West Berlin

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West Berlin (German: Berlin (West) or colloquially West-Berlin) was a political enclave which comprised the western part of Berlin during the years of the Cold War. There was no specific date on which the sectors of Berlin occupied by the Western Allies became "West Berlin", but 1949 is widely accepted as the year in which the name was adopted. West Berlin aligned itself politically with the Federal Republic of Germany (called the "Bonn Republic" by historians) and was directly or indirectly represented in its federal institutions.

West Berlin was formally controlled by the Western Allies and was entirely surrounded by the Soviet-controlled East Berlin and East Germany. West Berlin had great symbolic significance during the Cold War, as it was widely considered by westerners as an "island of freedom". It was heavily subsidised by West Germany as a "showcase of the West".[1] A wealthy city, West Berlin was noted for its distinctly cosmopolitan character, and as a centre of education, research and culture. With about two million inhabitants, West Berlin had the largest population of any city in Germany during the Cold War era.[2]

West Berlin was 100 miles (161 kilometres) east and north of the Inner German border and only accessible by land from West Germany by narrow rail and highway corridors. It consisted of the American, British, and French occupation sectors established in 1945. The Berlin Wall, built in 1961, physically separated West Berlin from its East Berlin and East German surroundings until it fell in 1989.[3] On 3 October 1990, the day Germany was officially reunified, East and West Berlin formally reunited as the city of Berlin.


West Berlin, as of 1978
Map of West and East Berlin, border crossings, metro networks
(interactive map)

The Potsdam Agreement established the legal framework for the occupation of Germany in the wake of World War II. According to this agreement, Germany would be formally under the administration of four Allies (the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and France) until a German government "acceptable to all parties" could be established. The territory of Germany, as it existed in 1937, would be reduced by most of Eastern Germany thus creating the former eastern territories of Germany. The remaining territory would be divided into four zones, each administered by one of the four allied countries. Berlin, which was surrounded by the Soviet zone of occupation—newly established in most of Middle Germany—would be similarly divided, with the Western Allies occupying an enclave consisting of the western parts of the city. According to the agreement, the occupation of Berlin could end only as a result of a quadripartite agreement. The Western Allies were guaranteed three air corridors to their sectors of Berlin, and the Soviets also informally allowed road and rail access between West Berlin and the western parts of Germany (see section on traffic).[citation needed]

At first, this arrangement was intended to be of a temporary administrative nature, with all parties declaring that Germany and Berlin would soon be reunited. However, as the relations between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union soured and the Cold War began, the joint administration of Germany and Berlin broke down. Soon, Soviet-occupied Berlin and western-occupied Berlin had separate city administrations.[4] In 1948, the Soviets tried to force the Western Allies out of Berlin by imposing a land blockade on the western sectors—the Berlin Blockade. The West responded by using its air corridors for supplying their part of the city with food and other goods through the Berlin Airlift. In May 1949, the Soviets lifted the blockade, and West Berlin as a separate city with its own jurisdiction was maintained.[4]

Following the Berlin Blockade, normal contacts between East and West Berlin resumed. This was temporary until talks were resumed.[4] In 1952, the East German government began sealing its borders, further isolating West Berlin.[5] As a direct result, electrical grids were separated and phone lines were cut.[4] The Volkspolizei and Soviet military personnel also continued the process of blocking all the roads leading away from the city, resulting in several armed standoffs and at least one skirmish with the French Gendarmerie and the Bundesgrenzschutz that June.[5] However, the culmination of the schism did not occur until 1961 with the construction of the Berlin Wall.[4]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Wes-Berlyn
Alemannisch: Westberlin
asturianu: Berlín Oeste
azərbaycanca: Qərbi Berlin
беларуская: Заходні Берлін
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Заходні Бэрлін
български: Западен Берлин
Boarisch: West-Berlin
bosanski: Zapadni Berlin
dansk: Vestberlin
Deutsch: West-Berlin
español: Berlín Oeste
français: Berlin-Ouest
한국어: 서베를린
Bahasa Indonesia: Berlin Barat
italiano: Berlino Ovest
latviešu: Rietumberlīne
lietuvių: Vakarų Berlynas
македонски: Западен Берлин
Bahasa Melayu: Berlin Barat
Nederlands: West-Berlijn
日本語: 西ベルリン
norsk nynorsk: Vest-Berlin
پنجابی: لیندا برلن
português: Berlim Ocidental
Simple English: West Berlin
slovenčina: Západný Berlín
српски / srpski: Западни Берлин
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Zapadni Berlin
svenska: Västberlin
Türkçe: Batı Berlin
українська: Західний Берлін
Tiếng Việt: Tây Berlin
粵語: 西柏林
中文: 西柏林