Berlin, the Cold War Years – Part 4.
At the end of World War 2, what remained of pre-war Germany was divided into four zones of occupation. Each of the Allied powers; the United Kingdom, United States, France and Russia, controlled one of them.
The capital of Germany, Berlin, was also divided into four Sectors. The consequence being, that the three Western Allied powers now controlled territory deep within the Soviet Union Zone of Germany.
Over time, the tensions between the four Allied powers increased, eventually resulting in the Berlin blockade in 1948, when the Soviets attempted to starve West Berlin into submission and force the other three Allied powers out. This failed and the Soviets eventually relented, but an ever-increasing number of East Germans fled to the West; between 150,000 and 300,000 a year during 1951-1953. As a consequence restrictions were placed on movement between the divided country. From 1961, the border was closed and Berlin completely encircled, first by barbed wire, then bricks and finally a concrete wall, along with the infamous ‘death strip’.
Access was now restricted between Berlin and the West. A wall, 124 mile miles in length, was placed around the three sectors of West Berlin, cutting off the city from the rest of the world.
Remnants of the infamous Berlin Wall – February 2012
Remnants of the infamous Berlin Wall – February 2012
Having free, unhindered access to East Berlin and Museum Island was a real treat for me. Below is the Der Deutschen Kunst Museum, the House of Art Museum.
Deutschen Kunst Museum – Berlin – February 2012
Deutschen Kunst Museum, Berlin. Joseph Goebbels visiting – 1937
Also on the Island, the Berliner Dom, or Berlin Cathedral. In the 1940′s, it suffered considerable damage from bomb blast waves and incendiaries. Over the years it has been slowly restored.
Berliner Dom – February 2012
With my passion for military history, I naturally wanted to see this building below, Wilhelmstrasse 81-85. Luftwaffe Historians would know that in 1933, the newly formed Reich Aviation Ministry, headed by Hermann Goering, occupied it. The complex was demolished in 1935 and was re-built. The building you see today, with over 2,000 rooms.
Wilhelmstrasse 81-85, Berlin - February 2012
The Bebelplatz is known as the site of the infamous Nazi book burning ceremony held on the evening of the 10th May, 1933. Today, a memorial by Micha Ullman, consisting of a glass plate set into the cobblestones, shows empty book cases below.
Bebelplatz, Berlin – February 2012
At the end of the day the GDR, and East Berlin, were occupied by the Soviet Union and their military were ever present.
Russian T-62 driving passed a Kindergarten - East Berlin 1983
There were ‘Restricted Areas’ where the Soviets preferred us not to go. We naturally ignored them. I got this one to take home as a souvenir.
Russian helicopter taking an interest in us. Hip (Mi-8) – East Berlin 1983
This one is a deadly Hind-D (Mi-24). The worlds first Attack Helicopter. East Berlin – 1983
Below are some photographs of the Treptow Soviet Memorial. Although the GDR was part of the Warsaw Pact, the Soviets were still very much an occupying power. The memorial below, to the Soviet soldiers killed in WW2, is of a significant size.
Main entrance. The people give you an indication of its size. East Berlin – February 2012
View from the main entrance. Note the vertical slabs either side – East Berlin, February 2012
Each slab was carved with a scene depicting elements of WW2 – February 2012
Treptow Park Memorial – East Berlin, February 2012
The view looking back towards the entrance. East Berlin, February 2012.
For an interlude, I will share a few shots of my very first parachute jump. I did my jumps between my first tour in Northern Ireland and coming to Berlin. I completed my jumps with the Dutch Commandos, my first one landing on my feet, arse and head. Not quite the perfect roll I had anticipated.
Gulp, I’m ready. 1981
Yes that is me. My chute did open.
Yes you do have to carry your own chute back!
One key event that occurred every year, was the military parade to celebrate the formation of the GDR. This was naturally a key concern for the western allies. A country we didn’t officially recognise, holding a military parade on our doorstep. It was also an opportunity to disguise the movement of troops for a potential attack.
Troops start to flood in on the outskirts of East Berlin – 1984
First one is a FROG (Free Rocket Over Ground) 7 resupply, the second a FROG 7 TEL (Transporter, Erector, Launcher). FROG 7′s played a key part in the missile attacks on Israel during the Yom Kippur War.
Ural 375 – East Berlin 1984
Troops also arrived by rail – East Berlin – 1984
BRDM at the front and two ACRV’s, Armoured Command and Reconnaissance Vehicle. East Berlin 1984
Many of the troops were camped out at various parks and car parks on the outskirts. East Berlin 1984
Night time operations were a regular part of our life, often staying out for days at a time. East Berlin 1984
Posing shot… - East Berlin 1984
Then the fun and games begin….
Can you spot him? East Berlin 1983
See him now?
The VOPO were never far away. East Berlin 1984
The more troops and equipment that arrived, the more reinforcements to make life difficult for us. East Berlin 1984
Underside photographs were a key goal. This one showing a mine plough attachment. Weld thickness would also help in determining the thickness of a tanks armour. East Berlin 1984.
This is of a BMP-2, moving at the time. East Berlin 1984.
The tensions steadily got worse. Don’t forget, we didn’t recognise the GDR government, let a alone the Police. West Berlin police had no authority over us either, as we were also an occupying power in West Berlin. East Berlin 1984.
The glasses were fashionable at the time!
BMP-2, the latest MICV, Mechanised Infantry Combat Vehicle, in the GDR and Soviet arsenal. An AT-5, Spandrel anti-tank missile sits on top of the turret. East Berlin 1984.
BMP 1. A close up of the AT-3, Sagger, anti-tank missile. The wire guided missile devastated
the Israeli tanks during the Yom Kippur War - East Berlin 1984
SA-13 Gopher, Surface to Air Missil carrier. – East Berlin 1984
SA 8 Gecko, Surface to Air Missile carrier – East Berlin 1984
T-72 tank, the latest in the GDR Army, the NVA, National Volksarmee. East Berlin 1984.
During the parade preparations they didn’t like us being around. A bit difficult when one of your team is six foot eight
and built like a brick wall. – East Berlin 1984
SA 9 Gaskin, Surface to Air Missile, mounted on a BRDM 2. East Berlin 1984
SA 4 Ganef. Surface to Air Missile, resupply vehicle. Big! Flew at Mach 4 and could reach a height of 20 miles.
Now I know why I didn’t join the RAF (Best air force in the world). East Berlin 1984
FROG 7 TEL, East Berlin 1984.
The German Navy was always in attendance. East Berlin 1984.
Tatra 813 towing and M1974 artillery piece. East Berlin 1984.
T-72 East Berlin 1984
BMP -1, MICV with troops. One draw back was thin armour and fuel tanks in the back doors. East Berlin 1984
Silkworm TEL, Surface to Ship Missile. East Berlin 1984.
Silkworm missile resupply. East Berlin 1984.
T-72. East Berlin 1984.
T-72. East Berlin 1984
The military were pretty high tech, not so the cars. The famous Trabant.
One Trabant hit us and didn’t leave a mark, but the cars front end fell off. Berlin 2012.
The VOPO, Volkspolitzei’s main mode of transport in the 80′s. Berlin February 2012.
I shall finish off with an old photo of the ICC, the International Congress Centre. West Berlin 1982.
My intention is not to portray a particular message, but just share some of my photographs and experiences with you.
Photographs are copyrighted to Harvey Black