On June 24th, 1948 the Soviets stopped all surface travel to and from the US, French and British occupied zones of Berlin in the attempt to choke off the city and the hope that the allies would withdraw from Berlin and leave the former capital completely in Soviet control. Fortunately they didn’t succeed, but they made life difficult for the people living in the three western zones. The Russians considered Berlin the balls of the allies. To squeeze them meant to cause pain. In 1945 the Russians had made it to the Elbe river, which basically became the divide between East and West Germany. So, Berlin was in the center of the Soviet occupied zone.
Most German cities were 50% or more destroyed during the war. Most German cities were 50% or more destroyed during the war. In addition Berlin absorbed many refugees from the eastern provinces, parts of which were returned to Poland and Russia. During the blockade, to feed the hungry masses, the western allies flew 272,000 flights into Berlin, much to the relief of the people. Every 30 seconds a plane landed and before landing the pilots would throw candy, chewing gum and raisins out of the planes to the waiting kids, hence the name ‘Rosinenbomber’ (raisin bomber).
My parents lived in Berlin at this chaotic period after the war and I was conceived sometime around December 48, not exactly planned, right in the middle of the blockade. Since life had become so difficult and the future so uncertain, my parents decided to try to make a better life in the west. Before the Russians attempt to choke off Berlin there had been a vibrant black market economy between the city and the west, much of it via rail. There were three main lines to the west, the northern route towards Hamburg, the western towards Cologne, Duesseldorf, etc and the southern line towards Frankfurt. My parents knew some people from Hannover the closest big city in the west on the western line. They got word that live was somewhat better there and made an attempt to go. My mother flew out with one of the allied planes and my father walked through the Soviet zone, crossing first into it and then, out of the Russian zone into the British zone. My parents then reunited in Hannover, my mother pregnant with me all this time. According to my mother I was born exactly at 08.08.8:08PM (49).
Before my birth, on May 12, 1949, the Soviets, realizing that the blockade had failed, had reopened the borders, but alas, the damage had been done and I was born in Hannover, a place that I never felt entirely at home.