Berlin, The Cold War Years – A Hot War in reality. Part 1.
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 was completely encircled, first by barbed wire, then bricks and finally a concrete wall, along with the infamous ‘death strip’.
Remains of the Berlin Wall and ‘Death Strip’ –February 2012
During my time in Berlin in the 80’s, I was one member of a small army intelligence unit that had the task of monitoring Soviet and East German activity in the Eastern Sector of Berlin. In February 2012, I returned to Berlin again, after a gap of 25 years; I would like to share with you some of my experiences.
Brandenburg Gate –February 2012
As you can see from these recent photographs of the Brandenberg Gate, the general public now has free access to both sides of this unique monument. On the day I took these photographs a protest was in progress right next to it, unheard of back in the 80’s. By the way, West Berliners don’t normally dress as Monks and wear white face masks.
Brandenburg Gate -‐ 1983
As this photograph, from the early 80’s, shows access to the monument was prohibited and the Berlin Wall is in plain view.
During the Cold War, there was very much a dark side to East Berlin. Although I had seen the Soviet Special Camp and Ministry of State Security (Stasi) Remand Prison from the outside in the 80’s, on my recent visit I was able to see it from the inside.
Outside the walls of the Stasi Prison, Genslerstrasse, Berlin – February 2012
Although we endeavoured to gain access to all areas, we were often boxed in by the VOPO’s, Volkspolizei, who frequently tried to detain us and often blocked us in, sometimes covering our vehicle in blankets.
Stasi Prison-‐water torture cell – February 2012
For this particular site, the Stasi Prison, it was obvious why they didn’t want us near it. The above photograph shows the instrument used for water torture.
Vehicle used to transport and disorientate Stasi prisoners –February 2012
When arrested, they were driven around Berlin in a sealed vehicle for up to 4 hours to disorientate them. Bear in mind the prisoners were on Remand and had not, as yet, been convicted. They were basically held until such times as they signed a confession, then taken to court and sentenced.
Padded cell for isolating the prisoners – February 2012
In the padded isolation cells, as above, the prisoners were held incommunicado. There was even a traffic light system in the corridor to ensure prisoners never met.
Russian T-‐62 tank, East Berlin -‐ 1982
When monitoring Soviet troop movements such as these, the reaction was often far more violent. On one occasion, our vehicle rammed side on, so hard and pushed along sideways, that the tyres were ripped off the wheels. And on one occasion, I was personally dragged out of my vehicle and beaten up by Soviet and KGB troops.
Russian BMP-‐1, East Berlin – 1982
Photographs are copyrighted to Harvey Black