tv Reel America NATO Background to Berlin - 1962 CSPAN August 4, 2018 8:01am-8:31am EDT
of berlin from the end of world war ii to the construction of the berlin wall in 1961. produced by the nato information service this half hour film details the berlin air lift, creation of the north atlantic treaty organization, and the problems facing the city and the western allies as the cold war developed. >> the building of walls, the erection of barbed wire and barriers can never long divide peoples, never create a permanent prison for the human spirit. for the strength of the wall is measured only by the fear of those who built it. [helicopter engine]
this is a city 30 years ago. one of the greatest in the world. in size and stature, ranking with london, paris, rome, new york. ♪ alive and in unity, this was berlin in the 1930's. no barriers at the brandenburg and no guards. this was berlin before hitler came to power. [explosion] 1945. and this was berlin, a city in name only and geographical location.
[drums] amid the rubble of destruction and flags of the victors, men who had taken up arms in the common aim to destroy that which menaced them all. around them a defeated nation for the armies met in the very middle of germany. until such time as germany could reshape her own destiny she would be divided into separate zones of occupation each controlled by an allied power, american, british, french, russian. economically, she would be treated as a whole. this, the victors had agreed, when they met to decide the future of germany. even then some had reservations about mutual trust, but a world war just over they had to trust
one another or else begin another war. for berlin, it was to be each part with its sector, but a city open to all the powers until berlin could again assume her role as the capital after new -- of a new german state. berlin lay a hundred miles deep in the soviet occupation zone but was not part of it. access to the city was agreed to over certain roads, railways, and three air corridors. makeshift, perhaps, but then it was never meant to be permanent. in berlin, they set up a kommandatura, the headquarters of an allied commander where, day by day, officers of the four occupying powers would work by joint agreement as to what was to be done and how and, frankly, what was to be done in starting again from scratch.
amid the ruins and deprivation , slowly a start was made not only upon the physical reconstruction but also the political rebirth of the city. it would appear that the soviets had agreed to joint occupation , only because they believed that in the first free elections berlin would vote communist. so it was with confidence that they watched the democratic processes of free ballot. though communist support in berlin was far from negligible, for them the results came as a shock. instead of a landslide for the extreme left, there came a victory for the social democrats and other noncommunists. in june 1947, the town assembly elected their mayor, this proved to be a victory without fruit. for the allied commander of the
frustrated soviets vetoed his election. it was a step, ominous and foreboding. until that moment, the city had been divided in name only. the russians made the division more clear cut from then on and set up a communist system in their own sector and established decided barriers between it and those of their recent allies. these were the years that the iron curtain expression became a realty. along the line from the baltic, a clamp down. in place of a victory, barbed wire, suspicion, and distrust. years of disillusionment. there flowed a steady stream of refugees east to west. soon it became clear most were moving westward because they could not tolerate life in the east.
again, an ominous sign. in the eastern sector of berlin, communist power was fully established. party buses, party youth, party rallies. permeating with all of the hysteria previously only associated with the nazis. by organizing special police and paramilitary units the soviets were illegally rearming east germany. in the world councils of the united nations, there was an endeavor to establish a lasting peace. these were the days of stalinist expansion and so by repeated refusals to cooperate except on their own terms the soviet delegates sabotaged any progress toward real stability. on the june 23, 1948, west berlin introduced monetary reform, without which economic recovery would have been impossible. new for old.
the currency was revalued. for the russians their disagreement gave them the excuse for action. west berlin they could not touch but they could and did interfere with the life lines on which west berlin depended. the roads, railways, canals. these were west berlin's vital utterance. so stop the trains. close the roads. bar the canals and cut the power. west berlin was a hundred miles deep into the soviet zone of germany. this was to be the way to force the western allies to quit berlin. thus 2 million people were isolated. to be faced with the prospect of hunger, cold, unemployment, and misery. no way in, no way out. the only element still open, the
air above. it started as a trickle as a temporary measure. plane after plane. destination? the air fields of west berlin. the vital necessities, food, raw materials, even coal, brought in by air until the united states, great britain, and france were embarked upon the biggest air transport operation history has ever seen. around the clock, plane after plane. even flying boats to set down on west berlin's lakes. in the beleaguered city, power
shortages forced transport shortages, and there was a food shortage. -- shortages. rather short measure than surrender. as each night fell the roar of air engines increased. dependence on power from the eastern sector, west berlin was plunged each night into a blackout. while west berliners felt their way through the gloom, still the air lift continued through the hours of darkness. when west berliners rose each dawn, it was again to the roar of planes. because of those planes there was bread in the shops. this was to be the pattern for many a hard month ahead. it was to be expected that the soviets would not take the air lift without some reaction. across the eastern boundary, the communists staged demonstrations against what they called this western interference with berlin affairs.
these in turn led to riots which forced noncommunist counselors to abandon the berlin town hall which lay in the eastern sector, but in the western sector unity against the blockade was overwhelming, symbolized by the leadership. [speaking german] >> any joint administration of berlin as a whole had already ceased to exist. a fact emphasized by the abandonment by the russian of the allied kommandatura. city government for greater berlin was impossible since the western counselors had been driven from the east. so the noncommunists moved into new quarters in the west and at their meetings empty chairs stood witness of the fact the east berliners were denied the right to choose representatives freely. for the west the berlin blockade came as the last straw. soviet behavior had demonstrated that no one was safe.
after much negotiations 12 nations came together to form an alliance for collective defense. its name? the north atlantic treaty organization. or as it came to be known, nato. together in washington in april of 1949 they put the seal on their union. they were resolved as they put it, to unite their efforts for collective defense and the preservation of peace and security. it was to be the end of leaning over backward in the face of consistent soviet expansion. meanwhile, for west berlin it had been a tough winter. on the air fields fog, mist, and freezing cold. yet, in spite of the conditions, the air lift had carried on. in spite of the conditions, and the lufft.
by means of the air lift, west berlin had been kept alive. but only at a cost. all of the sufferings of war in the midst of peace. there could be no turning back now. if the russians thought the city could not be supplied indefinitely by air, they would be proved very wrong, for the air lift or possible reinforcements. more planes, improved runways. greater facilities. and so what had begun as makeshift, became routine. food and supplies, month in,
month out. soon it became clear that the west had not only won a victory against logistics, but also a model victory which drew the admiration of the world. thanks to the crews of the air lift. victory through determination to defend the right. meanwhile, a series of signatures on pieces of paper had slowly but surely turned into practical steps toward military cooperation and collective rearmament within nato. the goes of unity in the west was such that the russians, while still breathing threats, had realized their pressure was inducing the very opposite of the disunity on which they counted. so, for the free world, a
historic night. the road leading to west berlin, the barriers were pushed aside for the first time in nine months. as cars and trucks stream forward so the railway boards read once again "this train for berlin." but if the russians believed the lifting of the blockade would cause the west to lower its guard, they were mistaken. nato had been born and until the east displayed a vastly different spirit, nato was to stay. no stopping now. as yet, forces were still weak. but as soon as possible they must be built up as strong, defensive shields. and what now, berlin? mayor reuter and the berliners, having won with western help the battle of the blockade now began the process of placing west berlin on a basis of economic prosperity. a city, still an island, linked
by the arteries, whose own existence had been so hardly won. but now through them, west berlin was to draw strength to make itself no longer just a fragment of the city but a unity within itself. still across berlin as a whole, there was much traffic over the borders. on the overhead and underground railways, berliners came and went. true, the sector boundaries still loomed up, but they did not prevent passage across the city. at the eastern sector border the trams, though continuing on , nonetheless were forced to change both drivers and conductors. while at this border, too, anyone passing had first to change his money for the east
did not accept western marks and vice versa. but on the very border itself, watched by the police on both sides, still a steady movement both ways. why not when all were berliners? there were many passing but one way, a steady stream of refugees to the west. a steady stream unceasing since the end of world war ii but growing day by day as life became more intolerable under a communist regime. the island of west berlin became the staging point for the free road to the west. to all but the most prejudiced, it was obvious all was far from perfect the on the border. and on june 17, 1953, came proof.
on that day a march of east berlin workers turned into a rebellion against the communist regime. for some hours that regime was helpless, until, in desperation, they called in the red army. and so because stones and courage against tanks are not enough, the revolt died. after the june uprising, the movement of refugees could no longer be termed a stream. it had become a flood. throughout the western sectors of berlin, the humming factories
were evidence of their rising prosperity. soon indeed, west berlin was to become again the most powerful production center in all germany. with the confidence, there had been sorrow. crowds passed to pay homage to man who helped save their city. ernst reuter was dead but his work was already showing great results. meanwhile in the years of uneasy , truce the soviet union has systematically turned her zone into a purely communist regime and blocked every attempt to treat germany as a whole. the three western powers had no alternative but to move forward with the economic unification of their zones. this was followed by political unification. independence was not long in coming and there was born a new sovereign state, the federal republic of germany. the status of berlin, however,
was not changed. it remained the responsibility of the four occupying powers and the garrisons stayed. the guarantee of security for western germany depended on the overall strength of the atlantic alliance. the chancellor and federal parliament agreed the new republic should join nato so bringing the organization's strength up to 15 nations. by now strength was no misnomer. though the crisis was far from over, nato's power was such to make any aggressor think carefully. now the west could negotiate from a position of strength and confidence. at the geneva summit the soviets paid lip service to the principle of german reunification but blocked any practical progress. in the negotiations, all of the trying could not break down the iron curtain. for west berlin it was still go
ahead. to the traveler flying in the city displayed a brave, new face. on arrival he would see the first, memorial to the air lift, a sign west berlin remembers those who won its survival. after that, a new sky line risen from the rubble. if west berlin had, as communist of alleged -- as communist alleged, little hope for the future it was not on the face of their steadily changing city. in west berlin, a new look. in east berlin? [silence] from beyond verstammerplat stale -- still thousands arriving. a flood to air lift off island to find new homes in the west.
in the face of continued soviet obstruction the 15 nato nations sought to clear the soviets' minds as to how alliance stood on the question of berlin. already in 1954, the three powers responsible for berlin had made it clear beyond doubt that any attack against berlin from any quarter would be treated as an attack on their forces and on themselves. the other members of nato immediately associated themselves with this declaration. all proposals made by the soviets toward solving the question of the reunification of germany acknowledged the means of free elections to which the west was and is firmly committed. until such time as the soviets changed their minds, the nato nations will stand firm in face of all soviet pressure and honor their pledge to maintain the freedom of west berlin and its people. a pledge often repeated at nato ministerial meetings. so until there was a change of front on the part of the east it
would seem germany and berlin would remain divided but evidence that the status quo did did not suit everybody in the east, was the continued flood of refugees passing through to west berlin. in november, 1958, soviet pressure comes on again. khrushchev began to create his own crisis. by threatening to sign a separate peace treaty with the east germans. paris, may 1960. --khrushchev, used the u2 incident is used today break up a summit conference meant to bring the berlin questions nearer to solution. he drops his threat to take immediate action but does not change his tune. berlin, he alleges is the capital of a sovereign east germany. and the allies must be made to quit berlin. here beyond communist germany the force is there. men and armor.
june 4, 1961. to president kennedy he repeats his threat to sign a separate treaty. which he claims will and all western rights in berlin, and so on. move after move, until -- on august 13, 1961, a wall of east german police stand at the brandenburg gate. all communication between the eastern sector and those of the west have been cut as though by a knife. before it, west berliners stand , stunned. but soon they give voice to the indignation. [chanting crowd]
to all objections, all approaches, the only answer, jets of water from eastern armored trucks. soviet attacks on rights of the western powers in berlin show that the wall was meant to be a step toward control of the whole city. toward forcing out the western powers. as the last escape routes were cut, one after the other, final scrambles to not be left behind in the prison. this was an exodus not confined merely to civilians. even among the east german police guarding and maintaining the new barrier some decided they, too, had reached the end of their tether. there was nothing left but to cut and run. >> [speaking in german]
>> at protest meetings held in the western sector, the mayor and people of west berlin called for help and support from the three western powers. and they did not call in vain. along the autobahn, taking in reinforcements for the three garrisons stationed in berlin. in all, these garrisons numbered only 12,000 men. a small force compared to the massive weight of the 20 soviet divisions which surround the city. if or so small, but it gives the lie to soviet charges that berlin is an aggressive western base. but the reinforcements were the symbols of western determination. they demonstrated to the soviet union any aggression threatening the life of west berlin could bring into play all of the defensive power of the west. a firm stand, so far, and no further.
brick by brick until no contact but a friendly wave. >> [german message on loudspeaker] >> when the chancellor visited the crisis area, he was met not only by radio truck insults but literally by a wall. but a wall can never create a permanent prison for the human spirit. its strength is measured only by the fears of those who build it. by night, by tunnels, somehow a few still manage to make their escape until riddled with east wereeir escape, but others riddled with east german bullets. for the east the wall is
evidence of how they would like to treat the whole of berlin, of their kind of settlement of the berlin problem. this is where freedom like the trams comes to the end of the line here. for the west, such settlements are unacceptable. ever since the atlantic alliance was created it was driven to solve all problems by peaceful negotiation including the reunification of germany and berlin in freedom. but it is negotiation from the strength necessary to with stand the threat of force and nato's determination to resist the aggression has the hope for peace for millions all over the world.
>> next week on american history tv on c-span, watch the first of our nine part series, 1968, america in turmoil, where we look back into the tumultuous history of that year starting monday we will discuss the vietnam war, on tuesday look at the presidential campaign of that year, on wednesday civil rights and race relations, on thursday discussion on liberal politics, on friday conservative politics. on friday -- on saturday, women's rights. turmoil,8, america in next week on american history tv are-span3, online programs available on spotify as a podcast, or watch anytime at c-span.org on our 1968 page.
next, we hear from presidential speechwriters, we heard from june she and john mcconnell, who wrote for president george w. bush and vice president dick cheney. new york university hosted this 90 minute program. the external affairs associate, and on behalf of the center at university -- and new york university, thank you for coming, tonight marks the first of set -- many summer events in the young leaders network series, by developing the young leaders network, we seek to create programs that enrich the time that students spend at their summer internships and in washington, d.c.