Berlin Local History & Recent History

As a place Berlin is first mentioned in documents of 1244. It was made up of the towns of Coln and Nikolaivierel. These towns became united in 1307 and thereafter gradually became known as Berlin. Berlin’s symbol the ‘brown bear’ has been used since at least 1280 when two bears facing one another, separated by a red (Brandenburg) eagle was used on a seal. In 1451 the city gave up its ‘free’ status when it became the Royal Residence of the Brandenburg Electors.

By the 17th century it became the powerhouse of the pro- Prussian Hohezollern dynasty and a major European trading post with a population of 12,000 people.

The outbreak of the Thirty Years War in 1618 – series of complicated European wars – severely damaged Berlin. During this war the King of Bohemia. Emperor Ferdinand 11, attempted to impose Catholicism on Protestant dominated Austria and Bohemia and Berlin became embroiled in this failed crusade.

By 1648 the city’s population had been halved and a third of its home destroyed.In 1625 there was an attack on Germany by King Christian 1V of Denmark, who reportedly was trying to compensate for losses of Danish territory in an earlier war with Sweden. The Germans repelled the Danish invasion and then where attacked by Gustav Adolphus of Sweden who occupied Berlin for a while until they in turn where attacked by Poland in retaliation for an an earlier war. The Swedes were defeated and the Hozenzollern dynasty regained control of Berlin, led by the pro- Prussian Friederich Wilheim.

The population of Berlin fell to less than 7,000 citizens and Wilheim sponsored the migration of 5,000 Jewish and Huguenot refugees to Berlin so as to regenerate the city and establish a Prussian power base This vision was realised Friederich 1 who became the first Prussian King. During his reign the many of Berlins colourful buildings were built.

In 1685 its leaders promoted religious tolerance and encouraged people to migrate to the city. In 1701 it became the capital of Prussia. In 1740, King Frederick 11 came to power and began to develop the city as an economic area. By the 19th century, with the introduction of rail services it had like Leipzig became a part of the areas economy.

In the 1860s it expanded rapidly and outline suburbs like Moabit and Wedding where incorporated in the city area. In 1871 it was chosen by the government of the newly formed German Empire as the country’s capital.


Berlin Recent History

In 1918 at the end of WW1 it was declared as part of the Weimar Republic. Two years later The Greater Berlin Act incorporated numerous suburban towns villages and land areas into the Berlin Are. One administrative authority was established to run the entire area which had around 4 million inhabitants. In the next decade it gained a reputation for liberal politics and sexual openness.

Before the Nazis Party came to power in 1933 Berlin has 170,000 Jews. Between 1938 and 1943 most of these either fled, arrested and imprisoned in the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp or transported to Nazis Death Camps like Auschwitz & Birkenau.

From 1943 to 1945 Berlin was very heavily bombed by the Allies and wide areas in of the city where severely damaged. In 1945 as the Allies from the west and the Soviets from the east attacked the city – what remained in Central Berlin was largely reduced to rubble. At the end of the war the city was divided into Occupations Zones.

The Americans, British and French controlled the Zones to the West of the Brandenburg Gate. This area was known as West Berlin.

The Brandenburg Gate and area to its East which included the Administrative Centre and most of the city’s historic sights were controlled by the Soviets in an area that became known as East Berlin. All the perimeters of West Berlin itself were surrounded by Soviet Forces.

For the next 45 years West Berlin remained a ‘Allied’ pocket in the heart of the communist controlled German Democratic Republic. The division of the city resulted in Berlin ceasing to be the Capital Of West Germany an honour which was then bestowed on Bonn.

On Nov 9th 1989 The GDR collapsed and the Berlin Wall was torn down. The city regained its capital status in 1999 when the administration of German Government returned to Berlin



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