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Chapter 1: Life in Germany after the End of the War 1945 - 1948
28.09.2009 von by polarworld, translated by Allan Hall, Berlin


The Second World War cost 60 million people their lives. It was the greatest conflict in human history - devastatingly conducted with inconceivable suffering and hate.

At the end of the Second World War the defeated German people also lived in poverty. The towns and cities were destroyed and the factories bombed out and plundered. Raw materials and fertilizers were in short supply. Across the world leading German business enterprises lost their patents and trademarks. Groceries were rationed and only those that were cultivated by people themselves or through ration books were available.

Therefore, bartering flowered. City dwellers drove in great numbers into the countryside in order to exchange special goods for the most necessary food items.

rubble women
Berlin's 'rubble women' (Private archive Frau Janczikowsky ca. 1947)

The women had the hardest work, the clean up and rebuilding after most of the men were killed in the war or in captivity. In Berlin alone over 60,000 'rubble women' cleared up with no technical machinery, moved the heaviest obstacles out of the way and collected bricks that could still be used for building materials.

There were more than 400 million cubic metres of debris. In Germany around four million apartments were destroyed through Allied bombing, 700,000 of them in Berlin. On the 18 March 1945, 1,250 American bombers attacked Berlin alone!

rubble women
Clean-up operations in Jaeger Street in July 1946
(Deutsches Bundesarchiv, Foto 183-H29659, Peter Cürlis)

Already during the war there were substantial ideological differences between the communist Soviet Union and the capitalistic western Allies - the U.S.A., Great Britain and France. It was only due to the common goal of proceeding against the German Reich that these insurmountable ideological tensions did not come to the fore.

Thus it was that the Second World War changed smoothly into the cold war. The German satirist Wolfgang Neuss 1949 asked whether "we lived in the post-war period or already again in the pre-war years."

But before the rapid economic recovery brought "the economic miracle" of the 50's into Germany, something happened to make the world hold its breath and brought it close to the edge of a new global conflict.

On 24 June 1948 the Soviet Union closed all approach routes and supply channels to West Berlin. Road, rail and water routes - the main supply veins to a city with millions of inhabitants - were suddenly impassable.

The blockade began!

Translation by Allan Hall



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