3 minutes 30 seconds
00:00:00 - 00:00:26
In early 1945, both the USSR in the east and the US-led allies in the west were racing to capture Berlin. As you'll know, the USSR got there first and took the city in April of that year. Yet, after the war was over, Berlin didn't simply remain a part of the USSR's occupation zone or even East Germany, but was itself also divided between the victorious powers. Which raises the question, why? Why did the Soviet Union hand over West Berlin to the Allies when it already controlled it?
00:00:26 - 00:00:56
So it won't surprise you to know that Berlin being the capital of Germany meant that it had a symbolic status to the victorious powers. As such, when both sides were discussing how Germany would be divided, it was agreed that Berlin would also be shared. Everyone had agreed to this because nobody knew who would get to Berlin first and so making sure everybody got a slice of it seemed fairest. That said, Stalin wasn't exactly famous for being a man of his word, and so when Soviet troops captured the city he had to choose to hand most of it over to the Western Allies. And his reasons for doing so were actually quite simple.
00:00:56 - 00:01:23
First of all, there was still a war going on. In the East, Japan was still warring away and so both the Western Allies and the USSR needed to get along. The Soviet Unions are a massive opportunity in controlling massive amounts of territory in China, Korea and also potentially Japan. And thus, alienating Washington, London and Paris wasn't going to make the post-war recognition of any changes easier. As such, Stalin honored his previous agreements because handing over a chunk of a city in return for a chunk of a continent seemed like a good trade.
00:01:23 - 00:01:56
Secondly, Stalin believed that the division of Berlin was only a temporary measure. The Allies were simply doing so to show unity and it was an inevitability that cool heads would prevail and Berlin would be reunited. The plan was never to divide Germany up permanently, and Stalin had hoped that a reunited Germany would soon become communist, and by extension, under his control. As such, handing over West Berlin wasn't seen as a concession but as a goodwill gesture to the Soviet Union's partners. Furthermore, given that West Berlin was well within the USSR's occupation zone, Stalin knew that he could simply starve the Western powers out with the stroke of a pen.
00:01:56 - 00:02:23
When it became clear that Germany's division was going to become permanent and that the West was going to incorporate their Germany into an anti-Soviet bloc, he closed the west of the city off, and the US knew that without having the ability to bring in food, they'd have to leave. Or at least they would have, had Stalin not made 1 tactical blunder. He forgot the sky existed. As a result of the blockade, the US and Royal Air Forces airdropped food and supplies into Berlin for just under a year until Stalin relented. And it was at this point that Stalin had realised his mistake.
00:02:23 - 00:02:47
Western occupation of Berlin wasn't just symbolic of Germany's defeat, but also of their commitment to resisting the USSR. And without any way of removing the West without full-scale war, the plan was to make staying there as difficult as possible. This was done by holding up shipments and making the red tape oppressively hard to navigate. This ultimately didn't work, which is why in 1958 Stalin's successor Nikita Khrushchev issued an ultimatum to the West. Leave Berlin or we'll do...
00:02:47 - 00:03:18
Something. The Allies said no and when the deadline passed and nothing happened, well, that was it. And eventually the USSR just sort of had to accept that it made a mistake handing over half of Berlin, because the Western powers weren't going anywhere. I hope you enjoyed this episode with a special thanks to my Patreon supporters... Captain Psydog, Marvin Cassell, Boogalewoogalee, Kim Moon Yoon, Winston K.
00:03:18 - 00:03:18
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