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How Did West Germany Access West Berlin

by | Mar 7, 2024 | Cold War Tour Berlin


During the Cold War, Berlin was divided into East and West, with West Berlin being an enclave surrounded by East Germany. The Berlin Wall, constructed in 1961, made it challenging for West Germany to access West Berlin. However, several methods were used to ensure transportation and communication between the two regions, which we will explore in this article.

1. Berlin Airlift

After World War II, Germany was split into four occupation zones, with the Soviet Union controlling East Germany. In 1948, the Soviets blockaded all land and water routes to West Berlin in an attempt to gain full control of the city. In response, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France organized the Berlin Airlift. They flew supplies, including food and fuel, into the city to sustain its population. The Berlin Airlift successfully provided necessary resources to West Berlin and demonstrated Western determination in the face of Soviet opposition.

The Berlin Airlift lasted for almost a year, from June 1948 to May 1949. Over 277,000 flights delivered approximately 2.3 million tons of supplies. This massive logistical operation ensured the survival of West Berlin and showcased the commitment of the Western Allies to protect their interests in the divided city.

2. Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie was the most famous crossing point between East and West Berlin. It was located in the Friedrichstraße, connecting the Soviet and American sectors. American, British, and French military personnel manned the checkpoint, overseeing the movement of people and goods.

To access West Berlin, individuals had to go through strict document checks and verifications at Checkpoint Charlie. The checkpoint became a symbol of the Cold War division and was often associated with tense stand-offs between Soviet and Western forces. However, it remained a vital gateway for diplomatic personnel, non-German residents, and limited tourist visits.

3. Transit Routes and Autobahn

West Germany maintained transit routes, commonly known as transit corridors, that allowed them to travel through East German territory to reach West Berlin. These routes were strictly controlled and monitored by East German authorities.

The most prominent transit route was the Autobahn, a German highway system connecting various cities. Autobahn 2, also known as the Transit Autobahn, played a crucial role in connecting West Germany to West Berlin. It passed through East German territory, and transit travelers were strictly prohibited from exiting the highway until reaching West Berlin.

4. Rail and Water Routes

Rail and water routes were also utilized to maintain connections between West Germany and West Berlin. Special trains and ships operated by Western Allies and West German authorities were used for transportation.

Trains running between West Germany and West Berlin required passengers to pass through control points and undergo document checks. Similarly, water routes, such as those along the River Havel and Lake Wannsee, were used to transport goods and people. These routes required coordination between Western Allies, West German authorities, and East German border guards.

5. Telephone and Postal Services

Communication between West Germany and West Berlin was maintained through telephone and postal services. Special arrangements were made to ensure efficient communication, considering the political division between the two regions.

Telephone calls to and from West Berlin were routed through dedicated lines, and operators had to connect the calls manually. Postal services also operated through designated channels, ensuring mail was delivered securely and efficiently.


Despite the Berlin Wall dividing East and West, West Germany devised various methods to access West Berlin. The Berlin Airlift provided crucial supplies, Checkpoint Charlie served as the most iconic crossing point, transit routes and the Autobahn facilitated overland travel, rail and water routes ensured transportation, and dedicated telephone and postal services maintained communication.

These efforts demonstrated the resilience and determination of West Germany to sustain West Berlin’s existence and defy the Soviet blockade. The methods employed to access West Berlin played a significant role in easing the hardships faced by the population and maintaining essential connections between the divided regions.

How Did West Germany Access West Berlin