Contact | Get involved! | Login

What impact did the conflict have on people's lives?

Willy Brandt on the Berlin Blockade

Willy Brandt, future West German Social Democratic chancellor, was an assistant to the mayor of West Berlin during the Berlin Blockade of 1948-1949. He described what life was like in Berlin throughout this crisis:

At the beginning of the blockade the supplies in the west sectors were enough to guarantee the barely sufficient rations for approximately four weeks at maximum. In the first months just enough food was brought in by air to secure the further issue of the rations and to save the Berliners from starving to death – but hunger they could not be spared.
The stock of coal was supposed to last for thirty days but it was impossible to replenish it to the same extent as the urgently needed food. Apartments and the greater part of offices – even the administration buildings – could no longer be heated. Every family got for the whole winter an allotment of twenty-five pounds of coal and three boxes of wood. Some fuel was smuggled in by black-marketeers. Most of the families were glad when they could keep one room of their apartment moderately warm for a few hours of the day. Fortunately, the winter was not particularly severe. (…)
Electric current was only available for four hours daily, usually in two periods of two hours each. These periods came at different times of day in different sections of the city, and people had to rise at odd hours in order to take advantage of the available current. (…)
The Berliners did not waver, though in addition to hunger and cold – particularly in the first months of the blockade – they were subjected to a vicious fear propaganda. The Soviets declared that all of Berlin was theirs, and their newspapers in German language didn’t cease to foretell the realization of that claim. They spread rumors of different kinds, they didn’t spare threats and intimidations. Thus, here and there, doubts arose as to whether one would be able to resist the Russian pressure in the long run. The retaliation and vengeance in case of a defeat would be terrible.

Source: J.M. Hanhimäki & O.A. Westad (eds.), The Cold War: a history in documents and eyewitness accounts (Oxford 2004).

 

Europe for Citizens ProgrammeHistoriana is developed by EUROCLIO and partners with the support of the Europe for Citizens programme of the European Union. This website reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein. EUROCLIO has tried to contact all copyright holders of material published on Historiana, please contact copyright@historiana.eu in case copyright material has been unrighfully used.