Free Walking Tour Berlin

When: Every day 10am & 12pm every day
Where: The meeting point is in front of the ehemaliges Kaiserliches Postfuhramt Berlin, Oranienburger Straße, 10117 Berlin, Germany, next to the entrance.
Price: Free

Divided and Conquered: Who Held the Reins in East and West Berlin?

by | Mar 7, 2024 | Original Berlin

During the tumultuous years of the Cold War, the capital city of Germany, Berlin, was split into two distinct parts: East Berlin, controlled by the Soviet Union, and West Berlin, governed by a joint effort by the United States, United Kingdom, and France. In this article, we’ll explore the historical context, events, and consequences that led to the division of Berlin and the influence exerted by the respective powers over their respective sections.

The Division of Berlin: A Result of World War II

At the end of World War II in 1945, Germany was in ruins and occupied by the Allied powers. Berlin, located deep within Soviet-controlled territory, was also divided among the victors. This initial division, which mirrored the broader occupation zones in Germany, laid the groundwork for the subsequent divide between East and West Berlin.

1. East Berlin – Under Soviet Control

Soviet forces established their authority over East Berlin, eager to spread their socialist ideology throughout the region. The Soviet Union effectively controlled the political, social, and economic aspects of East Berlin, shaping it to fit their vision of a socialist state.

The German Democratic Republic (GDR) was established in 1949 as a Soviet satellite state, with East Berlin serving as its capital. The GDR implemented Soviet policies, including nationalization of industries, collective farming, and censorship, as part of their mission to build a socialist society.

2. West Berlin – A Beacon of Western Democracy

In contrast, the western Allies sought to establish West Berlin as a stronghold of Western democracy within Soviet-controlled East Germany. United States, United Kingdom, and French forces controlled West Berlin jointly, working together to ensure its independence and support its transition towards a democratic society.

With the introduction of the Deutschmark in 1948, the western Allies further solidified their presence and economic influence in West Berlin. The currency became a symbol of stability, attracting people from East Germany seeking better economic opportunities, causing tensions to escalate between the two sides.

4. The Berlin Wall:

The climax of the division was the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961. To prevent further mass migration from East to West Berlin, the Soviet-supported GDR government erected a physical barrier that separated the two sections of the city. The Berlin Wall became an enduring symbol of the Iron Curtain and the division of Europe during the Cold War.

The wall grew to become a heavily fortified structure, complete with guard towers, barbed wire, and a “death strip” monitoring area. It cut off families and friends, while serving as a chilling reminder of the ideological rift between the capitalist West and the communist East.

5. Life in East and West Berlin:

5.1 East Berlin:

Under Soviet control, East Berlin was subjected to stringent social and political policies. The GDR government suppressed political dissent, limited personal freedoms, and enforced widespread surveillance to maintain control. Artists, intellectuals, and dissidents faced persecution, while the secret police, known as the Stasi, kept a watchful eye on the populace.

Though life in East Berlin provided its citizens with certain benefits, such as a stable job and access to healthcare and education, the stifling lack of political and personal freedom perpetuated a sense of longing for the vibrant culture and liberties enjoyed in the West.

5.2 West Berlin:

West Berlin, on the other hand, flourished as a beacon of Western culture, democracy, and capitalism within the confines of Soviet-controlled East Germany. The city attracted artists, musicians, and intellectuals from around the world, benefitting from significant cultural and economic growth fueled by the political and economic support of the western Allies.

In West Berlin, vibrant nightlife, consumerism, and freedom of expression were the hallmarks of a society in stark contrast to its counterpart in the East. The city became a symbol of resistance, serving as a constant reminder of the stark differences between two opposing ideologies.

6. Reunification: End of the Divide

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union brought about the end of the division between East and West Berlin. As the Iron Curtain lifted, the two sections of the city were unified, marking a historical moment for the German people and symbolizing the end of the Cold War era.

However, the lengthy separation and divergent paths of East and West Berlin had left lasting social, economic, and political disparities that needed to be addressed. The reunification process proved to be a complex endeavor that required significant resources and effort to bridge the gap between the two sides.


The control of East and West Berlin during the Cold War was divided among the Soviet Union and the western Allies. East Berlin fell under Soviet control, while West Berlin was jointly governed by the United States, United Kingdom, and France. The division was a reflection of the wider struggle between communism and capitalism that defined the Cold War period. The construction of the Berlin Wall further solidified the divide, resulting in starkly contrasting political, social, and economic realities for the citizens of each side. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of the city in 1989 marked the end of the divide, setting Germany on a path towards reconciliation and transformation.

Thank you for reading. If you're inspired by the stories of Berlin and want to delve deeper, why not join us on our Free Berlin Walking Tour? It's a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the city's rich history and vibrant culture. We look forward to welcoming you soon.


  • 3.5 hours walking tour
  • Berlin’s major highlights
  • Brandenburg Gate
  • Reichstag and Berlin Wall
  • Historical sites

Free Walking Tour Berlin

When: Every day 10am & 12pm every day
Where: The meeting point is in front of the ehemaliges Kaiserliches Postfuhramt Berlin, Oranienburger Straße, 10117 Berlin, Germany, next to the entrance.
Price: Free