Helen Upcraft
Monday 2 September 2019

7 May 1945

Following the signing of Germany's unconditional surrender on 7 May, the Second World War came to an end in Western Europe on the 8 May 1945. Whilst Japan didn’t formally surrender until the 2 September 1945, the Allied powers began the process of dividing Germany and the city of Berlin in July 1945 during the Potsdam conference. Britain, America, France and The Soviet Union divided the country into four military occupied zones.

© IWM (NAT 2038)

This short clip from the NATO collection shows the stark contrast of the city of Berlin before and after the Second World War © IWM (NAT 2038) 

© IWM (NAT 2038)

Using animated maps, this clip describes how Germany and Berlin were divided by the Allied powers. © IWM (NAT 2038) 

24 June 1948

This division was designed to be temporary, however the Soviet Union didn’t agree with the policies implemented by the Western Powers in their respective occupied zones. On 24 June 1948 the Soviets began what became known as 'The Berlin Blockade', blocking access by land to the Western parts of the city, cutting off vital food and supply routes.

© IWM (COI 177)

This clip demonstrates the role of the RAF during the Berlin Airlift © IWM (COI 177)

September 1949

The Allied powers continued to deliver goods to Berlin via the airlift until September 1949. Although the Soviets lifted the blockade in May, there were fears it would be reinstated again. During this time, Britain, America and France combined their military occupied zones, and created the Federal Republic of Germany in May 1949. Whilst the occupied zones of Berlin were politically under control of, and aligned with the Western powers, Berlin was not legally part of the Federal Republic.

Over the next decade tensions between the Soviet Union and the West continued to mount. As life in the East became more difficult, a steady tide of refugees came to West Berlin seeking escape from Soviet rule. By 1961 the Soviet Union could no longer ignore this.

© IWM (NAT 2038)

This clip shows Soviet troops in front of the Brandenburg gate refusing to allow anyone to pass. © IWM (NAT 2038) 

© IWM (NAT 2038)

This clip shows the earliest iteration of the Berlin Wall - barbed wire and guards. People attempting to make a last ditch attempt to escape including an East German solider are also shown. © IWM (NAT 2038) 

Although at first it was only constructed from fence posts and barbed wire, Eastern Berlin was effectively cut off from the rest of the city almost over night. Over the next few years, the wire would be replaced by a complex series of walls and fortifications, guarded day and night. The Berlin Wall would stand for the next 28 years.

© IWM (NAT 3022)

This clip shows the Allied crossing point known as 'Check Point Charlie' in 1967. © IWM (NAT 3022)

© IWM (NAT 3022)

As troops from the GDR reposition their defences,on the other side of the wall children can be seen playing. © IWM (NAT 3022) 

9 November 1989

By 1989, the East German government was facing increased pressure to loosen some of its regulations on travel to West Germany. At a press conference on 9 November, East German spokesman Günter Schabowski announced that East Germans would be free to travel into West Germany, starting immediately. He failed to clarify that some regulations would remain in place. Western media inaccurately reported that the border had opened and crowds quickly gathered at checkpoints on both sides of the Wall. Passport checks were eventually abandoned and people crossed the border unrestricted. East and West Berliners came together in celebration.

© IWM (BFL 111)

Footage shot by British Military Police on 10 November shows people celebrating on the western side of the wall whilst GDR border guards are seen maintaining the crossing underneath the Brandenburg gate. © IWM (BFL 111)

© IWM (BFL 111)

This clip shows the Brandenburg gate at sunrise on the morning of 11 November, as people continue to chip away at the wall, and celebrate. © IWM (BFL 111)

© IWM (BFL 111)

This clip shows West Berliners giving flowers to GDR soliders in front of the Brandenburg Gate. © IWM (BFL 111)

© IWM (BFL 111)

This clip shows a section of the Berlin Wall being removed on 22 December 1989. © IWM (BFL 111)

© IWM (NAT 3544)

A man celebrates as he crosses from East to West Berlin. November 1989 © IWM (NAT 3544) 

© IWM (NAT 3544)

A man chips away at a part of the Berlin Wall. The people chipping at the Wall were known as 'Mauerspechte', literally meaning Wall woodpeckers. Graffiti above him reads 'Build Doors Not Walls.' © IWM (NAT 3544)

© IWM (NAT 3544)

Loved ones reconnect at a newly formed crossing. November 1989 © IWM (NAT 3544) 

East German guards struggle to restrain a crowd during the opening of the Berlin Wall, November 1989.
East German guards struggle to restrain a crowd during the opening of the Berlin Wall, November 1989. © Crown copyright. IWM (CT 1494)

Night time scene showing a bombed building on fire in London during the Blitz, 1940.
© IWM (HU 67287)

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