Senate Reserve

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The Senate Reserve (German: Senatsreserve) was a stockpile of food and other necessities which the Senate of West Berlin was required to maintain in case of another Berlin Blockade. It was dissolved after German reunification.


After the Berlin Blockade of 1948/49 and the Berlin Airlift to keep the inhabitants of the western sector supplied, the three Western Allied commanders-in-chief required the Senate of Berlin, which governed under their authority, to establish stockpiles of staple foodstuffs, medication, coal, fuel, industrial raw materials and other daily necessities.[1][2] The intent was that in case of another blockade, "normal" life could be maintained in West Berlin for at least 180 days,[3][4] that is, six months,[1] and thus a blockade would no longer make sense.[5] (There was also a West German national foodstuffs reserve, the Bundesreserve, of which a large part was stored in West Berlin,[6] and periodic attempts to encourage the West German populace in general to participate in Aktion Eichhörnchen, "Operation Squirrel", and maintain a stock of necessities.[7][8] However, these were generally unsuccessful and the term was used mockingly of the Senate Reserve.[9])

In 1953 it was decided to enlarge the reserve; Eleanor Lansing Dulles came to the city to assist in this and witnessed the disturbances of 16/17 June 1953.[10]

The Senate Reserve stored approximately 4 million tonnes of goods for decades. There were at one stage more than 700 storage facilities in West Berlin, comprising 624,000 square metres of open land and 423,000 square metres of inside storage; most of them were secret, and very few people possessed detailed knowledge of the reserves.[1]

After the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War ended in 1989, the Senate Reserve was dissolved. Berlin was legally required to obtain the highest possible value for the goods should the reserve be partially or wholly eliminated.[11] However, at the suggestion of the mayor, 90,000 tonnes of foodstuffs, medications and other goods were donated free of charge to the Soviet Union as humanitarian aid.[12][13]


The value of the stored goods was approximately 2,000 million DM in the early 1980s,[14] approximately 1,600 million DM when the Senate Reserves were liquidated in 1990.[15] The regular "rotation" in which goods were replaced with fresh supplies cost several million DM annually.[16] The government of the Federal Republic defrayed the high costs of the goods and the turnover.

Old stock which had been replaced was sold at low prices to the population by the Berlin Senate. Cookery books sometimes referred to ingredients, such as tinned beef, as 'Senate Reserve'.

There were continual problems with obsolescence and changing standards, substandard supplies, and pilferage.[11][17]

The roughly 1,000 items included in the Senate Reserve, for a population of 2 million West Berliners and detailed in a 16-page list,[1] included:

  • 189,000 tonnes of wheat
  • 44,000 tonnes of meat
  • 19 live cattle
  • 7,130 tonnes of salt
  • 11,800 tonnes of cooking fat
  • 96 tonnes of mustard
  • 291,000 pairs of children's and teenagers' shoes
  • 380 tonnes of rubber soles and heels for shoe repair
  • 20.9 tonnes of glue
  • 18 million rolls of toilet paper
  • 10,000 chamberpots
  • 35 million plastic cups
  • 4 million lightbulbs
  • 5,000 bicycles
  • 25.8 million cigars
  • 1,000 tonnes of animal fodder (oats)

The reserve was to supply a diet of 2,900 calories daily to each normal citizen; during the blockade it had been 1,800.[11]

After the Four-Powers Agreement of 1971, amounts of some items were reduced and the consumer items such as bicycles, clothes and shoes were sold.[11][17]

Ration cards and coupons[edit]

To enable orderly distribution of goods to the populace in an emergency, the Bundesdruckerei (state printing house), which is headquartered in Berlin-Kreuzberg, printed ration cards and coupons:

  • Up to 1 year of age: Infant Card, Milk Card A, Special Supplies Card, Soap Card
  • 1–3 years of age: Child Card, Potato Card 200, Milk Card B, Special Supplies Card, Soap Card
  • 4–5 years of age: Child Card, Supplementary Card C, Potato Card 200, Milk Card B, Special Supplies Card, Soap Card
  • 6–8 years of age: Child Card, Supplementary Card D, Potato Card 300, Special Supplies Card, Soap Card
  • 9–13 years of age: Basic Card, Supplementary Card B, Potato Card 500, Special Supplies Card, Soap Card
  • 14–19 years of age, female: Basic Card, Supplementary Card B, Potato Card 500, Special Supplies Card, Soap Card
  • 14–19 years of age, male: Basic Card, Supplementary Card A, Potato Card 500, Special Supplies Card, Soap Card
  • 20 years of age and above: Basic Card, Potato Card 500, Special Supplies Card, Soap Card
  • Adults and young people 16 years of age and above: Smoker Card
  • Adults and young people 18 years of age and above: Supply Card A
  • Children, young people and adults: postage coupons for parcels (12 parcel postage stamps)


Storage locations for the Senate Reserve included:


  1. ^ a b c d Elmar Schütze and Marlies Emmerich, "Die Senatsreserve-Lager sind leer: Eine Stück streng geheimgehaltener Nachkriegsgeschichte ist beendet" (The Senate Reserve storehouses are empty: A piece of post-war history which was kept strictly secret has ended), Berliner Zeitung 12 August 1984. (German)
  2. ^ The Allied General Staff retained oversight over the Senate Reserve: Friedrich Jeschonnek, Dieter Riedel and William Durie, Alliierte in Berlin 1945-1994, Berlin: Spitz, 2002, ISBN 3-8305-0290-7, p. 150. (German)
  3. ^ Berichte über Landwirtschaft 1972, p. 300 (German): "etwa ein halber Jahresbedarf der Stadt" (an approximately six-month supply for the city).
  4. ^ According to Walter Krumholz, Wilhelm Lutze and Oskar Kruss, Berlin-ABC, Berlin: Verlag Dokumentation, 1969, OCLC 310740668, p. 518, (German) initially 60 days. Jens Krüger, Die Finanzierung der Bundeshauptstadt Bonn, Berlin: De Gruyter, 2006, ISBN 3-11-019090-7, p. 105, note 308, (German) speaks of "mehrere Wochen" (several weeks). On the other hand, "Am liebsten Caritas: Die verlustreiche West-Berliner Vorratswirtschaft—Blockade-Vorsorge auf Geheiß der Alliierten—soll neu geordnet werden. Ein Geheimvorschlag des Senats sieht die Halbierung der Krisenbestände vor", Der Spiegel 24 September 1973 (German) speaks of "einen kompletten Jahresbedarf" (a complete year's supply) of consumer goods, and "Zucker von Thälmann: Der Berliner Senat will ein Relikt des Kalten Krieges beseitigen—die eiserne Blockade-Reserve", Der Spiegel 20 August 1990 (German) has "maximal ein Jahr lang" (at a maximum, for a year). According to Karl Heinz Katsch, Berlin, Struktur und Entwicklung, Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1966, OCLC 12212660, p. 44 (German), most of the reserves were intended to last more than 5 months, some for up to 2 years.
  5. ^ Kerstin Schilling, Insel der Glücklichen: Generation West-Berlin, Berlin: Parthas, 2004, ISBN 3-936324-26-3, p. 78. (German)
  6. ^ Berichte über Landwirtschaft, p. 271.
  7. ^ Artur Woll, Der Wettbewerb im Einzelhandel: zur Dynamik der modernen Vertriebsformen, Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1964, OCLC 12444691, p. 160 and note 48. (German)
  8. ^ Agrarwirtschaft Sonderheft, volumes 90-92, p. 28. (German)
  9. ^ Peter Auer, Die Verhältnisse zwingen zur Bewirtschaftung: streng geheim: die zweite Blockade, die es nie gab, Berlin: Spitz, 1993, ISBN 3-87061-416-1, p. 138 (German): "Die Senatsreserve, belächelte Aktion Eichhörnchen für die einen, rausgeworfenes Steuergeld für die anderen, Bodensatz des Kalten Krieges" (The Senate Reserve, for some a mocked Operation Squirrel, for others a waste of tax money, a sedimentary deposit of the Cold War)
  10. ^ Gerhard Keiderling, "'The Mother of Berlin': Eleanor Lansing Dulles (1895-1996)", Berlinische Monatsschrift 2001, pp. 94-98, p. 96. (German)
  11. ^ a b c d "Zucker von Thälmann", Der Spiegel 1990.
  12. ^ Ralf Melzer, Berlin im Wandel: eine Chronik [August 1989 bis Dezember 1993], Berlin: Stapp, 1994, OCLC 32457869, p. 124. (German)
  13. ^ Stephan G. Bierling, Wirtschaftshilfe für Moskau: Motive und Strategien der Bundesrepublik Deutschland und der USA 1990-1996, Paderborn: Schöningh, 1998, ISBN 3-506-79353-5, p. 108 (German): 126 million DM worth, part of a large German donation.
  14. ^ Burkhard Hofmeister, Bundesrepublik Deutschland und Berlin volume 1, Berlin: eine geographische Strukturanalyse der zwölf westlichen Bezirke, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1975, 2nd ed. 1990, ISBN 3-534-05484-9, p. 41. (German)
  15. ^ Presse- und Informationsamt der Bundesregierung, Deutschland 1990 volume 7 (1993), [1] (German)
  16. ^ Krüger cites a figure of 30,130,000 DM in 1957; Friedrich P. Kahlenberg and Ulrich Enders, Die Kabinettsprotokolle der Bundesregierung: Kabinettsausschuss für Wirtschaft volume 4, Munich: Oldenbourg, 1999, p. 201, note 8 gives 1952 figures of 58,000 tonnes worth 50 million DM and costing approximately 50 million DM a year for storage of the Senate Reserve and the Berlin portion of the National Reserve. According to Der Spiegel in 1990, by then the annual cost was 100 million DM.
  17. ^ a b "Am liebsten Caritas", Der Spiegel 1973.

External links[edit]

This article incorporates information from this version of the equivalent article on the German Wikipedia.