Berlin, the capital of Germany, has been an important economic, cultural and political center of Europe. Known for its distinguishing culture and history, Berlin is also one of the hot tourist destinations in Germany. The history of the famous city 'Berlin' is full of events.
As Germany is located in the heart of Europe, Berlin had been one of Europe's most influential trading centers since the 13th century. Tacitus, a historian of the Roman Empire, named the area on the other side of the river Rhine as 'Germania'.
Brief History of Berlin
✱ Berlin is one of the 16 states of modern Germany, and also the capital city of Germany. It was founded in the 12th century, and is considered as a relatively young city. The Slavic tribes had settled down in this area since the 6th century. A mixture of Prague-Korczak culture is reflected through ancient history of Berlin.
Various tribes settled down along the rivers Elbe, Oder, Havel, and Spree. The early settlement of the Havelli led to the foundation of Spandow (today's Spandau) on the river Havel.
Settlement of the Sprevane along the river Spree led to the development of today's district of Berlin-Köpenick. The area which later developed as the city of Berlin, was mainly occupied by the Slavic tribes, till the 12th century.
✱ The Roman Emperor Lothar II had granted the Northern March to the German leader Albert the Bear, after the Wendish Crusade. Cölln and Berlin were founded by Otto and Johann, the grandsons of Albert the Bear, in 1237 and 1244 respectively. In 1709, Cölln and Berlin were unified under the name of Berlin.
At that time, the total population was 60,000, out of which 5,000 had been recruited in the Prussian Army. In 1713, a wooden wall surrounding the city of Berlin was built by Frederick William. The wall was known as Zoll und Akzisemauer, and it had 14 gates.
In 1806, French troops entered into Berlin. The beginning of self government thereafter, had a great impact on Berlin's history.
✱ In 1809, the first parliamentary elections were held. Only the affluent and aristocratic people could vote! In 1810, the Berlin University (now known as the Humboldt University) was founded. Since 1812, Jews were allowed to practice any occupation. Around 1850, Berlin was the fourth largest city in Europe, with a population of about 400,000.
Berlin was the capital of the Province of Brandenburg from 1827 - 1843. The industrial revolution changed the economy of Berlin significantly. Various suburbs developed and the population increased. In 1871, Berlin was declared as the capital of the newly founded German Empire, after the unification of the German states.
Wilhelm I was the emperor and Bismarck was the chancellor. In 1884, construction of the world famous parliament building 'the Reichstag' was started.
✱ Berlin had been capital of both the Prussian and the German Empire since ancient times. The First World War (1914 - 18) led to the end of the Hohenzollern dynasty. During the world war, most people were dependent on food aid and the crisis led to strikes.
The Weimer Republic was proclaimed after the First World War, and this was the time when the people of Berlin enjoyed a period of prosperity and creativity. That is why this period is known as the 'Golden Twenties' or 'Roaring Twenties', in the history of Berlin. In the 1920s, Berlin was the city where most people looked forward to work and live.
In 1922, the railway system was electrified, and in 1923, the Tempelhof airport was opened. At that time, Berlin was the second biggest harbor in the country. In the 1930s, the economic situation again turned bad. Unemployment increased, and taking advantage of various socio-political conditions, Hitler and his Nazi party seized power.
Hitler became Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933. A fire in the Reichstag building was considered as an opportunity by Hitler to ignore the constitution. From the very beginning, Jews were oppressed in the Nazi regime.
✱ Before the Nazis came into power, there were about 160,000 Jews in Berlin. Almost all were imprisoned, carried to the death camps, and murdered in the holocaust. Only 1200 Jews succeeded in hiding themselves in Berlin. This was the worst period that Berlin had witnessed.
Meanwhile, in 1936, the Summer Olympics were held in Berlin. The signs like 'Jews prohibited' were temporarily removed at that time. In 1940, people of Berlin witnessed the first Allied air-raid. Between November 1943 and March 1944, people of Berlin faced 16 massive attacks on their city.
On March 18, 1945 alone, more than 1200 American bombers attacked Berlin. Large parts of Berlin were destroyed during these attacks. Millions of soldiers and common people died in the 'Battle of Berlin'.
All Allied generals were interested in capturing Berlin, but the Red Army conquered Berlin. The sectors allotted to the Western Allies, (the United States, the United Kingdom and France), formed West Berlin. The Soviet sector gave rise to East Berlin. This led to the building up of cold war tensions.
✱ Due to the increasing political and economic problems, East Germany began the construction of the Berlin Wall between East and West Berlin, on 13th Aug. 1961. West Berlin became the part of West Germany, and East Berlin became the part of East Germany. Bonn was the city from where The West Government was regulated.
The Easterners were not allowed to travel to the West. The westerners had to undergo strict checking at check-points before crossing the border. Facts about the Berlin wall inform us that the division of Berlin led to heartbreaking situations in the lives of many common people.
From 1971, people were allowed to travel by car or train from / to West Berlin to / from East Germany. At last, on Nov.9, 1989, the Berlin wall fell owing to the increasing pressure from the people of East Germany. The entire wall was demolished.
Some portions of the wall can be seen even today. The river Spree, that had witnessed so much bloodshed, also witnessed the re-unification of Germany on October 3, 1990. Berlin was declared as the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Today, the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag Building, the Potsdamer Platz, the Friedrichstraße, the Berliner Dom, and various other places and monuments stand as symbols of the unusual history of Berlin.
Today, Berlin is again a city of political and economic importance. It is an educational hub. It is a city of international exhibitions and festivals. Despite several calamities and disasters, Berlin has successfully set new standards, not only for art and architecture, but also for sorrow and survival.