In the summer of 1945 the Allied powers--the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union--began what was to be a temporary, joint occupation of the city of Berlin. Despite an optimistic beginning, by 1948 Cold War pressures had created two separate cities, East Berlin and West Berlin. In 1948 the Soviet Union blockaded Berlin, cutting off deliveries of coal, food, and supplies. The Soviets declared the Western powers no longer had any rights in the administration of the city. The Western allies responded with the Berlin airlift, in which Allied air crews flew 4,000 tons of supplies a day into the city. In May 1949 the blockade came to an end as the Soviets permitted the Western allies to resupply Berlin by land. Berlin, however, was to remain a divided city with two governments until the end of the Cold War.

The divided city became a distinctive feature of the harsh political landscape in post-World War II Europe. For the next forty-four years, Berlin played an enduring symbolic, and at times very real, Cold War role. The city, especially during the crucial early years, stood literally on the front lines of the Cold War. It was the recurrent focus of East-West confrontation. The division of Berlin also made it a focal point for high-level intelligence operations, espionage, exchanges of spies, and general international confrontation.

In November 1958 a second Berlin crisis flared when Premier Nikita Khrushchev announced that the Soviet Union intended to turn over its responsibilities in Berlin to the East German government. Although Khrushchev did not carry out this threat, tensions remained high for several years. With East Germans fleeing to the West in record numbers in August 1961, the government of East Germany sealed the border by building the Berlin Wall. On 27 October 1961 U.S. and Soviet tanks faced off at Checkpoint Charlie in the center of Berlin. In retrospect, the construction of the wall marked the end of the sharpest confrontations in the city.

Berlin continued, however, as a potential flash point in the Cold War until the collapse of the Soviet Union and the reunification of Germany in 1991. During all of this time, an intelligence war raged in the city. Especially in the early period, 1945-1961, both sides mounted major intelligence operations and sought intelligence advantages in Berlin.

The end of the Cold War has produced a window of opportunity for studying the intelligence dimensions of Berlin's role during this crisis period. The release of limited but significant documentary materials from both sides of the Iron Curtain now makes a scholarly discussion of intelligence activities in Berlin possible. The documents compiled in this volume by CIA historian Donald Steury add clarification to this intense conflict. Dr. Steury selected his material carefully to illustrate as fully as possible US intelligence activities in the city. The documents cover various aspects of the intelligence war, from operational field intelligence memoranda to National Intelligence Estimates produced in Washington. Taken together, they represent a detailed picture of a side of the Cold War long withheld from the general public. Dr. Steury also offers an interpretative introduction and editorial notes on the documents to guide the reader and to place the materials in their proper historical context.

Although much material remains classified, this release brings to light a substantial part of the intelligence story in Berlin during the early Cold War. The CIA's Center for the Study of Intelligence offers this collection as a first step to a fuller understanding of this complex and dangerous time.

Gerald K. Haines
Chief Historian
Center for the Study of Intelligence
Central Intelligence Agency
June 1999

Historical Document
Posted: Apr 18, 2007 08:41 PM
Last Updated: Feb 04, 2014 12:21 PM