Friday, June 27, 2008

Glorious Grain from the Berlin Blockade: update

Art Daily: "Photographs of the Berlin Blockade in 1948-9 by Henry Ries Opens at the German Historical Museum"

The currency reform and subsequent blockade of West Berlin carried out by the Soviet Union was a key event which resulted in the partition of Berlin, Germany and Europe.

The division of the occupation zones into two separate economic and political systems had been becoming increasingly palpable since 1947. In 1949, this resulted in the foundation of the two German states and the GDR's closure of the interior borders, finally culminating in the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961.

In 2007, the German Historical Museum acquired the photographic legacy of Henry Ries, whose photographs of the Berlin Blockade and the reaction of the Western Powers, the Berlin Airlift, occupy an important place in his work. Henry Ries was born in Berlin in 1917. In 1937, Ries, who was Jewish, fled Germany for New York, where he embarked on his career as a photographer. In 1945, he returned to Europe as a soldier, where his first job was as a photojournalist for the OMGUS Observer. He went on to work (...) >>>

"On the initiative of the US military governor Lucius D. Clay the West-Berlin population was supplied by means of an airlift. With almost 200,000 flights, around 1.5 million tons of vital goods were transported to Berlin. A transport plane landed at one of the three West-Berlin airports every two or three minutes. In the popular German phrase the airplanes were called “raisin bombers”.

"In this way the Americans, British and French succeeded in safeguarding the basic supply of goods to the city. The airlift was a gigantic logistic undertaking that had begun with uncertain outcome and ended as a success story. On 12 May 1949 the Soviet Union rescinded the Berlin Blockade."

More about the Berlin Blockade can be found on History Research Guide. Check out the exhib's site at the German Historical Museum.


Juliette Ochieng on Pajamas Media has a comprehensive article on the subject which is especially interesting for those who have missed the details of the historical events. The title is interesting in itself. It alludes to Gail Halvorsen, the Candy Bomber who retired from the USAF at the rank of Colonel, who is now 87 and a revered figure in Germany. On a philosophical level the title illustrates the Kantian ethics with which the German people are saturated - a blessing as well as a curse - "‘Service Before Self’: Honoring the Berlin Airlift."

"(...) The Soviet ban of Allied land traffic in East Germany didn’t happen all at once; it started with simple harassment in March 1948 with the demand to inspect every train from the West and was brought into full effect by late June. At that point, the city was left with barely more that a month’s worth of subsistence and since the Western powers had never negotiated access rights to the three land routes to Berlin with the Soviets, there was nothing they could do about the ban. However, access to the three corresponding air lanes had been negotiated, making the West’s choice clear. They would supply the city by air, daring the Russians to break their agreement and shoot them down.

On June 26, 1948, the first two of many USAF cargo aircraft (C-47s and later C-54s and C-82s) made their way from Frankfurt Airport to Tempelhof Airport in West Berlin. The Royal Air Force followed suit the next day (...) During the 479-day effort, the deliveries had become so systematic that one aircraft touched down at Tempelhof every three minutes 24/7. (...)" Read it all >>>

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