrounding Brandenburg, but the measure was rejected by Brandenburg voters.


See H. Vizetelly, Berlin under the New Empire (2 vol., 1879; repr. 1968); G. Masur, Imperial Berlin (1971); O. Friedrich, Before the Deluge (1986); G. Kirchhoff, ed., Views of Berlin (1989); B. Gwertzman and M. Kaufman, The Collapse of Communism (1990); A. Beevor, The Fall of Berlin 1945 (2002); M. Black, Death in Berlin: From Weimar to Divided Germany (2010); F. Kempe, Berlin 1961 (2011).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Berlin, West


a special political unit. West Berlin is located on the Spree River at its confluence with the Havel. Area, 479 sq km. Population, 2,100,000 (1968).

Administration. The supreme administrative power in the city is the three-power military Kommandatura. Legislative power is exercised by the Chamber of Deputies (parliament) elected by the population for four years; executive power, by the Senate (government) headed by a ruling burgomaster. The territory of West Berlin is made up of 12 city sections: Tiergarten, Charlottenburg, Wilmersdorf, and Spandau (the British zone of occupation); Kreuzberg, Neukölln, Tempelhof, Schöneberg, Zehlendorf, and Steglitz (the American sector); and Wedding and Reinickendorf (the French sector).

Historical information. West Berlin took form as a special political unit after the split of the city, which was a result of the separatist policies of the Western powers, who violated the agreement on the joint occupation and administration of Berlin. In 1950 the number of unemployed amounted to more than 300,000; industry worked with stoppages, and the city government was unable to set about restoring the city. With the aid of a series of artificial measures—subsidies under the Marshall Plan and financial aid from the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG)—the city authorities gradually succeeded in stabilizing the situation. Production reached prewar levels in West Berlin in 1955, and extensive construction was begun. However, the economic situation of West Berlin remained abnormal; working forces were inadequate, rates of capital investment were low, and the number of people able to work had decreased. West Berlin lagged behind the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and the FRG in its rate of economic development. The abnormality of the economic situation and the uncertainty of the political outlook of West Berlin led to the growth in the city of sentiment favoring the normalization and regularization of business relations with the GDR and other socialist countries.

The ruling circles of the FRG advanced illegal claims on West Berlin (for example, article 23 of the constitution of the FRG), although the city is not a part of the FRG. This fact was established in the provisos made by the Western powers in confirming the constitution of the FRG and the constitution of West Berlin (1950), and it was repeatedly confirmed by the government of the USSR and the governments of the three Western powers. In violation of the legal status of West Berlin, the FRG, with the connivance of the Western powers, carried out extensive penetration of the political, economic, and cultural life of West Berlin. To demonstrate its illegal claims to West Berlin, the FRG held elections of its presidents and meetings of the Bundestag and its committees and factions here, and organized visits to West Berlin by presidents, chancellors, and ministers. West German governmental institutions, employing more than 20,000 civil servants, were located illegally in West Berlin. Assemblages of revanchist organizations of fellow countrymen and associations of the FRG were held in West Berlin; there is a branch of the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party of the FRG. The illegal claims of the FRG to West Berlin have led repeatedly to dangerous aggravations of the international situation in this region.

On June 17, 1953, an attempt was made to organize a counterrevolutionary putsch in the capital of the GDR from the territory of West Berlin. Dozens of subversive and intelligence organizations were quartered in West Berlin, and West Berlin radio stations and television conducted hostile propaganda against the GDR. During the period when there was an open border between the capital of the GDR and West Berlin (up to August 1961), the damage inflicted on the GDR because of speculation, the organized enticement of working forces from the GDR, and other illegal actions amounted to 3.5 billion marks.

The USSR and the GDR repeatedly made proposals to normalize the situation in West Berlin, end its exploitation as a hotbed of international tension, and establish normal neighborly relations between the GDR and West Berlin. In particular, these aims were served by the proposal made in 1958 to turn West Berlin into a demilitarized free city. The question of West Berlin was repeatedly a subject of discussion at international conferences. However, the proposals of the USSR and the GDR were systematically rejected by the Western powers. The aggressive activity of the FRG and its NATO allies against the GDR and other socialist countries, which were carried out from West Berlin, forced the government of the GDR to establish a system on the borders with West Berlin which barred the way for subversive activity against the GDR and other socialist countries.

Subsequently, the GDR adopted a series of measures directed against the abuses of transit communications between West Berlin and the FRG committed by revanchist and neo-Nazi elements whose purposes were inimical to the cause of peace.

In the summer of 1969 the USSR took the initiative in proposing negotiations of four states on the problems of the normalization of the situation in West Berlin. Protracted and complicated negotiations resulted on Sept. 3,1971, inaquadrilateral agreement that became valid on June 3, 1972. The agreement clearly stated that West Berlin was not an integral part of the FRG and would not ever be governed by the latter. In addition, the agreement regularized some practical matters of the city’s relations with foreign countries. The quadrilateral agreement laid the treaty basis for maintaining a normal situation in the region.

POLITICAL PARTIES OF WEST BERLIN. The Social Democratic Party (SDP) began its activity in 1945. It has approximately 36,000 members. It is in effect the ruling party of West Berlin. It is primarily working class in composition, but in fundamental policy questions the leadership of the party does not diverge from the class interests of the bourgeoisie. The SDP has a youth organization, Falken, and a student organization, the Social Democratic Union of Students of Higher Educational Institutions. Its press organ is the weekly Berliner Stimme, which has a circulation of 16,500.

The Christian Democratic Union began its activity in 1945. It has approximately 8,600 members. It is the party of big capital and the monopolistic bourgeoisie. In coalition with the SDP, its representatives have repeatedly entered the Senate, but they have not been represented in the Senate since 1963. The party has youth and student organizations, Junge Union and Ring Kristlich demokratischer studenten.

The Free Democratic Party, which was founded in 1949, has about 2,000 members. It is a party of the bourgeoisie, civil service, and liberal intelligentsia. Its youth organization is Jung demokraten; its press organ Berliner Liberale Zeitung.

The National Democratic Party is a branch of the West German neo-Nazi party of the same name. Formed in 1967, it has about 500 members.

The Socialist Unity Party of West Berlin (until 1969, the SED-West Berlin) was founded in 1962. It is the Marxist-Leninist party of the West Berlin working people. Its press organ is the newspaper Die Wahrheit.


Dokumentation zur Westberlinfrage. Berlin [1964].
Zapadnyi Berlin: Zapadnoberlinskaia problema ν sistematicheskom izlozhenii. Moscow, 1961. (Translated from German.)
Rshewski, J. Westberlin—ein politisches Gebilde Sui generis. Moscow, 1967.
Arzinger, R., and W. Poeggel. Westberlin—selbständige politische Einheit. Berlin, 1965.
Pritzkoleit, K. Berlin: Ein Kampf ums Leben. Düsseldorf, 1962.
Riklin, A. Das Berlinproblem. Cologne, 1964.
Economic survey. West Berlin is a major industrial center. Its postwar economic development, which was determined by the policies of the three occupying Western powers and the FRG, proceeded in the context of virtually complete isolation from the territory of the GDR which surrounded it. Overcoming the consequences of military devastation in the economy was an extremely protracted process. Industry developed slowly; the number of industrial and commercial companies had decreased from 17,000 to 3,000 during 1938–68, a consequence, in particular, of the transfer of West Berlin enterprises to West Germany. In the period 1956–67 the number of people employed in industrial enterprises decreased from 138,000 to 97,800. In 1950 the volume of industrial production was only one-third the level of 1936; in 1967 this level was slightly more than doubled. During the period 1960–67 the number of workers in industry decreased by 50,000. In 1968 there were 26,600 foreign workers employed in the enterprises of West Berlin.
After 1945 the structure of industry underwent substantial changes. Prewar levels of production were resumed and in some cases exceeded, as in the electrotechnical industry, whose relative importance in the total value of the product of West Berlin was 36.1 percent in 1967, as compared with 34.8 percent in 1936 and in the clothing industry (4.4 percent as compared with 3.4 percent during the same period). The share in the general industrial output of such branches as printing and the food industry has declined in comparison with the prewar years. (In printing it had declined from 8.3 percent in 1936 to 4.3 percent in 1967, and in the food industry from 10.7 percent to 9.0 percent over the same period.) Of the total of 974,900 workers in 1967, 45.7 percent were in industry and trade, including construction, and 21.4 percent were in commerce and transport; the proportion of workers in nonproductive spheres was about 33 percent. Not counting gas, water, and electric supply, there were 254,600 people working in industry in 1967, including 91,900 in the electrotechnical industry, 29,600 in general machine building, an estimated 29,800 in the clothing and food industries, and 11,200 in the chemical industry. Metalworking enterprises are concentrated primarily in the northwest—on the Havel and Spree rivers and on the canals—and in the south, along the Teltow Canal.
Large monopolistic organizations, which belong for the most part to West German and American capital, hold decisive positions in the economy of West Berlin. Electrotechnical enterprises are the property of the Siemens concern (the main enterprise in Spandau), AEG (in Wedding), and the American trust ITT (in Tempelhof and Schöneberg). Machine-building enterprises belong to the Hoesch (Orenstein-Koppel und Lubeker Machinenbau in Spandau) and Quandt (Deutsche Wagen und Machinefabrik in Reinickendorf) concerns and the West German Salzitter state concern (Borsig AG in Reinickendorf and Deutsche Industriwerke in Spandau). In the foreign trade cycle of West Berlin, the FRG is most important, as it accounts for 85.3 percent of the exports and 88.4 percent of the imports of West Berlin. It is followed by other countries of the Common Market—the Netherlands and Italy—and also Sweden, Switzerland, and the USA. Socialist countries, including the GDR, accounted for 1.3 percent of West Berlin’s exports and 2.8 percent of its imports in 1965. West Berlin exports machines, electrotechnical articles, precision machinery and optical products, and pharmaceutical products (75 percent of the total export). The main imports of West Berlin are coal (briquettes), oil, timber, chemical raw materials, and foodstuffs. The monetary unit is the West German mark. West Berlin’s chronic budget deficit, which is connected with its unfavorable balances of trade and payments, is covered annually by large state subsidies from the budget of the FRG (33.2 billion marks during 1951–68, including 3.2 billion marks in 1968).
Shipping between West Berlin and the Western countries (the FRG and others) uses GDR transportation lines. Automotive transport accounts for 42 percent of freight and 55 percent of passenger transportation; railroads, 18 percent and 9 percent respectively; 40 percent of freight transport goes by water routes and 36 percent of passenger transport is by air. The total volume of transport in 1968 was 13 million tons of freight and 11 million passengers. Within the city, about two-thirds of the passengers are transported by bus and trolley and one-third by the subway and city railroad (under the administration of the GDR).
Agricultural lands occupy 17.3 percent of the area of West Berlin (1965). Agriculture (3,500 workers in 1967, including those in forestry) supplies the population of West Berlin primarily with vegetables, fruits, and flowers.
Architecture. Considerable work has been done in restoring, reconstructing, and building the industrial and residential sections of West Berlin. (In 1964–65, 270,000 apartments had been put into service.) Along with residential sections, banks, office buildings, stores, hotels, and churches have been erected. However, a number of sections have not been built up after the destruction of the war. There has been little building in the historic center of the city; a new center is taking shape in the section of the Kurfürstendamm. In 1957 about 50 buildings of the international construction exposition Interbau were erected (by architects Le Corbusier, A. Aalto, O. Niemeier, W. Gropius, and others). The section of the zoological gardens has been rebuilt. On the outskirts of the city, industrial sections and settlements have been restored (in Charlottenburg, Britz, and Wedding) and new sections built (in Buckow-Rudow and Wittenau; architects, W. Gropius and others). Large construction also includes the Schiller Theater (1949–50; architects H. Völker and R. Grosse), the American Memorial Library (1952–54; architects G. Yobst, W. Kreuer, H. Wille, and F. Borneman), the concert hall of the Higher School of Music with a large-span suspended cover (1952–54; architect P. Baumgarten), the Kongress Halle (1957; American architect H. Stubbins), the philharmonic hall (1964; architect H. Scharoun), the “Free University” (French architect G. Candilis and others), and the National Gallery (1968; architect L. Mies van der Rohe). The Reichstag building and the Bellevue Palace have been restored. There are large green tracts—Tiergarten Park, with a monument to the heroes of the assault on Berlin (1945; Soviet sculptors, L. E. Kerbel’ and V. E. Tsigal’), the Grunewald, Spandau, and Tegel woods, and so on.
Educational, scientific, and cultural institutions. The higher educational institutions in West Berlin include the so-called Free and the Technical universities; higher schools of pedagogy, theology, and music; academies of arts, films, and television; and the Administrative Academy. Scientific research institutes include the German Institute of Economics (institute for research on business conditions). Major historical-cultural and art collections are in the State Museums (Dahlem section).
Press, radio, and television. Seven morning and two evening newspapers and a host of weeklies are published in West Berlin. Total circulation is about 1.2 million. Berliner Morgenpost, which was founded in 1898, resumed publication after World War II (in 1952) as a newspaper of the Springer concern; Der Tagesspiegel, which has been published by American license since 1945, is close to the Christian Democratic Union; Telegraf, which has been published since 1946 by British license, is under the control of the Social Democratic Party; Spandauer Volksblatt, which has published since 1946 by British license, is close to the SPD; and Der Abend has been published since 1946 by American license. In addition, the Springer concern publishes the West Berlin installment of the newspapers Die Welt and Bild Zeitung, which are marked by their nationalistic, anticommunist orientation.
Five radio stations operate in West Berlin. RIAS is controlled by the USA; it was founded in 1946 and specializes in subversive propaganda directed against the GDR. “Free Berlin” was founded in 1953 as the West Berlin radio station by a resolution of the city Chamber of Deputies. There is a television division. Free Berlin is under the control of the Senate. Like RIAS, it is employed extensively for subversive propaganda against the GDR. There are American, British, and French radio stations for their garrisons and also an American military television station for the needs of its garrison.

IU. A. KVITSINSKII [3–713–1; updated]

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

West Berlin

(formerly) the part of Berlin under US, British, and French control
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Thousands more entered West Berlin or West Germany by simply getting a stamp at a border control point, and many crossed into the West beginning late Thursday without any special documents at all.
After the Soviet Union blockades West Berlin in June 1948, a U.S.-led daily airlift keeps the city's residents from starving.
This tendency became such an established trope that it effectively conditioned the responses of parliamentary political parties and state institutions to many, though not all, forms of left-wing dissent in the Federal Republic and West Berlin in the decade after 1968.
should start a war over Berlin, let it be so." Kennedy, for his part, insisted the United States could not abandon its role in West Berlin.
West Berlin today employs 165 and operates 24/5 but has been running 24/7 for the last three months.
As interest in Germany's capital grows, the persistent price gap between real estate in East and West Berlin is finally closing.
ATP's Engineered Rubber and Plastic Group, headquartered in Wayne, PA, announced that its West Berlin, NJ facility is escalating its role in the medical device market by specializing in over-molded and insert-molded components for surgical apparatus.
The new airport is expected to result in the closure of Tegel and Tempelhof, the former West Berlin airports.
After clashing with the Communist government, he escaped by catching a train to West Berlin while still dressed in tights and ballet shoes.
Soviet troops block all routes to West Berlin in an attempt to drive U.S., French, and British forces from the area.
A typical example of Stasi impotence: When the Reagan administration furiously--and correctly--accused East Germany of sheltering the Libyan terrorists who bombed a West Berlin disco full of American soldiers in 1986, the nervous regime demanded an assessment of Washington's intentions.

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