- Title: BACKGROUND TO BERLIN [Main Title]
- Film Number: NAT 2038
- Other titles: LE LITIGE DE BERLIN (French title) [Alternative Title] O LITIGIO DE BERLIM (Portuguese title) [Alternative Title] SAGA BERLINAR (Icelandic title) [Alternative Title] NATO DOCUMENTARIES [Allocated Series Title]
- Summary: The film tells the story of the city of Berlin from the end of the Second World War until the building of the Berlin Wall. It traces the origin of the Allied rights in Berlin, shows how the city came to be divided, and relates the problem of Berlin with the whole question of Berlin reunification. It also explains briefly how the fifteen NATO nations have come to be associated with these problems. The film is told from the perspective of the Western Allied powers hence it points at the Soviets as responsible for the building of the Berlin Wall. Made mostly with archive footage.
- Description: Short introduction using images of the Berlin Wall while the narrator comments gravely on the impossibility of “imprisoning the human spirit”.Titles. The voiceover guides the narration through the events that led to the construction of the wall. The images for most of the documentary illustrate the content of the commentary: Berlin is presented as a thriving busy city during the 1930s and then in ruins after the war. The victors divided Germany into sectors, each run by one of the Allied powers. The city of Berlin, which fell into the Russian occupied zone of Germany, was divided into four parts. A map shows these areas and the routes to get to Berlin from non-Russian sectors. Different scenes at the Allied Komandatura, the city of Berlin headquarters where officers from all four sectors administer the city. Then a chronological account of the Soviets' aggressive conduct is given: Russia vetoed the newly elected Mayor of Berlin Ernst Reuter from the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in 1947. The Communist system running in East Germany started a flow of people to the West. The film also compares the Communist party rallies with the Nazi party ones. The Soviets re-armed their side of the country, sabotaged any progress towards stability and finally they closed all transport communication routes with the city of Berlin, leaving two million West Berliners isolated. As a response, Western allies had to organise “the biggest air transport operation History has ever seen” (the airlift) to bring supplies to West Berlin. The Soviets saw the airlift as an offence. Meanwhile, NATO was born, setting a collective defence programme that would prove instrumental for the defence of Western interests in Germany and Berlin in particular. The unity shown by West Berliners eventually lifted the blockade of Berlin: night footage of the first trains and vans crossing the barriers is shown. The film suggests there was still a stream of refugees going West: street scenes in which people carry luggage. In 1953, the Red Army responded violently to an anti-Communist protest in East Berlin. Consequently more refugees leaked to the West. West Berlin was on its way to recover its economic activity when Mayor Ernst Reuter died. France, the United Kingdom and the United States then united their sectors, the Federal Republic of Germany was created and soon after became a NATO member. During the Geneva Summit in 1955 that would deal with the German problem, the Soviets blocked progress again. While West Berlin was thriving, East Berlin still looked backwards. Khrushchev is shown arriving in Berlin greeted by multitudes in November 1958 at the time when he was threatening to sign a separate Peace Treaty with East Germany. In May 1960, Khrushchev used the U2 incident to break up the summit held in Paris which “was about to bring the German and Berlin question near to a solution”, according to the commentary. Khrushchev is shown leaving the summit and getting into his car. Then Khrushchev is shown giving a heated speech: the Allies should leave Berlin, a threat that he later repeated to President Kennedy in 1961. In August of the same year the wall was built. Scenes where police and armoured vehicles stand in front of groups of protesters in Potsdamer Platz. Barbed wire is being laid out. Some scenes of people rushing to leave the Eastern sector, carrying their belongings. Willy Brandt, Mayor of Berlin appears giving a speech in front of several thousand people calling for help from the West. Re-enforcements were sent to the city but it was a small force compared to that of the Russians. Workers building the wall, citizens waving goodbye. The Chancellor of West Germany Konrad Adenauer visiting Berlin. Shots of Potsdamer Platz and vigilant soldiers on both sides. Politicians meeting at NATO. Soldiers watching the wall. Sad faces of citizens standing in front of the wall looking towards the other side. The voiceover stresses that the wall exemplifies the Soviet idea of freedom.
- Access Conditions:
- Featured Period:
- Production Date: 1962
- Production Country: Belgium
- Production Details: North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Sponsor) NATO INFORMATION SERVICE (Production company)
- Personalities, Units and Organisations:
- Physical Characteristics: Colour format: B&W Sound format: Sound Soundtrack language: English Title language: French Subtitle language: Dutch
- Technical Details: Format: 16mm, 35mm Number of items/reels/tapes: 3 Footage: 1040 ft (16mm), 2596 ft (35mm) ; Running time: 28 mins 50 secs
- Notes: Title: commentary script is subtitled "a film in the Atlantic Review series" (not numbered). Versions: 2038A English 2038B French 2038C German (with extra titles) 2038D Dutch 2038E Norwegian 2038F Greek (with extra titles) 2038G Italian 2038H Icelandic (only sound elements) Versions: Extra titles for the German and Greek versions: "NATO guarantees safety- Berlin. From the communique of the Ministerial Conference of NATO , Paris, 15 December 1962: “The goal of the Atlantic Alliance is still : peace, freedom and security on the basis of the law. However, the alliance community is determined to respond to any hostile action with corresponding countermeasures, die sicherheit und die freiheit bedrohter oder unter druck gesetzter Bündnispartner gefahrdet (sentence needs translation) . The Ministers recalled their communique on Berlin of 16th December, 1958, and reaffirmed their determination to protect and defend the liberties of West Berlin and its people …” This movie made by all member countries of NATO is dedicated to the people of Berlin"
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