Victory in Europe: End of WWII - A DIVIDED CITY

A DIVIDED CITY (Illustration) Russian Studies Awesome Radio - Narrated Stories Cold War Famous Historical Events Famous People Geography Social Studies World History World War II American Presidents

As tensions increased during the Cold War, the divided city of Berlin had a change of landscape. This image depicts East Berlin construction workers erecting the "Berlin Wall" on the 20th of November, 1961. Image online via the U.S. National Archives.


Russians left Berlin’s U.S. sector in July of 1945. Not long thereafter, people who did not wish to live under communist rule in East Germany also left (or tried to leave).

Many cities and towns in the German states of Saxony and Prussia were no longer German after Potsdam. Most of the territorial shift was in favor of Poland - depicted in grey - then under Soviet occupation. The USSR did more than occupy one of its western neighbors. It also annexed a significant portion of Poland’s eastern lands.

George Keenan, one of Truman’s advisors who lived for 101 years, became very suspicious - and extremely worried - about Soviet intentions in the occupied territories, including Berlin.  In February of 1946, just seven months after the Potsdam conference, he wrote a detailed telegram expressing his concerns.

The following month, as the Soviet grip tightened on Berlin (and other major European cities), Churchill gave a famous speech (on the 5th of March, 1946) at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri (Truman’s home state). He observed that “an Iron Curtain" has descended across the continent.”

At Potsdam, the Allies decided each occupying country had to agree on all important decisions impacting Germany. An impossibility from the start, the various governments were soon at complete odds with each other. By the summer of 1948, Berlin was caught in the cross hairs.

Attempting to control the entire capital, by starving the people and disrupting their businesses, Soviet forces cut-off ground traffic to and from West Berlin. The Allies responded with the “Berlin Airlift” which provided supplies to the people inside the encircled city.

As the years passed, hundreds of thousands of people fled East Germany, thereby depriving the GRD and Berlin - its capital - of human and financial resources.

Beginning on the 13th of August, 1961 - when members of the "Combat Groups of the Working Class" physically closed the border - the Soviets built a wall to end the exodus.  Two days later, an East German soldier - assigned to guard the construction - escaped by jumping over the wall (which was then a barbed-wire fence).

On the 17th of August, the next year, East-German border guards shot and killed 18-year-old Peter Fechter. What was his crime? Attempting to reach Berlin's western sector by crossing over the Wall. 

The infamous wall was erected, among other places, near the Brandenburg Gate. That famous gate - long a Berlin landmark - was closed, and the wall divided the city into East and West, physically separating East and West Berliners from each other.

A political hot button for both “the East” and “the West,” the Berlin Wall was widely covered on radio and television.  American presidents used the wall as a backdrop for speeches.

Five months before he was assassinated, John F. Kennedy visited the divided city. Standing on a platform, overlooking the wall and the closed Brandenburg Gate, JFK delivered one of his most-famous lines.

Using his notes, to help him correctly pronounce a German phrase he intended to use, the president said:

There are many people in the world who really don't understand what is the great issue between the free world and the communist world - let them come to Berlin!

There are some who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the communists - let them come to Berlin!

All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin.

And, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner.’ [“I am a Berliner.”]

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Nov 01, 2007

Updated Last Revision: Jul 31, 2019

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"A DIVIDED CITY" AwesomeStories.com. Nov 01, 2007. Jan 19, 2020.
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