After World War II (1939-1945) Berlin, badly damaged during the war, was situated within the German Democratic Republic (GDR; also known as East Germany). The city was subsequently partitioned into East Berlin and West Berlin. The divided city not only symbolized the collapse of the German Empire, of which it was the capital, but also became a focus of Cold War tensions between the Communist nations led by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the group of Western nations led by the United States. The Berlin Wall, a barrier separating East and West Berlin built by the East Germans in 1961, blocked free access in both directions until November 1989; during the time it stood, at least 80 people died attempting to cross from East to West Berlin. By the time Germany was unified in October 1990, much of the wall had been torn down. A few small segments remain as memorials.
Following the division of the city of Berlin in 1949, the economies of the two halves of the city were integrated into the economies of the two newly separated republics of Germany.
The economy of East Berlin was totally integrated with that of East Germany and also benefited from a steady stream of visitors from West Berlin and West Germany.
East Berlin was the hub of East Germany's commercial, financial, and transportation systems, and, although it comprised less than one-half of the former unified city, it was also a huge manufacturing center. Among its principal manufactures were steel and rubber goods, electrical and transportation equipment, chemicals, and processed food. The Spree River, which is connected by waterways with the Baltic Sea, widened in East Berlin to form a major inland harbor. An airport at Schönefeld, just south of the city, served both East and West Berlin.
Much of West Berlin's industrial capacity was destroyed in World War II, and its economy suffered again during 1948 and 1949, when the USSR blockaded the area in an attempt to drive out the Western powers. Beginning in the 1950s, however, West Berlin's economy was revitalized with a great deal of assistance from West Germany and from the United States, which provided support under the European Recovery Program (Marshall Plan). The city soon became an important manufacturing center, producing electrical and electronic equipment and substantial quantities of machinery, metal, textiles, clothing, chemicals, printed materials, and processed food. The city also developed as a center for international finance, for research and science, and for the important West German film industry. It was linked to West Germany by highways, canal systems, a railroad, and airplane services, which used Tegel, Tempelhof, and Gatow airports in West Berlin and Schönefeld airport in nearby East Germany.
With the destruction of the Berlin Wall in 1989 the two halves of the city were once again physically integrated. Their economic integration became official in July 1990. East Berlin underwent a greater economic upheaval, with many formerly state-owned businesses succumbing to privatization.
While reunification (Die Wende, or “the change”) allowed many families and friends long separated by the Berlin Wall to reunite, it also brought with it numerous economic and social problems. Berlin has been forced to deal with housing shortages, strikes and demonstrations, unemployment, and increases in crime and right-wing violence against foreigners. Unification costs in Germany have led to increased taxes, reduced government subsidies, and cuts in social services.
Points of Interest
The imposing Brandenburg Gate (1788-1791), inspired by the Propylaea of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, is located at the western end of Unter den Linden, a famous boulevard in Berlin that extends east to Museum Island, in the Spree River; the Brandenburg Gate was closed to free access until December 1989. On or near the boulevard are the classical-style State Opera House (1743); the State Library (1774-1780); the baroque Arsenal building (1695-1706; designed by Andreas Schlüter), now housing a historical museum; Saint Hedwig's Cathedral (1747-1773); the Gothic Church of Saint Nicholas (late 14th-early 15th century); the French Cathedral of the Platz der Akademie area, the heart of the French quarter in the 17th century; and the University of Berlin (1810), whose faculty has included 27 Nobel Prize winners and philosopher G. W. F. Hegel. Well-known streets crossing Unter den Linden are the Friedrichstrasse and the Wilhelmstrasse, on which once stood the Reichschancery of Adolf Hitler.
Berlin's most famous boulevard is the Kurfürstendamm, which is lined with fashionable hotels, restaurants, shops, and movie theaters. At the boulevard's eastern end is a ruined tower, all that remains of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (1891-1895; destroyed during World War II), maintained as a reminder of the destructiveness of war. Adjacent to the ruins are a polygonal church and its separate campanile (1959-1961). Branching from the Kurfürstendamm is the Tauentzienstrasse, a major shopping street and the site of the Europa Center (1963-1965): a 22-story complex of restaurants, shops, offices, cinemas, a planetarium, and an ice-skating rink. To the northeast is the Tiergarten park, largest of Berlin's nearly 50 parks, which extends about 3 km (about 2 mi) to the Brandenburg Gate. In the Tiergarten are the large, modern Congress Hall (1957); the Reichstag building (1884-1894), once the seat of the German parliament, which was gutted by fire in 1933 and again damaged at the end of World War II, but which has since been largely restored; the Berlin Zoological Garden, the largest and one of the oldest in the world; and an aquarium. Near the Tiergarten is the Kulturform complex, including the Museum of Applied Arts; the Bauhaus Archives and Museum, commemorating the Bauhaus school of architecture and design (1919-1933); the Musical Instrument Museum; the National Library; the New National Gallery (1968), designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, housing a collection of 20th-century art; and the striking Philharmonie Concert Hall (1963), an asymmetrical structure that serves as the home of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.
Southeast of the Tiergarten is Oranienburger Strasse and environs, the heart of prewar Berlin's Jewish district. Revitalization of the area has included restoration of the New Synagogue (1866), which was badly damaged on Kristallnacht (see Holocaust) and by bombing. The synagogue is now a center for the study and preservation of Jewish culture. The area is also known for its art galleries, cafés, bars, and artists' studios. Berlin's oldest Jewish cemetery is nearby.
Museum Island, in eastern Berlin, is the site of the Pergamon Museum (1930), with a fine collection of Greco-Roman and Asian art; the Bode Museum, with displays of ancient Egyptian and Byzantine art; and the National Gallery (1866-1876), with exhibitions of 19th-century painting.
On the eastern bank of the Spree is Alexanderplatz, a large square with restaurants and stores; nearby are the Television Tower (365 m/1197 ft) and Red Town Hall. A statue facing the eastern entrance to the town hall commemorates the Trummerfrauen (Rubble Women), thousands of women of all ages who cleared up vast quantities of rubble left in Berlin after World War II.
Forests and farmland cover nearly one-third of Berlin. In the southwestern part of the city is the vast Grunewald forest, which contains a great deal of woodland and the large Wannsee, formed by the Havel River, as well as a Renaissance-style hunting lodge (principally mid-16th century, with 18th-century additions), the large Olympic Stadium (built for the 1936 Olympic Games), and a broadcasting tower (1924-1926) measuring 138 m (453 ft) high. Other points of interest include Charlottenburg Palace (begun 1695), which houses the Museum of Decorative Arts, and the neoclassical Humboldt.
In the Dahlem district of western Berlin, near the Grunewald, are a group of famous institutions, which include the Painting Gallery, with displays of European painting from the 13th to the 16th century; the Ethnological Museum; the Sculpture Gallery; museums of Indian, Islamic, and East Asian art; and the German Folklore Museum. North of the Dahlem district is the Bridge Museum, displaying 20th-century German Expressionist art by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, and others. Other museums in the city include a museum of Greek and Roman antiquities; the Bröhan Museum, with Art Deco and Jugendstil collections displayed in period settings; and the Egyptian Museum, which contains a world-famous bust of Nefertiti, queen of Egypt in the 14th century BC.
Besides the University of Berlin, institutions of higher education include the Bruno Leuschner College of Economics (1950); the Hanns Eisler College of Music (1950); the Free University of Berlin (1948), founded mainly by professors and students dissatisfied with conditions at the University of Berlin in East Berlin; and the Technical University of Berlin (1879). Additional cultural facilities include museums of Berlin and German history, the Comic Opera, and the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm, home of the Berliner Ensemble, noted for productions of plays by German dramatist Bertolt Brecht, its founder. Also located in Berlin are the German Film and Television Academy (1966) and the College of the Arts (1975). Additional performing-arts facilities include the German Opera and the Hebbel Theater. The city is the site of an annual film festival and numerous other festivals. Berlin hosts the annual Grüne Woche, Germany's largest agricultural fair.
In Berlin's northern suburb of Sachsenhausen is the site of one of the first concentration camps in Germany, built in 1936; the site is now a memorial. After the war Soviet secret police used the camp to house war criminals, former Nazis and military officers, and opponents of the occupying regime. The camp was closed in March 1950. In 1992 arsonists set fire to the camp museum during a wave of attacks against foreign asylum-seekers.
Berlin has an efficient integrated system of subways, elevated train lines, buses (including all-night service), and trams.
In 1871 Berlin became the capital of the unified German Empire. During the following decades the city grew into a major industrial center, specializing in machinery, electrical goods, and textiles. Culturally, Berlin won worldwide fame for its excellent theaters, concerts, and exhibitions; commercially, it benefited from a wide network of railroads converging at the city. Extensive construction of factories and commercial buildings attracted thousands of workers, most of whom were housed in large tracts of shoddy tenements.
After World War I (1914-1918) Berlin's adjacent communities were incorporated into the city, increasing its population to 3,850,000. Berlin suffered economic setbacks during the troubled Weimar Republic (1919-1933), but the wealth of its theatrical, musical, and other cultural offerings remained unrivaled.
During the restrictive Nazi years (see National Socialism), Berlin's cultural life lost much of its prestige. An ambitious building program, by which German dictator Adolf Hitler aimed to make the city the world's foremost capital, was architecturally uninspired and never completed. In 1936 the city was host to the Olympic Games. During World War II large parts of Berlin were destroyed by air raids and, toward the end of the war, by artillery fire and street fighting. By 1945, about 50,000 prewar buildings had been destroyed, many were in ruins, and the city contained some 75 million cu m (101,250,000 cu yd) of rubble. Berlin's population was 2,800,000, down from its prewar 4,400,000.
When Germany reunified in October 1990, a reunited Berlin once again became the national capital. The seat of the federal government was scheduled to shift from Bonn to Berlin by the year 2000, although the Bundesrat (federal council) and eight federal ministries will remain in Bonn. Renovation of the Reichstag building is under way to accommodate the Bundestag (lower house of parliament); the surrounding area will house federal government offices. South of the Reichstag, Potsdamerplatz is scheduled for major development, including a $2-billion office complex to open in 1998. In September 1994 French, British, and U.S. troops formally left Berlin. Following the departure of Russian troops the month before, the event marked the end of an occupation that had lasted for nearly 50 years.
After the unification of Germany in 1990, subsidies once provided by the German government ended, forcing the Berlin government to make extensive cuts in its budget in the mid-1990s. Public service jobs were trimmed, and costs for social services increased. Angry postal and construction workers went on strike, and children and teachers protested the cuts in education and services. In addition, expenditures by the government increased as it helped rebuild East Berlin to bring it up to the standards of West Berlin.