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Berlinka is the common Polish and Russian ( ) name for the remains of the planned highway (German: Autobahn) once officially known as the Reichsautobahn Berlin-Königsberg (German: Berlin-Konigsberg Imperial (Reichs) Highway), that was to connect Berlinmarker, via Stettinmarker (Szczecin) and the Free City of Danzigmarker (Gdańsk), with Königsbergmarker (Kaliningrad) in East Prussia.

Background

Map of Berlinka route.
Existing sections currently carrying traffic marked in blue, incomplete sections with remains of original construction works marked in green, sections which were planned only and where little or no work was carried out marked in grey
Eastern Prussia had been separated from Germany following the Treaty of Versailles by the Polish Corridor of the Second Polish Republicmarker. By 1939 Poland had already refused demands made by Nazi Germany, including one for an extraterritorial corridor within the Corridor. This fact was eventually used by Adolf Hitler as one of the pretexts for the German invasion of Poland in 1939.

The road was planned under the Weimar Republicmarker, but was partially constructed during the 1930s and early 1940s by the Third Reich.

Following territorial changes made after World War II it ran through three countries: the USSRmarker (Kaliningrad Oblastmarker, modern Russiamarker), Poland and East Germanymarker. Its original purpose gone, some segments of the road were incorporated into local road networks while most of it fell into disrepair. Some segments were a minor tourist attraction in the years after the war, as an example of a Nazi-built autobahn preserved in an almost pristine state, carrying very little or no traffic. In recent years that attraction has diminished as most of the stretches completed in the 1930s have been reconstructed to modern standards and largely lost their original appearance.

Construction

Construction began in late 1933, using unemployed German workers as part of the state's reforms to counteract the Great Depression - the construction of the Reichsautobahn (RAB) network. The first 113 km long segment near Stettin (now Szczecinmarker), Stettiner Dreieck to Stettin-Süd, was opened on September 27, 1936. The segment from Königsbergmarker to Elbing (now Elblągmarker) was opened in 1937. In 1937, beltways near Stettin and Elbing were built.

In 1938 work slowed as Germany geared up for war and workers were directed to other projects. The highway featured prominently in Nazi political rhetoric of 1939, as Hitler's demands included an extraterritorial corridor - the Danzig Corridor through the Polish Corridor - which would connect Germanymarker to Eastern Prussia. This, alongside other demands, was refused by the Polish government, and Hitler used this as one of the pretexts for the invasion of Poland in September 1939.

By October 1939 Poland was defeated, and work on the Berlinka resumed. The labor pool was increasingly composed of conscript workers from Poland. The Bäderstraße (near Rzęśnica and the Wielgowo) — Stargard-Massow (near Łęczycamarker) segment was built subsequently. Construction stopped in 1942 as military priorities once again took over available labor. In 1945 German forces, retreating along the Eastern Front, blew up most of the bridges to slow the Sovietmarker advance.

Aftermath

Because of territorial changes of Poland and Germany following the war, the road was divided and lost its importance as a route between German cities (most of Prussia's German population was expelled to Germany). The part that remained within German borders became the Bundesautobahn 11.

Certain segments of the route were nonetheless restored. In the People's Republic of Poland bridges over the Oder River near Szczecin were restored soon after the war, as were the bridges on the Banówka River near the border with the Kaliningrad Oblast. In the 1970s the planned part of the highway from Stargard-Massow (near Łęczyca) to Stargard-Freienwalde (near Lisowomarker and Chociwelmarker) was finished, and bridges on the Ina River restored.

With the end of the Cold War, and particularly with Poland joining the European Union, increasing thought has been given to reconstructing the road as part of the European highway system. In the 1990s a 14km long segment near the western Polish border was incorporated into the new A6 Autostrada . A further 7 km, to the junction with National Road 10, was being restored and was scheduled to open for traffic in August 2007. An additional 8 km is to be upgraded at some future date and redesignated as A6. In addition to the highway, Berlinka is incorporated into Polish National Road 22, voivodeship road 142, and expressroad 6/3. In the Russian Kaliningrad Oblast, it is incorporated into road P516.

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