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Definition: Berlin airlift from Brewer's Dictionary of Modern Phrase and Fable

The operation by British and US aircraft to airlift food and supplies to Berlin in 1948, when the Soviet occupying army in eastern Germany blockaded all road, rail and water links between Berlin and the West. The Russians had taken this action in retaliation for the Western powers' decision to unite their German occupation zones into a single economic entity. When the blockade was lifted in 1949 the city was formally divided into East and West.

Summary Article: Berlin blockade
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

The closing of entry to Berlin from the west by Soviet Forces from June 1948 to May 1949. It was an attempt to prevent the other Allies (the USA, France, and the UK) unifying the western part of Germany. The British and US forces responded by sending supplies to the city by air for over a year (the Berlin airlift). In May 1949 the blockade was lifted; the airlift continued until September. The blockade marked the formal division of the city into Eastern and Western sectors. In 1961 East Berlin was sealed off with the construction of the Berlin Wall.

Berlin was well within Soviet-occupied East Germany, but the city, like the whole of Germany, was divided into four occupational zones, under the jurisdiction of the Allied Control Council. In March 1948 the Allies decided to unite their occupation zones by creating a single currency in West Germany (and in West Berlin). The Soviet government perceived the new Deutsche Mark as a threat to the East German economy. In June 1948 Soviet forces began a blockade of all rail, road, and water traffic through East Germany to West Berlin, attempting to push the western powers out of the city. The USA and UK responded, however, by sending food and other vital supplies into the city by air. Tensions mounted as Soviet and Allied forces built up in the occupied zones. The Soviets finally ended the blockade after countermeasures from the West, including an embargo on exports from the Eastern bloc.


Defence Committee: Berlin Airlift

British government: Soviet blockade of Berlin

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