Like Germany itself, Berlin was divided into four sectors
: American, British, French, Soviet. Berlin was inside the
Soviet sector (East Germany, the German Democratic Republic). In 1959, you
could walk right through the Brandenburg gate to East Berlin. No
checkpoints, no guards. Subways ran back and forth too. If you want to see
some good footage of this, I highly recommend these excellent films:
Big Lift (1950). An extraordinary film, shot entirely on location in
the ruins of West and East Berlin, about the Berlin Airlift, filmed only 8
years before I flew into Berlin Tempelhof on a DC-4 airliner, civilian
counterpart to the C-54 cargo
plane used in the
airlift, at age 14 when I took these pictures.
- Billy Wilder's One, Two,
Three, a Cold War comedy filmed in 1961 (I was still in Frankfurt) just
before the Wall went up, 2 years after I took these pictures.
And these too, which are not about Berlin but were also filmed on
location in the rubble shortly after WWII:
Before Dawn (1950), about the final months of the war, filmed largely in
the ruins Würzburg, Mannheim, and Nürnberg, a joint
US-German-Austrian production. It's amazing how much these places were
rebuilt between 1950 and 1959-61, when I saw them.
Third Man with Orson Welles (1949). Not about Berlin, but Vienna
(Wien), which was also divided into four sectors of occupation, like Austria
itself and exactly like Germany.
Wilhelm church ruin was preserved as a reminder of the consequences of
war. The Reichstag
(parliament building) was burned down by Nazis in 1933 (there is still
some controversy about this; do a Web search on "reichstag fire" to find
lots of material and draw your own conclusions), then blamed on the
Communists as a pretext for suspending civil rights and due process. The Soviet War Memorial commemorates the 20 million people
of the Soviet Union who died in the German invasion; placing it in West
Berlin was a major public relations coup. It was guarded by a small
contingent of Red Army soldiers, who marched in solemn slow motion around
it. 2500 Soviet troops are buried here. CLICK
HERE for a recent large color photo of the memorial. It's still there,
but no more Red Army.
Mitte und die Welt – wie sie einmal war 1914-1989,
P.J. Ortmann, published by the author (2009) (has one of my photos in it).
Gallery (contributed by Robert C. Paul).
Soviet War Memorial