Berlin (West) or West-Berlin
West Berlin
Allied-occupied sector of Berlin
Flag of Germany (1946-1949)
1949 – 1990 Flag of Germany
Flag of Berlin

Flag of Berlin<p> Flag

Occupied Berlin
The four occupation sectors of Berlin. West Berlin is in light blue, dark blue and purple
Historical era Cold War
 - Established 1949
 - Reunification 3 October, 1990
Wberlin transport 78

West Berlin, as of 1978.

West Berlin was the name given to the western part of Berlin between 1949 and 1990. It consisted of the American, British, and French occupation sectors established in 1945. It was in many ways integrated with, although legally not a part of, West Germany. The Soviet sector became East Berlin, which East Germany claimed as its capital; however, the Western Allies did not recognize this claim, as they asserted that the whole city was legally under four-power occupation. The building of the Berlin Wall in 1961 sealed the border to West Berlin, which since the end of the Second World War had been surrounded by communist East Berlin and East Germany.


The Potsdam Agreement established the legal framework for the occupation of Germany in the wake of World War II. According to the agreement, Germany would be formally under the sovereignty of the four major wartime allies — the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union — until a German government acceptable to them all could be reconstituted. Germany would be divided into four zones, each administered by one of the allies. Berlin, though surrounded by the Soviet zone, would be similarly divided, with the western allies occupying an enclave consisting of the western parts of the city. According to the agreement, the occupation of Berlin would end only as a result of a quadripartite agreement. (This clause did not apply to Germany as a whole.)[citation needed] The western allies were guaranteed an air corridor to their sectors of Berlin, and the Soviets also informally allowed road and rail access between West Berlin and the western parts of Germany.

At first, this arrangement was officially a temporary administrative expedient, and all parties declared that Germany and Berlin would soon be reunited. However, as the relations between the western allies and the Soviet Union soured and the Cold War began, the joint administration of Germany and Berlin broke down. Soon Soviet-occupied Berlin and western-occupied Berlin had entirely separate city administrations. In 1948, the Soviets tried to force the issue and expel the western allies from Berlin by imposing a land blockade on the western sectors. The west responded by using its guaranteed air corridors to resupply their part of the city in what became known as the Berlin Airlift. In May 1949, the Soviets lifted their blockade, and the future of West Berlin as a separate jurisdiction was ensured. By the end of that year, two new states had been created out of occupied Germany — the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) in the West and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) in the East — with West Berlin an enclave surrounded by, but not part of, the latter.

Legal statusEdit

According to the legal theory followed by the Western Allies, the occupation of most of Germany ended in 1949 with the declaration of the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic. However, because the occupation of Berlin could only be ended by a quadripartite agreement, Berlin remained an occupied territory under the formal sovereignty of the allies. Hence, the Grundgesetz (constitution of the Federal Republic) had no application in West Berlin. Also West German federal law as such did not apply to West Berlin, but the House of Representatives of Berlin (German: Abgeordnetenhaus von Berlin; the West Berlin legislature, reunited Berlin's legislature bears the same name) used to vote in every new federal law, periodically collected to bundles of several new laws, without debate in order to maintain legal equality with the pre-1990 Federal Republic of Germany.

The Western Allies remained the ultimate political authorities in West Berlin. All legislation of the "Abgeordnetenhaus", the domestic state and the adopted federal law, only applied under the proviso of the confirmation by the three Western Allied commanders-in-chief. If they approved a bill, it was enacted as part of West Berlin's statutory law. If the commanders-in-chief rejected a bill, as was the case with West German laws on military duty, the respective law was not valid in West Berlin. West Berlin was run by the elected Governing Mayor and the Senate of Berlin (city government) seated at Rathaus Schöneberg. Governing Mayor and Senators (ministers) were to be approved by the Western Allies and thus derived their authority from the occupying forces, not from their electoral mandate.

The Soviets unilaterally declared the occupation of East Berlin at an end along with the rest of East Germany, but this move was not recognized by the Western Allies, who continued to view all of Berlin as a jointly occupied territory belonging to neither of the two states.

However, in many ways, West Berlin functioned as the de facto 11th state of West Germany, and was portrayed on maps published in the West as being a part of West Germany. There was freedom of movement (to the extent allowed by geography) between West Berlin and West Germany. There were no separate immigration regulations for West Berlin: all immigration rules for West Germany were followed in West Berlin. West German entry visas issued to visitors were stamped with "valid for entry into the Federal Republic of Germany including Berlin (West)", authorizing entry to West Berlin as well as West Germany itself.

Berlin Alert 0400

In 1969 U.S. military vehicles roar through rush hour traffic in the residential district of Zehlendorf, a routine reminder that West Berlin was still legally occupied by the World War II Allies.

The ambiguous legal status of West Berlin meant that West Berliners were not eligible to vote in federal elections; instead, they were indirectly represented in the Bundestag by 20 non-voting delegates chosen by the West Berlin House of Representatives. Similarly, the West Berlin Senate sent non-voting delegates to the Bundesrat. However as German citizens, West Berliners were able to stand for election; including Social Democrat Chancellor Willy Brandt, who was elected by means of his party's list of candidates. Also, men there were exempt from the Federal Republic's compulsory military service; this exemption made the city a popular home for West German youths, which resulted in a flourishing counterculture that became one of the defining features of the city.

Other anomalies included "provisional ID cards" without the West German coat of arms, a ban on Lufthansa and most other airlines' flights to the city because the air corridors between West Germany and West Berlin as agreed in the post-war era were to be used exclusively by British, French or U.S. military planes or civilian planes registered with companies in those countries. The air corridors, also covering all the German-German border area, were not under German, but under Allied control by the quadripartite Berlin Air Safety Center. In its procedures and agreements, frozen to invariable rules by the Cold War, no change as to allowing other civil airlines did emerge. Even without this to consider, East Germany probably would have refused to permit flights from West Berlin through the airspace under its control since it too claimed the Lufthansa name. With West Berlin surrounded by East German territory on all sides, flights out of West Berlin would have been logistically impossible. Nevertheless flights of the West German Lufthansa or the East German Interflug between East and West Germany (such as between Cologne and Leipzig) existed, but had to go either through Danish or Czechoslovakian airspace, circumventing the prohibited zone along the German-German border, which was under the control by the quadripartite Berlin Air Safety Center.

West Berlin had its own postal administration, separate from West Germany's, which issued its own postage stamps until 1990. However the separation was merely symbolic, in reality West Berlin's postal service was completely integrated with West Germany's, using the same postal code system. Similarly, West Berlin used the same international dialling code as West Germany, +49, with the area code 030.

Communist countries however did not recognize West Berlin as part of West Germany and usually portrayed it as a "third" German jurisdiction. The disagreement about Berlin's status was one of the most important debates of the Cold War.

Nationality Edit

While East Germany established a separate East German nationality in 1967, a distinct West German nationality did not exist. Instead West Germany assumed the pre-WW2 all-German nationality to continue for all ethnic or naturalized Germans in West Germany, East Germany or any part of Berlin. So while West Berlin was not unanimously regarded as part of the Federal Republic, its citizens were treated equal to West German citizens by West German authorities nonetheless, save for the above limitations imposed by its legal status.

This meant that West Berliners could circumvent part of these limitations if they had a second home in West Germany proper. For example, they could vote in Bundestag elections and they could be drafted to West German military service if they did so.

Naming conventions Edit

Officially, West Berlin was called "Berlin (West)" by the West Germany government, and, for most of the period of its existence, "Westberlin" by the East German government, which suggested that West Berlin wasn't really part of "Berlin" as a whole; the latter began to use "Berlin (West)" in the late 1980s. East Berlin was officially called Berlin, Hauptstadt der DDR ("Berlin, Capital of the GDR"), or simply "Berlin," by East Germany, and "Berlin (Ost)" by the West German government, "Ost-Berlin", "Ostberlin" or "Ostsektor" by West German media.

These usages were so ingrained that one could deduce a source's political leaning from the name used for Berlin or its parts. East Germany, during its existence, considered East Berlin as an integral part of its territory, as well as the capital of the state. West Berlin, not formally part of either East or West Germany, technically remained a military occupation zone until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The West German Government, as well as the governments of most western nations, considered East Berlin to be a "separate entity" from East Germany.[1]

The years of divisionEdit

Karte berliner mauer en

Map showing location of the Berlin wall and transit points

While West Berlin was a formally separate jurisdiction from East Berlin after September 1948, there was, for more than a decade, freedom of movement between the two, and in many ways Berlin still functioned as a single city. However, the eastern authorties gradually disconnected the two parts of the city. The electricity grid was partioned in May 1948. The tram and bus networks were disconnected in 1952, the telephone network followed suit. The U-Bahn and S-Bahn public transit networks, rebuilt after the war, continued to span all occupation sectors. Many people lived in one half of the city and had family members, friends, and jobs in the other.

As the Cold War continued, many East Germans began leaving East Germany for the West. East Germany closed the borders between East and West Germany in 1952, and sealed off the border with West Berlin; but because of the four-power status of the city, the border between East and West Berlin remained open. As there was freedom of movement between West Berlin and West Germany, Easterners could use the city as a transit point to the West.

To stop this drain of people defecting, the East German government built the Berlin Wall, thus physically closing off West Berlin from East Germany, on August 13, 1961. It was still possible to travel from West Berlin to West Germany by air and by specific rail and autobahn transit routes set aside for that purpose, but inhabitants of the two Berlins were now physically and legally separated from each other.

On June 26, 1963, U.S. President John F. Kennedy visited West Berlin and gave a public speech known for its famous phrase "Ich bin ein Berliner."

The Four Power Agreement on Berlin (September 1971) and the Transit Agreement (May 1972), helped to slightly ease the tensions over West Berlin and at a practical level made it easier, though with nightmarish restrictions, for West Berliners to travel to East Germany and simplified the bureaucracy for Germans travelling along the autobahn transit routes.

At the Brandenburg Gate in 1987, U.S. President Ronald Reagan provided a challenge to the then-Soviet premier: "General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

On November 9, 1989 the wall was opened, and the two cities were once again physically — though still not legally — united. The so-called Two Plus Four Treaty, signed by the two German states and the four wartime allies, paved the way for German reunification and an end to the western occupation of West Berlin. On October 3, 1990 West Berlin and East Berlin were united as the city of Berlin, which then acceded to the Federal Republic as a state, along with the rest of East Germany. West Berlin and East Berlin thus both formally ceased to exist.

Districts of West BerlinEdit

Bundesarchiv Bild 173-1282, Berlin, Brandenburger Tor, Wasserwerfer

Entering East Berlin from West Berlin

West Berlin comprised the following boroughs:

In the American Sector:

In the British Sector:

In the French Sector:

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit


  1. "Germany, East." Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia, 11. Funk & Wagnalls, Inc., 1990. ISBN 0-8343-0091-5
Preceded by
European City of Culture
Succeeded by

Template:Boroughs of Berlin


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