Cold War: The Berlin Blockade 1948-49 Return to the gallery menu
Worksheets Big Question  

What sources will you choose from the case study on the Berlin Blockade and why?

The Background
After the defeat of Germany in 1945 the country was divided into four zones. Each zone was controlled by a different country - Britain, USA, France, USSR. Germany's capital Berlin was also divided into four zones. However, Berlin was deep inside Soviet territory. As a result, West Berlin became a very clear example of the contrasting attitudes of Stalin towards Germany and the attitudes of the other three powers.

Stalin's attitude was harsh but understandable. Germany had caused appalling damage to the USSR. As a result Germany would not be allowed to become strong again. It would also have to pay compensation to the USSR in machinery, money and even German workers.

US President Truman felt Stalin's policy was wrong. He had seen how the harsh Treaty of Versailles had caused another World War. He also now feared Stalin more than Germany. He saw a democratic Germany as a possible future ally against the USSR.

To achieve this, Germany would have to recover. In 1946 the three Western powers joined their zones to form one Germany. In 1948 they brought in a new currency. With Marshall Aid money Germany's industries began to recover.

Stalin saw this as an insult to the Soviet victims of WW2. He also saw it as a threat. The worst aspect of Truman's policy was seeing West Berlin recovering while Soviet controlled East Berlin and the regions around Berlin struggled to pay their debts to the USSR.


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The Berlin Blockade and Airlift
Stalin decided that the Western powers would have to be driven from West Berlin. In the summer of 1948 he blocked all road, rail and water links to West Berlin from the Western zones. With these supply lines blocked, Stalin thought that the West would have to withdraw and leave West Berlin to him.

As events showed, Stalin underestimated Truman. The Western Allies decided to bring essential supplies to West Berlin by air. It was a huge operation and lasted almost a year. In the end, Stalin saw that Truman would not give in so he ended the Blockade.

Your Task
Your task is to study the sources on the Berlin Blockade and decide what they tell historians about how the Cold War worked. You will also have to decide which sources you want to use in your exhibition.


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