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BERLIN , largest city and capital of Germany.

The Old Community (1295–1573)

Jews are first mentioned in a letter from the Berlin local council of Oct. 28, 1295, forbidding wool merchants to supply Jews with wool yarn. Suzerainty over the Jews belonged to the margrave who from 1317 pledged them to the municipality on varying terms, but received them back in 1363. Their taxes, however, were levied by the municipality in the name of the ruler of the state. The oldest place of Jewish settlement in "Great Jews' Court" (Grosser Judenhof) and "Jews' Street" had some of the characteristics of a Jewish quarter, but a number of wealthier Jews lived outside these areas. Until 1543, when a cemetery was established in Berlin, the Jews buried their dead in the town of Spandau. The Berlin Jews engaged mainly in commerce, handicrafts (insofar as this did not infringe on the privileges of the craft guilds), moneychanging, moneylending, and other pursuits. Few attained affluence. They paid taxes for the right to slaughter animals ritually, to sell meat, to marry, to circumcise their sons, to buy wine, to receive additional Jews as residents of their community, and to bury their dead. During the *Black Death (1349–50), the houses of the Jews were burned down and the Jewish inhabitants were killed or expelled from the town.

From 1354, Jews again settled in Berlin. In 1446 they were arrested with the rest of the Jews in *Brandenburg, and expelled from the electorate after their property had been confiscated. A year later Jews again began to return, and between 1454 and 1475 there were 23 recorded instances of Jews establishing residence in Berlin in the oldest register of inhabitants. A few wealthy Jews were admitted into Brandenburg in 1509. In 1510 the Jews were accused of desecrating the *Host and stealing sacred vessels from a church in a village near Berlin. One hundred and eleven Jews were arrested and subjected to examination, and 51 were sentenced to death; of these 38 were burned at the stake in the new market square together with the real culprit, a Christian, on July 10, 1510. Subsequently, the Jews were expelled from the entire electorate of Brandenburg. All the accused were proved completely innocent at the Diet of Frankfurt in 1539 through the efforts of *Joseph (Joselmann) b. Gershom of Rosheim and *Philipp Melanchthon. The elector Joachim ii (1535–71) permitted the Jews to return and settle in the towns in Brandenburg, and Jews were permitted to reside in Berlin in 1543 despite the opposition of the townspeople. In 1571, when the Jews were again expelled from Brandenburg, the Jews of Berlin were expelled "for ever." For the next 100 years, a few individual Jews appeared there at widely scattered intervals. About 1663, the Court Jew Israel Aaron, who was supplier to the army and the electoral court, was permitted to settle in Berlin.

Beginnings of the Modern Community (to 1812)

After the expulsion of the Jews from *Vienna in 1670, the elector issued an edict on May 21, 1671, admitting 50 wealthy Jewish families from Austria into the mark of Brandenburg and the duchy of Crossen (Krosno) for 20 years. They paid a variety of taxes for the protection afforded them but were not permitted to erect a synagogue. The first writ of privileges was issued to Abraham Riess (Abraham b. Model Segal) and Benedict Veit (Baruch b. Menahem Rositz), on Sept. 10, 1671, the date considered to mark the foundation of the new Berlin community. Notwithstanding the opposition of the Christians (and also of Israel Aaron who feared competition) to any increase in the number of Jewish residents in Berlin, the community grew rapidly, and in the course of time the authorities granted letters of protection to a considerable number of Jews. In addition, many unvergleitete Jews (i.e., without residence permits) infiltrated into Brandenburg. The first population census of 1700 showed that there were living in Berlin at that time 70 Jewish vergleitete families with residence permits, 47 families without writs of protection, and a few peddlers and beggars (about 1,000 persons). The refugees from Austria now became a minority, and quarrels and clashes broke out within the community (see below). The Jews of Berlin engaged mainly in commerce. The guilds and merchants were bitterly opposed to them and they were accused of dealing in stolen goods. The Christians demanded the expulsion of the foreign Jews or restriction of their economic activity to dealing in secondhand goods and pawnbroking, not to be conducted in open shops. The government responded only partly to such demands, being interested in the income from the Berlin Jews. It imposed restrictions upon the increase of the Jewish population in the city and issued decrees increasing their taxes, making the community collectively responsible for the payment of protection money (1700), for prohibiting Jews from maintaining open shops, from dealing in stolen goods (1684), and from engaging in retail trade in certain commodities except at fairs (1690). Nevertheless, the number of Jewish stores grew to such an extent that there was at least one in every street. The Jews were subsequently ordered to close down every store opened after 1690, and all other Jews were forbidden to engage in anything but dealing in old clothes and pawnbroking. They could be exempted from these restrictions on payment of 5,000 thalers.

Elector Frederick iii, who became King Frederick i of Prussia in 1701, began a systematic exploitation of the Jews by means of various taxes. The protection tax was doubled in 1688; a tax was levied for the mobilization and arming of an infantry regiment; 10,000 ducats were exacted for various misdemeanors; 1,100 ducats for children recognized as vergleitete; 100 thalers annually toward the royal reception in Berlin; 200–300 thalers annually in birth and marriage taxes; and other irregular imposts. Frederick William i (1713–40) limited (in a charter granted to the Jews on May 20, 1714) the number of tolerated Jews to 120 householders, but permitted in certain cases the extension of letters of protection to include the second and third child. The Jews of Berlin were permitted to engage in commerce almost without restriction, and in handicrafts provided that the rights of the guilds were not thereby infringed. By a charter granted in 1730, the number of tolerated Jews was reduced to 100 householders. Only the two oldest sons of the family were allowed to reside in Berlin – the first, if he possessed 1,000 thalers in ready money, on payment of 50 thalers, and the second if he owned and paid double these amounts. Vergleitete Jews might own stores, but were forbidden to trade in drugs and spices (except for tobacco and dyes), in raw skins, and in imported woolen and fiber goods, and were forbidden to operate breweries or distilleries. They were also forbidden to engage in any craft, apart from seal engraving, gold and silver embroidery, and Jewish ritual slaughter. Land ownership by Jews had been prohibited in 1697 and required a special license which could be obtained only with great difficulty. Jews might bequeath their property to their children, but not to other relatives. On Jan. 22, 1737, Jews were forbidden to buy houses in Berlin or to acquire them in any other fashion. In 1755 an equal interest rate was fixed for Jews and Christians.

The Jews in Berlin in the 18th century primarily engaged as commercial bankers and traders in precious metals and stones. Some served as *court Jews. Members of the *Gomperz family were among the wealthiest in Berlin. In the course of time, all trade in money in Berlin was concentrated in Jewish hands. One of the pioneers of Prussian industry was Levi Ilf, who established a ribbon factory in Charlottenburg in 1718. At the same time the royal policy continued of restricting the Jewish population of Berlin, and even decreasing it as far as possible. When in 1737 it became evident that the number of Jewish families in Berlin had risen to 234, a decree was issued limiting the quota to 120 families (953 persons) with an additional 48 families of "communal officers" (243 persons). The remainder (584) were ordered to leave, and 387 did in fact leave. However in 1743 Berlin had a Jewish population of 333 families (1,945 persons).

*Frederick the Great (1740–86) denied residence rights in Berlin to second and third children of Jewish families and wished to limit the total number of protected Jews to 150. However, the revised Generalprivilegium and the royal edict of April 17, 1750, which remained in force until 1812, granted residence rights to 203 "ordinary" families, whose eldest children could inherit that right, and to 63 "extraordinary" families, who might possess it only for the duration of their own lifetime. A specified number of "public servants" was also to be tolerated. However, during his reign, the economic, cultural, and social position of the Jews in Berlin improved. During the Seven Years' War, many Jews became wealthy as purveyors to the army and the mint and the rights enjoyed by the Christian bankers were granted to a number of Jews. In 1763, the Jews in Berlin were granted permission to acquire 70 houses in place of 40. While their role in the retail trade decreased in importance because of the many restrictions imposed, the number of Jewish manufacturers, bankers, and brokers increased. On May 2, 1791, the entire *Itzig family received full civic rights, becoming the first German Jews to whom they were granted. At the same time, the king compelled the Jews to supply a specified quantity of silver annually to the mint at a price below the current one (1763), to pay large sums for new writs of protection (1764), and, in return for various privileges and licenses, to purchase porcelain ware to the value of 300–500 thalers from the royal porcelain factory and sell it abroad.

As a concomitant of economic prosperity, there appeared the first signs of cultural adaptation. Under the influence of Moses *Mendelssohn, several reforms were introduced in the Berlin community, especially in the sphere of education. In 1778 a school, *Juedische Freischule (Ḥinnukh Ne'arim), was founded, which was conducted along modern comprehensive principles and methods. Mendelssohn and David *Friedlaender composed the first German reader for children. The dissemination of general (non-Jewish) knowledge was also one of the aims of the Ḥevrat Doreshei Leshon Ever ("Association of Friends of the Hebrew Language"), founded in 1783, whose organ Ha-Me'assef (see *Me'assefim) began to appear in Berlin in 1788. Mendelssohn's home became a gathering place for scholars, and Berlin became the fount of the Enlightenment movement (*Haskalah) and of the trend toward *assimilation. The salons of Henrietta *Herz, Rachel *Varnhagen, and Dorothea *Schlegel served as rendezvous for both Jews and Christians of the social elite of Berlin. However, progress toward legally recognized civil equality was slow. After the new Exchange building was erected in Berlin in 1805, a joint "corporation" of Christians and Jews was established in which the latter were in the majority and had equal rights. In 1803–04, during the literary controversy over the Jewish question, the government took no action whatever on behalf of the Jews, but after the Prussian defeat by Napoleon the Municipal Act of Nov. 19, 1809, facilitated their attainment of citizen status. Solomon *Veit was elected to the Berlin municipal council and David Friedlaender was appointed a city councilor. The edict of March 11, 1812, finally bestowed Prussian citizenship upon the Jews; all restrictions on their residence rights in the state, as well as the special taxes they had to pay, were now abolished.

Internal Life (17th–18th Centuries)

The fierce controversies that had broken out in the Jewish community during the communal elections in 1689 resulted in governmental intervention in the administrative affairs of the community. Thus the decree of January 24 and the statute of Dec. 7, 1700, included government-approved regulations for the Jewish community. The communal leaders (parnasim), elected for three years, were empowered to impose fines (two-thirds of which went to the state treasury and one-third to the communal charity fund) and to excommunicate members with the consent of the local rabbi and government. The "chief parnas" acted as mediator between the Jews and the state. In 1717, complete anarchy in the conduct of communal affairs became evident; the parnasim were deposed and a fine was imposed on the community amounting to 10,000 thalers, later reduced to 6,500. In 1722 and in 1723 new statutes were promulgated regulating the organizational structure of the community. Apart from the chief parnasim, who were appointed by the king and functioned under the supervision of a Jewish commission, a communal committee of three, four, or five parnasim was set up which would coopt to itself two optimates (tovim) and two alternates (ikkurim) for handling particularly important matters. To decide on matters of extreme importance larger committees were appointed of 15, 18, or 32 members. In 1792 a supervisory committee was created consisting of three members to supervise the fiscal aspect of communal administration. The first rabbi, elected at the time of the erection of the Berlin synagogue in the Heiderentergasse, was Michael Ḥasid (officiated 1714–28). His successors include Jacob Joshua b. Ẓevi Hirsch *Falk of Cracow (1731–34), author of Penei Yehoshu'a, David *Fraenkel (1743–62), author of Korban ha-Edah on the Palestinian Talmud and teacher of Moses Mendelssohn, and Ẓevi Hirsch b. Aryeh Loeb (Hirschel *Levin, 1772–1800), known for his opposition to Haskalah.

From the Edict of Equality to the Accession of the Nazis

The political history of the Jews of Berlin after 1812 becomes increasingly merged with that of the Jews of *Prussia and *Germany as a whole. In the 1848 Revolution the Jews played an active role as fighters on the barricades and members of the civic guard, as orators and journalists, and the like. Despite the edict of 1812 Jews continued to be hampered by a number of restrictions, and formal civic equality was not attained until July 1860. Subsequently, Jews began to enter Berlin's political and social life in increasing numbers, and the Berlin municipality was for a long time a stronghold of liberalism and tolerance. About one-fifth of Berlin's newspapers were owned by Jews. The Berliner Tageblatt and the Vossische Zeitung, whose publishers and editors were Jewish, were read abroad with particular attention, although it was known that they did not express the opinions of circles close to the government. Berlin Jews played a prominent part in literature, the theater, music, and art. Their successes aroused fierce reaction among the more conservative elements and Berlin became a center of antisemitism. The "Berlin Movement" founded by Adolf *Stoecker incited the masses against the Jews by alleging that they were the standard-bearers of capitalism and controlled the press (see *Antisemitic Political Parties and Organizations).

The Jewish population of Berlin numbered 3,292 in 1812; 11,840 in 1852; 108,044 in 1890; and 172,672 in 1925. Thus, within a century it had increased more than fiftyfold. The Jews comprised about 2% of the total population in 1840, 5.02% in 1890, and 4.29% in 1925. The Jews in Berlin comprised 1.4% of German Jewry in 1811–28, 7.03% in 1871, and 30.6% in 1925. Despite the increasing instances of intermarriage, renunciation of Judaism, and conversion to Christianity, and the decline in the Jewish birthrate, the Jewish population of Berlin continued to grow through the arrival of Jews from provincial centers, especially from the province of Posen (Poznan) and from Eastern Europe. As Berlin grew in importance as a commercial and industrial center, Jews played an increasingly important role in the city's economic life, especially as bankers (*Mendelssohn, *Bleichroeder, and others), owners of department stores (*Wertheim, *Tietz, Jandorf), and in the grain and metal trades, the textile and clothing industries, building construction, the manufacture of railway engines and cars, the brewing of beer, and other branches of the economy. Ludwig *Loewe headed a large armaments factory in Berlin. The General Electric Company (aeg) was founded by the Jewish engineer Emil *Rathenau, and both his son Walter *Rathenau and Felix Deutsch were active in it. In 1861 53.17% of the Jews in Berlin engaged in commerce, and 17.3% in industry and the manual trades; by 1910 the percentage of those occupied in commerce had decreased to 41.61%, while 35.16% earned their livelihood in industry and the manual trades.

Internal Life of the Berlin Community (1812–1933)

Following the partitions of Poland-Lithuania, 1772–95, the Berlin community became increasingly influenced by the steady stream of Eastern European Jews (Ostjuden) who first arrived from the Posen district. This influx made up for the losses to the Jewish communities through assimilation and apostasy. Later there was growing immigration from the *Pale of Settlement. From the second half of the 19th century the increasing colony of Russian, mainly Jewish, students exerted a powerful cultural influence in Berlin. The organizational structure of the Jewish community was undermined after the emancipation of the Jews in 1812. The old regulations were abolished by the 1812 edict and no new regulations were instituted. For some time the community was not allowed to collect dues and faced disintegration. A statute issued in July 1837 permitted the renewal of normal communal life, and from then on the Berlin community was administered by a committee of seven members and three alternates and a council of 21 members and ten alternates. The first elections to the council took place in February 1854, and the community's first constitution was ratified in August 1860. During this period, the community was thrown into a ferment as a result of the aspiration of David Friedlaender and others for extreme liturgical reforms. The *Reform program was temporarily restrained by a decree of Dec. 9, 1823, which laid down that all divine worship was to take place in the local synagogue and according to accepted custom without any innovations in the language, ritual, prayers, and liturgy.

In 1819, the *Verein fuer Kultur und Wissenschaft des Judentums ("Society for Jewish Culture and Learning"), was founded in Berlin by Leopold *Zunz, I.M. *Jost, and Eduard *Gans, with Heinrich *Heine among its members (see *Germany). In the meanwhile, far-reaching changes had been introduced in education. The Ḥinnukh Ne'arim school was closed at the end of 1825 for lack of funds, and was replaced in 1826 by a new school for boys, founded by the community; Zunz was principal of this school until 1830. In 1835 the community founded a school for girls. There were also several Jewish private schools in Berlin, such as that of H.M. Bock (founded in 1807), whose principals were Jost (1816–35) and Sigismund *Stern (1835–45). R. Meir b. Simḥah Weyl, who charted a conservative course in education, opened a teachers' seminary in 1825. From 1840 to 1850 a teachers' seminary functioned under the direction of Zunz. A teachers' training institute was established in 1859 under the rectorship of Aaron *Horowitz.

In 1844 Michael Jehiel *Sachs was invited to be the third dayyan and preacher of the community. Although a Conservative, he was not opposed to moderate reform. In the wake of the foundation of the second Kulturverein ("cultural association"; 1840), Aaron *Bernstein founded the Reform Society in 1845, and later the Reform Congregation, which introduced far-flung liturgical reforms, especially during the rabbinate of Samuel *Holdheim (1847–60). At first, divine worship was held both on Saturdays and Sundays and later only on Sundays. The Reform Congregation was unsuccessful in its attempt to secede from the official community, but the latter was obliged to give very substantial financial support to the Reform Congregation since many of its members were among the largest taxpayers. The Berlin community was again violently shaken when many of its members pressed for the introduction of an organ and modification of the liturgy in the New Synagogue. The appointment of Abraham *Geiger as rabbi of the Berlin community (officiated 1870–74) met with strong opposition from Orthodox circles, and in 1869 Azriel (Israel) *Hildesheimer and his adherents left the main community and established the Adass Yisroel congregation, which received official recognition in 1885. Abraham Geiger had stipulated as a condition of his appointment that an institute for Jewish research be established in Berlin, and in 1872 the *Hochschule fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums was opened there. A year later, Hildesheimer opened a rabbinical seminary for Orthodox Judaism (*Rabbinerseminar fuer das orthodoxe Judentum). Between 1880 and 1930, eight large synagogues were erected by the Berlin community, among them that in the Fasanenstrasse which was one of the most magnificent synagogues in the world. In all, the community owned 16 synagogues, seven of them Orthodox and the remainder Liberal and Reformist. Thirty rabbis served in Berlin after Abraham Geiger (12 Orthodox and the remainder liberal). In addition, most religious groups which were supported by the community had their own rabbis.

Berlin was the center of the national German-Jewish organizations, such as the *Deutsch-Israelitischer Gemeindebund (founded in 1869), Verband der deutschen Juden (1904), the *B'nai*B'rith (1883), *Central-Verein deutscher Staatsbuerger juedischen Glaubens (1893), *Hilfsverein der deutschen Juden (1901), Zentralwohlfartsstelle der deutschen Juden (1917), and others. Likewise, Jewish newspapers and periodicals were published in Berlin, including the communal organ, whose circulation reached 60,000 copies. The Berlin communal institutions and their activities in every field served as a model for Jewish communities throughout the world. The annual communal budget in the 1930s was about 10,000,000 marks (as against 5,000,000 marks in 1914). About 70,000 Jews in Berlin paid dues to the community.

For about 80 years the Liberals were predominant in the Berlin community. But Liberals and Orthodox worked together in full harmony in the central organizations in which, at least for a certain period, the Zionists also participated. The *Ḥibbat Zion movement met with but a lukewarm reception in Berlin, especially among the Orthodox, and the opposition to political Zionism was particularly keen. The Berlin rabbi S. *Maybaum was among the leaders of the "*Protest Rabbis," and the Central-Verein and the *Vereinigung fuer das liberale Judentum launched a concerted effort against the Zionistische Vereinigung fuer Deutschland and its organ, the *Juedische Rundschau. When the procedure for communal elections was changed after World War i, four representatives of the *Juedische Volkspartei (a coalition of Zionists, *Mizrachi, and the Verband der ostjuedischen Organizationen) and one of the *Po'alei Zion were elected in 1920 to the representative council (Repraesentantenversammlung), which consisted of 21 members; two Zionists sat on the communal committee (Gemeindevorstand). In the 1926 election, a coalition of the Juedische Volkspartei, the Conservatives, and the Mittelpartei won a majority. For three years, the Zionist Georg Kareski headed the communal committee. However, in the elections of November 1930, 24 Liberals were elected to the representative council, 14 from the Juedische Volkspartei, and three from among the small parties; seven Liberals, three Zionists, and one Conservative sat on the communal committee. Max Naumann and his faction were the spearhead of the extremist anti-Zionist faction which rejected all cooperation with non-German Jews and demanded that the Zionists be deprived of their German citizenship and permitted to reside in Germany only as aliens. In 1922, at the initiative of the Berlin community, the Preussischer Landesverband juedischer Gemeinden was founded, comprising 655 communities, not including the Orthodox communities which formed their own association. A great boon to the Berlin community was the government support which was granted for the first time during the inflation of late 1923, without which it could not have survived. In later years, the government subsidy to the community was insufficient.

After the murders of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa *Luxemburg in January 1919, antisemitic propaganda in Berlin increased. The Kapp Putsch (March 1920) had blatant anti-Jewish undertones. Walter Rathenau, the German foreign minister, was assassinated by antisemitic nationalists on June 24, 1922. On Nov. 5, 1923, antisemites attacked the Jews living in Grenadierstrasse and Dragonerstrasse, which were centers of Jewish residence. In 1926, after the appointment of Joseph *Goebbels as Gauleiter in Berlin, anti-Jewish rabble-rousing increased. On the eve of the Jewish New Year (Sept. 12, 1931), Jews returning from synagogue in Kurfuerstendam were assaulted by gangs of Nazis, organized by Count Wolff Heinrich von Halldorf (later chief of police in the Third Reich).

[Joseph Meisl]


At the time the Nazis came to power, Berlin's organized Jewish community numbered about 172,000 persons. In the preceding years as the Nazi movement was growing in influence, the rate of Jewish affiliation had increased. With Hitler's ascent to power on January 30, 1933, street demonstrations were immediate and made Jews feel deeply uncomfortable. In 1933 the Nazi boycott (April 1) affected Jewish shop owners; April 7th legislation against non-Aryans led to dismissal of Jewish professionals and civil servants, including physicians and professors; while "aryanization" of Jewish firms and the dismissal of their Jewish employees was carried out by the exertion of steady economic pressure. The response of the community was mixed. There was a wave of suicides but also an attempt by the community to respond to deteriorating conditions. Economic assistance was provided to those in need; new vocations were found for youth, legal counseling and housing advice was provided. In response to the April 1st boycott of Jewish businesses, Robert Weltsch wrote an editorial in the Judische Rundschau called "Wear the Yellow Badge with Pride." Synagogue attendance increased, as did Zionist activities. Still the community did not formally encourage emigration. It thought of Germany as the land of its fathers and its children, a perspective that was to dramatically change. Eight new Jewish elementary schools were founded in 1933. Jewish officials – "Jewishness" was soon defined to refer to one's parents and grandparents and not one's own identity – not affected by these early measures were eventually ousted under the provisions of the *Nuremberg Laws (1935). During this early period, such incidents as the murder of a Jewish physician, Dr. Philippsthal (spring 1933), and the suicide of Rudolf S. Mosse after mistreatment in prison (fall 1933), the first such instances of their kind, caused great consternation among the Jews. In these initial years, when the members of the Jewish community were being methodically deprived of their economic standing and civil rights, Jewish religious and cultural life in Berlin underwent a tremendous upsurge. Jewish children, most of them excluded from the public schools, attended schools set up and maintained by the Jewish community or private schools. In addition to the eight Jewish elementary schools that were maintained at one period to meet the community needs, the famous college for Jewish studies, the *Hochschule fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums, was sustained to train leadership and its program greatly expanded. Jews were later forbidden to attend theaters and public places of entertainment. The Juedischer Kulturbund ("Jewish Cultural Society") was established. In the summer of 1935 yellow benches for the segregation of Jews were set up in parks and inscribed nur fuer Juden ("only for Jews"). Signs inscribed Juden unerwuenscht ("Jews not wanted") were displayed in public places. The economic condition of Jews in Berlin deteriorated rapidly. By 1935 welfare assistance was a significant responsibility of the community. Signs discriminating against Jews were removed for the duration of the Olympic Games held in Berlin (summer 1936). Antisemitic propaganda was reduced only to return with a vengeance once the Games were over and the tourists had returned to their native lands. Throughout this period from 1933 to 1938, raids and arrests became frequent occurrences and were accelerated in 1938. Until November 1938 Jewish newspapers and books were published on an unprecedented scale. Notable among the newspapers was the Berliner juedisches Gemeindeblatt, a voluminous weekly published by the community. Zionist work was in full swing, especially that of He-Ḥalutz, and in February 1936, a German Zionist convention was held in Berlin (the last to meet there), still reflecting in its composition the vigorous party life of German Zionists. From March 28, 1938, the Jewish community was deprived of its status as a recognized public corporate body. The Berlin community was made a "private" organization, denied the right to collect dues from the community, and renamed the Juedische Kultusvereinigung Berlin ("Jewish Religious Society").

In June 1938, mass arrests of Jews took place on the charge that they were "asocial," e.g., had a criminal record, including traffic violations, and they were imprisoned in the *Sachsenhausen concentration camp. On November 9–10, *Kristallnacht marked a turning point in the affairs of Berlin Jewry: synagogues were burned down, Jewish shops destroyed, Jewish institutions were raided and closed, including libraries and museums, and Jewish manuscripts and documents were destroyed. In the wake of *Kristallnacht, 1,200 Jewish businesses were put up for Aryanization and 10,000 Jews from Berlin and other places were arrested and imprisoned in Sachsenhausen. The "Bannmeile" was decreed, which restricted Jews to an area within a certain radius from their place of residence; banished them from most of the main thoroughfares, and the area in which government offices were located; and evicted Jews from their apartments, a step which had begun earlier, but was now accelerated. Jewish newspapers had to cease publication. The only paper was the new Das juedische Narchrichtenblatt which was required to publish Gestapo directives to the Jews. Meetings of bodies of the Jewish community were no longer permitted, and the Jewish community's executive council had to conduct its affairs from then on without consulting any representative group. Religious services, when resumed, were now restricted to three synagogues (on Levetzow, Luetzow, and Kaiser Streets) and a few small halls. The pace of Aryanization accelerated as did the rate of emigration. Most of Berlin's rabbis left Berlin before Kristallnacht: the last three rabbis to stay were Felix Singerman (died in Riga in 1942), Martin Salomonski (died in Auschwitz in 1944), and the most prominent of all, Leo *Baeck, who was offered the opportunity to leave but decided to stay with his flock and was sent to Theresienstadt camp in early 1943. As the Germans arrived in his home, Baeck asked for half an hour, during which time he posted a letter to his daughter in England and with an unyielding sense of honor paid his gas and electric bills. At the end of January 1939, the Gestapo established a Zentralstelle fuer juedische Auswanderung ("Central Bureau for Jewish Emigration") in Berlin. The Berlin community, presided over by Heinrich *Stahl, was the largest and most dynamic German-Jewish community, and was incorporated along with the Reichsvertretung der deutschen Juden into the Nazi-imposed Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland – the change in name from German Jews to Jews in Germany was essential, not incidental – established on July 4, 1939. After its incorporation into the Reichsvereinigung, the Berlin community maintained its autonomous function for some time.


After the outbreak of war, some 82,000 Jews were living in Berlin – about half having left between 1933 and 1939. The living conditions and situation of the Jews worsened. Emigration was still permitted and even encouraged, and existing organizations and institutions (the Kulturbund, Jewish schools) were able to continue functioning. However, Jews were drafted for forced labor at wages far below the prevailing rate and with no social benefits, but this at least provided them with a minimum income and delayed their deportation. Many were employed in armament industries, which also slowed their deportation. On Jan. 31, 1940, a special Arbeitsamt fuer Judenarbeiter ("Labor Exchange for Jew-Workers") was set up. In the spring of 1940 Stahl was removed from his post in the Reichsvereinigung by the Nazi authorities and replaced by Moritz Henschel, a former attorney. In September 1941, a drastic turn for the worse came about. First the Judenstern ("Jewish star," i.e., yellow *badge) was introduced. Two weeks later, on the Day of Atonement, in the middle of a sermon by Rabbi Leo Baeck, the president of the community was summoned to the Gestapo and told that the community would have to prepare for a partial evacuation from the city, that large apartments still occupied by Jews would have to be cleared, that many additional parts of the city would now be out of bounds to Jews, and that the Levetzowstrasse synagogue would be turned into a Sammellager ("assembly camp") for 1,000 persons. In due course more such assembly camps were added. Legal emigration was prohibited on October 23. The last transport of legal emigrants left Berlin on October 18 for Lisbon. In the preceding months (May–October), 1,342 emigrants had been permitted to leave. Between October 23 and the end of the year only 62 persons managed to leave, and in 1942 only nine Jews were permitted to go abroad. To make Berlin *judenrein, deportations began. There were five major phases in the process of deportation, the destination of Berlin's Jews reflecting the changes in German policy from forced emigration to resettlement in the East and then to murder by gassing: (a) between fall 1941 and January 1942 the deportees were sent to Riga, Minsk, Kovno, and Lodz, sometimes directly to the killing fields; (b) those deported in spring 1942 were sent to Lublin (Trawniki); (c) between summer 1942 and February 1943 their destination was Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, Riga, and Tallinn (Rasiku); (d) Auschwitz was the destination of the deportees of March–April 1943; (e) those deported from spring 1943 until the end of the war were sent to Bergen-Belsen, Ravensbrueck, Sachsenhausen, and Auschwitz. Altogether there were 63 Osttransporte carrying some 35,000 victims to death camps in the east, and 117 Alterstransporte, transporting some 15,000 (mainly older) persons to Theresienstadt. It is believed that about 95% of the first and 90% of the second group perished. (For lists of transport numbers, dates, numbers of deportees and destinations, see bibliography, Sellenthin, 84–85.) All through 1942 the deportations were kept up, although community employees and persons employed on forced labor were still excluded. In November and December 1942, the infamous commissar Alois Brunner (see Adolf *Eichmann) from Vienna was employed in Berlin and was responsible for organizing the picking up of the candidates for deportation in their homes, distinguishing himself by his extraordinary cruelty. Eventually, the deportations came to include groups of community employees, and from the fall of 1942, only those Jewish laborers who were employed in vital war production were still safe from deportation. At the beginning of 1943, the Gestapo persuaded the military administration to relinquish these workers, which resulted on February 27–28 in the socalled "Fabrikaktion" – marked by exceptional cruelty – in which all the workers were taken straight from the factories and deported from Berlin. Those Jews arrested in this "action" who had gentile wives were taken to a special camp for onward deportation, but when their wives carried out violent street demonstrations, the Gestapo yielded and set their husbands free. Even at that late date, the Nazis were seemingly responsive to public opinion. On May 13, 1942, an anti-Jewish exhibition, Soviet Paradise, was opened in Berlin, and was attacked by a group of Jewish communists, led by Herbert *Baum. The group was caught and hardly any of them survived. The Germans imposed collective – and disproportionate – reprisal. Two hundred and fifty Jews – 50 for each German who had been killed in the attack – were shot, and another 250 were sent to Sachsenhausen and perished there. The community offices were closed down on June 10, 1943, and six days later the "full" Jews among the members of its executive council were deported to Theresienstadt. The remaining Jews were looked after by the Neue Reichsvereinigung, which took up its seat in the Berlin Jewish Hospital, which together with the Jewish cemetery were the two Jewish institutions that continued to function throughtout the war. While the deportations went on, many Jews tried to stay on illegally, a very difficult undertaking, owing to the need for frequent change of hideouts and the lack of ration cards; many were caught and deported. The "illegals" were given temporary help on an organized basis, by groups of people who were of mixed parentage (Mischlinge) and as such were not liable for deportation themselves; there were also some Germans who at the risk of their lives put their apartments at the disposal of the Jews who were hiding out. One group of Jewish youngsters and their instructor managed to hide in Grunewald for an extended period, spending their time in the study of Zionist subjects. No exact figure is available for the number of "illegal" Jews who survived in Berlin, and estimates vary from 2,000 to 5,000. Berlin became officially "judenrein" ("clean of Jews") on June 16, 1943. On June 30, 1943, there were in fact 6,700, and on March 31, 1945, 5,990 Jews, comprising 4,790 Jews who had non-Jewish spouses, 992 "Geltungsjuden" (persons of mixed parentage, professing Jewish religion), 46 Jews from non-enemy countries, and 162 "full" Jews, most of whom were employed in the Jewish Hospital. The Jewish cemetery had remained in use – several Torah Scrolls were hidden there during the years of the Nazi persecution in a concerted organized activity which encompassed over 500 scrolls to be restituted after the war.

Absolute NumbersPercentages
1 Including Jews by "race" – decrease due mainly to emigration but in small measure also due to a mortality rate higher than the birth rate. Emigration figures were actually higher for Berlin Jewry, but were offset by the influx of Jews from the provinces.
2 Decrease due to deportation.
3 Decrease due to final mass deportations.
Dashes denote unavailability of information.
Jan. 1942255,000
Dec. 1942233,000
Apr. 1943318,315

Size of the Jewish Population

The Table: Jewish Population of Berlin shows the decrease in the Jewish population of Berlin between 1925 and 1945. The statistics before 1933 refer to persons designated as members of the Jewish faith, whereas the later figures for the most part also include Jews "by race" (as defined by the Nuremberg Laws):

[Kurt Jakob Ball-Kaduri /

Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)]

Contemporary Period

On July 15, 1945, the Jewish community was officially reconstituted. At first it was headed by Erich Nelhans, a former *Mizrachi leader, and from the fall of 1945 by Hans Erich Fabian, who had returned from Theresienstadt, the only member of the Reichsvereinigung to survive the war. Also active in the leadership of the community were Alfred Schoyer, a member of the Berlin Jewish Community Council before his deportation; Heinz Galinski, who had returned from Bergen-Belsen; and Julius Meyer, a survivor of Auschwitz. At the beginning of 1946, the community had a registered membership of 7,070 people, of whom 4,121 (over 90% of all married members) had non-Jewish spouses, 1,321 had survived the war by hiding, and 1,628 had returned from concentration camps. The Jews were dispersed throughout Berlin, a third of them living in the Soviet sector. The community was assisted by the military government, as well as by the *American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (jdc), which initiated its activities in Berlin in the autumn of 1945. Several synagogues were opened, the Jewish Hospital resumed its work (although most of its patients and staff were not Jews), and three homes for the aged and a children's home were established. There was no local rabbi or religious teachers, but American Jewish army chaplains volunteered their services. The general assumption at this time was that the Jews would not be able to reestablish themselves in Berlin (or anywhere else in Germany) and that the community's principal task was to help them to emigrate from the country. The community was thus defined as a "liquidation community" (Liquidationsgemeinde).

In addition to the organized Jewish community, Berlin also became a center for Jewish *Displaced Persons (dps). Toward the end of 1945 and during the first half of 1946, the main *Beriḥah route from Poland led through Stettin and the Soviet Zone to Berlin, from where it continued through the remaining part of the Soviet Zone and the British Zone to the American Zone. It was a very arduous route, especially during the harsh winter months, and temporary shelter had to be provided in Berlin. A small camp was established in the Wittenau district of the French sector of the city in the autumn of 1945 with a capacity of 200; at the beginning of 1946 a large camp was established at Schlachtensee in the American sector, which could hold 4,000 refugees, and a third camp was established in the summer of 1946 in the Tempelhof district of the American sector. In July 1946, however, the Beriḥah from Poland took on a quasi-legal character and was rerouted through Czechoslovakia and Vienna to the American Zone in Germany and Austria. As a result the refugee population of Berlin became fairly stabilized. By the end of 1946, there were 6,785 dps in the three Berlin camps. When the Soviet blockade of Berlin was lifted, the Occupation authorities decided to evacuate the dps, and between July 23 and Aug. 1, 1948, 5,456 Jewish refugees were airlifted from Berlin to various camps in the American Zone.

By this time the Jewish community had reached a measure of consolidation, in spite of the difficult economic and political conditions in the city. Although a few hundred members had emigrated overseas and mortality exceeded the birth rate, the total number of Jews had increased as a result of the influx of Jews returning from abroad. Prominent among the returnees was a group of 500 refugees who had spent the war years in *Shanghai. The welfare services extended by the community were greatly improved; the return of confiscated property, a process which was initiated at this time, also helped raise the standing of the community. In 1946, upon the initiative of Fabian, the community established its own weekly, Der Weg, later to be merged with the Jewish weekly appearing in Duesseldorf. Jewish organizations in the United States arranged for American rabbis to undertake several years' service in Berlin. In 1949 Galinski was elected as chairman of the community council.

The growing tension between the Western and Soviet Occupation authorities also had its effect upon Berlin Jewry. In 1947 Nelhans was arrested by the Soviets on the charge of aiding Soviet military personnel to desert; he was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment and was not heard of subsequently. Although the city administration was split in two, the Jewish community remained unified until the end of 1952, when its own split became inevitable. In the following years, the situation of the Jews and the community in West Berlin was greatly improved as a result of the rising economic prosperity in West Germany (which also affected West Berlin) and the return of confiscated property and the indemnification of victims of Nazi persecution. The Berlin City Senate showed great concern for the rehabilitation of the community and its individual members; Joachim Lipschitz, the senator for internal affairs (who was the son of a Jewish father and a Christian mother), in particular did his utmost to help the development of the community. Four synagogues were operating in Berlin. In 1959, the City of Berlin erected a large Jewish community center on Fasanenstrasse at the site on which one of Berlin's most magnificent synagogues had stood until 1938. In 1954 the Zionist Organization and the Israel Appeal renewed their activities in Berlin. A Jewish women's organization, a B'nai B'rith lodge, a Jewish students' organization, and a youth organization as well as several organizations dedicated to the fostering of interfaith relations were established.

In 1954 the community had a membership of about 5,000 and by January 1970 this figure had risen to 5,577. The demographic composition of the community was marked by relatively high average age (4,080 were above the age of 41), a low birthrate, and a great number of mixed marriages.

east berlin

In 1946 the number of Jews in the Soviet sector was 2,442, while in 1966 it was estimated at 850 (according to figures given by the community's president, Max Schenk). Although there was officially no restriction on religious practice and the authorities supported the community (the great synagogue on Rykestrasse was reconstructed), the prevailing anti-religious atmosphere of a communist state had a detrimental effect upon the community. By 1990 the number of community members had fallen to 200.

[Chaim Yahil]

since 1989. After the German reunification of 1989, the Jewish communities of former West and East Berlin merged in 1990. The community maintains six synagogues, an elementary school, and other educational institutions. Since 1995 the magnificent building of the former synagogue on Oranienburger Strasse has housed the Centrum Judaicum, which serves as a museum and a center of documentation and research. Jewish cultural institutions and initiatives are manifold and an integral part of Berlin's cultural life. A Jewish museum was opened in 2002 and has since been among the museums drawing the largest numbers of visitors in Germany. The number of community members has risen from 6,411 in 1989 to 11,167 in 2003, with many coming from the former Soviet Union.

[Stefan Rohrbacher (2nd ed.)]

Hebrew Printing in Berlin

The first Hebrew printer in Berlin was the court preacher and professor D.E. Jablonsky, as Jews could not obtain the necessary license; nevertheless, the manager J.L. Neumark, and most of the setters and proofreaders were Jews. The first book published by them was the Book of Psalms (1697), followed by the complete Bible (1699), and other scholarly and liturgical works. An application by Rabbi Mirels for permission to print the Talmud in Berlin was refused by Frederick i, king of Prussia; the permission to publish Maimonides' Code was not taken up, as this was just being printed in Amsterdam by J. *Athias. But a Talmud edition was issued by Gottschalk and Jablonski, in partnership with a Frankfurt on the Oder printer, 1715–22. Among other printers to be mentioned are Baruch Buchbinder (Radoner) of Vilna (1708–17), who printed a number of important works such as the Tzena Urena and works by the Shabbatean Nehemiah *Ḥayon (1713), a Mishnah with Rashi and Jacob Ḥagiz's commentary (1716–17), and a Ḥoshen Mishpat (1717). Nathan, son of the aforementioned J.L. Neumark, was active 1719–27, while his son-in-law Aaron b. Moses Rofe of Lissa built up an important press, 1733–62, publishing a series of well-known rabbinic works, above all the second Berlin Talmud edition 1734–39. Aaron's press was continued for a while by his grandson Moses b. Mordecai. An annual Lu'aḥ began to appear probably from 1725 but not later than 1738. Of some importance was the press of Isaac b. Jacob Speyer (1764–70), a son-in-law of the Berlin rabbi David Fraenkel, who printed notable rabbinic works – Steinschneider calls it "the highlight of Hebrew printing in Berlin"; and that of Mordecai Landsberg, also from 1764. The prolific writer and editor Isaac *Satanow took over Landsberg's press in 1772 and issued a considerable number of books, particularly his own (until 1804). In 1784 David Friedlaender and his friends founded the Verlag der juedischen Freischule, managed by A. *Wolfsohn-Halle, who bought the Landsberg press and obtained a license to print and sell books. Pupils of the society were taught the craft of printing and a number of books were published from 1796 with the imprint "Orientalische Druckerei." During these years Berlin became the center for the printing of Enlightenment literature, notably the writings of M. Mendelssohn, N.H. Wessely, D. Friedlaender, etc. Mendelssohn's edition of the Pentateuch appeared here in 1783.

In 1830 the Landsberg press was bought by Isaac Levent. In that year the printer Trevitsch and son moved to Berlin from Frankfurt on the Oder. In 1834, the year of his death, David Friedlaender founded his own press and published a number of important books; the scholar D. *Cassel worked there as a proofreader. In 1836 the apostate Julius Sittenfeld set up a printing house which published the complete Talmud (1862–68), Maimonides' Code (1862), and other works. In the late 19th and early 20th century H. Itzkowski and Siegfried, Arthur and Erich Scholem were active as general, Jewish, and also Hebrew publishers and printers in Berlin. In 1930 a Pentateuch was printed for the *Soncino-Gesellschaft by the "Officina Serpentis" with a new Hebrew type cut for this occasion.

[Abraham Meir Habermann]


J. Meisl (ed.), Pinkas Kehillat Berlin 17231854Protokollbuch der juedischen Gemeinde Berlin (Heb. and Ger., 1962); idem, in: Arim ve-Immahot be-Yisrael, 1 (1946), 80–140; H.G. Sellenthin, Geschichte der Juden in Berlin (1959); Germ Jud, 2 (1968), 68–73; E.L. Landshuth, Toledot Anshei Shem (1884); P. von Gebhardt (ed.), Das aelteste Buergerbuch 14531700 (1927); L. Geiger, Geschichte der Juden in Berlin (1871); D. Kaufmann, Die letzte Vertreibung der Juden aus Wien (1889), 206–21; L. Davidsohn, Beitraege zur Sozialund Wirtschaftsgeschichte der Berliner Juden vor der Emanzipation (1920); M. Stern, Beitraege zur Geschichte der juedischen Gemeinde zu Berlin, 6 vols. (1926–34); Gemeindeblatt der juedischen Gemeinde zu Berlin (1911–38); Juedisches Jahrbuch fuer Gross-Berlin (1926–28) and Juedisches Jahrbuch (1929–33); D. Friedlaender, Akten-Stuecke, die Reform der juedischen Kolonien in den Preussischen Staaten betreffend (1793); I. Freund, Die Emanzipation der Juden in Preussen, 2 vols. (1912); S. Stern, Der preussische Staat und die Juden, 2 vols. (1925, repr. 1962); W. Heise, Die Juden in der Mark Brandenburg bis zum Jahre 1571 (1932); H. Rachel, Das Berliner Wirtschaftsleben im Zeitalter des Fruehkapitalismus (1931); H. Rachel et al., Berliner Gross-kaufleute und Kapitalisten, 3 vols. (1934–39); J. Jacobsohn (ed.), Die Judenbuergerbuecher der Stadt Berlin, 18091851 (1962); M. Sinasohn (ed.), Adas Jisroel, Berlin (1966); H. Seeliger, in: ylbi, 3 (1958), 159–68; I. Eisenstein-Barzilay, in: paajr, 25 (1956), 1–37; 29 (1960–61), 17–54; idem, in: Essays on Jewish Life and Thought (1959), 183–97; Barzilay, in: paajr, 29 (1960–61), 17–54; idem, in: jsos, 21 (1959), 165–92; E. Hurwicz, in: ylbi, 12 (1967), 85–102. holocaust period: P. Littauer, My Experiences During the Persecution of the Jews in Berlin and Brussels, 193944 (1945); Irgun Olej Merkas Europa, Die letzten Tage des deutschen, Judentums (1943); Ball-Kaduri, in: Yad Vashem Studies, 3 (1959), 261–81; 5 (1963), 271–316; H. Gaertner, in: ylbi, 1 (1956), 123–42; F. Friedlaender, ibid., 3 (1958), 187–201; S. Shiratzki, ibid., 5 (1960), 299–307. add. bibliography: Nachtrichtenblatt der juedischen Gemeinde von Gross-Berlin d.d.r. (1961); A. Brass, Aufbau (March 12, 1971); idem, Geschehnisse auf dem Friedhof Berlin-Weissensee in den Jahren 193645; B. Scheiger, in: S. Jersch-Wenzel (ed.), Von Zuwanderern zu Einheimischen (1990), 153–488; W. Gruner, Judenverfolgung in Berlin (1992); B. Meyer, in: H. Simon (ed.), Juden in Berlin 19381945 (2000); A. Nachama (ed.), Juden in Berlin (2001). hebrew printing: H.D. Friedberg, Toledot ha-Defus ha-Ivri be-Arim Augsburg… (1935), 87ff.; R.N. Rabinowitz, Ma'amar al Hadpasat ha-Talmud (1952), 108f., 152f.; Steinschneider, in: zgjd, 1 (1887), 377ff.; 2 (1888), 200ff.; 3 (1889), 84ff., 262ff.; A.M. Habermann, Ha-Sefer ha-Ivri be-Hitpatteḥuto (1968), index.


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For Further Study

Berlin, Germany, Europe

Founded: October 28, 1237
Location: Europe, northeastern Germany, on the River Spree
Flag: A white field with a red stripe on top and bottom; the Berlin bear rests in the center.
Time Zone: 1 pm = noon Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)
Ethnic Composition: 23% of the foreign residents in Germany live in Hamburg and Berlin, including a large population of Turkish immigrants.
Elevation: 34 meters above sea level. Berlin lies on a huge plain in the northeast corner of Germany, comprising 833 square kilometers.
Latitude and Longitude: 52°31 N, 13°25 E
Coastline: None
Climate: Mild summers and wet winters.
Annual Mean Temperature: 47°F (8°C); in January: 31°F (-1°C); in July: 66°F (19°C). It either rains or snows in Berlin during 91 days of the year. Its placement on the European continent, with the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Baltic Sea above, make the city subject to the prevailing winds from across the water, carrying moisture to the land.
Average Annual Precipitation: 23 inches
Government: A parliament, senate and mayor
Weights and Measures: Metric
Monetary Units: 1 deutsch mark = 100 pfennige
Telephone Area Code: Germany country code: 49; Berlin code: 30
Postal Codes: 1000012527, 1253114199

1. Introduction

The political home of Germany's Federal Government and the educational center of Germany, Berlin is the nation's capital and busiest city. Although major reconstruction projects have helped make Berlin an attractive, modern city, the shadows of World War II (193945) and the Berlin Wall still darken its recent history. This is the seat of German power, where Adolf Hitler (18891945) gained control in 1933 by marching through the Brandenburg Gate and taking over parliament in the Reichtags building. After World War II, Berlin turned into a Cold War battleground, separated into a Soviet-influenced East and an American-influenced West by the Berlin Wall in 1966. But, there are startling contrasts to war in Berlin, such as the intellectual and scientific blossoming of the Enlightenment during the 1700s and "golden" 1920s of the twentieth century. Always a cultural center, Berlin has continued this tradition with many museums and theaters, while Berlin's trade associations employ the majority of the workforce with apprenticeships and permanent jobs.

2. Getting There

Berlin is located in the northeastern corner of Germany on the banks of the river Spree. On the South Bank, along the Strasse des 17 Juni, monuments like the Berlin Zoo, Tiergarten, Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, and Schloss Bellevue draw tourists. Numerous transportation projects are currently under way, modernizing and extending the existing system, and connecting the former East and West Berlin into one community. The city is also seen as something of a gateway between Eastern and Western Europe, where transportation lines lead directly into all sections of the continent.


Berlin's urban motorway is the A100, while the six-lane A113 travels along the Teltow Canal.

Bus and Railroad Service

High speed trains, such as the Inter City Express (ICE) and the Euro City (EC) operate to and from Berlin, but in 2005 the Transrapid magnetic levitation train will make travel even faster between Hamburg and Berlin (the two largest cities in Germany). There have been some problems finding funds to install the Transrapid, which have delayed the opening. Lehrter Bahnhof is the major train station in Berlin, which is located in the government precinct, right next to the Chancellery. From this train station, a passenger will be able travel directly to any location on the continent.

Berlin Population Profile

Population: 3,337,000
Area: 883 sq km (340 sq mi)
Ethnic composition: 95.1% German; 2.3% Turkish; 0.7% Italian; 0.4% Greek; 0.4Polish; 1.1% other
Area: Area within city limits, including the western Kurfürstendamm and the eastern Alexanderplatz, plus Spandau, Marzahn, Hellersdorf, Grunewald, Frohnau, and Westend
World population rank 1: 85
Percentage of total country population 2: 4.0%
Average yearly growth rate: 0.1%
Nicknames: Divided City; Venice of the North; the name Berlin means "bog" in Slavic, so called because of the swamps surrounding the city.

  1. The Berlin metropolitan area's rank among the world's urban areas.
  2. The percent of Germany's total population living in the Berlin metropolitan area.


The Tegel airport is the main international airport in western Berlin, closely followed by Shonefeld in the east. These airports will soon be complemented by the new Berlin-Brandenburg International Airport (BBI), slated for completion in 2007. Major airlines, such as Air France, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Delta, KLM, Lufthansa, and Pan Am, operate in Berlin.

3. Getting Around

The city of Greater Berlin was laid out in its present form in 1920, divided down the middle into North and South banks by the river Spree, and into Eastern and Western sections by the former Berlin wall. Some major roads that run through the city are the Strasse des 17 Juni, Kurfurstendamm, Potsdamer, Friedrich, and Unter den Linden. These roads are lined with historical buildings and cultural venues that are easily accessible by the underground railways.

Bus and Commuter Rail Service

The Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVGBerlin Public Transportation) in Berlin has attempted to lessen noise, pollution, and traffic by strengthening the public transportation service. Bus service is less convenient than using the trams (which run mostly in eastern Berlin) and quick underground railways. The suburban railway network, "Sbahn" and "U-bahn," consists of 300 kilometers (186 miles) of track which runs around in circles under the city. The U5 travels from east to west while the U6 travels north to south.


Many of Berlin's sights are within walking distance of the public transportation system, including the boulevard Unter den Linden which starts at Brandenburg Gate, continuing to the river, with the Tiergarten nearby. Museum Island is a popular place to view the extensive art collections of Berlin, which is actually located in the Spree River. Potsdamer Platz, in the center of the city, holds the State Library, National Gallery, and Philharmonic Concert Hall. Tour boats travel on the many lakes and canals around the city.

4. People

The population of Berlin in 1999 amounted to more than 4.3 million, but this figure has been declining since the 1970s, in part because the birthrate is one of the lowest in the world. Only ten-and-a-half births occur per 1,000 inhabitants during a given year. However, an increasing number of foreigners have been settling in Berlin due to recently loosened immigration laws and easier citizenship requirements. Nearly 500,000 foreigners live in what has been called the most international city in Germany, including Turks, Russians, Poles, and others. Despite the mixture of cultures the official language of the people is High German, which came into common usage after Martin Luther's translation of the bible in the sixteenth century. There is also a residual split between East Germans, or "Ossis," and West Germans, who are called "Wessis."

5. Neighborhoods

The center of Berlin is marked by the Reichstag, or Deutscher Bundestag-Plenarbereich Reichstagsgebäude (German Federal Assembly-Plenary Area, Imperial Assembly Building), which was renamed to symbolize a break with the city's Nazi history. The Brandenburg Tor, or Gate, is the doorway from West

City Fact Comparison
Population of urban area13,337,00010,772,0002,688,00012,033,000
Date the city was founded28 October 1237AD 969753 BC723 BC
Daily costs to visit the city2
Hotel (single occupancy)$118$193$172$129
Meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner)$66$56$59$62
Incidentals (laundry, dry cleaning, etc.)$16$14$15$16
Total daily costs (hotel, meals, incidentals)$200$173$246$207
Major Newspapers3
Number of newspapers serving the city8132011
Largest newspaperBerliner ZeitungAkhbar El Yom/Al AkhbarLa RepubblicaRenmin Ribao
Circulation of largest newspaper370,0001,159,450754,9303,000,000
Date largest newspaper was established1877194419761948
1United Nations population estimates for the year 2000.
2The maximum amount the U.S. Government reimburses its employees for business travel. The lodging portion of the allowance is based on the cost for a single room at a moderately-priced hotel. The meal portion is based on the costs of an average breakfast, lunch, and dinner including taxes, service charges, and customary tips. Incidental travel expenses include such things as laundry and dry cleaning.
3David Maddux, ed. Editor&Publisher International Year Book. New York: The Editor&Publisher Company, 1999.

to East, where the Berlin Wall crossed the city center before it was destroyed in November 1989. The eastern and western portions of the city differ greatly, with the western Kurfürstendamm, or Ku'damm, commercial center sporting all of the nicest shops and cafés while the eastern Alexanderplatz has been described as "depressing." This should change soon because the greatest building activity in Germany is taking place in Berlin, improving the infrastructure that will link both sides of the city together again. Much of the population lives in the suburbs. Spandau, in the west of Berlin, is home to one of Berlin's largest residential developments, Wasserstadt Oberhavel on the banks of the Havel. Biesdorf-Süd, between Marzahn and Hellersdorf, houses 500,000 residents on the edge of the former East Berlin. The nicer neighborhoods lie around the lakes in the west, including the Grunewald, Frohnau, and Westend communities. The majority of Berliners rent housing and enjoy the idea of a local community, or the Kiez. Although Berlin has always been a popular place to live, more people are emigrating to nearby towns and cities than are moving into the capital city. The government has embarked upon a complete restructuring of surrounding communities designed to help draw back residents; it is expected to show results by the year 2010.

6. History

In 1237, the fishing community of Colln was first registered as a town located on the south bank of the Spree River. After 1244, opposite this settlement on the north bank, lay the larger merchant town of Berlin. Following a century or more of separation, the administrations of these two towns merged in 1307 to fight against robber barons. These "noblemen" acted more like pirates, demanding huge tributes and terrorizing the populace, but without an army the citizens of Berlin could not fight back. By the year 1411, the town had asked the Holy Roman Emperor for protection, bringing in Fredrich von Hohenzollern, Burggraf of Nuremberg and his army. The Hohenzollerns ruled Berlin and most of Germany for centuries, conquering Prussia in 1640 and founding the German Reich in 1871. Traditionally the capital city and royal residence of the Hohenzollerns, Friedrich Wilhelm chose Berlin as his seat of power in the newly founded Prussia. Eight Friedrich Wilhelms followed his example, building the military and economic strength of Germany from Berlin.

The Industrial Revolution (c. 1750) brought new factories and an influx of settlers to the city from the surrounding countryside. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the city's population reached more than four million, attracting both industry and culture. By 1871, Otto von Bismarck (18151898) and Wilhelm I (17971888) succeeded where others had failed by bringing together Denmark, Austria, France, Prussia, and the German states into one empire, with Berlin as the capital. This was the first time that the German states were truly unified, but the German empire, which extended across Europe and into the colonies, still posed a military challenge.

The shock of losing World War I (191418) caused riots in Berlin against the traditional imperial system, which was replaced by a democratic constitution in Weimar, in 1919. This political instability was accentuated by the economic problems, or Great Depression, of the "golden" 1920s, but Berlin seemed to flower under pressure. Ironically, the city bloomed into the most popular gathering place for avant-garde artists, like Fritz Lang, Klaus Mann, and Bertolt Brecht. In 1933, Hitler ended the party by marching thousands of troops into Berlin and imposing military rule. The 1936 Olympic games in Berlin were sadly overshadowed by war preparations. When Hitler annexed Austria and part of Czechoslovakia in 1938, he also ordered the destruction of Jewish buildings in Berlin called Reichskristallnacht, or the night of the broken glass. The Nazis systematically killed approximately 50,000 Jews in concentration camps until World War II ended in 1945. Only two-and-a-half million of Berlin's four million inhabitants were left after the fighting ended.

Berlin was divided into four parts at first, with the Soviet Union, United States, Britain, and France overseeing the reconstruction. By 1948, the United States had claimed West Germany, and the Soviet Union had assumed control of East Germany, but Berlin's location in the east caused problems. The democracies wanted to keep some hold on Berlin (the traditional power seat), so they proceeded to airlift food into the starved Soviet city. In 1961, the Soviets built a wall dividing the city in half, which remained until 1989. At this point, the western capital moved to Bonn while the Soviet occupiers stayed in Berlin. This artificial separation made reunification a happy occasion, but difficult economically and socially. In 1994, the last foreign troops left Berlin, signaling the end to 50 years of occupation and allowing the German government's homecoming to Berlin in 1999.

7. Government

The city-state of Berlin's political system consists of the mayor, the House of Representatives, or city Parliament, which is elected for four-year terms with a minimum of 150 representatives and public meetings, and the Senate. There are ten ministerial portfolios. The constitution written in 1950 for western Berlin has applied to eastern Berlin as well since 1991. The city is also the Federal Capital of Germany, with all major governmental offices located on the banks of the river Spree.

8. Public Safety

The police force in Berlin consists of the general police for petty crimes, criminal police for serious crimes, alert forces for large-scale problems, and the river police. The Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), which deals with criminals that operate across state boundaries, has one of its bases in Berlin and is also the national center for Interpol. The border patrol also operates along the Polish border, which lies only 100 kilometers (62 miles) away from Berlin.

9. Economy

Berlin began as a fishing and trading community, selling primarily rye and timber. This role in trade grew larger through the centuries as a disciplined military force protected foreign tradesmen and helped collect customs tariffs. The 1830s brought the Industrial Revolution to Berlin, which hastily built factories to produce machine tools, dyes, medicines, and electrical goods. AEG and Siemens had an early start in Berlin, fueling participation in both World Wars. The Great Depression brought economic chaos, but success in the arts, especially in film production. Although Berlin was devastated by the time World War II was over, major reconstruction projects funded by the victors helped to keep the economy going.

Berlin continues to deal with ongoing reintegration of the West with the East, as well as an economy that is shifting from the processing to the service sector. Many companies relocated from Berlin during the uncertain years after the war, but now Daimler-Benz, Sony, IBM-Germany, and German Rail have headquarters along the Spree. Berlin is one of Germany's largest banking centers, the world's leading conference center, the seat of Federal Government, and the largest university city in Germany (147,000 students) with three major universities. Half of the 1.6 million workers are in the service sector, and about 13 percent of the workforce is unemployed, but recent restructuring aims to lower this figure. Also, projects with the rest of the European Union, including monetary unification, have played an important role in stabilizing the Berlin economy.

10. Environment

The Social Democrat-Green Party coalition in Germany's federal government gave environmentalists a strong say in policymaking at the end of the twentieth century. As the twenty-first century begins, the Federal Environmental Agency in Berlin hopes to promote the efficient use of energy, to close substance cycles, and reverse land depletion trends, but the biggest problem comes from eastern industry. Lignite was the main source of energy in the former GDR, satisfying 70 percent of the east's requirement, leading to massive pollution throughout Germany. Lignite is still the principal domestic source of energy, with reserves reaching 43 billion tons in the Rhineland. The alternative, nuclear power, has gained ridicule from environmentalists who see nuclear power plants as more of a danger than a viable resource. A number of rivers and lakes flow in and around Berlin, which are as polluted as the streets of the city. The administration's energy policy hopes to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 25 percent between 1990 and 2010, in part by building new, energy-efficient flats and limiting industrial pollutants. By 1995, carbon dioxide levels were down by ten percent. The Berlin Solar Campaign also hopes to bring solar energy, which can be used without creating harmful emissions, into widespread use. In recent years, flooding in Germany resulting from alternating El Niño and La Nina weather patterns and stimulated by global warming has washed away topsoil and endangered lives. It is hoped that with replanting and other soil conservation measures the land and forests will remain an important resource for generations to come.

11. Shopping

At the trendy Prenzlauer Berg, art galleries, cafés, and restaurants line the street. A large, new shopping mall has been built at Potsdamer Platz, a startling contrast to the eastern Alexander-platz, which has barely been renovated since Soviet occupation. The Kurfürstendamm, or Ku'damm, is a three-and-a-half-kilometer (two-mile) strip of shops, movie theaters, bars, and cafés, including 6,500 pubs and restaurants. Ku'damm and Tauentzienstrasse in the West are the main shopping centers, along with Friedrichstrasse in the East. Shop hours are normally 9:30 am to 8:00 pm Monday through Friday and 9:00 am to 4:00 pm Saturday. Most shops are closed on Sunday, but more and more stores are opening their doors to customers all week long. Business is booming in the newly renovated capital of Germany, drawing customers and holiday travelers from around the world. A visitor can get a three-day pass on the underground in order to visit all the shopping centers without missing a store.

12. Education

Compulsory schooling begins for Berlin students at age seven and lasts for nine or ten years. Most children are tested at age ten for aptitude and then placed in a Hauptshule or Realshule for vocational trades, a Gymnasium for academics, or a comprehensive Gesamtschule, which teaches all trades. Those from the Gymnasium finish school with their abitur exams while children from the Realschule continue on to technical school, or Fachobershule, and polytechnic university, or Fachhochschule. Education through post-graduate work is free for all, including foreigners. There are three major universities in Berlin: Freie Universität Berlin with 61,000 students, Technische Universität Berlin with 38,000 students, and Humbolt Universität zu Berlin with 19,000 students. There are numerous other colleges that cater to more particular professions and trades. The guild system, which began during the middle ages in Germany, continues to some extent through the educational system which is geared towards satisfying the business community's needs with apprenticeship and internship requirements in many fields. Berlin is also home to a large number of foreign students that come to the international city to learn the German language, as well as about the clash between western and eastern culture and the two world wars that took place largely on German and French soil.

13. Health Care

Everyone in Germany is entitled to health care, with benefits programs divided into two categories. Statutory insurance provides virtually free choice of doctors (on a quarterly basis), unlimited visits and checkups, prescription drug coverage with a co-payment, comprehensive dental visits, vision and hearing aids, mental health visits, monthly home allowances for the chronically ill, liberal maternity benefits, and disability pay. The government receives funds to pay for health care from employee taxes and public and private donations, but much of the money comes from government coffers. Partly as a result of comprehensive health care and the social welfare system, the German government's debt has risen substantially.

14. Media

Die Welt is the only national German daily to move its headquarters from Bonn to Berlin and to add expanded coverage of the city. There are nearly 1,200 accredited correspondents in Bonn and Berlin, working for the following newspapers and magazines. The B.Z. has the largest circulation of the city with 298,500; the Berliner Zeitung comes next with 216,600; and the Berliner Morgenpost, Tagesspiegel, and Tages Zeitung also have extensive circulations. Magazines such as Der Spiegel and Focus are popular, but American and other European magazines can be found on most store shelves as well.

15. Sports

The Berlin New Year Run brings athletes out of doors for one of the largest sports events in the city. The Berliner SV 1892 rugby club, the Berlin Cricket Clubthe Refugeesand ALBA Berlin basketball teamAlbatroscomprise the major sports clubs.

16. Parks and Recreation

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Prussian Kings and German Emperors of the House of Hohenzollern transformed the Havel landscape into a series of parks, beginning a great tradition of German respect for nature. The center of these public works was in Potsdam, but this extended towards the Berlin royal palace and winter residence that were both destroyed during World War II. On King's Road to Berlin, Glienicke Palace's gardens contain a landscaped park, and Babelsberg Palace's gothic buildings are surrounded by manicured land. In the center of Berlin, Unter den Linden is a nice boulevard to promenade, leading to the Zoologischer Garten and Tiergarten, which is a protected woodland. On Museum Island, a number of gardens also surround the museum district, making the island an attractive place to visit. The lakes and rivers throughout the city lend the opportunity to sightsee by boat and to enjoy nature and the great outdoors.

17. Performing Arts

Berlin is the music capital of Germany, named so because of the many opera houses and orchestras. There are three opera houses and five other orchestras, including the top-rated Deutsche Staatsoper Unter den Linden with international music director Daniel Barenboim and the Philharmonic Hall, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, and the Komische Oper. The Musical Theatre Berlin, Theater des Westens, Friei Volksbühne Berlin, and Theater am Kurfürstendamm put on plays and musicals. To get a taste of cabaret-style entertainment, a visitor can go to Bar Jeder Vernunft-Spiegelpalast, the Wintergarten, and Chamäleon Variete. The Berlin Festival, Film Festival, and Theater make the city a gathering place for young artists in the progressive cultural scene. The nightlife is scattered with small club gatherings that feature live music, electronic music, and theatrical productions. On just about every street corner in the arts districts, street performers can be seen juggling, dancing, singing, painting, or playing an instrument.

18. Libraries and Museums

The Berlin Central and Regional Library is a fusion of the American House Library and the Berlin State Library which took place in 1995. The new Bundestag Library supports governmental officials. For business reference, the Science and Technology Center Berlin Adlershof (WISTA) contains a wealth of products and services in information technology in an integrated technology park just southeast of Berlin. For tourists, the New National Gallery contains works by Hals, Rembrandt, and Vermeer, as well as twentieth-century German art, especially Berlin portraits and cityscapes by Geroge Grosz and Otto Dix. The Pergamonmuseum contains classical artifacts and antiquities, such as Islamic art, a Pergamon Altar (160 B. C. ), and a Babylonian Throne Room, located on Museum Island in the middle of the river Spree with the Bodemuseum. Finally, the Bauhaus Archive Design Museum holds works from the Bauhaus period, which lasted from 1919 to 1933. A three-day pass to these museums and more can be purchased from the German tourism board.

19. Tourism

More than six million tourists visit Berlin every year, making it one of the most popular cities in Europe. Volker Hassemer, managing director of the city's marketing agency, claims that "If you want to see the past, go to Rome. If you want to see the future, come to Berlin." The city is undergoing massive reconstruction, with some of the most advanced architecture in the world. Hanover Expo 2000 set out to prove to the world that Germany has not only recovered from World War II but thrived on foreign investment and European protection. Nevertheless, many tourists still come to see historical monuments, including Haus am Checkpoint Charlie, the Berlin Wall memorial, the Fernsehturm (TV tower) which gives a spectacular view of the city, the Reichtags building, and Brandenburg Gate. A number of companies offer walking tours of the city, as well as boating excursions on the river Spree.

20. Holidays and Festivals

Berlin New Year's Run
Unter den Linden

Berlinale Annual International Film Festival

Love Parade (techno and rave party with a procession through Berlin)

Jazz Festival Berlin
Deutschland Festival (street procession Unter den Linden with presentations by German states)

International Riding and Jumping Tournament in the Deutschlandhalle
Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall "NovaEuropaNew Europe" Festival (European dance festival)

21. Famous Citizens

Otto Hahn (18791968), physical chemist, discovered the radioactive protactinium in Berlin with Lisa Meitner.

Alexander von Humboldt (17691859), baron, naturalist, and traveler.

Karl Wilhelm von Humboldt (17671835), statesman and philologist, founder of the Friedrich Wilhelm (now Humboldt) University of Berlin.

Helen Lange (18481930), founder of the German Women's Teacher's Association in Berlin in 1889.

Marie-Elizabeth Luders (18881966), first woman named as honorary president of the Federal Democratic Party, first woman named as senior member of the Bundestag.

Max Planck (18581947), theoretical physicist, formulator of the quantum theory.

Rudolf Schoenheimer (18981941), biochemist.

Louise Schroder (18871957), committed socialist, first woman to be called "Mother of Berlin" in the late 1940s.

22. For Further Study


Berlin Central and Regional Library. [Online] Available (accessed April 14, 2000).

Berlin website with links. [Online] Available (accessed November 30, 1999).

Senate Department of Construction, Housing and Transport, Berlin, Germany. [Online] Available (accessed April 14, 2000).

The Week in Germany. [Online] Available (accessed April 14, 2000).

Government Offices

Berliner Rathaus
10173 Berlin
Tel. (030)90260
Fax (030)90262013

Tourist and Convention Bureaus

German National Tourist Office
122 East 42nd St.
Chanin Building, 52nd Floor
New York, NY 101680072 USA
Tel. (212)6617200
Fax (212)6617174


Berliner Morgenpost
Axel-Springer-Str. 65
D-10888 Berlin
Tel. (030) 25910
Fax (030) 2516071
[Online] Available (Accessed April 14, 2000).


Gumbel, Andrew. Berlin. London: Cadogan Books, 1991.

The Heads of Government of the 16 Constituent States in Germany. Bonn, Germany: Inter Nations Press, 1999.

Koppler, Dr. Arno and Stefan Reichart, eds. Facts About Germany. Frankfurt am Main: German Societats Verlag, 1996.

Larsson, Mans O., ed. Let's Go Germany. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999.

Merkl, Peter H. The Federal Republic of Germany at Fifty: The End of a Century of Turmoil. New York: NYU Press, 1999.

Solsten, Eric, ed. Germany: A Country Study. 3rd ed. Washington, D.C.: Federal Research Division, Library of Congress, 1995.


views updated May 29 2018



At the beginning of the twentieth century, the city of Berlin and its surrounding municipalities were the largest urban agglomeration in the German-speaking world. Berlin was geographically defined by the plains on both sides of the Spree River around the city center, the upper Spree region with its lakes to the southeast, and the confluence of the Spree into the Havel River to the west. Already in the preceding centuries, waterways had been a central factor of Berlin's development as the commercial and economic core of central Germany, now complemented by its nodal function in the German railway system.

Berlin's population in 1900 was the product of several decades of rapid population growth. Taking into account the creation of Greater Berlin in 1920, about 2.7 million people lived in the region. The population continued to grow, but at a more moderate pace during the first half of the century, reaching about 4.3 million in 1930. It slowly but continuously receded after 1945 to stagnate around 3.4 million in 2000. In 2000, as in 1900, the "typical" Berliner was not born in Berlin. Immigrants continuously arrived from all German regions, but in the first half of the century particularly from the surrounding countryside, the Eastern Prussian provinces, and Poland. In the heyday of Nazi Germany's terror against subjugated populations in Europe, about seven hundred thousand forced laborers (Zwangsarbeiter) swelled the city population. After World War II, immigrants from southern and southeastern Europe as well as from Turkey stabilized West Berlin's net population balance. In the postcommunist era, reunified Berlin is marked again by East European (Poland, and the countries of the former Soviet Union) and global migration trends. By contrast, fertility rates throughout the century show the classical features of urban decline, from 26 (1901) to over 17 (1918) to 15 (1938) to fewer than 10 births per 10,000 inhabitants, in all cases a level insufficient for population growth. Regarding age structure, however, a major shift has occurred. Still a city of the young in the first half of the twentieth century, Berlin was not spared the second demographic transition of very low fertility and rising life expectancy during the second half of century. It has tended to be a city of the old in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.


Berlin has always been and still is the largest industrial city in Germany, despite the overall decline of the industrial sector in the last decades of the twentieth century. As the German capital, the city's labor force engaged in multifold activities in commerce, business, the civil service, education, and culture.

The traditional strength of Berlin's industry lies in the manufacturing sector and is based on advanced technology and the transfer of knowledge from the natural and engineering sciences. Huge conglomerates with international reputations such as Rheinmetall-Borsig (mechanical engineering), Siemens and AEG (electrical industry), and Schering (pharmaceuticals) dominate the picture, complemented by a large segment of small and medium-sized and highly specialized businesses. Already during the late years of the German Empire, however, Berlin had also become an early center of services mainly because of its central functions as a capital, but also because of the increasing relevance of knowledge transfer from universities, of modern marketing coupled with burgeoning consumerism, of the commodification of culture and leisure time on a mass scale, and of the expansion of the interventionist state, a tendency continued under the Nazi dictatorship with its own set of new central administrations. The expansion of the public sector was taken to its extremes in both halves of the divided city during the Cold War: East Berlin became the site of the bloated bureaucracy of central economic planning and political surveillance of state socialism, while West Berlin's public service remained heavily overstaffed thanks to the politically motivated subsidies from West Germany that safeguarded attractive living standards. Only since German reunification have efforts been made to reduce these disproportions. Private services have now established themselves as the dominating sector of the city's economic activities, while the late adaptation to the logics of a globalized economy has led to a dramatic reduction of industrial workplaces.


1900 to 1919

Before the creation of Greater Berlin in 1920, the city of Berlin with its 1.9 million inhabitants was a municipality with restricted autonomy thanks to the prerogatives of the central state in the residence and capital of the Kingdom of Prussia, itself the largest member state of the German Empire. De facto, the police president of Berlin, placed immediately under the Prussian Ministry of Interior, had power over the city's affairs at least as substantial as that of the mayor (Oberbürgermeister). The latter was elected by a parliament based on census suffrage. City politics were therefore marked by a double discrimination: The overwhelming majority of the (exclusively male) electorate, consisting of the low income earners from the working class primarily voting for Social Democratic candidates, was grossly underrepresented in the city parliament as well as among the Berlin members of the Prussian House of Commons. City politics were thus dominated by middle-class liberals, but lacked the means of effective municipal autonomy thanks to the semi-absolutist constitution and the governance of the Prussian state. The same is true for the large neighboring cities of several hundred thousands that were later integrated into Greater Berlin, including Charlottenburg, Wilmersdorf, Schöneberg, Neukölln, Spandau, Lichtenberg, and Cöpenick. Left liberals and the Social Democrats were allies in fighting the unequal voting system and established a pragmatic cooperation on the local level in such areas as welfare, urban planning, and public education, prefiguring the coalitions vital for Greater Berlin's politics during the Weimar Republic.

The political profile of the city population found its expression in a much more accurate way in the Reichstag, the empire's house of commons based on equal male suffrage. Starting in the 1890s, Berlin was overwhelmingly represented by the Social Democratic Party, whose candidates always carried between 50 and 80 percent of the votes. In consequence, Berlin's politics were marked by a unique overlapping of three heterogeneous forces: the antidemocratic power center of the Prussian monarchy, an economically influential and in large parts progressively oriented middle-class liberalism, and the absolute hegemony of socialism among the lower middle classes and the working class.

The unresolved tensions among these camps were muted in the name of a domestic "truce" proclaimed at Germany's entry in World War I, only to break open again with the dramatic deterioration of living conditions and the extremely unequal distribution of the war's burden within society. When the Social Democrats split over the war support issue in 1916, the traditional strength of the left wing among Berlin's Social Democrats made for a particularly strong section of the new Independent Social Democratic Party, which during the 1920s became a recruiting ground for the German Communist Party. The November revolution in 1918 was therefore marked by the direct competition between the project of a socialist republic of workers' and soldiers' councils (Arbeiterund Soldatenräte) as proclaimed by the left-wing leader Karl Liebknecht from a balcony of the imperial castle on 9 November, and a parliamentary republic as proclaimed by Philipp Scheidemann, one of two leaders of the right-wing Social Democrats, from a window of the Reichstag a few hours later. The alliance between parts of the military and the right-wing Social Democrats "to restore order" was met with fierce resistance among Berlin's radicals. During the overthrow of their revolt in January 1919, their famous leaders, Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, were murdered by right-wing paramilitaries on 15 January.

1919 to 1933

The establishment of the Weimar Republic also entailed the thorough reform of Prussia into a democratic legal state. One of the most important projects of the Prussian National Assembly elected in February 1919 was the reorganization of the municipality of Berlin according to exigencies of modern urban planning and administration. A law passed with the majority of both Social Democratic parties, the left liberals, and the Catholic Center Party merged the old city of Berlin with seven independent cities, 59 rural counties, and 27 estates to form a new single municipality with a surface area of 88,000 hectares (217,400 acres). This "Greater Berlin" was divided into twenty city districts with local administration functions and was governed by an Oberbürgermeister heading a body of city councillors. Because of the inclusion of large rural areas, forests, and lakesides the new metropolis offered plenty of areas for recreational purposes and modern housing developments. In these regards, as in the realm of public transportation, public education, and social welfare, Greater Berlin saw a process of rapid modernization.

Throughout the 1920s city politics were dominated by Social Democratic–Liberal–Catholic alliances, which, however, came under increasing pressure from both left-wing and right-wing extremist opponents. Berlin's traditional working-class districts quickly developed into strongholds of the young German Communist Party and its vast network of social and cultural mass organizations. From 1926 onward, the emergent Nazi Party waged a fierce "battle for Berlin" spearheaded by the gifted orator and organizer Joseph Goebbels. The Nazis' strategy consisted primarily of waging guerrilla wars in the "enemy's" strongholds through a decidedly provocative and violent style of street politics, to which the communist camp hit back accordingly. Caught in-between, the moderate Social Democrats had to fulfill the role of upholding law and order, eventually making them the prime target of communist "revolutionary" propaganda against "social fascism." The rift between the two camps of organized labor, one of the crucial causes of the failure of the Weimar Republic, thus found its most violent and spectacular manifestations in Berlin, when, for instance, a police force under Social Democratic leadership killed thirty-three demonstrators and other civilians in order to enforce the ban on communist demonstrations on May Day 1929. Although the Berlin electorate remained relatively immune to the Nazi challenge, the city's Nazi votes remaining more than 10 percent below the Reich average of 44 percent in the irregular elections of March 1933, the continuous antagonisms between the Nazi opponents had contributed to a fatal erosion of the social and cultural resources necessary for any effective resistance before and after the Nazis' seizure of power in January 1933.

1933 to 1945

For the city of Greater Berlin, the Nazi policy of Gleichschaltung (synchronization) resulted in the loss of its municipal self-administration and the placement into power of a Prussian State commissioner under the direct control of the Prussian minister of the interior, Hermann Goering, who purged the city administration of civil servants with democratic party affiliations or those of Jewish descent. Berlin's schools were affected by this measure. Starting in 1937, principal matters of urban planning and representative architecture in the capital of the Third Reich were placed under the responsibility of Adolf Hitler's personal confidant, the architect Albert Speer. At the same time, the successive waves of political repression and ostracism against minorities hit segments of all the classes of the Berlin population: Among the first to be interned in the makeshift concentration camp set up in 1933 in nearby Oranienburg were activists of both working-class parties, liberal politicians, publicists, and Christian priests of both confessions. Anti-Semitic purges also hit large parts of Berlin's universities, the liberal and artistic professions, and the upper class, triggering off a brain drain to Great Britain and the United States from which the capital's intellectual and cultural life never fully recovered. State terror was moderated for a short period around the Olympic Games of 1936 to provide an opportunity to present Berlin as a modern and highly civilized metropolis to the international public, while the celebration of the (alleged) seven-hundred-year anniversary of Berlin in the following year was extensively used to display the reconcilability between Nazi ideology and Berlin's sense of local pride.

Also in Berlin, the so-called Kristallnacht of 9–10 November 1938 marked a first climax of public anti-Semitic terror supported by state authorities. During the years of World War II, the Reich capital acquired an eminent and to some extent ambivalent role in the history of the Holocaust. On the one hand, it was the site of the large administrative staffs designing and organizing the registration, expulsion, exploitation, deportation, and murder of the Jewry in Germany as well as in occupied Europe. Of the 161,000 Jews living in Berlin in 1933, only 1,000 to 2,000 still lived in Berlin at the end of the war. The great majority emigrated, while 56,000 were killed by the Nazi terror, often following long years of increasing discrimination and eventual denunciation by their fellow citizens. On the other hand, no other urban agglomeration in Germany provided comparable possibilities to escape and thereby resist the Gestapo thanks to the anonymity that is typical in large cities. Berlin offered myriad opportunities for going underground, hiding with the help of informal networks, and adopting false identities. Thus, although the last two years of the war were marked by the intensified terror of Berlin Nazi "Gauleiter" Goebbels's "total war" mobilization, by increasing the chaos and the disintegration of the city's vital functions due to bombing raids, mass evacuation, and, in the last weeks of the war, massive westward flight from the approaching Red Army, it was also a site of survival for thousands of individuals persecuted by the Nazi terror machinery.

1945 to 1961

Through the destruction of World War II, Berliners suffered the loss of more than half their living space and about 60 percent of their workplaces. A relevant part of this destruction occurred at very end of the war during the "battle for Berlin," which was launched by the Soviet Army on 16 April 1945 and ended with the surrender of the city to the Soviets on 2 May. The battle cost tens of thousands of Soviet and German lives, both soldiers and civilians, and was accompanied and followed by contrasting and irreconcilable experiences. The Soviet victory brought the end of life-threatening terror and freedom to several hundred thousand forced laborers, concentration camp inmates, and Nazi opponents, but it was experienced as a wave of retaliatory acts on the part of the triumphant conquerors, notably by tens of thousands of raped women and girls. At the same time the Soviet Army was eager to restore basic services such as provisioning and clearing the debris through a combination of generosity and despotism. In part, these first measures of restoration of public service were designed to install a reliable group of German communists in Soviet exile under the leadership of Walter Ulbricht as office-holders in the new emergent city administration.

But according to a September 1944 agreement between the war allies, not only Germany as a whole was to be divided up in occupation zones, but also its capital, which would serve as the headquarters for the joined bodies of control. For this purpose, the territory of Greater Berlin was divided first into three sectors, and then, after the admission of France, four sectors, which the Western partners took over in June 1945 in order to establish their respective sector administrations. Because of the early and preemptive admission of German political parties and trade unions under the short period of exclusive Soviet control, German politics in Berlin and in the Soviet Occupation Zone were revitalized much earlier than in the three Western zones. Thereby reverberations of the growing tensions between the Allies had already manifested themselves by April 1946, when the Soviets, in their zone of occupation, imposed the unification of the two refounded working-class parties, the Social Democrats and the Communists, and mounted repressive measures against recalcitrant German politicians among the Social Democrats as well as the Christian Democrats and Liberals. In Berlin, however, the Western Allies could secure a fair vote within the Social Democratic Party resulting in a first manifestation of democratic anticommunism, later to become the hallmark of West Berlin's political culture. The four-power consensus secured the coexistence of a Western-oriented Social Democratic Party and the newly founded Socialist Unity Party, the state party of the future East German dictatorship, in all city sectors and also within the structures of the city administration.

The first democratic elections in fall 1946 made it clear that the pro-Soviet forces would never gain a majority among the Berliners. After increasing disputes about the city's administration and in the Soviet refusal to accept the West Berlin Social Democratic leader Ernst Reuter as the new city mayor, it was the issue of all-German currency reform that led to the first Berlin crisis in June 1948. After futile inter-allied negotiations about an all-German currency reform, the Western Allies had replaced the old hyperinflated reichsmark in their West German zones by the deutsche mark and announced to do the same in their West Berlin sectors. On the pretext of preventing a massive influx of devaluated reichsmark, the Soviets closed the official terrestrial transit connections (highways, railways, and waterways) between the Western sectors and the Western zones through which the Western Allies had maintained all the provisions and goods traffic necessary for their sectors. These "measures" (Soviet rhetoric), or "blockade," as the Western public would quickly term it, were countered by the Western Allies with the logistically and technically unique Berlin airlift, conducted from 26 June 1948 through September 1949, while the Soviet blockade was lifted on 12 May 1949. The airlift was made possible by the tacit understanding that the Soviets would not interfere with the Allied usage of the air corridors and because Greater Berlin by its sheer territorial size offered enough room for three inner-city airports, one of which was constructed during the blockade. Although the airlift was not capable of importing virtually all required goods from the beginning, and West Berliners therefore had to provision themselves through the semi- and unofficial channels they had been using since the last years of the war, it quickly became clear that the proficiency of the airlift could be increased to the point of complete maintenance of the Western sectors. Above all, it was the imagery of the beleaguered but undeterred West Berlin population amicably assisted by its former enemies that brought a moral triumph for the Western cause in the eyes of the international public.

During the blockade the city's joint administration fell apart, engendering the double structure of an East and a West Berlin municipality with their own city parliaments, mayors, and councillors, which remained basically intact until 1990. Nevertheless, Berlin remained the place in the Cold War theater with the most intensive exchanges between the antagonistic power spheres. The two halves of the city were still linked by their economic, technical, and social interactions on an everyday basis, with frequent commuting of workers, integrated public transportation, and even some practical cooperation between the two administrations on the lower level. This became blatantly evident during the popular uprising on 16 and 17 June 1953, the first anti-communist revolt against Soviet hegemony. Initially, East Berlin construction workers went on strike over low wage and endemic supply problems. With the U.S.-sponsored and German-staffed radio station RIAS covering the event, the protest movement grew into to a general, East German–wide protest against Ulbricht's regime, which was suppressed only after the intervention of Soviet troops.

Throughout the 1950s, both city halves were integrated, step by step, into the unfolding political structures of their respective hemispheres: From the Eastern side, Berlin was declared the capital of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and fully adapted to its administrative and political structures. The Western allies, by contrast, insisted on the provisional status of Berlin, which therefore could not be fully integrated as a federal state into the new Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). Nevertheless, the legal, administrative, and economic structure of West Berlin was completely aligned to the West German system, making it de facto the twelfth federal state of the FRG.

With the Soviet ultimatum that the Western allies should give up their sectors, the second Berlin crisis was under way in 1958. The open traffic between the two parts of the city had meanwhile become the only opening in the otherwise sealed-off East German republic, to the point that it endangered its very existence. The erection of the Berlin Wall on 13 August 1961 therefore marked a point of no return for the city's further development.

1961 to 1989

For both sides, the Berlin Wall brought a consolidation of their middle term development. Each side had already regarded its own half as a showcase in the inner-German conflict and felt compelled to display the attractive aspects of their respective systems to their own populations and to the world at large and undermine the adversary's morale. In the case of East Berlin, the city was given preferred status within the state planning processes when it came to the allocation of resources for industrial investment and construction, a practice that earned the city and its inhabitants persistent unpopularity among the rest of the GDR. This preferential treatment was complemented by the unproportional growth of the huge bureaucracies of the party state, making East Berlin the capital as well of the loyal "service class." According to principles of strict centralism in the communist dictatorship, East Berlin's politics never transcended the status of an executive outpost of the party and the state leadership.

Walled-in West Berlin, by contrast, developed into a highly dynamic factor in West German and international politics. The material existence of its 2.1 million inhabitants was continuously subsidized by the FRG to the point of covering approximately 50 percent of public spending. Subsidies supported both manufacturing enterprises and public institutions of higher education and research, as well as other federal institutions, thus stabilizing but also petrifying the socioeconomic situation. At the same, the need to find some basic practical arrangements with the GDR leadership in the realm of travel permits into the East formed the background for Willy Brandt's new Ostpolitik and its strategy of "change by rapprochement," a policy that would gradually distance itself from the aggressive anticommunism of pre-détente times and emphasize dialogue and exchange. This atmospheric shift, under way since the late 1950s, found a peculiar expression in West Berlin because of the growing influx of West German students attracted both by the highly politicized climate per se and, among the males, by the exemption of West Berlin citizens from military service in consequence of West Berlin's status as occupied territory. West Berlin universities were therefore among the most virulent centers of the 1968 German youth rebellion. Although large parts of the West Berlin population at first fiercely resented this resurgence of left-wing radicalism from within, shouting their angry "Geh och rüber! " (Just go to the other side), the persistent attractiveness of the student and youth subcultures added much to the city's open and liberal-minded atmosphere during the 1970s and 1980s. This atmosphere did not change when, after nearly thirty years of uninterrupted Social Democratic majorities, a Christian Democratic, Richard von Weizsäcker, was elected governing mayor in 1981.

In the relations between the two city halves, a smooth change began to set in only some years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Because of the international Berlin treaty of 1972, personal encounters through West Berliners visiting the East were furthered. With inner-German exchanges expanding in the 1980s, direct contacts on the cultural and scientific level also became more frequent, in particular in the aftermath of the double 750th anniversary celebration of Berlin, when an exchange of historical and art exhibits was organized.

1990 to 2000

While there surely was some—mostly unarticulated—skepticism in the West German public about the rush to German reunification after the collapse of the wall, there was no question that the cities of East and West Berlin should be reunited once the path to reunification was treaded. Even in the months before October 1990, both city governments, the West Berlin Senate, and the East Berlin Magistrate held their sessions together in order to handle the multifold problems emerging from the reintegration of two cities of millions of inhabitants. The Bundestag decision of 20 June 1991 to move the bulk of federal government institutions to Berlin restored the city's unique character among German urban agglomerations and united the functions of an industrial and commercial, political and cultural center of national and international relevance.

Reunified Berlin therefore reflects the political subcultures of reunified Germany in peculiar ways: The legacy of West Berlin alternative culture is expressed in an exceptionally strong Green Party, while the prevalence of loyal state servants in the former capital of the GDR secures an exceptionally strong position to the postcommunist successor of the SED, the "Party of Democratic Socialism" (renamed Left Party/PDS in 2005). The latter being practically excluded from executive functions on the Land level during the first half of the 1990s, a "great coalition" of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats had to form the new governments after the first elections in reunified Berlin on 2 December 1990. This coalition was replaced by a so-called red-red coalition of Social Democrats and the PDS in 2000. The impetus for this remarkable shift of coalition partner for the Social Democrats was the Christian Democrats deep involvement in a scandalous affair of bankruptcy and corruption within the city's investment banking house, which added some 38 billion euros to its deficit. But this was not the only burden on Berlin's finances. In both parts of the city the public sector remained overproportional during the 1990s—a legacy of the Cold War. Instead of readjusting public spending to the new conditions of the free market economy that had been established in both former city halves, unrealistic growth expectations regarding demographic potential and tax revenue accumulated to a de facto insolvency of Berlin in 2000, a burden that it will be able to get rid of only with the help of federal aid.


Berlin's cultural life throughout the twentieth century was marked by the permanent encounter of heterogeneous and volatile elements: immigrants from all regions of central and eastern Europe, German and non-German, were attracted by a city that offered chances alike not only to unskilled workers and skilled artisans, and to maids and female clerks, but also to career-minded scientists and scholars, and to artists, musicians, and writers of all varieties and orientations. The massive concentration of industry and finance, of central state and large business bureaucracies, and of higher education and high-culture institutions fostered a vast public sphere of cultural activities that developed a particular dynamic until the sudden crackdown on anything deemed un-German by the Nazis. Overcoming the burdens of tradition and living up to the exigencies of the present was the unquestioned self-understanding of these activities. It can be found in the mass enthusiasm for modern sports such as car racing, boxing, and soccer, and for all kinds of industrial fairs and shows at the Funkturm exhibition area, and also in the continuous support shown by Berlin's public and private patrons for avant-garde movements in the arts and architecture, and in theater, dance, literature, and film. Most importantly, Berlin's cultural life stands out for the continuous cross-fertilization between two dimensions of cultural modernity: expressionist architects such as Bruno Taut and Walter Gropius engaged in public housing projects; their playwright and director counterparts such as Max Reinhardt, Erwin Piscator, and Bertolt Brecht drew large audiences to their experimental stage settings and movies; and Berlin's music life combined a supreme position in nineteenth-century classicism with groundbreaking advances in modern music by such notable composers and conductors as Arnold Schoenberg, Richard Strauss, Bruno Walter, Hans Eisler, Kurt Weill, and Wilhelm Furtwängler, to name only a few. The Nazi years clearly put a sudden halt to this dynamic of incessant innovation. Although the spread of modern forms of mass entertainment continued with the popularization of radio and the first experiments with public television, these activities, as with all other sectors of cultural production, stood under strict control of Goebbels's ministry of propaganda.

Although Berlin could never regain its original stature of the years of classical modernity, it remained a crucial focus for cultural life thanks to its double showcase function in divided Germany: both sides invested heavily in the infrastructure of mass and high culture. The 1950s saw an inner-city competition for the future not only of urban planning but also of film, theater, and the arts. Whereas in East Berlin culture policy was often caught between the conventional tastes of party leaders and the reaffirmation of left-wing modernism by practitioners, West Berlin developed into a hub for international cultural trends of the Western world, as embodied in regular events such as the Berlin Film Festival (since 1951) and the Berlin Jazz Festival (since 1964), both notable for their mass audience. Although party censorship always tried to contain autonomous cultural expression in communist East Berlin, its population was never effectively isolated from cultural life in the capitalist world thanks to the accessibility of Western radio and television programs and the remaining personal contacts with the West. As the popularity grew on both sides of the wall for particular new forms of mass entertainment such as rock 'n' roll and beat music and the fashion styles that went with them, as well as for new trends in film and television entertainment, the GDR authorities were eventually forced to offer "homegrown" derivates to their young audiences. This trans-systemic congruence can also be observed, though to a lesser extent, in the realm of high culture. While it was quite natural that East German readers took eager interest in the Western cultural life they were barred from by party interdiction, it is noteworthy that top figures of East German literature such as the playwright Heiner Müller or the writer Christa Wolf gained nationwide and international followings.

It can be argued, however, that everyday culture in both city halves developed in different directions to a point of a mutual alienation that soon became evident once the initial reunification euphoria had worn off. This is pertinent in particular to the cultural effects of the growing presence of non-German migrants in West Berlin, who, although integration policies remained halfhearted at the best, nevertheless found their accepted place within the social fabric of the city. Internationalist rhetoric notwithstanding, the communist regime, by contrast, had pursued a particularly nationalist identity politics, hindering free exchange with the few foreigners living in the capital. Therefore the territory of reunified Berlin has developed a peculiar geography: downtown districts with condensed immigration populations and their sociocultural infrastructure stand in stark contrast to eastern suburbs with a reputation as no-go areas for anyone looking "un-German," something unknown in the western part of the city. Such phenomena might confirm the pervasive talk about a persistent "wall within the heads," to which other, less harmful examples could be added. Such simplifications, however, tend to overlook the actual social and cultural distances (and antagonisms, if one thinks of the civil war situations before 1933) that always existed inside such a large urban agglomeration, whether divided by world politics or not. They also tend to underrate the forces and effects of continuity of Berlin as an urban public sphere, as the city after 1989 quickly reaffirmed its role as a site of intensive internationally oriented and innovative cultural life, in the realms of both mass and high culture.

See alsoBerlin Wall; Brandt, Willy; Germany; Kristallnacht; Ulbricht, Walter; Weizsäcker, Richard von.


Borneman, John. Belonging in the Two Berlins: Kin, State, Nation. Cambridge, U.K., 1992.

Large, David Clay. Berlin. New York, 2000.

Ribbe, Wolfgang, ed. Geschichte Berlins: Eine Veröffentlichung der Historischen Kommission zu Berlin. Vol. 2: Von der Märzrevolution bis zur Gegenwart. Berlin, 1987.

Thomas Lindenberger


views updated Jun 27 2018


BERLIN. Berlin rose to prominence through its partnership with the Hohenzollern dynasty to become the center of their Brandenburg-Prussian lands and, later, capital of the Prussian-dominated Second Reich after 1871. The city's development benefited from its situation on the northeast bank of the Spree at the narrowest crossing over the river halfway between the castles of Spandau and Köpenick. Both these castles were eventually incorporated in the city, as was the nearby town of Cölln, on an island in the river that is now the district of Berlin-Mitte.

In the late Middle Ages, Berlin and Cölln felt threatened by mounting disorder in Brandenburg, particularly after the demise of the Ascanian dynasty in 1319. The two towns formed a defensive alliance in 1307 and collaborated with the Hohenzollerns, who became the new rulers of Brandenburg in 1415. Elector Frederick II (ruled 14401470) exploited internal divisions between the Berlin council and the guilds to assert his authority in 1442. A revolt known as the Berlin Indignation (14471448) failed to stem the growing Hohenzollern presence. The elector built the city palace on confiscated land 14431451 as his principal residence.

The Hohenzollerns introduced the Lutheran Reformation in 1539 with the help of the council, but seventy-five years later, most Berliners refused to follow the lead of Elector John Sigismund (ruled 16001620) and accept Calvinism (after 1613). The Calvinist minority in Berlin was swelled by the arrival of six thousand Huguenot refugees, welcomed from France by Frederick William, the Great Elector (ruled 16401688), after 1677. Jewish refugees also settled after 1670 but enjoyed fewer privileges than the Calvinists who became a thriving commercial community, numbering around a fifth of all Berliners by 1700. From six thousand inhabitants in 1450, Berlin's population had more than doubled by the time the Thirty Years' War came to Brandenburg in 1627. Imperial troops extorted money and supplies until displaced by the Swedes, who demanded the same. The departure of the elector and his family to Königsberg contributed to the economic depression, and the population fell to six thousand by 1648.

Recovery began under the Great Elector, who deliberately promoted Berlin as an economic and political center, particularly through the construction of the Oder-Spree canal in 16621669, which improved access to the Baltic. State-sponsored enterprises were established in and around the city, notably the Lagerhaus cloth factory, founded in 1714, which was Germany's largest textile mill, employing 5,000 workers. Other important enterprises included the arms factory in Spandau run by the Splittgerber and Daum consortium (which supplied the Prussian army with small arms), glass and porcelain factories, and the city's first steam engine in 1795; an iron works opened in 1804. The population rose rapidly, already numbering 57,000 by 1710, and reaching 172,000 by 1800, making Berlin one of Germany's largest cities. New suburbs were laid out in Friedrichswerder, Dorotheenstadt, and Friedrichstadt, while Berlin and Cölln were formally merged on 18 January 1709. However, Berliners suffered from price rises and economic fluctuations throughout the eighteenth century. Many enterprises depended heavily on state subsidy and a real industrial takeoff did not start until the 1830s. The fortifications were razed in 1734 and replaced by a 14 kmlong "tax wall" two years later to enforce collection of the excise imposed on goods entering and leaving the city. Though the remaining military installations were demolished after 1774, Berlin remained a garrison town. Soldiers and their dependants accounted for a fifth of all inhabitants throughout the eighteenth century, compared with under 3 percent in 1871. Wartime mobilization removed both customers and workers from the city's economy, as well as its defenders: Berlin was temporarily occupied by the Austrians and Russians in 1757 and 1760 during the Seven Years' War.

Elector Frederick III (ruled 16881713; king in Prussia as Frederick I, 17011713) embarked on an ambitious building program to make Berlin appear a worthy royal capital as part of his bid for a crown. The sculptor Andreas Schlüter (16591714) oversaw the construction of some of northern Germany's finest baroque buildings, including the Arsenal (1695) and the Charlottenburg palace (1705), while academies of arts (1696) and sciences (1700) were opened. This program faltered once the elector achieved his ambition in 1700 and stopped altogether under his son and successor, Frederick William I (ruled 17131740), who diverted money to expanding the army. War prevented the full implementation of Frederick II's (ruled 17401786) ambitious plans to remodel the city after 1740, but an opera house was built (17401743), along with St. Hedwig's Cathedral, the Royal Library, and Prince Henry's palace, which was converted into the Humboldt University in 1810. Later public buildings, including the Brandenburg Gate (17881791), reflected the influence of Greek neoclassicism and contributed to making Berlin one of Germany's most impressive capitals.

See also Brandenburg ; Frederick I (Prussia) ; Frederick II (Prussia) ; Frederick William (Brandenburg) ; Frederick William I (Prussia) ; Hohenzollern Dynasty ; Prussia.


Badstübner-Gröger, Sybille. Bibliographie zur Kunstgeschichte von Berlin und Potsdam. Berlin, 1968.

Badstübner-Gröger, Sybille, and Jutta von Simson. Berlin und die Mark Brandenburg: Kunstfahren zwischen Havel, Spree und Oder. Munich, 1991.

Neugebauer, Wolfgang. "Staatsverwaltung, Manufaktur und Garnison. Die polyfunktionale Residenzlandschaft von Berlin-Potsdam-Wusterhausen zur Zeit Friedrich Wilhelms I." Forschungen zur Brandenburg und Preussische Geschichte. New series 7 (1997): 233257.

Ribbe, Wolfgang, ed. Geschichte Berlins. 2 vols. Munich, 1987.

Schultz, Helga. Berlin 16501800: Sozialgeschichte einer Residenz. 2nd ed. Berlin, 1992.

Völkel, Markus. "The Hohenzollern Court 15351740." In The Princely Courts of Europe: Ritual, Politics, and Culture under the Ancien Régime 15001750, edited by John Adamson, pp. 210229. London, 1999.

Peter H. Wilson


views updated Jun 11 2018


prussian capital
industry and growth
class and culture

Berlin, with its unprepossessing location on the north German plain, rose to prominence first as a garrison town and then as the capital of a major military power, Prussia.

prussian capital

By the time Frederick I (Frederick the Great, r. 1740–1786) died in 1786, not only Berlin's size but also its intellectual and cultural vitality made it a nascent rival to Vienna, the major city of central Europe. Frederick was a great devotee of the French Enlightenment, but his main contribution to intellectual life in his capital was the relaxation of censorship. After 1780, the city emerged as a center of publishing and of interaction across class and gender lines in literary salons, the most notable of which were hosted by Jewish women, Henriette Herz (1764–1847) and Rahel Levin (later Rahel Levin-Varnhagen; 1771–1833). The salons nurtured the writers who cultivated the new literary sensibility that came to be known as Romanticism. Although revolutionary ideas from France were much discussed in the salons, the distant rumblings left Berlin largely untouched until the army of Napoleon I (r. 1804–1814/15) defeated Prussia's army and occupied Berlin from 1806 to 1808. The anti-French feelings that had already emerged in Romantic theories of nationalism took their most pointed form in the 1808 lectures of the philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762–1814) and a cult of bodily fitness promoted by the schoolteacher Ludwig Jahn (1778–1852). After the French defeats of 1813–1814, however, political repression and censorship quieted nationalists and other reformers.

The Prussian reforms that followed the 1806 defeat gave Berlin an elected city council—with a limited franchise and limited powers—as well as a university, intended by its founder Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767–1835) as the embodiment of humanistic education. It quickly emerged as a major center of theology and philosophy (most notably with Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel [1770–1831]) and later became one of Europe's leading centers of scientific research, even attracting Albert Einstein (1879–1955) to its faculty in 1914. Humboldt's efforts to stake a claim for art in the capital also helped promote the work of the royal architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781–1841), whose state theater and museum were the most prominent of the buildings that reshaped the vicinity of the royal palace in the early decades of the nineteenth century.

After rumbles of dissent and occasional violence from 1830 on, the political explosion in

March 1848 resembled that of many other cities. News from Paris and Vienna provoked a demonstration to demand reforms from Frederick William IV (r. 1840–1861). Attempts to disperse the 10,000 demonstrators on 18 March turned bloody, prompting the king to pull his troops out of the city. He bowed to the demands of the demonstrators both substantively and symbolically, paying his respects to the 200 dead and naming a new government. A newly elected Prussian national assembly convened in Berlin in May. The freedom of the press established in March also permitted a national workers' congress to meet there in August. Continuing demonstrations and riots strengthened the hand of the king's conservative advisors, however, leading to the forcible adjournment of the national assembly in November, followed by arrests and a reimposition of censorship.

industry and growth

Berlin was a rare national capital that also became a major center of large-scale, cutting-edge industry. The city's eighteenth-century economy had been shaped by two royal policies: the growth of the army, and the religious toleration that made the city a home to persecuted Protestant and Jewish refugees with artisanal and entrepreneurial skills. Berlin's population and industry continued to grow rapidly in the early nineteenth century, but the more fundamental transformation came at mid-century, as Germany's new joint-stock banks clustered in Berlin and helped to finance the large factories that accompanied the arrival of the railroads (the locomotive manufacturer Borsig being Berlin's first industrial behemoth) and telegraphy (to which the Berlin firm Siemens made major contributions). In 1859, two decades after he had been a student there, Karl Marx (1818–1883) wrote, "If you saw Berlin ten years ago, you would not recognize it now. From a stiff place of parade it has been transformed into the bustling center of German machine-building." Berlin became a major producer of both machinery and electrical goods. The large factories first clustered at the northern gates and later scattered to many suburbs, while the Luisenstadt district in the southeast attracted hundreds of small courtyard workshops, especially in the clothing industry. The army's contribution to this industrial revolution is difficult to measure, but just as the demand for uniforms helped make eighteenth-century Berlin a major center of textile manufacturing, it is notable that the Prussian army took an early interest in the military uses of the telegraph and railroad, refining their use to devastating effect in the wars of 1866 and 1870.

These victorious wars made Berlin the capital of a unified Germany. The federal nature of the new state meant that its presence in Berlin remained much smaller than that of the growing Prussian bureaucracy. Wilhelmstrasse, with its row of ministries in converted palaces, became synonymous with government and especially with the diplomacy of Otto von Bismarck (1815–1898), who presided over both the chancellery and foreign ministry and served as host of the Congress of Berlin in 1878. A few blocks away, the Reichstag building was completed in 1894 to house the imperial parliament created in 1871. The national government was just one catalyst for the creation of a far more dominant metropolis than decentralized Germany had ever had, as Berlin drew political, economic, and cultural elites from the provinces and also became a target for anti-urban passions.

After midcentury, Berlin grew outward rapidly. Although its eighteenth-century customs wall remained in place until 1868, in 1841 and 1861 the city annexed large chunks of territory beyond it, growing from 1,330 to a still-compact 5,923 hectares. The city's population of 150,000 in 1786 was some seven times as large as a century before, but nearly a quarter of the residents were garrison soldiers and their dependents. By 1877 another sevenfold increase brought the total over a million, with a second million added by 1905. By then, growth had long since spilled over into the suburbs: bourgeois Charlottenburg grew from 20,000 residents in 1871 to 306,000 in 1910, proletarian Rixdorf (later called Neukölln) from 8,000 to 237,000. When Berlin annexed its suburbs in 1920, it doubled its population to about four million. The heart of the Prussian capital had been the royal palace and the stately boulevard Unter den Linden, with commerce centered on adjacent Friedrichstrasse. Around 1900 the city's commercial center pushed southwest into grand new buildings on Leipziger Strasse and Potsdamer Platz, and a rival center was emerging along the fashionable new boulevard Kurfürstendamm, west of the Tiergarten park. Six major rail terminals ringed the city by 1882, when a new east-west rail line, built by the state railway, opened the city center to rail commuters. The first privately built subway line was completed in 1902, but most workers still commuted on foot or by streetcar.

Berlin had been a Protestant city since the Reformation, and most migrants were Protestant as well, although ever fewer attended church. Late in the century, many Roman Catholics came from eastern and western Prussian provinces, including many Poles. By the early 1900s, 11 percent of Berliners were Catholic. Jews never exceeded 5 percent of the population, but they attracted attention—much of it unwanted—as Jews and Gentiles alike came to acknowledge a prominent Jewish role in the city's economy and culture. Some assimilated German Jews advanced to modest prosperity, a few to great wealth. Most had little to do with the poor, Yiddish-speaking new arrivals from the east who clustered in Berlin's most notorious slum, the so-called shed quarter near Alexanderplatz, which was mostly leveled after 1906 in Berlin's only major slum clearance project before World War II.

Berlin faced the typical public health problems of a burgeoning city, and responded fairly well to them, although it was widely regarded as a laggard by the impressive standards of German municipal government. The Prussian state's infringement on what were elsewhere regarded as municipal prerogatives sometimes imposed vital reforms, but it also

hampered the formation of a civic-minded local elite. Past the middle of the century, Berliners were entirely at the mercy of wells, cesspools, open gutters, and the meager flow of the filthy Spree River. The Prussian government licensed the city's first waterworks in 1852, and a sewer system was built in the 1870s. In 1872, the English sanitary reformer Sir Edwin Chadwick (1800–1890) urged approval of the latter by telling Berliners that visitors arriving elsewhere from their city could be recognized by the foul odor of their clothes. In the following decades, cholera vanished and typhoid became much less common, but tuberculosis persisted as a killer.

Well into the twentieth century, critics blamed the city's miserable housing conditions on the 1862 city extension plan drawn up by the engineer James Hobrecht (1825–1902), although it is difficult to imagine how a better plan could have overcome the problems of poverty and overcrowding in most neighborhoods. Hobrecht's plan was little more than a sketch of broad streets and deep blocks covering the vast area that would be developed in the following decades. Apart from a few old sections, Berlin became a city of wide streets, as Hobrecht intended, but also of warrens of courtyard dwellings, something he did not foresee. Most streets were lined with enormous five-story apartment buildings with ornate facades concealing tiny flats, luxurious apartments, or, typically, both, with the larger flats facing the street. In western and southwestern suburbs such as Charlottenburg, Schöneberg, and Wilmersdorf, upscale apartments predominated, and beyond them, villa districts such as Grunewald and Wannsee stretched as far as the old royal town of Potsdam in an expanse of suburbs unmatched on the Continent. In most other directions, working-class tenements were interspersed with factories. Berlin's speculative real estate market produced these solidly constructed and spacious buildings at an astonishing rate, but they acquired a dreadful reputation. Most rooms faced gloomy courtyards and most flats were badly overcrowded; a typical building had a hundred or more residents. They were short on toilets and baths, and the upper classes feared them as breeders not only of disease but also of loose morals and subversive ideas. Certainly they did not fulfill a middle-class ideal of privacy, as working-class families typically could afford their own flats only by taking in single male lodgers. Reformers decried the tenements but effected little change.

class and culture

The tenements bred a vigorous working-class subculture in which courtyard peddlers and corner pubs played a role, as did the Social Democratic Party and the labor unions it sponsored. Berlin's factories proved fruitful ground for socialist and union organizing, and the city became known as a Red stronghold. Although the unequal Prussian franchise kept the municipal government in the hands of middle-class liberals, by 1912 the Social Democratic Party received 75 percent of Berlin's vote in the Reichstag election. Berlin's teeming streets and other public spaces became places of convivial sociability but also of frequent tension between the police and the restive majority. The early 1900s saw increasingly large and frequent street protests, some occasioned by strikes, others by Social Democratic marches and rallies for democratic reforms. Compromises and tensions marked the relationship between the crowds and the police, which had to adjust to recently established legal rights of assembly and to ever larger but usually orderly demonstrations. A rare outbreak of large-scale disorder, sparked by a strike, lasted for several days in 1910 in the district of Moabit, which, like neighboring Wedding, was an area of large factories and tenements with a more exclusively proletarian population than most other parts of the city. Along with strikes and demonstrations, crowds also assembled to cheer the emperor on festive occasions, and to show their support for him and the nation in the summer of 1914.

Berlin's loyalty to Prussian traditions, especially military ones, was often exaggerated, but foreign visitors were inclined to see Berliners as servile, a reputation cemented by a notorious incident in 1906 when a drifter acquired a used army captain's uniform and proceeded to commandeer a passing squad of soldiers, seize a suburban town hall, arrest the mayor, and abscond with the treasury, all without resistance. Countervailing images emphasized bourgeois strivers (often stereotyped as Jewish) and cheeky proletarians. Ordinary Berliners were renowned for their irreverent sense of humor, a spirit captured in the drawings and engravings of the popular artist Heinrich Zille (1858–1929). Visitors like Mark Twain (1835–1910) in 1892 remarked on the newness of "the German Chicago" and the dynamism as well as the rawness of its society.

Although the wealthier classes were largely united in their antipathy to Social Democracy, the cultured bourgeoisie sometimes chafed under the yoke of the court, nobility, and army. One bourgeois institution that quickly rose to international prominence was the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, founded in 1882. There was more discord at the royal opera, where Emperor William II (r. 1888–1918) objected to the tastes of the composer Richard Strauss (1864–1949), its conductor from 1898 to 1918. That was only one example of a growing conflict between the official culture and the growing oppositional one. Prussian wealth, power, and cultural ambition enabled Berlin to amass great museum collections of European art and classical antiquities, including the Hellenistic altar from Pergamon and the treasures Heinrich Schliemann (1822–1890) unearthed at Troy, but the museum director Hugo von Tschudi (1851–1911) was forced out in 1909 because William II abhorred his acquisitions of modern art. The emperor's taste for grand neoclassical painting and sculpture was apparent in Berlin's museums and public squares, but during his reign, modern writers and artists flocked to Berlin from across central Europe, drawn by like-minded publishers and gallerists as well as the palpable excitement they felt in the demimonde of seamy Friedrichstrasse, the crowds and lights of Potsdamer Platz, and the glittering entertainment district emerging on Kurfürstendamm.

In the 1880s Berlin became the center of German literary naturalism, with a circle of writers attentive to the miseries of the urban working class. This new literature attracted most attention on the stage as Berlin became the center of the central European theatrical world, with new theaters playing the shocking works of foreign playwrights such as Henrik Johann Ibsen (1828–1906) as well as those of local writers, notably Gerhart Hauptmann (1862–1946). Some theaters also broke new ground in their attempts to reach a working-class audience. Much of the formal innovation and daring subject matter that made Berlin theater and cabaret world-famous in the 1920s was developed before 1914. Another example of Berlin's drawing power is the group of expressionist painters known as Die Brücke, all of whom moved from Dresden to Berlin around 1910. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880–1938) in particular became famous for his lurid paintings of Berlin street life. During the same years, the brief flowering of literary expressionism was also largely a Berlin phenomenon, and attention to the urban crowd by the Berliners Georg Simmel (1858–1918) and Max Weber (1864–1920) helped create the discipline of sociology. Evidence that the new urban dynamism was felt beyond intellectual circles can be found in the city's many mass-circulation newspapers spreading their tales of crime and vice through the streetcars and cafés.

See alsoCities and Towns; Demography; Germany.


Bergdoll, Barry. Karl Friedrich Schinkel: An Architecture for Prussia. New York, 1994.

Fritzsche, Peter. Reading Berlin 1900. Cambridge, Mass., 1996.

Gay, Peter. Freud, Jews, and Other Germans: Masters and Victims in Modernist Culture. New York, 1978.

Hertz, Deborah. Jewish High Society in Old Regime Berlin. New Haven, Conn., 1988.

Hett, Benjamin Carter. Death in the Tiergarten: Murder and Criminal Justice in the Kaiser's Berlin. Cambridge, Mass., 2004.

Jelavich, Peter. Berlin Cabaret. Cambridge, Mass., 1993.

Large, David Clay. Berlin: A Modern History. New York, 2000.

Lindenberger, Thomas. Strassenpolitik: Zur Sozialgeschichte der öffentlichen Ordnung in Berlin 1900 bis 1914. Bonn, 1995.

Paret, Peter. The Berlin Secession: Modernism and Its Enemies in Imperial Germany. Cambridge, Mass., 1980.

Ribbe, Wolfgang, ed. Geschichte Berlins. 2 vols. Munich, 1988.

Taylor, Ronald. Berlin and Its Culture: A Historical Portrait. New Haven, Conn., 1997.

Townsend, Mary Lee. Forbidden Laughter: Popular Humor and the Limits of Repression in Nineteenth-Century Prussia. Ann Arbor, Mich., 1992.

Brian Ladd


views updated May 14 2018


Rock band

Berlin was one of the first bands to bring the synthesizer sound to the United States, recording a series of albums that placed the band at the center of the New Wave movement of the early to mid-1980s. The band reached critical mass in 1986 when "Take My Breath Away" became the pivotal track of the hit feature film Top Gun. With smooth synthesizers and Terri Nunn's sensual vocal style, the song introduced Berlin's New Wave style to millions of listeners. The relaxed ballad, however, only revealed one side of the band. "Sex (I'm A…)", Berlin's first hit, included controversial lyrics, and the band frequently wrote songs about the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles. Nunn's role as a seemingly willing sex symbol likewise invited controversy. Through both popularity and controversy, though, Berlin remained focused on the music itself.

Influenced by synthesizer-based bands such as Kraftwerk, in both England and Germany, John Crawford formed Berlin in 1979 in Orange County, California. Keyboardist David Diamond and singer Toni Childs joined bassist Crawford; later, Nunn (replacing Childs), keyboardist Matt Reid, guitarist Ric Olsen, and percussionist Rob Brill augmented the band. Before Berlin had gotten a proper start, however, Nunn departed for an acting career, and vocalist Virginia Macolinio temporarily joined the band. At this juncture Berlin issued its first single, "A Matter of Time," on I.R.S. Records. Nunn soon returned to the fold, however, and despite her inexperience, her voice and image would become central to the band's success. "They auditioned people, and answered my ad," Nunn told Chad Bowar at Suite:101. "I had no experience, but they answered it because I said I wanted something original. Berlin at that point was the most original thing in music."

Berlin issued the EP Pleasure Victim on Enigma in 1982, and the record's profile was automatically boosted when "Sex (I'm A …)" became an underground hit. The song was also controversial for its direct lyrics, and a number of radio stations refused to play the single. After Pleasure Victim began to sell, Geffen bought Berlin's contract from Enigma and reissued the album in 1983. "For us, that was huge, because they were small enough that we mattered," Nunn told Bowar. "They gave us a lot of attention, because they didn't have that many bands, and that made a huge difference to us." Pleasure Victim eventually rose to number 30 on the Pop Album charts in 1983, spawning three top 100 singles, "Sex (I'm A…)," "Masquerade," and "The Metro."

Berlin consciously built its image around lead singer Nunn, casting the former TV actor as a sex symbol. Nunn soon grew to resent the image, however, noting that the emphasis on her sexuality caused many critics to dismiss her talent or see her merely as a puppet for Crawford. Berlin followed Pleasure Victim with Love Life in 1984. The band successfully carried forward the themes and style of the first album, reaching number 28 on Billboard's Top 200 chart and scoring the group's biggest hit with "No More Words" (number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100).

Although 1986 would prove a banner year for Berlin, highlighted by the band's biggest hit, internal tensions would soon lead to the band's demise. "We were already having problems trying to figure out what to do with Berlin at that point," Nunn told Bowar. "We were on the third record, and it was a mess. We were fighting within the band, mainly John and me, because we were the partners in the band and the people around us kept changing." Ironically, on the verge of breaking up, Berlin issued Count Three and Pray, an album that found the band exploring new terrain. The band's change in direction, wrote Alex Henderson in All Music Guide, was "an artistic triumph but a commercial disappointment." Perhaps the oddest sign of change was a guest appearance by rock guitarist Ted Nugent on "Trash." But Count Three and Pray only climbed to number 61 on the Billboard 200.

Despite the album's commercial failure, one track on Count Three and Pray proved extremely successful. Giorgio Moroder had offered Berlin a chance to perform "Take My Breath Away" for the soundtrack of the motion picture Top Gun in 1986. "When we first heard the song, it was in such an early phase, and we didn't know anything about the movie," Crawford told Steve Korte in Star Hits magazine. "And to be perfectly honest, we did it because we needed a little bit of money." As the soundtrack reached Billboard's number one spot, "Take My Breath Away" rose to number three on the Adult Contemporary chart and number one on the Hot 100 chart. Ironically, a band that was on the verge of breaking up had the biggest hit of its career.

Berlin has been criticized for its crassness around issues of sexuality. Nunn appeared nude on the inside cover of the band's first album, and the band's lyrics—especially on its first two albums—explored the seedier side of California life. Others felt that critics of the band were only being prudish. "People wanted to minimize me as a person because I talked about sex that openly," Nunn told Mark Brown in the Buffalo News. Nonetheless, she realized that the band sometimes offered conflicting images. Asked by Charlie Mason in Synth and Salivation if she was pigeonholed as a "‘sex’ singer," Nunn replied: "Yes, but I dug my own grave on that one. I did things that I thought would be taken lightly, but they weren't." While Count Three and Pray attempted to take the band in a new direction, the album sold poorly, and shortly thereafter Nunn left the band.

Nunn and Crawford attempted to write new material as early as 1995 without success, leading Nunn to take control of Berlin's future in 1999. In 2000 Berlin released Live: Sacred and Profane, the group's first live recording. "Berlin Live: Sacred and Profane is a surprise treat from an unlikely concert attraction," wrote Doug Stone in All Music Guide. Berlin followed with Voyeur in 2002 and 4 Play in 2005. Speaking of the rebirth of the band in 2002, Nunn told Bowar: "This has been a golden age of this band for me. There were two golden ages: during the first and second record, and right now. … It's not easy to find a group of people who are equally committed, and get along, and … are happy with what they're doing and happy with each other. So when it happens, it's huge."

For the Record …

Members include: Rob Brill, drums; John Crawford (born c. 1960), bass, synthesizer; David Diamond, synthesizer; Terri Nunn (born c. 1961), vocals; Ric Olsen, guitar; Matt Reid, synthesizer.

Group formed in Orange County, California, 1979; issued single "A Matter of Time" on I.R.S. Records, 1980; released Pleasure Victim on Enigma Records, 1982; signed with Geffen Records, issued Love Life, 1984, and Count Three and Pray, 1986; re-formed under Terri Nunn, 1999, released Live: Sacred and Profane, 2000, Voyeur, 2002, and 4 Play, 2005.

Selected discography

Pleasure Victim, Enigma, 1982; reissued, Geffen, 1983.

Love Life, Geffen, 1984.

Count Three and Pray, Geffen, 1986.

Live: Sacred and Profane, Time Bomb, 2000.

Voyeur, Artist Direct, 2002.

4 Play, Majestic Recordings, 2005.



Buffalo News, July 25, 1996.


"Berlin," All Music Guide,, July 17, 2007.

"I Want to Be David Lee Roth," Berlin Page,, July 17, 2007 (article reprinted from Star Hits magazine, mid-1980s).

"Interview With Terri Nunn of Berlin," Suite 101,, July 17, 2007.

"New Wave Siren Terri Nunn Revamps Berlin for the Millennium," Synth and Salvation,, August 1999.

—Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.


views updated May 23 2018

Berlin Capital of Germany, lying on the River Spree, in the ne of the country. Berlin was founded in the 13th century. It became the residence of the Hohenzollerns and the capital of Brandenburg, and later of Prussia. It rose to prominence in the 18th century as a manufacturing town and became the capital of the newly formed state of Germany in 1871. The city continued to expand, its importance reflecting Prussian dominance in the newly formed state. In the early 20th century Berlin was the second-largest city in Europe. Virtually destroyed at the end of World War II, the city was divided into four sectors; British, French, US and Soviet. On the formation of East Germany, the Soviet sector became East Berlin and the rest West Berlin. The Berlin Wall was erected in 1961 by the East Germans, and separated the two parts of the city until 1989. On the reunification of Germany in 1990, East and West Berlin were amalgamated. Buildings of note include the Brandenberg Gate, the ruins of Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, and the Victory Column in Tiergarten Park. Parts of the Berlin Wall remain as a monument. The city has two universities, a zoo, important museums and art galleries, a famous opera house, and is home to the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Industries: chemicals and electronics. Pop. (1993) 3,466,000.


views updated Jun 11 2018

Berlin Berlin airlift an operation by British and American aircraft to airlift food and supplies to Berlin in 1948–9, while Russian forces blockaded the city to isolate it from the West and terminate the joint Allied military government of the city. After the blockade was lifted the city was formally divided into two parts: West Berlin, comprising the American, British, and French sectors, later a state of the Federal Republic of Germany despite forming an enclave within the German Democratic Republic; and East Berlin, the sector of the city occupied by the USSR and later capital of the German Democratic Republic.
Berlin Wall a fortified and heavily guarded wall built in 1961 by the communist authorities on the boundary between East and West Berlin chiefly to curb the flow of East Germans to the West. Regarded as a symbol of the division of Europe into the communist countries of the East and the democracies of the West, it was opened in November 1989 after the collapse of the communist regime in East Germany and subsequently dismantled.