Thursday 23 February 2023

Potsdamer Platz Persistence (4)

It Seemed A Good Idea At The Time

At three conferences (Teheran, Yalta and Poysdam) The "winners" of WW2 met to decide how the future would be organized. In the background was the fear that there might be a repeat of the situation after WW1 where the crushing (militarily and economically) of Germany led inexorably to the rise of Hitler and so on to WW2!

So the cunning plan was to "control" Germany by using the skills of the three big allies, Britain, USA and USSR. France was given a small consolation prize but was only a minority shareholder in the plan.
So Germany was split into four zones as above with a "coordinating committee" structure to oversee international and bigger national policy decisions. Note that blob in the Russian Zone. That is Berlin.
It, too, was split into four zones. It was clear from very early on that Joe Stalin would not play the game. It is reported that, when faced with criticism from within, that he had given too much away at the conferences, he, apparently, said, "no matter, give it a few months and we will do what we want anyway.!

But it seemed a good idea at the time!

The first manifestations of USSR' "independent thinking" was to close all access through East Germany to Berlin by road, rail and canal. fbb does not remember the famous Berlin Airlift of the 1948/1949 (he has only 3) but, to counter potential starvation in West, the allies flew food nd medicines into Berlin with the constant fear that the USSR might even try to stop that.

Churchill's "Iron Curtain" speech was noteworthy, but far from original!
Three road access corridors were allowed by the Russians, controlled by check points Alpha, Beta (on mani roads from the west) and Charlie in Berlin itself. fbb does remember the first visible flashpoint at Checkpoint Charlie in 1961 ...
... when Russian and American tanks faced each other across the border. The world held its breath until both powers retreated. 

But 1961 brought the first phase of the Berlin Wall subsequently much enlarged. The effect of Soviet policy can be clearly seen in a map of East Germany.
Even more ridiculous (but serious for the people) was this over-enlarged extract of a Metro (BLUE) and S-Bahn map.
The Underground was cut on both sided of the border finishing one stop east of Potsdamer Platz. No East German S Bahn penetrated West Berlin which is shown as an empty blob with a grey border.

For some West German toutes that just grazed the Soviet "Zone", stops in the East were closed and patrolled by guards.

That fate befell Potsdamer Plstz which remained an empty shell ...
... and totally uncared for.
All entrances were blocked ...
... and trains ran through slowly. They had to run slowly because the Soviets built "collars" at the end of the platforms to restrict tunnel width and thus prevent escapees hanging on to the sides and roof of the trains.

Meanwhile, on the surface the wall was being strengthened in height and materials; but more significantly and sadly there were now two walls. Here is the Brandeburg Gate.
The dark blue line is the wall with which we are all probably familiar.
But beyond was Checkpoint Charlie and then the Russian guard post with a second wall, red on the above map extract.
At least the USSR did not destroy the Gate; but elsewhere the area between the two walls was flattened simply so that escapees could be spotted and arrested or even shot before making it to the second wall and then over to freedom.
The effect on the area round Postdamer Platz was horrendous.
The "blue" wall crossed the road junction and the "red" wall cut Leipziger Platz neatly into two. Effectively both areas ceased to exist. Here it is for real.
The former road intersection is just off the picture, top left. With the greenery (weeds) it looks almost bearble - but it was utterly horrible in every way. This is the main intersection, this time in monochrome ...
... where once stood the traffic light tower. And how it was, before WW2 and before the Wall.
So with the downfall of the wall, and later the reunification of Germany, there was a huge amount of cleaning, mending and, above all rebuilding to be done.

Today's Potsdamer Platz is unrecognisable from anything that went before, good or bad,

As we shall see tomorrow.

For The (Wo)Man Who Has Everything
Flying Scotsmand, the iconic locomotive is clebrating its 100th Birthday. Hornby will sell you a whole variety of versions in their expensive but high quality "Dubko"" range.

An alternative would be a commorative £2 coin.
Dealers are asking in the region of £10 for a £2 coin. So, not for spending, eh?

But, also available (possibly) is the same coin but with a coloured picture.
Here is a larger picture of the above ...
... but this particular dealer has already pre-sold his allocation and expects no further supplies.

Odd, as the coins were released by the Royal Mint at 0900 today.

 Next Potsdamer Platz blog : Friday 24th February 

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