Berlin in ruins after World War II (Potsdamer Platz, 1945).
At the end of World War I in 1918, a republic was proclaimed in Berlin. In 1920, the Greater Berlin Act incorporated dozens of suburban cities, villages, and estates around Berlin into an expanded city. This new area encompassed Spandau and Charlottenburg in the west, as well as several other areas that are now major municipalities. After this expansion, Berlin had a population of around four million. During the Weimar era, Berlin became internationally renowned as a center of cultural transformation, at the heart of the Roaring Twenties.
On 30 January 1933 (Machtergreifung), Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power. Nazi rule destroyed Berlin's Jewish community, which had numbered 170,000 before 1933. After the Kristallnacht pogrom in 1938, thousands of the city's German Jews were imprisoned in the nearby Sachsenhausen concentration camp or, in early 1943, were shipped to death camps, such as Auschwitz. During the Second World War, large parts of Berlin were destroyed in the 1943–45 air raids and during the Battle of Berlin. Among the hundreds of thousands who died during the Battle for Berlin, an estimated 125,000 were civilians. After the end of the war in Europe in 1945, Berlin received large numbers of refugees from the Eastern provinces. The victorious powers divided the city into four sectors, analogous to the occupation zones into which Germany was divided. The sectors of the Western Allies (the United States, the United Kingdom and France) formed West Berlin, while the Soviet sector formed East Berlin.
The Berlin Wall in 1986, painted on the western side. People crossing the so-called "death strip" on the eastern side were at risk of being shot.
All four allies retained shared responsibility for Berlin. However, in 1948, when the Western allies extended the currency reform in the Western zones of Germany to the three western sectors of Berlin, the Soviet Union imposed a blockade on the access routes to and from West Berlin, which lay entirely inside Soviet controlled territory. The allies successfully overcame the blockade by the Berlin airlift, which flew in food and other supplies to the city from 24 June 1948 to 11 May 1949. In 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany was founded in West Germany, and eventually included all of the American, British, and French zones, excluding those three countries' zones in Berlin, while the Marxist-Leninist German Democratic Republic was proclaimed in East Germany. West Berlin officially remained an occupied city, but for all practical purposes, it was assimilated to the Federal Republic of Germany without actually being a part of it. West Berlin issued its own postage stamps which were often the same as West German postage stamps but with the additional word 'Berlin' added. Airline service to West Berlin was granted only to American, British, and French airlines.
The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
The founding of the two German states increased Cold War tensions. West Berlin was surrounded by East German territory. East Germany, however, proclaimed East Berlin (which it described only as "Berlin") as its capital, a move that was not recognized by the Western powers. Although half the size and population of West Berlin, it included most of the historic center of the city. The West German government, meanwhile, established itself provisionally in Bonn.
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