THE RISE AND FALL OF THE BERLIN WALL

American Diplomacy in the Cold War

This is the history of the Berlin Wall told through the voices of American diplomats, featuring artifacts from the National Museum of American Diplomacy’s collection.

As the political climate changed over the years in a divided Germany, American diplomats continued to work across barriers to advance our nation’s interests even amid the tensions of the Cold War that the wall embodied.

Thirty years after Germany’s reunification, American diplomacy continues to be a global force, continually evolving and shaping the events of today.

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The Rise And Fall of The Berlin Wall

IN THE COLD WAR

Post World War II diplomacy faced innumerable challenges as the Nuremburg Trials judged Nazi war criminals and the Cold War froze relations between the Allies and Soviets. The Potsdam Conference divided Germany and Berlin among the U.S., Soviet Union, Britain and later France. Initially, the Allies hoped relations with Joseph Stalin might improve, but instead, they deteriorated as an “Iron Curtain” descended across Eastern Europe.

We were very much in the Cold War…

—Karl Mautner

IN THE COLD WAR

Post World War II diplomacy faced innumerable challenges as the Nuremburg Trials judged Nazi war criminals and the Cold War froze relations between the Allies and Soviets. The Potsdam Conference divided Germany and Berlin among the U.S., Soviet Union, Britain and later France. Initially, the Allies hoped relations with Joseph Stalin might improve, but instead, they deteriorated as an “Iron Curtain” descended across Eastern Europe.

IN THE COLD WAR

We were very much in the Cold War…
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Karl Mautner

Germany Divided

Germany Divided

U.S. diplomat Jacques Reinstein recalled how the 1945 Potsdam Agreement dividing Germany among the Allies, “came as a considerable shock to the State Department,” which had planned to proceed more slowly. By 1949, responding to continuous Soviet attempts to cut power, food, transportation and fuel to Berlin, the Allies created the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) with a capital in Bonn and a mission in Berlin. In response, the Soviets established the German Democratic Republic (GDR), maintaining East Berlin as its capital.
Seated are (left to right): British Prime Minister Clement Atlee; U.S. President Harry Truman; and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin. Standing behind them are (left ot right): Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy, USN, Truman's Chief of Staff; British Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin; U.S. Secretary of State James F. Byrnes and Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov.

Potsdam Conference

Photograph

Potsdam Conference

Seated are (left to right): British Prime Minister Clement Atlee; U.S. President Harry Truman; and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin. Standing behind them are (left to right): Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy, USN, Truman's Chief of Staff; British Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin; U.S. Secretary of State James F. Byrnes and Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov. The "Big Three" convened a conference in Potsdam, Germany, to determine punishment for the defeated Nazi regime, the establishment of post-war order and rebuilding Europe's ravaged societies.
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National Archives and Records Administration

Karl Mautner, 82nd Airborne, Berlin, 1945-1958

Karl Mautner, 82nd Airborne, Berlin

Oral History

Karl Mautner, 82nd Airborne, Berlin

Seen here, the Monument to the Soviet Soldier, built in 1945, symbolizes the communist presence in East Berlin for 44 years and the Cold War tensions beginning in the late 1940s that U.S. Army Officer Karl Mautner described.
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Gift of Chester E. Beaman (Photo by Alex Jamison)

East German flag

East German flag

Photograph

East German flag

East German flag flown over the U.S. embassy annex building in East Germany.
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Gift of Patrick J. and Susan J. Harrington (Photo by Alex Jamison)

Porcelain replica of Berlin Freedom Bell

Museum Artifact

Porcelain replica of Berlin Freedom Bell

This Meissen ware bell replicates the original Freedom Bell that New Yorker Walter Dorwin Teague designed in the late 1940s at the beginning of the Cold War. The original 10-ton bell was a symbol of the U.S. campaign to open Europe through radio stations like Radio Free Europe. In 1950, U.S. radio promoters installed the Bell in West Berlin, where its outline became the first logo for Radio Free Europe and its ring a symbol of freedom, broadcast daily at 6 p.m.
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Gift of Governing Mayor of Berlin Eberhard Diepgen to U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. (Photo by Alex Jamison)

Printing block with Radio Free Europe logo

Printing Block with Radio Free Europe Logo

Museum Artifact

Printing Block with Radio Free Europe Logo

The iconic shape of the Freedom Bell appears on this Radio Free Europe printer's block as the station's logo.
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Gift of Governing Mayor of Berlin Eberhard Diepgen to U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. (Photo by Alex Jamison)

Berlin Divided and Isolated

Berlin Divided and Isolated

American diplomats and military personnel worked in Germany after World War II, confronting the intensifying ideological conflict between East and West, first through a military government, then through a high commission. The U.S. maintained an embassy in West Germany and mission in Berlin, not diplomatically recognizing East Germany until 1974. After Stalin’s death in 1953, the new Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, backed East German leader Walter Ulbricht. Both intensified the hard line against the Allies and their presence in Berlin.

Emblem of the Stasi, the East German secret police force

Museum Artifact

Emblem of the Stasi, the East German secret police force

The entrance sign of a local Office of the Federal Commissioner (BStU) of the former East German Stasi secret police is seen in Erfurt, central Germany.
Berlin Guidebook

Berlin Guidebook

Museum Artifact

Berlin Guidebook

Publication of the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany as a convenience for employees stationed in Germany.
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Collections of the National Museum of American Diplomacy

East Germans in West Berlin

East Germans in West Berlin

Photograph

East Germans in West Berlin

East German boys visiting West Berlin do not want any record of their faces getting to East German police.
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National Archives and Records Administration

Kempton B. Jenkins, Political Officer, Berlin, 1958-1960

Kempton B. Jenkins, Political Officer, Berlin

Oral History

Kempton B. Jenkins, Political Officer, Berlin

East German Walter Ulbricht, shown in this picture, who was Chairman of the Council of State from 1960-1973, irritated U.S. diplomats like Kempton Jenkins by undermining the Allies’ authority in West Berlin.

Hardening of Relations: West and East Germany

Hardening of Relations: West and East Germany

Americans diplomats and  military personnel worked in West Germany and in the Allied sectors of Berlin after WW II, confronting the intensifying ideological conflict between East and West, first through a military government, then through a high commission. The U.S. maintained an embassy an embassy in Bonn and a mission in West Berlin, not recognizing East Germany diplomatically until 1974. After Stalin’s death in 1953, the new Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, backed East German leader Walter Ulbricht. Both intensified the hard line against the Allies and their presence in Berlin.
Yale Richmond, Cultural Affairs Officer, West Germany

Yale Richmond, Cultural Affairs Officer, West Germany

Oral History

Yale Richmond, Cultural Affairs Officer, West Germany

General Lucius Clay, pictured here, was the Military Governor of the American Zone from 1947-1949. He was an American hero for Berliners during the 1948 Air Lift that U.S. diplomat Yale Richmond recalled in this account.
Bronze sculpture commemorating Berlin Airlift

Bronze sculpture commemorating Berlin Airlift

Museum Artifact

Bronze sculpture commemorating Berlin Airlift

This bronze commemorative piece replicates the memorial to the Berlin Airlift, also known as "Operation Vittles." Each prong represents one of the three air corridors open for cargo planes. On the original, the names of the U.S. and British Airmen killed during the are inscribed on the base of each prong.
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Loan to the National Museum of American Diplomacy from Harry J. Gilmore (Photo by Alex Jamison)

Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev in East Berlin, Germany

Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev in East Berlin, Germany

Photograph

Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev in East Berlin, Germany

Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev waves his hat from his open car to welcoming crowds along the Stalin-Alee in Communist East Berlin, Germany. Khrushchev is flanked by Walter Ulbricht, left, chief of the East German Communist Party, and Otto Grotewohl, the East German Prime Minister.
Hans N. Tuch, Director, Amerika Haus, United States Information Agency, West Germany

Hans N. Tuch, Director, Amerika Haus, United States Information Agency, West Germany

Oral History

Hans N. Tuch, Director, Amerika Haus, United States Information Agency, West Germany

In the late 1940s and onward, U.S. diplomat Hans N. “Tom” Tuch, portrayed in this photo, worked to instill a sense of democracy in West Germany through the America House programs that he described in this narrative.
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Gift of Hans N. Tuch

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