• Last updated: 19 Dec. 2016 14:23

Experts' Corner on Berlin (The Cold War era)

The Experts' Corner provides a deeper look at NATO in history. Here you will find a selection of primary sources related to NATO and Berlin during the Cold War, including films, speeches and documents.

Films and videos

Background to Berlin
The story of how the city came to be divided after the Second World War and scarred by the construction of the Berlin Wall. More info.

"Ich bin ein Berliner"
John F. Kennedy addresses West Berliners in a show of solidarity two years after the construction of the Berlin Wall, 26 June 1963.

Audio files

John F. Kennedy on Berlin
JFK addresses the American public about the situation in Berlin several weeks before the erection of the Berlin Wall, 25 July 1961. See transcript.

Declassified documents

Suggested reading

LibGuide on Berlin Wall

Beevor, Antony. Berlin: The Downfall 1945. London: Penguin, 2002.

The Red Army had much to avenge when it reached the borders of the Reich in January 1945. Beevor masterfully reconstructs the experiences of millions caught up in the chaos of a titantic conflict between the two greatest potentates in history. This account of the Third Reich's final collapse is a terrible story of pride, stupidity, fanaticism, revenge and savagery, but also one of astonishing endurance, self-sacrifice and survival against all odds.

Brigouleix, Bernard. Le Mur de Berlin: Petites & Grande Histoires. Paris: Alphée, 2009.

Rarement la grande histoire, celle des nations et même des empires, aura été tissée d'autant de petites histoires qu'avec le mur de Berlin. L'ancienne et future capitale allemande est à la fois le lieu, l'enjeu et le symbole d'un dramatique face-à-face entre l'Occident et le bloc soviétique. Elle a vu, en une trentaine d'années, cette puissance de l'Est s'imposer par la force, puis se déliter et finalement sombrer. Elle l'a vue ne jamais se remettre des événements de cette fameuse nuit du 9 novembre 1989, où le monde a changé.

Broadbent, Philip and Sabine Hake, editors. Berlin Divided City, 1945-1989. New York: Berghahn Books, 2010.

This volume examines how the city was conceived, perceived, and represented during the four decades preceding reunification and thereby offers a unique perspective on divided Berlin's identities. German historians and literary and cultural studies scholars explore the divisions and antagonisms that defined East and West Berlin. By tracing the little studied similarities and extensive exchanges that occurred despite the presence of the Berlin Wall, they present an indispensable study on the politics and culture of the Cold War.

Francisco, Ronald A. and Richard L. Merritt, editors. Berlin Between Two Worlds. Boulder: Westview Press, 1986.

The contributors to this volume discuss Berlin’s future from the perspective of all the major national actors involved. Just as the Quadripartite Agreement of 1971 was a necessary prerequisite for East-West détente, any future change in the division of Germany or in East-West relations will require fundamental shifts in long-held positions on the status of Berlin. The authors show how the perceptions, stakes, and even risks of the Berlin issue vary by nation and explore the reasons why Berlin is likely to continue to be an obstacle to East-West cooperation.

Harrington, Daniel F. Berlin on the Brink: The Blockade, the Airlift, and the Early Cold War. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2012.

Attempting to thwart the Allied powers' plans to create a unified West German government, the Soviets blocked rail and road access to the western sectors of Berlin in June 1948. With no other means of delivering food and supplies to the German people under their protection, the Allies organized the Berlin airlift. While thoroughly examining four-power diplomacy, Harrington demonstrates how the ingenuity and hard work of the people at the bottom – pilots, mechanics, and Berliners – were more vital to the airlift's success than decisions from the top. He also explores the effects of the crisis on the 1948 presidential election and on debates about atomic weapons.

Hénard, Jacqueline. Berlin-Ouest, Histoire d'une île Allemande, 1945-1989. Paris: Perrin, 2009.

C'est tout le mérite de Jacqueline Hénard, née et ayant grandi à Berlin-Ouest puis devenue journaliste internationale consacrée, d'entrecroiser toutes ces histoires. Elle mêle ses souvenirs d'écolière, logée à dix pas du fameux mur construit en 1961, à ceux des témoins officiels ou non et à ce que les sources historiques nous apprennent. Elle montre comment Berlin-Ouest, d'abord symbole de la victoire des Alliés sur le nazisme, fut ensuite la vitrine de leur rivalité autant que de leur concurrence idéologique, en même temps qu'un miroir pour ceux de Berlin-Est.

Hilton, Cristopher. The Wall: The People's Story. Stroud: The History Press, 2011.

For almost three decades the Cold War was focused on Berlin, where the two sides were kept apart by a 12-foot wall, which had appeared almost overnight in August 1961. Until its fall in November 1989, it not only divided the city of Berlin, but also symbolized the confrontation between capitalist West and socialist East. In his book, journalist Christopher Hilton collected the individual stories of those whose lives it affected, including international politicians, American and British soldiers, East German border guards, and, most importantly, the citizens of Berlin itself.

Kempe, Frederick. Berlin 1961: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth. New York: Penguin, 2012.

This book tells the story of the Cold War's most dramatic year, when Berlin became what Khrushchev called 'the most dangerous place on earth'. Kempe re-creates the war of nerves between the young, untested President Kennedy and the bombastic Soviet leader as they squared off over the future of a divided city. He interweaves this with stories of the ordinary citizens whose lives were torn apart when the Berlin Wall went up and the world came to the brink of disaster.

Lansing Dulles, Eleanor. Berlin: The Wall is Not Forever. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1967.

A book written at the height of the Cold War, it captures the mood and discusses the future of Berlin and the wall. Written based on conversations held in 1965, the building of the wall occupies the central position in Dulle’s book but she prefaces it with an excellent review of Berlin’s tangled history since the end of World War II with its recurrent crises and the hardening of lines as the Cold War continues.

Marion, Georges. Berlin 1989. Paris: Seuil, 2009.

La guerre froide fournit le décor où évoluent les dizaines de personnages interrogés dans cette enquête de plus de deux années: responsables politiques, de l'Est et de l'Ouest, fuyards de RDA, officiers de la Stasi chargés de la protection du mur et du régime, intellectuels, avocats et hommes d'affaires vendant à Bonn, contre monnaie forte, les prisonniers politiques de RDA, simples citoyens. Leurs récits, qui se recoupent en un étonnant roman vrai, font revivre les secrets d'une époque où le monde était divisé en deux blocs.

Meyer, Philippe. Une Histoire de Berlin. Paris: Perrin, 2014.

A partir du XIXème siècle, les empereurs issus de la lignée des Hohenzollern ont gouverné pour le meilleur comme pour le pire, et la ville porte encore en elle les cicatrices douloureuses de leur mégalomanie et du nazisme qui a parachevé leur décadence. Suivit l'épreuve destructrice de la bataille de 1945 et de la séparation entre Est et Ouest, symbolisée par le mur. Aujourd'hui, Berlin a su retrouver les valeurs de son passé et donne l'exemple d'une mégapole souriante et cultivée, exemplaire en Europe.

Morris, Eric. Blockade: Berlin and the Cold War. Newton Abbot: Victoria (& Modern History) Book Club, 1974.

Morris, a lecturer at Sandhurst, the British Royal Military Academy, transcends mere military lore with a broad, rather urbane cold-warrior approach, conceding Western blunders and affronts. He traces Stalin's need for guarantees against future German rearmament, as well as for reparations, but tends to alibi Allied actions as "lack of policy." The blockade itself is well-narrated; more interesting is the counterpoint between Berlin's internal life and global Cold War events – the Marshall Plan, the formation of NATO, the birth of the Adenauer government, etc. Despite Cold-War intensification, Morris argues that with the Korean War settled, the 1954 Big Four meeting could have reached a significant accord on Berlin.

Murphy, David E. and Sergei A. Kondrashev, George Bailey. Battleground Berlin: CIA vs. KGB in the Cold War. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997.

This book is the definitive insider’s account of the espionage warfare in Berlin from 1945 to the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961. In an unprecedented collaboration, CIA and KGB intelligence veterans reveal previously untold stories of the Berlin tunnel, critical moments of the Berlin crisis, clandestine initiatives, betrayals, and defections to provide the first comprehensive and accurate history of the Cold War battles waged in Berlin.

Richie, Alexandra. Faust's Metropolis: A History of Berlin. London: HarperCollins, 2008.

An ambitious undertaking, this book aims to chronicle the history of Germany through the microcosm of its most dramatic city. Richie's thousand page tome spans from the time of Nero to Helmut Kohl in an encyclopedic description of the Schicksal Stadt Deutschlands – the City of German Destiny. A radical and exciting history of a city, its culture, its people and its politics that refreshes our image of Europe's past and of the writing of history itself.

Taylor, Frederick. The Berlin Wall: 13 August 1961 - 9 November 1989. London: Bloomsbury, 2009.

Taylor's book reveals the strange and chilling story of how the initial barrier system to the Berlin Wall was conceived, then systematically extended, adapted and strengthened over almost thirty years. Patrolled by vicious dogs and by guards on shoot-to-kill orders, the Wall, with its more than 300 towers, became a wired and lethally booby-trapped monument to a world torn apart by fiercely antagonistic ideologies.

Tusa, Ann. The Last Division: Berlin and The Wall. London: Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, 1996.

This is a portrait of the forces and events that both built and smashed the Berlin Wall. An engaging chronicle of the Cold War partitions of this historic city, from the political strife and administrative division by the victors against Hitler, through the building and eventual destruction of the Wall. Using newly available documents, the author offers an account of the political, diplomatic, and military affairs of the city, with vivid characterizations of central figures like Konrad Adenauer, Nikita Khrushchev, and Harold Macmillan.

Windsor, Philip. City on Leave: A History of Berlin, 1945-1962. New York: Frederick A. Praeger Publishers, 1963.

The motives which inspired the Berlin Blockade were quite different from those which lay behind Khrushchev's ultimatum in 1958 and the crisis which this touched off had radically changed in nature by 1961.This book is an attempt to show how these different crises arose out of the setting of international relations, and the changing problem of Germany since the end of the Second World War.



  • FRENCH - Press conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the meeting of the North Atlantic Council with Resolute Support operational partner nations at the level of Defence Ministers

    29 Jun. 2017 | download mp3