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Who Controlled East and West Berlin?

by | Mar 7, 2024 | Cold War Tour Berlin

During the Cold War, Berlin became a significant symbol of the divide between the Eastern and Western blocs. As a result of World War II, the city was split into two distinct entities: East Berlin and West Berlin. In this blog post, we will explore who controlled each part of the city and how the division affected its residents.

The Division of Berlin

After the end of World War II in 1945, Germany was divided into four occupation zones controlled by the victorious Allied powers: the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and France. Berlin, located deep within the Soviet zone, was also divided into four sectors, each controlled by one of the Allied powers.

The sectors controlled by the Western Allies (United States, United Kingdom, and France) eventually merged to form West Berlin. Meanwhile, the Soviet sector became East Berlin. This division of the city was a reflection of the broader divide between the capitalist West and the communist East.

Control of East Berlin

East Berlin, along with the rest of East Germany, fell under the control of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union established a communist regime, converting the economy to a centrally planned system and implementing strict political controls. The Socialist Unity Party (SED) held power in East Germany, effectively making it a satellite state of the Soviet Union.

In the context of Berlin, the Soviet Union had full control over the administration, security, and governance of East Berlin. They erected the Berlin Wall in 1961 to prevent East Berliners from escaping to the more prosperous West. The wall became a symbol of the divided city and a vivid representation of the Iron Curtain.

Control of West Berlin

West Berlin, on the other hand, was jointly controlled by the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. Despite being geographically located within East Germany, West Berlin maintained economic ties and political alignment with West Germany and the Western Allies.

While it was physically surrounded by the Berlin Wall and the East German border, West Berlin became a symbol of Western democratic values. The area experienced economic growth and was seen as a showcase of capitalism during a time when communism dominated the Eastern Bloc.

Effects of Division

1. Isolation

The division of East and West Berlin had a profound impact on the residents of both sides. East Berliners faced restrictions on travel, limited access to Western media, and less economic prosperity. The East German government’s control over information meant that citizens were often isolated from the outside world and subject to strict propaganda.

Meanwhile, West Berliners faced geographical isolation, surrounded by the Berlin Wall and East German territory. However, the Western Allies provided support, ensuring a stable economy and supplying necessary goods through airlifts during the Berlin Blockade in 1948-1949.

2. Ideological Divide

The division of Berlin emphasized the ideological differences between the East and the West. In East Berlin, the communist ideology prevailed, and the government sought to suppress dissent and promote a socialist system. In contrast, West Berlin enjoyed the benefits of democracy, capitalism, and a more liberal way of life.

3. The Fall of the Berlin Wall

The division of Berlin lasted for nearly three decades until the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989. The peaceful protests and public pressure eventually led the East German government to allow citizens to freely cross the border. This event marked the beginning of the end of the Cold War and the eventual reunification of Germany.


The control of East and West Berlin during the Cold War had a profound impact on the lives of its residents. The Soviet Union controlled East Berlin and imposed a communist regime, while the Western Allies jointly controlled West Berlin, promoting democratic values and capitalism.

However, the division also created isolation and ideological differences between the two sides of the city. Fortunately, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 brought an end to the division and paved the way for the reunification of Germany.

Who Controlled East and West Berlin?