Posts Tagged ‘Allied Kommandatura’

Soviet War Memorial in Treptow Park

Monday, June 26th, 2017


The Soviet War Memorial (Ehrenmal) in Treptow Park is one of three Soviet war memorials erected in Berlin following World War II. They honor the roughly 80,000 soldiers of the Red Army who fell in the Battle of Berlin, the final major offensive in the European theatre and one of the largest battles of World War II.

In the last days of the war, between 6 April and 2 May 1945, the Red Army battled bitterly the remnants of the German Army, the old men of the Volkssturm (National Militia) and the Hitler Youth. During that battle, more than 70,000 people were killed. The dead included more than 22,000 Soviet soldiers, 20,000 German soldiers and 30,000 civilians. To commemorate their victory, the Soviets built three lavish war monuments in Berlin: One is located in the park of Berlin-Treptow, the other two are located in Berlin-Pankow and in Berlin-Tiergarten. All three serve not only as war memorials but also as war cemeteries.

The Soviet War Memorial in Treptow Park was built between 1946 and 1949 on the site of a previous sports field. Some 5,000 soldiers of the Red Army found a final resting place in this enormous park.


Soviet War Memorial in Treptow Park, Berlin. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017.

Soviet War Memorial in Treptow Park, Berlin. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017.

Experiencing the Soviet War Memorial in Treptow Park

After entering the War Memorial through a stone arch, the first monument the visitor comes upon is the statue of Mother Russia, a woman weeping for the loss of her sons. From there, a wide tree-lined path leads to two giant Soviet flags made of red granite. The granite and stones came from Hitler’s demolished New Reich Chancellery, designed by Albert Speer, and The New Reich Chancellery was badly damaged during the Battle of Berlin and completely dismantled by the Soviet occupation forces after World War II had ended. Statues of kneeling soldiers flank the granite flags.


Mother Russia statue, Soviet War Memorial in Treptow Park, Berlin. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017.

Mother Russia statue, Soviet War Memorial in Treptow Park, Berlin. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017.


Sixteen stone sarcophagi line the sides of the paths of the Soviet War Memorial. The paths lead to a giant statue in the center of a grassy rotunda. Each sarcophagus represents one of the Soviet Republics in existence at that time. The sarcophagi are decorated with military reliefs and engraved with some of Stalin’s quotes. The imposing statue in the center of the rotunda depicts a Soviet soldier holding a German child in his arm while crushing a swastika at his feet with a sword. According to Marshal Vasily Chuikov, Army Commander during the Battle of Stalingrad, the 40-foot statue commemorates the selfless act of Sergeant of Guards Nikolai Masalov.

Statue of Soviet soldier holding a German child in his arm while crushing a swastika at his feet with a sword. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017.

Statue of Soviet soldier holding a German child in his arm while crushing a swastika at his feet with a sword. Soviet War Memorial in Treptow Park, Berlin. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017.

Masalov is said to have risked his life under heavy German fire to save a three-year-old German girl whose mother was killed. Although many Berliners voice doubt regarding the truthfulness of the story, it is nice to think that some people preserve their humanity, even when at war. What is definitely true is that Svetlana Kotikova served as the model for the German child. She was the daughter of Alexander Kotikov, the commander of Berlin’s Soviet sector who served in Berlin from 1946 on. During the Berlin Airlift, Kotikov represented the Soviets on the Allied Kommandatura. Commandant Frank L. Howley represented the United States. When Howley asked to be excused shortly before midnight on 16 June 1948 because he had a heavy scheduled the following day and left his Deputy in charge, Kotikov stomped out of the meeting and refused to participate in future meetings. The quadripartite governance of Berlin, in effect, came to an end because of his actions.

 Upkeep of Soviet War Memorial in Treptow Park

Initially, the Russian government paid for the upkeep of the Soviet War Memorial. But as part of the Two Plus Four Treaty of 1990 and the German-Russian agreement on the upkeep of war graves in 1992, Germany agreed to assume the responsibility for maintenance and repair for all war memorials and military graves in the country.


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of


Allied High Commission governs Germany

Monday, October 17th, 2016


The Allied High Commission (Alliierte Hohe Kommission) was a form of Allied military rule following World War II. It was established on 21 September 1949 by the three Western Allies (The United States, Great Britain and France) and superseded the Allied Control Council

Purpose of the Allied High Commission

The function of the Allied High Commission in Germany was to regulate and, if necessary, intervene in areas of military, economic, and foreign policy matters of the newly established Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany).

Creation of the Allied High Commission

On 9 May 1945, Germany unconditionally surrendered to the four allies: The United States, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union. The four allies assumed responsibility for the government of Germany via the Allied Control Council. Each power occupied a specific zone of Germany. Berlin, located entirely within the Soviet Zone, was to be governed by an Allied Kommandatura

The four Allies attempted to formulate a common administrative policy for Germany, but the divergent interests among the occupying powers made their efforts futile. In 1946, British forces agreed to an American proposal to merge their two zones to create a bizone for economic reasons. The bizone was established on 1 January 1947, and in June, a plan to include the French Zone was agreed upon. The Soviets blockaded West Berlin. In return, the Western powers counter-blockaded the Soviet zone and organized an airlift to keep West Berlin supplied. The Soviet Union finally lifted the blockade in May 1949, but Berlin remained divided into three Western and one Eastern sectors until the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Meanwhile, a German government was set up in the Western zones. In April 1949 the United States, Great Britain and France published a new occupation statute of Germany governing their respective zones. It guaranteed self-government to the new West German State, with certain restrictions. West Germany’s constitution went into effect in May 1949. In September, the Occupation Statute went into effect, and the Allied High Commission replaced the Allied Control Council in September 1949. images/government publications/pdfs/germany-allied-control-zone-government-publications.pdf

The High Commission took its seat at the Hotel Petersberg became active as of 21 September 1949. It ceased to function under the terms of the Treaties of Paris on 5 May 1955.


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of

Allied Kommandatura governs Berlin

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

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.


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of

Berlin Blockade and the Cold War

Monday, April 25th, 2016

Until the Berlin Blockade began in 1948, the United States had no intention of occupying West Berlin beyond the establishment of a new West German government in 1949. But the subsequent Berlin Blockade and ensuing Cold War kept the U.S. in West Berlin until 1994.

An important omission in the Potsdam Agreement

In the summer of 1945, in the aftermath of World War II, the three victorious powers (the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union) signed the Potsdam Agreement. This document laid down the legal framework for the occupation of Germany and re-affirmed rules previously hammered out at the Yalta Conference. Specifically, the Potsdam Agreement addressed the terms of the military occupation, division, territorial changes, reparations and reconstruction of Germany. Accordingly, Germany was divided into three zones. Berlin, the capital, was also divided into three sectors, despite the fact that the city was located 100 miles inside Soviet occupation territory. Three air corridors from West Germany to West Berlin had been negotiated in the Potsdam Agreement, but rail, road and water access were never discussed. This omission was to be the basis for endless frustration.

Quadripartite administration of Germany and Berlin

The Allies established the Allied Control Council to execute resolutions concerning Germany and the Allied Kommandatura to implement resolutions concerning Berlin. When France joined the Allies as the fourth occupation power, its territories of Germany and Berlin were carved from the American and British occupation zones and sectors. The four Allies agreed to govern their respective zone and sector as they deemed fit, but unanimous agreement would be required in matters that concerned all of Germany or all of Berlin.

Events leading up to the Berlin Blockade

By 1948, the relationship between the four powers had gone sour. The three western powers wanted to help rebuilt Germany to stabilize the European continent, with the hope that it would prevent Communism from spreading. The Soviets preferred a weak Germany and an unstable continent, with the hope that it would provide fertile ground for the spread of Communism. It did not take long before the Soviets regretted having agreed to share the city of Berlin with the Western Allies. Now they wanted nothing more than for the three western powers to get out of West Berlin. Quadripartite control became unworkable. On 20 March 1948, the Allied Control Council met for the last time. On 16 June 1948, the Allied Kommandatura assembled for the last time. The Soviet delegation walked out for good.

After the Soviets had left the table, the three Western Allies made decisions concerning their occupation territories without Soviet input. On 21 June 1948, the Western Allies introduced a new currency in the western zones and sectors. They introduced the Deutsche Mark. The Soviets, who had not been consulted, objected vehemently. On 22 June 1948, the Soviets also introduced their own new currency in the eastern zone.

From Berlin Blockade to Berlin Airlift

On 24 June 1948, The Soviets blocked all rail, road and water connections between West Germany and West Berlin. They offered to lift the blockade only if the Western Allies agreed to withdraw the Deutsche Mark from West Berlin. The Western Allies refused. The Soviets stopped supplying agricultural goods to West Berlin and cut off the electricity generated in the Soviet zone and relied upon by the three western zones of Berlin. There was only enough food to last for 35 days and enough coal to last for 45 days.

With surface traffic between West Germany and West Berlin severed and in the absence of negotiated ground access rights to the city, the only remaining possibility was to try to supply West Berlin from the air. On June 26, 1948, American military commander Lucius D. Clay had the first planes in the air. The Berlin Airlift began and the Cold War heated up. The Berlin Blockade lasted from 24 June 1948 to 12 May 1949.


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of