West Berlin


July 3, 2022

West Berlin (in German Berlin (West); in East Germany Westberlin) was an exclave of West Germany in the territory of East Germany during the entire period of the latter's legal existence between 1949 and 1990. Its minimum distance from the border between the two Germanys was about 160 km and had an extension of 479.9 km², due to the unification of three of the four sectors (the British, French and US) in which, at the end of the second world war, Berlin was divided by the four victorious powers, while the one occupied by the Soviet Union was known as East Berlin and became the capital of the German Democratic Republic. From 13 August 1961 to 9 November 1989 the two Berlin were physically separated by a wall erected by East Germany to put a stop to defections from their own country. Almost a year after the fall of the wall, on October 3, 1990, the two cities once again became a single administrative entity, following the reunification of the two Germanys. At the height of the Cold War in 1968, West Berlin had 2,202,000 inhabitants, making it the German city on both sides of the Iron Curtain with the largest number of residents. Being, from a geopolitical point of view, the only western outpost in the territory of the Warsaw Pact during the years of the Cold War (as well as, more generally, the only exclave of one of the two large blocks of that period within the area influence of the other), West Berlin gained considerable political importance (it was the destination of an official visit by US President John F. Kennedy in 1963, which became famous for his phrase in German Ich bin ein Berliner) and cultural: not a few novels and spy stories of the time were in fact set in Berlin due to the presence in that city of secret agents from both Germanys and Checkpoint Charlie, a checkpoint on Friedrichstraße which formed the geographical border between West Germany and East Germany and, by extension, the political one between the two opposing blocs, which in reality and in fictional fiction was the scene of escapes or attempts to escape and exchanges of spies prisoners of the opposite fractions.


The Potsdam Accords of 1945 established the legal framework for the occupation of Germany at the end of the Second World War. According to the agreements, Germany would formally remain under the administration of the four major war allies, the United States, the United Kingdom, France and the Soviet Union, until a German government acceptable to all parties was established. . The territory of Germany would have been reduced by about 25% compared to the 1919 borders by depriving it of the territories of East Germany, identified as former East German territories. The remaining territory would be divided into four zones, each administered by one of the allied countries. Berlin, which was surrounded by the newly established Soviet Occupation Zone in central Germany, would be similarly divided, with Western allies occupying an enclave consisting of the western parts of the city. Under the deal, the occupation of Berlin would only end as a result of an agreement between the four allies. The Western allies were granted three air corridors for their respective sectors of Berlin, and the Soviets, informally, allowed road and rail access between West Berlin and the western part of Germany. Initially, this agreement was for the sole purpose of creating a provisional administrative structure, with all parties agreeing that Germany and Berlin would soon be reunited. However, as relations between the Western allies and the Soviet Union deteriorated, starting the Cold War, the joint management of Germany and Berlin fell apart. Soon Berlin occupied