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This film (originally titled as ‘Journey Across Berlin’) is a 1961 documentary produced by the United States Information Agency (USIA) about the capital city of Germany, Berlin after World War 2. It documents the West's position on defense of Berlin against the Soviets. Beginning with the destruction and economic breakdown of the city at end of the war, the film presents significant historical events from an American perspective, such as establishment of occupation zones, Berlin blockade and airlift in 1948–49, uprising of 1953 in East Germany, elections in free Berlin and the West's determined actions to maintain the freedom of West Berlin. The film was completed a few months before the construction of the Berlin Wall (German: Berliner Mauer), a barrier that divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND / CONTEXT
As World War 2 came to an end in 1945, a pair of Allied peace conferences at Yalta and Potsdam determined the fate of Germany’s territories. They split the defeated nation into four “allied occupation zones”: The eastern part of the country went to the Soviet Union, while the western part went to the United States, Great Britain and France.
Even though Berlin was located entirely within the Soviet part of the country, the Yalta and Potsdam agreements split the city into similar sectors. The Soviets took the eastern half, while the other Allies took the western. This four-way occupation of Berlin began in June 1945.
Blockade and crisis:
The existence of West Berlin, a conspicuously capitalist city deep within communist East Germany, “stuck like a bone in the Soviet throat,” as Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev put it. The Russians began maneuvering to drive the United States, Britain and France out of the city for good. In 1948, a Soviet blockade of West Berlin aimed to starve the western Allies out of the city. Instead of retreating, however, the United States and its allies supplied their sectors of the city from the air. This effort, known as the Berlin Airlift, lasted for more than a year and delivered more than 2.3 million tons of food, fuel and other goods to West Berlin. The Soviets called off the blockade in 1949.
After a decade of relative calm, tensions flared again in 1958. For the next three years, the Soviets – emboldened by the successful launch of the Sputnik satellite the year before and embarrassed by the seemingly endless flow of refugees from east to west (nearly 3 million since the end of the blockade, many of them young skilled workers such as doctors, teachers and engineers) – blustered and made threats, while the Allies resisted. Summits, conferences and other negotiations came and went without resolution. Meanwhile, the flood of refugees continued. In June 1961, some 19,000 people left the East Germany through Berlin. The following month, 30,000 fled. In the first 11 days of August, 16,000 East Germans crossed the border into West Berlin, and on August 12 some 2,400 followed – the largest number of defectors ever to leave East Germany in a single day.
The Berlin Wall:
That night, Premier Khrushchev gave the East German government permission to stop the flow of emigrants by closing its border for good. In just two weeks, the East German army, police force and volunteer construction workers had completed a makeshift barbed wire and concrete block wall – the Berlin Wall – that divided one side of the city from the other.
Before the wall was built, Berliners on both sides of the city could move around fairly freely: They crossed the East-West border to work, to shop, to go to the theater and the movies. Trains and subway lines carried passengers back and forth. After the wall was built, it became impossible to get from East to West Berlin except through one of three checkpoints: at Helmstedt (“Checkpoint Alpha” in American military parlance), at Dreilinden (“Checkpoint Bravo”) and in the center of Berlin at Friedrichstrasse (“Checkpoint Charlie”). At each of the checkpoints, East German soldiers screened diplomats and other officials before they were allowed to enter or leave. Except under special circumstances, travelers from East and West Berlin were rarely allowed across the border.
Berlin After World War 2 | Berlin Before the Wall | Documentary | 1961
NOTE: THE VIDEO DOCUMENTS HISTORICAL EVENTS. SINCE IT WAS PRODUCED DECADES AGO, IT HAS HISTORICAL VALUES AND CAN BE CONSIDERED AS A VALUABLE HISTORICAL DOCUMENT. THE VIDEO HAS BEEN UPLOADED WITH EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES. ITS TOPIC IS REPRESENTED WITHIN HISTORICAL CONTEXT. THE VIDEO DOES NOT CONTAIN SENSITIVE SCENES AT ALL!