Allied Kommandatura governs Berlin

The Allied Kommandatura (Allierter Kontrolrat) – a military government council of four victorious powers – governed post-World War II Berlin. The Kommandatura subordinated to the Allied Control Council and was located at Kaiserswerther Str. 16-18 in Berlin’s district of Dahlem.

Former Allied Kommandatura, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2016, www.

Former Allied Kommandatura, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2016,

Creation of the Allied Kommandatura

Soviet forces captured Berlin in April 1945, taking control of the entire city. American and British forces did not enter Berlin until July. During the intervening weeks, the Soviets had plundered the city and removed most of the city’s industrial infrastructure, livestock and farm products. Although U.S. Colonel Frank L. Howley was initially tasked with the preparation of a plan for quadripartite governance of the city in situations when unanimity could not be obtained, Washington later stipulated that quadripartite governance was to be unanimous in all instances.

How the Allied Kommandatura operated

The first official business meeting of the Allied Kommandatura took place on 11 July 1945. Based on a coin toss, the Russians commandant chaired this first meeting. The Americans and British followed, along with the French after about three months. Translators stood behind each commandant. When the American commandant spoke, the French commandant’s interpreter translated the words into French. The Soviet commandant’s interpreter translated the French into Russian because he didn’t speak English. Initially, chairmanship at the meetings changed every two weeks, later monthly. The position of the flagpoles rotated in accordance with chairmanship.

What put the Soviets in the Kommandatura’s saddle?

The task of the Kommandatura was to determine which issues needed to be addressed and to issue orders accordingly. During the Kommandatura’s three-year active existence (1945-1948). the commandants signed nearly 1300 quadripartite orders. The very first order issued put the Soviets firmly in the saddle because it reinforced all preexisting Russian regulations that had been put into place throughout the city before the Western Allies had arrived. Thereafter, anytime the Western Allies protested a Russian action, the Soviets responded by stating that they were simply abiding by some statute that had already been in place prior to the arrival of the Americans, British, and French.

The end of the Allied Kommandatura

As time passed, meetings became more and more cantankerous. Issues would be debated for weeks and months. Then, without quadripartite approval, the Soviets issued Order No. 20 in their sector. At the next Kommandatura meeting on 16 June 1948, the French commandant and chair, General Jean Ganeval, proposed rescission of that order so that the fourteen points could be discussed separately. The Soviets refused. Near midnight, after over thirteen hours of heated discussion, the American commandant, Colonel Howley, asked to be excused due to a heavy schedule the following day. Chairman Ganeval granted permission, and Howley left his deputy in charge. The Soviet delegation, however, took offense and walked out, just as they had walked out of the Allied Control Council three months earlier.

Commemorative plaque at the former Allied Kommandatura site, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2016,

Commemorative plaque at the former Allied Kommandatura site, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2016,

Today’s Use of Allied Kommandatura building

Built between 1926 and 1927 as an administrative building for public fire and insurance carriers, the building continued to be used as Kommandatura headquarters until 15 March 1991 when the Two-Plus-Four-Treaty took effect. Since 1994, the building serves as the office of the President of the Free University of Berlin.


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