The time is the 1950s, the place is Berlin
Voices Under Berlin

Supplement for 1950 to
Berlin in Early Cold-War Army Booklets

JULY 1, 1950

The historical background behind Voices Under Berlin


This booklet is designed to give the visitor a general background of the immediate past and present of the conditions of the city. In the hope that he will acquire a better understanding of Berlin's future role in the struggle between East and West. At the same time, I hope that it will he of practical use in making a visit to Berlin interesting and enjoyable.

Berlin, Germany
July 1, 1950

Maxwell D. Taylor, signed

Major General, US Army


Postwar Political
Postwar Economic
Postwar Sociological
Occupation Structure
Soviet Sector Do's and Don't's
Map of Berlin
Shopping Centers
Administrative Facilities


It is not definitely known how old the city of Berlin is. The city developed from the two fishing villages of Berlin and Coelln, situated at the narrowest point of the Spree River valley. As towns, Berlin and Coelln were mentioned for the first time in a document of 1237; and, in 1307 both towns united their governments into one Magistrat.

Berlin lacked natural resources and, in fact, its most desirable feature was being located at the crossing of two major roadways. Surrounding the city were dry heaths, bogs, and poor woods. Berlin during the fourteenth century became a commercial center of considerable wealth and power and was a member of the mighty Hanseatic League.

When the province of Brandenburg fell under the reign of the House of Hohenzollern (1415), the Independence of Berlin came to a sudden end. It became the capital of Prussian monarchy, and its history and development from 1415 onward was primarily influenced and sponsored by the Electors (1415-1701), Kings (1701-1870), and Emperors (1870-1918). Berlin's loss of independence was partially compensated by the attendant advantages of being a royal residence where beautiful buildings, monuments, and parks were constructed. Of greater importance was the development of commerce and industry in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Along with the foundation of the University of Berlin in 1810, Berlin became the cultural center of Prussia and Germany.

Of course, the growth of Berlin sustained reverses. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries it was twice destroyed by fire. During the Thirty Years War (1618- 1648), Berlin suffered heavy losses with its population dropping from approximately 15,000 to 6,000.

Like most major world cities, Berlin had its most rapid growth during the second half of the nineteenth century when capitalism and modern industry caused the concentration of great labor forces. Large firms, suck as Siemens, AEG, Osram and Telefunken, employed thousands of workers. Berlin as well became a center for banking, publishing, transportation, and education. On the map of Central Europe, Berlin resembled a spider in the middle of a huge web, the threads of which were railroads, highways, and canals connecting Berlin with East and West.

By 1939, the population of Berlin had reached 4,354,000 persons for 340 square miles (New York City in 1940 had 7,455,000 for 365 square miles). Eleven years later the picture of Berlin is somewhat changed:

  Population Square Miles
Western Berlin 2,110,000 185
Eastern Berlin 1,209,000 155
Total 3,319,000 340

The history of Berlin did not end with the 1945 collapse of the German Reich. Since then, Berlin has found itself a primary symbol in the struggle of free peoples around the earth in maintenance of their democratic institutions against the totalitarian policies dictated from Moscow.

Postwar Political

While the Soviets were winning the military battle of Berlin in the closing days of World War II, Communism lost the political struggle for the city and has yet to taste of a major political victory. Berliners who experienced the behavior of entering Soviet troops developed a strong aversion to the Communist arts of persuasion.

Nevertheless, by being the sole occupation power in the city for the first two months following the end of the war, the Soviets had sufficient time to install a Communist government for the city. On May 14, 1945, they established a Magistrat with German Communists in all key positions. They also established "front" organizations and generally had formed the basis for another "Operation Satellite" by the time the Western Allies entered the city during July 1945.

The Western Powers emphasized the necessity for free city-wide elections and the establishment of a government based on those results. As a prior requisite, a Temporary Constitution was approved by the Quadripartite Allied Kommandatura on July 19, 1946.

On October 20, 1946, free elections were held under Four Power direction. In this election the SPD (Social Democratic Party) received 49 percent of the vote, the CDU (Christian Democratic Union) 22 percent, and the LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) 9 percent, while the Communist party, SED (Socialist Unity Party), received 20 percent of the total vote. As an outgrowth of this election, a new government was established in Berlin which included members of all four parties.

The overwhelming defeat given the SED in this election signaled the beginning of a marked policy of obstructionism by the Soviets in Berlin. Through acts of violence, protests and objections, they prevented the freely elected Magistrat from following the policy of the majority and tried to subvert it to Communist aims. They forced all SPD district buergermeisters of the eight districts in the Soviet Sector to resign. They controlled the communications of Berlin and willfully hindered them. These tactics were increased gradually throughout 1947 and 1948 until an extremely strained relationship developed in the summer of 1948 between East and West in Berlin. As a culminating effort, the Soviet blockade, which had been hanging as an omnipresent threat, was finally introduced in June 1948. Without feeling for the dignity of man, the Soviets imposed their blockade of Western Berlin and hoped that through hunger and deprivation the population of Western Berlin would become slave to Soviet rule. Western Berlin and the Western Allies resisted and, largely because of the airlift, Western Berlin remained free.

In the early days of the blockade, the freely elected Magistrat was located in the Soviet Sector, and the Communists were determined to gain control of the Magistrat, if not the entire city, through fair means or foul. They initiated illegal rallies around governmental meetings in order to stop their sessions. Rowdies, helped by Soviet officers and Soviet-controlled police, succeeded in gaining admission to the town hall where they interrupted sessions of the Magistrat and City Assembly. After repeated failures 'to continue their sessions democratically and peacefully, the city government moved to Western Berlin. The SED then declared this action illegal and established a Communist-rigged "government" in Eastern Berlin on November 30, 1948.

When city-wide elections were again due in December 1948 the SED, knowing it would suffer defeat at the polls, refused to participate. Nevertheless, the Communists tried to intimidate the populace of Western Berlin to a point of non-participation. The voters of Western Berlin gave a striking answer through a turn-out of 86 percent of the electorate when the elections were held on December 5, 1948. The SPD received 65 percent of the vote; CDU, 19 percent; and LDP, 16 percent. Remembering this election was at the height of the blockade, the turn-out was an overwhelming defeat for the. Communists.

Realizing their attempts at blockading the city were hopeless and had been a great political disaster, the blockade was lifted on May 12, 1949.

Failing to enslave the city with that style of blockade, the "creeping" blockade was instituted in the winter of 1949-50. This "creeping ' blockade, which was aimed primarily at strangling the economic life of Western Berlin, was also met with determination and has largely been turned back through implementation of strong measures.

The latest failure, designed to gain control over democratic Berlin by the Soviets and their Communist underlings, was the "Free German Youth Rally" of May 28, 1950. Loudly trumpeted as the occasion for Western Berlin to be conquered by the Communist youth, the firm position taken by the West, and echoed throughout the free world, that "Western Berlin will remain free" resulted in the rally being turned into a "peace meeting."

Surely this latest measure will not be last and, certainly, as long as Western Berlin remains a free island in the Soviet sea, the Soviets will try to conquer it.

Underlying this struggle between freedom and totalitarianism has been the ideological battle. By all manner of propaganda media, the Communists have unscrupulously made use of nationalist feelings dormant in segments of the Berlin population. Under such phrases as "Unity of Germany" and "National Front," they have tried again and again to win the Berliners to their cause. The Berliners have not only resisted but have answered with heavy attacks against Communism.

Western Berlin will only remain free as long as the West remains strong in its conviction to protect that freedom.

Postwar Economic

After the collapse of Berlin in 1945, the city was paralyzed. As well as having no government, for weeks there were no services for water, gas, power, communications, or transportation. Stores, banks, and particularly the factories had been looted or thoroughly dismantled by the Soviets, if not bombed out or destroyed by shelling. A German survey of the final toll of war losses indicated that 24 percent of all buildings and 85 percent of industrial plant had been lost.

The Occupation Powers assumed responsibility for supplying the population; with initial efforts being concentrated upon getting the food processors, food distributors, and public utilities back into operation.

Through necessity, Berlin's economy was reborn under rigid supervision and price control. Industry turned to makeshift production from salvaged war material. With bank accounts in Berlin blocked, the people had to turn to paying work as soon as possible. Shortages led to extensive barter and black market operations.

Throughout 1946 industry slowly groped its way back to lines of production in fields where it had experience and reputation. Although Berlin began exporting certain of its production in 1947, most of its business was done locally or with the surrounding Soviet Zone, with deliveries to the West being relatively neglected.

Introduction of the West Mark (currency reform) in Berlin on June 23, 1948, followed closely by the East Mark currency reform and imposition of the Soviet blockade, created a situation where both East and West Mark were legal tender in Western Berlin and where producers and consumers were forced into a severe austerity program. Due to the airlift, a minimum economy was maintained.

The counterblockade imposed by the Western Allies and discontinuation in March 1949 of the East Mark as legal tender in Western Berlin, ruptured business ties to the Soviet-controlled area and forced Western Berlin businessmen to look to the West for outlets and supplies. The East Mark, no longer coupled to the West Mark, began to drop immediately and, today, the exchange rate is 6 East Marks to 1 West Mark.

The lifting of the blockade on May 12, 1949, was followed by a tremendous 'influx of Western consumer goods to Western Berlin markets. One item after the other was taken off the rationed list until today, for all practical purposes, there is no rationing in Western Berlin. Under provisions of a "freedom of licensing" policy, effected in the fall of 1949, all manner of new businesses sprang up in Western Berlin.

At the beginning of the blockade, in June 1948, both Western Germany and Western Berlin were relatively at the same path along the road to industrial recovery. By July 1949 Western Germany's industrial production had returned to 86 percent of the prewar level, while Western Berlin, after a year of blockade, was at 17 percent. By May 1950 Western Germany's industrial production had climbed to 104 percent of the 1936 level and Western Berlin had struggled up to 28 percent.

Western Berlin's industry had exhausted inventories and financial resources during the blockade. It had seen competitive industry being developed in East and West and had fallen far behind in the race for markets.

To again become competitive, outside help was sorely needed. In addition to previous grants, aid came in the form of some DM 260 million of European Recovery Program investment credits to be granted Berlin during calendar year 1950. Although only part of these credits have been utilized thus far, business activity has noticeably increased in Berlin.

Not only did industry suffer from serious capital difficulties but, because of additional burdens imposed by the blockade, the Magistrat as well found it impossible to meet expenditures from normal revenues. Outside help began arriving for the city government

in August 1948 and it currently receives in the neighborhood of DM 50 million per month from the Federal Republic. In addition, an Emergency Public Works Program, which began in April 1950, was designed to absorb some measure of unemployment and to inject needed capital in Berlin. This program is being furnished with DM 20 million per month for four months from occupation counterpart funds.

Not to be divorced from, or overshadowed by, the serious industrial and financial problems is the staggering problem of unemployment. Following the lifting of the blockade, unemployment at the end of May 1949 was 153,500 (or l4 percent of the total labor force). One year later it was 273,800 (or 24 percent of the total labor force). During this year, while industry was trying to get back on its feet, the Soviets implemented their "creeping" blockade aimed at reducing the economic life of the city to a shambles. By any ruse possible, they attempted to destroy the faith of Western buyers in Berlin's ability to deliver. This action caused non placement of orders or cancellation of orders in process and a subsequent turning away of buyers to other areas where delivery was not subject to the whim of the Soviets.

Industry, which had drained itself of capital reserves in an attempt to stay alive during the blockade, was not able to continue financing unproductive elements. Consequently, unemployment began rising at an alarming rate until the middle of February 1950 when it reached 308,800 (or 27 percent of the total labor force). Since then, largely due to decisive measures taken to counteract the effect of the Soviet-imposed "creeping" blockade, unemployment has been dropping slowly.

Economically, Western Berlin is in serious difficulties. It is the Allied desire to help the city attain an approximate level of living with that of Western Germany. This is an ambitious assignment in view of the city's exposed position and one which will be accomplished through mutual understanding and cooperation with the peoples of the Western community of nations.

Postwar Sociological

To lengthen his life a few days at the end of World War II, Hitler sacrificed the German capital to the fury of the enemy. The result was heavy destruction of the city. According to a German survey of the 245,000 buildings in Berlin at the end of the war, 28,000 were totally destroyed, 20,000 heavily damaged, 23,000 damaged (although reparable) and; of the 174,000 which remained habitable almost all had been damaged. Of the 220 most important bridges, 127 were destroyed. There was no water, no electricity, no gas. All communications were interrupted. Industry and trade were dead. There was not even any government the first few weeks after the close of hostilities.

The population had also sustained heavy losses. Only 60 percent of the 1939 population was living in Berlin in May 1945. Although thousands of women and children had been evacuated in 1943-44, the ratio of men to women in August 1945 was 37 to 63, while in 1939 it had been 45 to 55. The mortality rate was 76.2 per thousand in May 1945, contrasted to a monthly average of 13.3 in 1939.

The official daily food ration was 7 1/2 ounces of bread, 2/3 ounce of meat, 1/2 ounce of fat, 14 ounces of potatoes, 1/2ounce of sugar, and 1 ounce of cereals.

The inhabitants began to repair their dwellings by any means possible. Communications were slowly built up. Power plants and water works began working again, but throughout 1945-46 life in Berlin was far from normal. Food, clothing, coal, and other necessary items were hard to obtain, if not impossible. The black market flourished. The crime rate grew to an alarming degree. After a slight improvement during the summer of 1946, the severe winter of 1946-47 occasioned a relapse. Some statistics may the situation at this time. In February 1947 the mortality rate was 35 per thousand; there were 46 typhus cases (a monthly average of 12 in 1938); and 1,572 cases of tuberculosis (a monthly average of 733 in 1938). During 1947, 33,334 persons were sentenced by the courts (compared to 18, 444 in 1939). At the end of 1946 there were only 6,203 teachers for 305,452 children enrolled in elementary schools (in 1938 there had been 6,373 for 251,080).

In late 1947 and early 1948 there was again a slight improvement in living conditions. Currency reform, which had been awaited so hopefully, came with the Soviet-imposed blockade during June 1948.

The blockade also had serious sociological consequences. In a few weeks, Western Berlin had more than 150,000 unemployed. Nevertheless, the city was fortunate in that the winter of 1948-49 was extraordinarily mild at a time when coal and electricity were severely rationed. The airlift was the deciding factor in keeping the population from starvation and death.

Following the lifting of the blockade in May 1949, life in Western Berlin began improving and, once more, attempted to reach normal levels. Immediate improvements took place. Public health figures reached prewar levels and food rationing practically ended in the fall of 1949.

The most serious challenge facing Western Berlin sociologically continues to be a solution of the unemployment problem. The peak was reached in the middle of February 1950 when 308,800 were unemployed, largely due to the "creeping" blockade the Soviets had instituted following the lifting of the big blockade. Since the beginning of the Emergency Public Works Program in April of this year, unemployment has been slowly dropping and was 274,000 on May 31.

When Berlin was split into East and West by the Soviets in November 1948, the question of uncolored higher education came to the fore as the University of Berlin was located in the Soviet Sector. To ensure that students seeking a democratic education would not have to study at a Communist controlled university, it was necessary to form a university in Western Berlin. Through support from the Western Allies, the Free University was opened in December 1948. Not only has the stature of the Free University increased physically, but its position of leadership in democratic thought and action in Berlin has risen constantly.

The greater number of theaters and movie houses were destroyed during the war. Three of the four opera houses were burned out. Today, Western Berlin has seven theaters and 178 movie houses. There are two symphony orchestras, one opera house, and several concert halls in Western Berlin. Regardless of Soviet attempts to control the city, Berlin has never lost its position as the cultural center of Germany. The growing connection between Western Berlin and the free community of nations in the cultural field may be seen by the numbers of foreign artists who have given performances here during the past year, and was highlighted by the Congress for Cultural Freedom held in Berlin during June 26-30, 1950.

The most striking facet of the postwar sociological developments has been the continued strength of morale displayed by the Western Berliner in the maintenance of his freedom.

Occupation Structure

Under terms of the Potsdam Agreement, Berlin is occupied by the representatives of four nations; the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union. The city is divided into four sectors. Each occupation power has one sector of the city over which unilateral control is exercised. The Quadripartite Allied Kommandatura was established in the early days of the occupation as the instrument through which representatives of the Four Powers could govern and take action on problems involving Berlin as a whole.

Present tripartite occupation of Western Berlin through the Allied Kommandatura is similar to the tripartite occupation of Western Germany through the Allied High Commission. When the Soviets blockaded Berlin in 1948, their delegation left the Allied Kommandatura and has not returned. The other three members have continued meeting and have always preserved the position of being a quadripartite organization, administering the entire city. The bulk of Kommandatura work is done in its seven committees which dovetail with the city government and whose members are drawn from the unilateral civil staffs.

The special position of Berlin at the center of the Cold War made it desirable to have one office in each national element charged with command of both the civil and military phases of the occupation. For the United States element, this was accomplished in September 1949 through the creation of the office of the United States Commander, Berlin. The insularity of Berlin's position plus the constant attacks the city is subject to from the Soviets made it advantageous to assign this Unified command to a military figure.

The United States Commander, Berlin, is responsible for civil functions to the United States High Commissioner for Germany and for military matters to the Commander-in-Chief, European Command. The immediate office of the United States Commander, Berlin, is very small and primarily coordinates activities of civil and military units in Berlin.

The major share of day-to-day activities is handled by either of the two primary units responsible to the United States Commander, Berlin. For civil matters, the Office of the United States High Commissioner for Germany, Berlin, or; for military matters, Berlin Military Post. The structure of the Office of, the United States High Commissioner for Germany (HICOG), Berlin, closely parallels that of the Office of the United States High Commissioner for Germany located in Frankfurt and there in close liaison on Berlin problems between the two organizations. Similarly, Berlin Military Post, in structure, follows the pattern of the European Command (EUCOM), Heidelberg, and enjoys close working relationships.

Soviet Sector 'Do's and Don't's

The Soviet Sector contains some of the most interesting landmarks in Berlin and, of course, should not be avoided necessarily by one visiting the city. There are certain basic rules one should keep in mind, however, when visiting the Soviet Sector.

Of course, the guiding principle is that of good common sense.

If you should enter the Soviet Sector during your stay in Berlin


1. Ensure that someone knows you are going and where you inten to be.
2. Make certain you are carrying identity documents and that they are in order.
3. If you experience difficulties with the Soviets, or the police, inform United States officials by calling the Provost Marshal (74-2266) or the Staff Duty Officer, Berlin Military Post (74-43651).
4. Ensure that you do not cross into the Soviet Zone.


1. Conduct yourself in a manner that can be interpreted as provocative.
2. Enter into ideological arguments.
3. Use cameras unwittingly, participate in black market activities, or violate traffic regulations.


No trip to Berlin would be complete without seeing some of the famous sights of the city. The Special Services Tours Section, Berlin Military Post, provides weekly tours of Berlin and Potsdam. Below are listed a few of the more interesting sights in Berlin:

Western Berlin

Tempelhof Airfield — This is one of the three airfields in Western Berlin made famous during the blockade as being receiving points for goods airlifted to the city. The other two are Gatow, located in the British Sector and Tegel, in the French Sector. Tegel was constructed during the blockade to handle the overflow of traffic from Tempelhof and Gatow.

Magistrat — The Magistrat (city government) is presently located in a district (Schoeneberg) town-hall. Prior to the Soviet split of the city in 1948, the Magistrat was located in the Soviet Sector. Unable to continue peaceful meetings, the freely elected city government moved to Western Berlin in December 1948.

United States Headquarters - The buildings comprising "Headquarters Compound" were originally used by the Luftwaffe in World War II. Before the United States High Commissioner moved his headquarters from Berlin to Frankfurt, these buildings served as main headquarters for the Office of Military Government for Germany (US). Today, they house the office of the United States Commander, Berlin; HICOG, Berlin Element, and; Berlin Military Post headquarters.

The American Consulate is located at 35 Grunewald Strasse.

Wannsee — This natural lake is located on the western edges of the city. It is connected with water arteries leading to and from Berlin and serves as a summer playground.

Funkturm Exhibition Halls — This development, completed in 1926, includes modern exhibition halls, lending themselves to all manner of expositions held in Berlin.

Olympic Stadium — This served as the site of the 1936 Olympics, following its completion in 1934. In addition to central stadia, it has swimming pools, a hockey stadium, and riding facilities. On the grounds, also, is the world's largest outdoor theater just recently
opened, which seats 20,000.

Tiergarten — One of the most famous landmarks in Berlin is the Tiergarten. This development, a park dedicated to famous Germans, suffered serious damage during the war. Today, it hardly resembles its former brilliance, but progress is slowly being made in renovating this once beautiful area.

Soviet Sector

Brandenburg Gate — The most famous of Berlin's landmarks is Brandenburg Gate, lying just inside the Soviet Sector. This is on the famous "East-West Axis" and has figured prominently in Communist and anti-Communist postwar demonstrations in the city.

Schlossplatz — In this area one finds old castles, ex-governmental buildings, and former cultural institutions. This was, before the war, the vital center of the city. Today, following razing and destruction through battle damage and bombing, these buildings are for the
most part in ruins and not used.

Treptow Park Soviet War Memorial — Completed last year, the Garden of Remembrance was dedicated to Soviet soldiers whose lives were lost in the battle of Berlin.

Map of Berlin

Map of Berlin 1950

Shopping Centers

While Berlin does not specialize in any particular consumers' item there are, nevertheless, excellent shopping centers where one can find well-stocked stores displaying attractive merchandise at reasonable prices. There are three major shopping centers in Western Berlin:

Kurfuerstendamm— Probably Berlin's best shopping center, referred to by many as Berlin's "Fifth Avenue."

Schloss-Strasse — Berlin's biggest shopping center offering a wide selection of goods.

Tempelhofer Damm — This is relatively new to the list of the better shopping centers and is desperately trying to take the lead away from Kurfuerstendamm and Schloss-Strasse as Berlin's number one shopping center.

Soviet Sector

Of course, there are shopping areas in the Soviet Sector. However, quality . selection, and service in Western Berlin are far superior.

Administrative Facilities

While in Berlin the following administrative services, offered by HICOG, Berlin Element, may be of assistance in facilitating your requirements:

Transportation — For official business, only HICOG, Berlin Element, personnel are authorized to procure transportation for you. If this is not feasible, call (74)43483 during duty hours, or (74)21141 after.

Other than official service, there are United States-sponsored German taxis (Taxibal) in addition to regular German taxis.

Travel Orders — Information concerning travel orders for accredited United States personnel from Berlin to Western Germany via military transport or private vehicle can be obtained by dialing (74)43483.

Billeting — Information on billeting can be secured through the Berlin Military Post Transient Accommodations Branch, (74)42654, or the Visitors' Bureau, (74)42033.

Additional queries about the Post Exchange (PX), commissary, mess and club facilities, currency. or any administrative matter will be welcomed by HICOG, Berlin Element, Administration Division, (74)43163 or (74)43787.

No attempt has been made to re-edit the texts. Only blatant typographical errors have been corrected.

This page is a supplement to Berlin in Early Cold-War Army Booklets. This is a reprint of a series of six army booklets on Berlin, covering the period from 1946 to 1958. The booklets are written from a single institutional viewpoint, that of the United States Military Command in Berlin. When read in parallel, the booklets create a sense of living history, because, while they cover the same topics of interest about Berlin, their coverage of these topics changes as the series progresses, and you can see the political relationships of the time change before your eyes.

While you are here, check out these other interesting links:

The feature article in the May 1959 issue of Army Digest was on Berlin. Follow me to read it.

Berlin in Early Berlin-Wall Era CIA, State Department, and Army Booklets. This is a reprint of three booklets that the historical context of The Day Before the Berlin Wall. They cover the period from 1958 to 1966, spanning  the critical year in which the Wall was built: 1961.

The November 1961 issue of Army Digest carried a photo montage of the U.S. Army responding to the Communist challenge on the front lines of freedom in Berlin.

The August 1969 issue of Army Digest ran an article on the Berlin Duty train.

Also by this author: three award-winning Berlin novels:

Voices Under Berlin: The Tale of a Monterey Mary

The Day Before the Berlin Wall: Could We Have Stopped It?

Reunification: A Monterey Mary Returns to Berlin

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