Posts Tagged ‘Potsdam Agreement’

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

Usedom – Germany’s Sunniest Region

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

Usedom is an island in the Baltic Sea. Shared by Germany and neighboring Poland, its Polish name is Uznam. Prior to 1945, the entire island was part of Germany. However, following World War II and in keeping with the Potsdam Agreement, the eastern part of the island was relinguished to Poland. At the same time, the native German inhabitants were expelled westward and replaced by Poles. Many of the Poles who repopulated the vacated area had been expelled themselves by the Soviets from what had been eastern Poland.

Today, Usedom’s 172 square miles are split between the two countries. About 80% of the island belongs to Germany. However, almost 60% of the isle’s total population of 76,500 inhabits the Polish part of the island. Following World War II and before German Reunification in 1990, Usedom’s German part of the island was part of East Germany.

Usedom’s Geography

The major German cities on Usedom include the city of Usedom in the west, the Dreikaiserbaeder (Three Emperor Spas) Heringsdorf, Ahlbeck and Bansin in the southeast Zinnowitz and the Amber Spas (Koserow, Loddin, Ueckeritz and Zempin) in the northeast, and the small port of Peenemuende in the north of the island. A tiny fishing village in the 1930s, Peenemuende has a darker history. Hitler launched the V-2 rocket here. Today, very little of the weapons factory remains because most of it was destroyed during Allied raids.

The largest city on the Polish side of the island is Swinoujscie. Its German name is Swinemuende.

Usedom – the Sun Island

Usedom is often called the “Sun Island” because it receives more sunshine than any other region in Germany or Poland. And since Germans are famous for their insatiable appetite for sunshine, the island’s average 2,000 hours of sun per year makes it a choice coastal resort. But sunshine is not the only reason Germans like to vacation on Usedom. Its wide variety of attractions include the island’s 25 miles of white sand beaches, its string of elegant 19th century villas, its renowned medical and wellness spas and its unspoiled nature. In 1990, the entire island was designated a nature preserve. Its interior features castles, lakes and historic villages. A five-mile promenade connects Usedom’s Dreikaiserbaeder. On one side, elegant Wilhelminian villas line the boardwalk. On the other side, sun worshippers relax in wicker beach baskets, known as Strandkoerbe (for more information on the history of the Strandkorb, visit Small pine forests separate the villages.

Strandkoerbe (wicker beach baskets) line the beaches of Usedom, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2014

Strandkoerbe (wicker beach baskets) line the beaches of Usedom, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2014

Usedom’s History

Usedom has been settled since the Stone Age. Since the late 19th century the island has been a popular summer resort. Two German emperors — Friedrich III (1831 to 1888) and Wilhelm II (1859 to 1941) — were frequent visitors. Wealthy Berliners built their palatial villas on the island. Even during the Cold War Usedom retained its exclusivity because top Communist party functionaries enjoyed the grand island villas. Many of the officials came to savor the Freikoerperkultur (FKK) on the beaches. (for more on FKK in Germany, visit Although FKK beaches still exist on Usedom, nudity-seekers are greatly outnumbered by spa-goers.


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 Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.