After reading about the Berlin Blockade, Lenny asked us to answer some questions and complete a chart about the topic.
The Berlin Blockade, 1948-9 Cold War: Iron Curtain
- What was life like in Berlin in the post-war era?
Life in Berlin was harsh after WW2 as this was a devastated city, greatly affected by war. Population had declined massively and the ones who still lived there had lost everything. People were now poor. In addition, German´s capital was also suffering the tension between the Soviet Union and the USA. Citizens wanted to recover from war, but it was not easy among still existing conflicts and tension in their territory. The fact that the place was divided in zones made population be confused and scared without knowing what would happen next. This scenario became worse after the Berlin Blockade, in which the West had no supply from the USA, GB and FR.
- How did Soviet policy towards Berlin differ from that of the West?
Soviet policy towards the Berlin differ from that of the West. Stalin specifically wanted to keep Germany crippled. He did not want Berlin of any other part of Germany to recover completely. However, the West had a very different idea on their minds, they wanted Germany to recover as she was before as without at least rebuilding their industries they would not be able to satisfy the population´s needs.
- Why was reform of the German currency a key issue for both sides?
The Western Allies (GB, USSR and USA) introduced a new currency into their new unified territory. Stalin believed the new currency was an attempt against the East economy. This finally lead into the Berlin Blockade, which finally meant the start of the Cold War.
- Why was the airlift such a major feat?
The airlift was a major feat as this was the final straw for the beginning of the Cold War. This event showed the rivalry between the two great powers and how this increasing tension was irreversible.
- In what respect can the USSR and US be responsible for further increasing tensions during the airlift?
The US and the USSR can be responsible for further increasing tensions during the airlift because they were very suspicious of each other although the two countries had expressed they were not willing to go to war. On the one hand, Stalin wanted to cripple Germany as they feared they could recover and eager any conflict, while on the contrary the western nations wanted Germany to at least recover to be able to satisfy their population needs. Moreover, Stalin blocked the supply roads between western germany and their zone in Berlin, as he thought this way Berlin would be totally dependent from the USSR, making the western states give up the capital. However, by 1949 it was clear for the Soviets that the Western Allies would not give up Berlin. The US saw the blockade as a threat to the freedom of Western Europe, finally giving a start to the Cold War.
- Why did Stalin eventually agree to talks over the airlift?
Stalin in the end was forced to reopen communications and remove the blockade as it was clear that this had not made the western countries give up Berlin and, on the contrary, numbers show that over this period more supplying airlifts got into the zone than before the crisis.
Extension question; Who was more to blame for Berlin becoming a major flashpoint in the Cold War, the Soviets or the Americans?
In my opinion they were both to blame. Although the USSR was the responsible for the last straw, which was the Berlin Blockade, the USA had been responsible for many other factors that increased tension. Firstly, the capitalist country had always been suspicious of Stalin’s actions. Also, he had promised to stop any other country from turning communist (policy of containment). Moreover, the atomic bomb tried without even consulting the soviets also increased the tension. Finally, considering all the previous events of the 1930´s in which these two countries had not had a good relationship either also contributed to the start of the Cold War. They were the two greatest powers which wanted to rule the world with their economies and ideals, but a the same time both had opposite ideas on mind (communism-capitalism…). The two nations contributed the the Cold War as this wouldn’t have happened without both increasing the tension, which is why none of them has more to blame.