Cold War Photos

manta22

Senior Airman
487
1,020
Aug 22, 2019
Here are some pictures I took when I was on leave in Berlin. It was in February, 1962 and it was bitter cold in Germany. I had bought a new VW 1500 "Notchback" and I drove to Berlin with three friends from our Ordnance detachment in Babenhausen. On the way, my headlights seemed to be getting dimmer and dimmer so I stopped at a Restplatz to find out why. It was ice building up on the headlights! We knew it was cold because the VW heater (which put out barely any heat) was on full-blast and I still had ice building up on the inside of the windshield. We continued on to Checkpoint Alpha in Helmstedt, the gateway to East Germany. At the Allied checkpoint our orders were checked and we were instructed to ignore East German signs and orders to stop at their checkpoint since we did recognize them, but to proceed directly to the Soviet checkpoint a hundred meters down the road. There we dismounted and went into a small whitewashed building with pictures on Marx, Lenin, & Stalin on the walls inside. There, a tiny door opened and a hand came out demanding "papers" and after recieving them, slammed shut. After 10 minutes inspecting our documents for any tiny mistake that they could use to deny us entry, the door popped oped and the hand returned our "papers". We piled into the car and drove on the Autobahn toward Berlin. "Crawled" is more like it; the speed limit was 50 kph (about 35 mph) and I was careful to observe it... for a while. You do not want to be arrested in the Soviet Zone! I had been warned at the Allied checkpoint that our papers had been stamped with our departure time and it would be checked when we reached the Berlin checkpoint, Checkpoint Bravo. If we arrived too early, I would get a speeding ticket and if we did not arrive after a certain time, an armed American patrol would be sent to look for us. We paid very close attention to the time! However, I found that I could drive at a more reasonable speed if I stopped at a Restplatz now and then to kill time, smoke a cigarette or two, etc. This worked out fine as we slowed each time we saw an East German police car. Fortunately there were few police cars on the Autobahn through East Germany. Now and then we would see a heavy-handed propaganda sign or something painted on an overpass, such as the ever-popular "Ami Go Home". After reachin the entrance to West Berlin, Checkpoint Bravo, the whole procedure repeated, this time in reverse. After clearing the checkpoint, we were free to go. As an American soldier in uniform and having our orders and ID card, we could travel into any of the Allied Zones of Berlin. Between the American, British, and French zones there were no barriers- traffic flowed freely between the Western zones, We could also enter the Soviet zone but only at designated places. In our case, it was the well-known Checkpoint Charlie. We drove into East Berlin and saw how they lived "behind the iron curtain". We also drove around the perimeter of the newly-constructed Berlin Wall, which in any places was not a wall at all, but a barbed wire fence or rolls of concertina wire. I took many pictures but later ound that my camera shutter had stuck on 1/200 th of a second so most were unusable. I'll post some pictures but they are not very good. They may give you an idea of what it was like there at that time.
 

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tlott01

Airman
11
10
Jan 7, 2017
Colorado Springs
I was stationed there 1976-78 and it's a pretty brutal place in the winter. A more modern contemporary film about the East German state is "The Lives of Others" and a very funny one is "Good-Bye Lenin!". I went into East Berlin on the orientation bus tour when I first arrived and several times on foot (I was a private and couldn't afford the insurance for a car over there), and it was quite eye-opening to see shells of buildings bombed during WW2 that were still in that condition 30 years later. I've been back to visit 4 times since the Wall came down and it's quite different now.
 

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