On 12 May 1949 the notorious Berlin Blockade was lifted. For nearly a year the Soviet Union had obstructed land access routes to West Berlin, in an attempt to use the threat of starvation for 2 million German citizens to force its former wartime allies to grant the USSR total control of the city.
In response to the threat, western nations united to stage the Berlin Airlift, carrying vital supplies to the desperate city. Meanwhile the Allied counter-blockade on eastern Germany further scuppered Moscow’s plans, forcing the Kremlin into a humiliating withdrawal. The bitterness sparked by these events led to the formation of two separate German states later that year.
In 1951 a monument to the crisis was installed in Berlin’s Platz der Luftbrücke. It was the city’s first major post-war monument and was designed by German architect Eduard Ludwig as the result of a competition. The towering concrete arc points west and is topped by three turrets, symbolising the three air corridors that were the city’s lifeline. This appearance has led the Berlin Airlift Monument (Luftbrückendenkmal) to become known in the local vernacular as the ‘Hunger Claw’ or ‘Hunger Rake’. An inscription on the base records the 78 servicemen and women who died in accidents during the operation. The original monument was duplicated in the 1980s, with copies placed in Frankfurt and Celle.
Image: Eduard Ludwig, Berlin Airlift Monument (Luftbrückendenkmal), 1951. Platz der Luftbrücke, Berlin, Germany.