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Trips to Berlin from London
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Travel / Tours / Berlin / History
Berlin's history and monuments
  Weimar Repiblic
  Third Reich / World War Two
  Cold War
  Modern Berlin
  Further information


A brief introduction to Berlin's history and some of its historical monuments.

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* 1791: the Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate) is opened. The statue on top, known as the Quadriga, is added in 1796.

Brandenburger Tor ("Brandenburg Gate")



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* 1919: Proclamation of the Weimar Republic
* 1920s/early 1930s: there is an economic crisis in Germany, partly caused by the need to pay reparations after World War One. The government responds by printing money, leading to hyperinflation. The world stock market crash in 1929, followed by several years of depression, make the economic situation worse. The democratic system starts to weaken: people look for solutions by supporting politicians from either the extreme right (fascists) or from the extreme left (communists).
* This was a lively cultural period in Berlin: the theatre, music and cabaret shows provide people with a temporary escape from their problems. The musical / film "Cabaret" is set in this period, based loosely on a book by Christopher Isherwood.

Cabaret [1972] - 30th Anniversary Special Edition (DVD)
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Date: September 2002
Cabaret [soundtrack] (CD)
Artists: Liza Minnelli & others
Label: Mca
Date: April 1997
Berlin Stories: Two Novels (book)
Author: Christopher Isherwood
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company Ltd
Date: February 1988
What I Saw: Reports from Berlin 1920-33 (book)
Author: Joseph Roth
Publisher: Granta Books
Date: April 2004

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* 1933: Hitler takes power. In February the Reichstag burns down, and communists are blamed. Hitler takes on emergency powers and uses these to assume complete control. Opposition is suppressed violently. Books are burnt.
* 1936: The summer Olympic Games take place in Berlin (the decision to stage the Games here was made before Hitler came to power).

"Dem Deutschen Volk" ("to the German people")

Berlin's Olympic

* On 9/10 November 1938 Jewish homes, shops and synagogues are attacked across Germany in what is known as Kristallnacht (the "Night of Broken Glass").
* On 1 September 1939 Hitler invades Poland, causing Britain to declare war on Germany. World War Two starts.
* In 1943 there are major air raids on Berlin by the British. Much of the city is destroyed by bombing between now and the end of the war. The Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedaechtniskirche ("Kaiser Wilherm Memorial Church") was badly damaged: its main tower was later reconstructed with an incomplete spire (a reminder of the war), and a modern church was built next to it.
* In 1945 Hitler shoots himself in his underground bunker. Soviet soldiers take over Berlin and the eastern part of Germany.
* Before and during the war many people whom the Nazis regarded as "inferior" (including Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and the disabled) or who were believed to oppose their regime (including communists) were taken to concentration camps, where they were made to do forced labour or were killed. For information about one of the camps near Berlin - Sachsenhausen - see: Travel/Tours/Berlin/Sachsenhausen.

damaged during bombing raids on Berlin

A new memorial for Jewish victims
of the Nazi regime

The Bonfire of Berlin: A Lost Childhood in Wartime Germany
Author: Helga Schneider
Publisher: William Heinemann
Date: March 2005
An Underground Life: Memoirs of a Gay Jew in Nazi Berlin
Author: Gad Beck
Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
Date: September 2000

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* 1945: a monument is created to remember the soldiers who died in this battle: you can see this on Strasse des 17 Juni, near the Brandenburg Gate (it is called the Sowjetisches Ehrenmal).

Sowjetisches Ehrenmal
(Monument to Soviet Soldiers)

Sculpture of a
Soviet soldier

* In the post-war settlement agreed at the Potsdam Conference of 1945, Berlin is divided into four zones, run by the Americans, British, French and Soviets. The American, British and French zones later become West Berlin, and the Soviet zone becomes East Berlin.

One of the first two tanks which entered Berlin
when Soviet soldiers entered the city

This mural in East Berlin shows an idealised way of life:
everyone is shown smiling and working together

* 1948/9: the Soviets block the land routes to West Berlin through East Germany, in an attempt to take over the whole of the city. The Americans, British and French respond by organising continuous flights to get supplies to West Berlin: this is known as the Berlin Airlift (Luftbruecke). After a year the Soviets stop the blockade and allow supplies to enter by road.

Luftbruecke: a memorial for those who
died in the Berlin Airlift 1948-9


* 1949: West Germany becomes the Federal Republic of Germany (capital city: Bonn). East Germany becomes the German Democratic Republic (capital city: East Berlin), although this name was misleading because its government was not democratic.
* 1953: Strikes in East Berlin and other parts of East Germany lead to an uprising. The authorities use force to put this down, killing many people.

1953: strikes in East Germany
(this protester is demanding free elections)

The 1953 uprising:
suppressed by army tanks

* 1950's: Wirtschaftswunder (economic miracle) in West Germany. Increasing numbers of East Germans move to West Germany.
* 1961: The Soviets build the Berlin Wall to prevent East Germans from moving to West Germany. Anyone who tries to cross the wall is shot. For more information about the wall, see: Travel/Tours/Berlin/Wall.
* 1989: The fall of the Berlin Wall

The Rise and Fall of the German Democratic Republic, 1945-90
Author: J.M. Dennis
Publisher: Longman
Date: November 2000
Anatomy of a Dictatorship: Inside the GDR, 1949-1989
Author: Mary Fulbrook
Publisher: Clarendon Press
Date: December 1997
Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall
Author: Anna Funder
Publisher: Granta Books
Date: June 2004

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* 1990: East and West Germany are reunited. Berlin becomes the capital city again
* Reconstruction begins in the land that was formerly in the "death strip" next to the Berlin Wall
* The Reichstag building is rebuilt and used for the new German parliament

Reconstruction after the fall of the Berlin Wall

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Useful websites:
Berlin tourist information:

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Visit Berlin: Travel/Tours/Berlin
Visit Germany: Travel/Tours/Germany
Travel in Europe: Travel/Transport
Useful links relating to Germany and the UK: Links/Germany
British history: Britain/History

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