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

Understanding the Berlin Airlift: Unraveling the Cause Behind a Historic Humanitarian Effort

by | Mar 7, 2024 | Original Berlin


The Berlin Airlift was a remarkable event that took place during the Cold War, specifically from 1948 to 1949. It was a massive relief effort led by the United States and its allies to supply the city of West Berlin with vital provisions after Soviet forces blockaded the city. This blog post will delve into the captivating events leading up to the Berlin Airlift and explore the primary cause behind this historic humanitarian undertaking.

The Background: Germany and the Post-WWII Division

In the aftermath of World War II, Germany was divided into four occupation zones by the victorious Allies — the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and France. The capital city of Berlin, located deep within the Soviet occupation zone, was also divided into four sectors.

As tensions escalated between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union, West Germany and East Germany emerged as separate entities. West Germany, consisting of the three western occupation zones, sought to rebuild its devastated economy under democratic principles and close ties with the Western powers. On the other hand, East Germany fell under Soviet control and became a socialist state.

Tensions Rise: The Berlin Blockade

In an attempt to solidify their control over West Berlin and prevent its continued integration with the West, the Soviet Union instigated the Berlin Blockade in June 1948. This action aimed to cut off all road, rail, and canal access to the city, hoping to force the Western Allies to relinquish control or abandon West Berlin altogether.

Provoking Factors

The Berlin Blockade was triggered by several interrelated factors. One crucial aspect was the deteriorating relationship between the Soviet Union and the Western Allies. Months earlier, the Allies had introduced a new currency, the Deutsche Mark, into West Germany, symbolizing their intent to establish a separate state. The Soviet Union saw this as a direct threat to their influence in Germany and sought to counteract it with the blockade.

Furthermore, tensions between the Soviet Union and the West regarding the future of Germany added fuel to the fire. The Western Allies’ plans to merge their occupation zones into an independent West German state contradicted Soviet intentions to maintain control over the entirety of Germany for security reasons.

The Initial Soviet Miscalculation

The Soviet Union presumed that the blockade would force the Allies to concede within a short time. They believed that West Berlin, with its estimated 2.5 million inhabitants, would soon face severe shortages of food, fuel, and other essential supplies. The Soviets anticipated that the resulting crisis would turn public opinion against the Allies and bolster Soviet-controlled East Germany.

The Response: A Massive Humanitarian Effort

The Western Allies, particularly the United States, saw the blockade as a threat to their commitment to democracy and the people of West Berlin. They refused to yield to Soviet pressure and devised a bold response — the Berlin Airlift.

The Introduction of the Airlift

On June 26, 1948, just two days after the blockade’s initiation, the United States and its allies set up an airlift operation to supply West Berlin with essential goods. Cargo planes, such as the iconic C-54 Skymaster, began transporting supplies into Berlin’s Tempelhof and Gatow airports.

The Scale of the Operation

Over the course of the Berlin Airlift, planes made continuous flights, operating around the clock. At the peak of the operation, an aircraft landed in Berlin every 45 seconds. This impressive logistical feat involved over 250,000 flights, delivering approximately 2.3 million tons of supplies, including food, coal, medical equipment, and even Christmas presents. The airlift provided hope and sustenance to West Berlin’s population.

The Cause: Upholding Freedom and Democracy

The primary cause behind the Berlin Airlift can be traced back to the determination of the Western Allies to uphold their principles of freedom and democracy in the face of Soviet aggression. They refused to abandon West Berlin and saw the blockade as an opportunity to reinforce their commitment to the German people and showcase the superiority of their democratic systems.

The Symbolic Importance

Beyond the practical aim of supplying West Berlin, the airlift took on great symbolic significance. The Western Allies wanted to demonstrate their resolve to defend their interests and the principles they stood for, not only in Germany but also on the larger global stage.

Public Sentiment

The perseverance and resilience of the West Berliners, who endured hardships during the blockade, earned them admiration and support from people worldwide. The humanitarian response of the Western Allies garnered international praise and highlighted the stark contrast between democratic values and Soviet control.


The Berlin Blockade, instigated by the Soviet Union, resulted in the historic Berlin Airlift. By exploring the underlying causes behind this unprecedented humanitarian effort, we’ve uncovered how the determination to uphold freedom, democracy, and the well-being of West Berlin’s inhabitants prompted the Western Allies, led by the United States, to undertake this monumental endeavor. The Berlin Airlift stands as a testament to the power of unity, resilience, and the unwavering commitment to human rights even in the face of adversity.

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