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Who Controlled Berlin During the Cold War

by | Mar 7, 2024 | Cold War Tour Berlin

The Cold War was a period of political tension between the United States and the Soviet Union, which lasted from the late 1940s until the early 1990s. One of the key flashpoints of this conflict was the city of Berlin in Germany. In this blog post, we will explore the various entities that controlled Berlin during this tumultuous era.

The Division of Berlin

At the end of World War II, Germany was split into four occupation zones controlled by the victorious Allied powers: the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and France. Berlin, located deep within the Soviet-controlled eastern portion of Germany, was also divided into four sectors, each administered by one of the occupying powers.

The Four Sectors

The four sectors of Berlin were:

  • The American Sector
  • The Soviet Sector
  • The British Sector
  • The French Sector

Each sector had its own military, police force, and governing body. This division of power set the stage for the geopolitical struggles that would define the Cold War.

The Berlin Airlift

In 1948, tensions between the Soviet Union and the Western Allies escalated when the Soviet Union blockaded all road, rail, and water access to West Berlin. The purpose of this blockade was to gain full control over the city and force the Western Allies to abandon their positions.

In response to the blockade, the United States and its Allies organized a massive airlift operation to supply West Berlin with much-needed food, fuel, and other essential supplies. This operation, known as the Berlin Airlift, lasted for 11 months and successfully thwarted the Soviet blockade.

Lessons Learned

The Berlin Airlift demonstrated the determination of the Western Allies to maintain a free and independent West Berlin. It also highlighted the failure of the Soviet Union’s attempt to subdue the city through economic isolation.

The Formation of East and West Germany

In 1949, the Allied-controlled sections of Germany, including Berlin, were formally divided into two separate countries: the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany).

The Federal Republic of Germany, influenced by its Western Allies, became a capitalist democracy. Meanwhile, the German Democratic Republic, under the influence of the Soviet Union, adopted a socialist system.

The Berlin Wall

In 1961, as a response to the increasing number of people fleeing from East Germany to the more prosperous West Germany, the East German government built the Berlin Wall. This concrete barrier physically divided the city, symbolizing the ideological divide between communism and capitalism.

The Berlin Wall stood as both a physical and psychological barrier for 28 years, until it was finally torn down in 1989, marking the beginning of the end of the Cold War.


The control of Berlin during the Cold War was a complex and ever-changing dynamic. From the initial division of the city into four sectors to the construction and eventual fall of the Berlin Wall, Berlin was a microcosm of the larger conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union.

The struggle for control over Berlin showcased the determination of the Western Allies to defend freedom and democracy, as well as the limits of Soviet power. The eventual reunification of East and West Germany in 1990 marked the end of the Cold War and the triumph of democracy in Europe.

Who Controlled Berlin During the Cold War