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Berlin (1970)

Gordon Wilkison

Sound | 1970

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  •  Historic architecture 
  •  Old Berlin brought to ruin by war 
  •  Potsdam Treaty splits Berlin 
  •  Russian blockade alleviated by western powers 
  •  Infrastructure rebuilt 
  •  Export trade industries rebound 
  •  Educational centers 
  •  Garment and fashion industries  
  •  Berlin Wall erected 
  •  Escape attempts from East to West Berlin 
  •  Close-up footage of East Berlin soldier escaping 
  •  Recreation in Berlin 
  •  Footage of Potsdam 
  •  Berlin Boulevard 
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  •  Tourists from all over the world arrive in Berlin by bus, car, train, and plane. 
  •  There are no restrictions in West Berlin, such as the ones in communist East Germany. Berlin greets a visitor with its 453 foot radio tower and then follows with its Charlottenburg Castle built in 1699. The castle's beautiful baroque and rococo rooms now serve as a museum and exhibition room. 
  •  There is a philharmonic auditorium, which is the new home of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. 
  •  Here is the Hall of Congress. 
  •  This is the Bellevue Castle built in 1786. It's now the residence of the President of the Federal Republic when he is in Berlin. 
  •  The Brandenburg gate, built in 1791 in the Greek architecture, and like Potsdamer Square, today still stands walled in, fenced with barbed wire, surrounded by tank traps, barricades, and torn up streets. 
  •  Here a long time ago blossomed the life of the old Berlin at a time when nobody imagined what grief the people in this city would have to endure. 
  •  It all began with the group the world was soon to know at the Nazis. It ended with this: ruins, misery, and need, the grim evidence of the mad ambitions of the Nazis, the harvests of heartless ambitions and senseless war inevitably reaps. On May 8, 1945: total collapse. The war was ended. 
  •  For Berlin and its people there began years of hard work and continuous threats from communist countries. The people of Berlin started their struggle for unity, rights, and freedom. These battles continue even today. 
  •  From July 17 until August 2, 1945 the Potsdam Treaty meeting was held. This treaty was the solve the Berlin problem by guaranteeing the poor power control Berlin. Theory was that the United States, Britain, France, and Russia would take jointly the responsibility for Berlin. 
  •  The Russians have broken again and again these agreements. From 1948 to 1949, the Russians blocked the land approaches to Berlin trying to starve the West Berlin people. Immediately American and British planes began flying 8,000 tons of groceries daily to the West in Tempelhof Airport in Berlin. 
  •  After so much aid from the Americans and British, the Russians finally lifted the blockade. There was electricity again. Groceries began to roll through the autobahn in the direction of Berlin. After much privation, groceries were in store windows once again.  The Berlin rubble girl became famous all over the world as a symbol of Berlin's rebuilding after the war. Berlin builds. 
  •  New dynamic architecture in the new residential areas. In Gropius town alone there are more than 50,000 people. New freeways take care of the ever increasing traffic load. Berlin lost 75% of its industry during the war, and now it is the largest industrial center between Paris and Moscow. 
  •  Electrical industry, cigarettes, dresses, and many other industries won the basis for the Berlin export trade. In the search for freedom, education has remained high on the list of priorities. Berlin has over 100 high schools, academies, and professional schools and is one of the most important educational and research centers in the world. 
  •  24,000 students are enrolled in the free university, which was founded in 1948 with American aid. The university clinic also serves as the research and education arm of medical training in West Berlin. There are also excellent facilities for students of agriculture. 
  •  Here the modern high rise; there the old romantic. This is Berlin. 
  •  Automation came in. The garment industry is admirable represented in both design and manufacture of women's apparel. Boutiques are filled with chic locally made clothes. 
  •  Both the craving for freedom and the high economic standing of West Berlin contribute to the fact that 2.6 million people left East Germany to come to West Berlin between the end of the war and 1961. These people came in droves to West Berlin, and they were first put into refugee receiving camps for classification. They gave up all of their belongings in order to come. All they now own is the clothing on their back. The one essential factor that was the driving force in their escapes: freedom. 
  •  The blackest day in the history of Berlin was Sunday August 13, 1961. It was on this day that East German leader Ulbricht gave an order to build a wall through Berlin. 
  •  In one fell swoop families were divided: husband from wife, mother from child, and brother from sister. To many families it was like the war returned except for the absence of bullets. People tried to jump the wall, run through the wall, over it, under it, any way to go to the West. 
  •  Buildings near the wall were sealed up and evacuated, and then later torn down. 
  •  Even though the East Germans are brash in their actions they use reflectors and smoke bombs to thwart cameramen taking pictures of these acts. The border guards are very thorough, but 2,358 of them have escaped to the West from 1961 to 1969. 
  •  Mothers separated from daughters never know if they will see them again. 
  •  At the climax of the Berlin crisis, Lyndon B. Johnson came on a special mission. The Berliners tumultuous reception to his visit was a great show of affection. It was decided to build up the American forces at this time, and the Berliners cheered as the Americans arrived. 
  •  Every year the three Western powers have a parade at which the American, British, and French troops are on display. 
  •  Once a year the American Air Force has an open house at Tempelhof for the Berliners. The Berliner loves to celebrate, he loves sports, soccer, auto races, six day bike races, he especially likes beauty contests, museums. 
  •  Many people go to the beach at Onese, a small resort on the Havel River. The heat and crowds of the big city in summer would send people running to the countryside, but now the water in this city is as far as they can go. The very young only know the countryside from the stories of their elders. 
  •  Some Berliners always celebrate with a boulette, a variety of hamburger, and a weisse mit schuss, which is whtie beer with a touch of raspberry syrup, or a (no translation found) beer, which is a large round glass of beer. The Berliner loves to eat well. There are many bars, restaurants, and nightclubs in Berlin. 
  •  Not far from all the gaiety is the Wall. Tourists come, and they see the wall. The communists call the Wall a modern border. This is to ease the idea of a whole city living the life of a prisoner. At least 64 people have met death at this modern border from 1961 to 1969. 57 more were wounded by the border guards. It is not known what has happened to the many victims who were carried away motionless by the communists on stretchers in the dark. Dogs trained to kill among the guards at the modern border. In the water guard boats patrol incessantly. 
  •  From West Berlin you can call to America or Europe almost immediately, but cannot call a relative or friend a mile away. 
  •  Potsdam can barely be seen in the hazy distance from West Berlin. Potsdam: where the four power treaty was signed. Potsdam: where the Berliner longs to strove through the gardens and see the paintings and sculptures in Sanssouci. 
  •  Potsdam, no longer accessible to the Berliner. Now filled with communist soldiers wandering where the Berliners so long to go. The Berliner cannot go there. 
  •  Even though the East Berlin man works very hard, and is tired and wants relaxation and recreation, he cannot travel, he cannot voice his opinion, he may not gather with his friends. 
  •  One cannot leave West Berlin with a stroll along its beautiful Kurfürstendamm, the Berlin Boulevard. Its cafes, its buildings, its people, its shops. 
  •  It's Berlin. 
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  • About the video
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In what could now be regarded as a moving image time capsule of the Cold War, this short documentary film, narrated by Cactus Pryor, presents the view in 1970 of the city of West Berlin. Using historic film footage from pre-war and World War II, the film recounts the events that lead to the splitting of the city into East and West, and the resulting social and economic consequences for citizens on both sides of the wall.
Gordon Wilkison began work as a cameraman at the local Austin television station KTBC (now FOX 7) during 1952, its first year of operation.  At the time the station was owned by the Texas Broadcasting Company, which was owned by Senator Lyndon B. and Lady Bird Johnson. This relationship would continue to shape Wilkison's career well into the next decades - during the Johnson administration, Wilkison covered the president's visits to Texas, preparing material for national and international news correspondents. 
A particularly notable moment in his career occurred on August 1, 1966, when Wilkison and KTBC reporter Neal Spelce risked their lives to capture footage of the Tower shooting at the University of Texas. 
Wilkison was also the General Manager of Photo Processors at the LBJ Broadcasting Corporation, which he later took over and renamed Cenetex Film Labs. In addition to his camera work and film processing, his work at the station also included direction of a number of television film productions.
Outside of KTBC, Wilkison shot, edited, and processed Longhorn football game footage for the University of Texas, a partnership that lasted nearly 30 years.    
Recognizing the historical value of film and news footage, Wilkison kept the material, later contributing hundreds of reels to the Texas Archive of the Moving Image's collection.