*Berlin, Crisis of (1948-9), (see also, *Potsdam, conference):
‘Cold War stand-off precipitated by Stalin’s blockade of overland routes to West Berlin on 24 June 1948 and resolved on 4 May 1949 after the success of the Anglo-American Berlin airlift. At the close of the Second World War, Germany was temporarily dismembered into four zones of occupation (American, British, French, and Soviet). Also, deep within the Soviet zone, Berlin was divided with the west of the city controlled by the Americans, British, and French, and the east by the Soviets. The *Potsdam conference confirmed this and stated that each occupying power would acquire reparations from its own zone, but that the USSR would receive 25 per cent of reparations from the western zones as a mark of its contribution during the war. Furthermore, *Potsdam established a council of foreign ministers (CFM) whose principle task it was to draw up post-war peace treaties.
Germany, and Berlin, became the focus of a dangerous heightening of tension as the Cold War set in. Within their respective zones, the Western powers and the Soviets took actions which were perceived as mutually hostile. From Moscow, Stalin spoke of a unified Germany but the merger of the East German social democrats with the communists in April 1946 looked to the West like the Sovietisation of east Germany. In May 1946, the USA suspended reparations from the US zone to the Soviet Union. Soon after, in July, the Americans instigated a merger of its zone with the British zone creating Bizonia (the French zone was added in April/May 1948). To the Soviets, this suggested that the West, led by the Americans, had accepted the future division of Germany. Throughout 1947 and into 1948, Germany became the battleground of the Cold War in Europe. From Moscow’s perspective, the Marshall plan’s objectives for Germany -to rebuild its economy at the heart of a new Europe revitalised by American finance and trade -was final evidence of American expansionism. Consequently, in December 1947 the CFM failed in its last attempt to settle the disputes over Germany. Thereafter, the West worked towards the construction of a west German state. In response, from 1 April 1948 the Soviets made access from the Western occupiers to West Berlin increasingly difficult, culminating in a full blockade of land, rail, and canal routes from 24 June. Two days later, American and British planes began an eleven-month airlift which supplied over 1 million tons (1,016,000 tonnes) of aid to west Berlin.
The Berlin crisis raised fears of a third world war but brought a Cold War stalemate. Neither the Americans nor the British wished to shoot their way through to West Berlin, certainly not as long as the airlift succeeded, and Stalin had no desire to stop it by force. On 4 May 1949, Moscow backed down. By the end of the month, the West German state came into existence and the Soviets constituted an East German government. The crisis, alongside concurrent Cold War schisms, set West against East. For the British, it confirmed the need for collective security through NATO and the airlift strengthened Anglo-American cooperation at its core’.
From, John Ramsden, Professor of Modern History at Queen Mary, University of London.
References: John. W. Young, ‘Cold-War Europe, 1945-1991’, second edition, London, 1999.
Photo from, ‘Bucket List: Bear Hunting in Berlin’ creeamskyeyes.wordpress.com