The US gave massive aid to West Germany as a bulwark against communism. East Germany, already devastated by the war, had to pay $10 Billion in war reparations .More than 1,600 factories in East Germany ( 40% of the industry in East Germany ) was dismantled and taken to the USSR . All second tracks of railways, half of all printing presses and thousand of farm horses were also taken to the east . Outright Russian looting ended around 1948. It is estimated when reparations were finished in 1953 that reparations cost East Germany $22 billion. Despite this, East Germany managed to regain its pre WWII level of industrial output by 1953 .


Video on the Berlin Airlift


German factory being dismantled for war reparations



By the late 40s, the Cold War was heating up . The Soviets began insisting that the German capital be reunited with the Soviet sector in which it was located . By December 1947, there were strong arguments over this at the ACC meetings  .In Feb 1948 the Soviets announced they were placing severe travel restrictions on travel through their zone to reach Berlin .In March, the Soviets withdrew from the ACC and refused to deliver packages mailed to their zone.  The Soviets wanted to keep the weak currency so Germany's economy would not revive .


1949 East German Pfenning, made of aluminum


In June 1948, the US, France and Great Britain announced a new currency, the Deutsche mark, to replace the weak Reichsmark, which prompted the Soviets to issue their own currency for  East Germany, the ostmark  on June 23 and as a pretext to blockade West Berlin . By introducing the currency into western Berlin, it threatened to create a bastion of economic resurgence deep within the Soviet zone. Stalin, considering this a provocation, now wanted the West completely out of Berlin.The Soviets declared that the Western Allies' right to occupy Berlin was terminated and all British, French and American troops must leave Berlin. The Soviets turned off  Berlin's electrical power and stopped shipments of food into west Berlin .The Allies responded with the Berlin Airlift .


 The Candy Bombers: The Untold Story of the Berlin Airlift and America's Finest Hour

 Draws on newly declassified documents, unpublished letters and diaries, and first-person interviews to document the contributions of an unlikely band of second-string soldiers and haggard military leaders in enabling the success of the Berlin Airlift humanitarian relief operation



map of the blockade of Berlin.A= Berlin-Helmstedt Railway. B=Berlin-Hanover Highway


Many doubted that there would be enough aircraft to bring supplies for the 2 million people of Berlin . The airlift began on June 26, 1948.Within a month 5,000 flights were coming into Berlin, landing 24 hours a day . Starting on August 10, they started harassing aircraft in the Airlift, and after one year, 733 incidents had been reported. One of their favorite acts was for Soviet fighters to buzz the cargo aircraft, or to shoot into the air near them. After a Soviet fighter buzzed a British passenger plane too closely, both planes crashed with a loss of 35 lives. Balloons were released in the corridors, flak was fired randomly and searchlights were shone on the aircraft. Additionally they set up a fake radio beacon on the same frequency as Tempelhof, in an effort to draw aircraft out of the airways. None of these measures proved very effective.

On April 21, a point was reached at which the amount of supplies flown into the city exceeded that previously brought by rail. The Berlin Airlift had finally succeeded, and appeared able to operate indefinitely.

The continued success of the Airlift humiliated the Soviets, and the Easter Parade was "the last straw". On April 25, 1949 the Russian news agency TASS reported a willingness by the Soviets to lift the blockade. The next day, the U.S. State Department stated the "way appears clear" for the blockade to end. Soon after, the four powers began serious negotiations, and a settlement was made on Allied terms. On May 4 the Allies announced that an agreement to end the blockade, in eight days, had been reached.

The Soviet blockade Berlin was lifted at one minute after midnight, on May 12, 1949. A British convoy immediately drove through to Berlin, and the first train from the West reached Berlin at 5:32 A.MA total of 101 fatalities were recorded as a result of the operation, including 39 Britons and 31 Americans, mostly due to crashes. Seventeen American and eight British aircraft crashed during the operation.

The cost of the Airlift operations were approximately $224 million ($2 billion in inflation-adjusted 2008 dollars)


PBS DVD on the

Berlin Airlift








Germany after WW2


The Birth of

East Germany 1949