The story we are telling you today began exactly 61 years ago. The Second World War
was over; the “Cold War
” had begun. The western zones
of occupied Germany were under the control of the Americans, the British and the French; the eastern part of Germany – which was to later become the communist GDR
– was the Soviet-
occupied zone. In the middle of this zone was Berlin, divided up into four sectors, each of which was administered by a victorious power. Any hopes that Berlin could be jointly administered by all the victorious powers were quickly dashed. Instead, for the next few decades, Berlin was to become the scene of a power struggle between the two major blocs – the Western alliance, led by the United States, and the Eastern Bloc, headed by the Soviet Union.
Because Berlin was in the middle of the Soviet zone, everything the people there needed but could not produce themselves had to be brought in by train, truck or car: in other words, everything had to be transported through the territory that was under Soviet administration. This then came to an end on the night of 24 June 1948. The Soviet Union had blocked all the access routes by land and water between the western zones and the western sectors of Berlin. The more than two million residents of West Berlin were cut off completely from food supplies.
The cargo plane of US pilot Gail Halvorsen approaching Berlin. Halvorsen, who used to drop sweets attached to handkerchief parachutes during his flights, was also called "the candyman".
© AP Photos
How could this situation be remedied? How were the people to survive? If not by land, then by air – that may have been what the Americans thought when they responded to the blockade of Berlin with the famous “Berlin Airlift”. And until 12 May 1949, this huge city was supplied from the air with all necessary commodities: baby food, nappies, sugar, flour, medicines. Everything was transported by plane; sometimes aircraft took off and landed every minute. Often, children waited eagerly for the planes, which sometimes, especially for them, dropped sweets that they greedily collected. In Berlin there is a memorial to the Airlift near the Tempelhof Airport.