December 27, 2016

1948. Berlin, the "Island of Anti-Communist Opposition"

The "Divisive Election" in Greater Berlin
"East Berliners take part in a December 1948 demonstration 'for a united democratic Germany,' organized by the Soviet-influenced Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED). The SED's tactics of bringing opposing political parties in line with their vision became more brutal with time" (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

December 6, 1948

More than 1,365,000 Germans in the Western sectors of Berlin today are on record as favoring the Western Power opposition to the policies of the Soviet Union. These people form the only on-the-record island of anti-Communist opposition inside the Russian orbit—one hundred miles inside the Russian zone of Germany, kept alive by the Anglo-American airlift.

With only about 150 out of 1,572 polling places to be heard from, officials show that 86.4 percent of the registered voters cast their ballots yesterday, an amazingly high figure considering that the Communist Party boycotted the elections and the Soviet military government refused to recognize them.

A study of the results reveals two paradoxical facts. The Communist campaign to keep voters away from the polls failed completely. And the left-wing Social Democratic Party won complete control of the Western city assembly. In other words, the Western Berliners moved to the left, but not to the radical.

Broken down, the Social Democrats got 64 percent of the vote. The Christian Democratic middle-of-the-road party got 20 percent, and the right-wing Liberal Democrats polled 16 percent.

Compared with the 1946 elections, the Social Democrats claim they gained votes from the Christian Democrats and from the Communists. According to German political experts, had the Communists voted yesterday, they would have polled only five to six percent of the vote, a loss of about half their strength from the elections of two years ago.

Berlin is returning to normal today, a little surprised and greatly relieved that the elections went off so quietly. The much rumored plans of a Communist-led putsch against the ballot boxes did not materialize. In fact, yesterday's Berlin elections were quieter than they would have been in any city of comparable size in America. 73 persons were arrested for trying to interfere with the elections, but by this morning all but three had been released.

The Western press this morning is jubilant. The headlines proclaim that "Communism has been defeated in Berlin."

But it's a different story in the Russian-licensed newspapers. They ignore the statistics of the election and call them "A shameless comedy . . . Terror and fear forced Western Berliners to go to the polls."

Now the city is completely and definitely split. The Berlin crisis goes into a new phase. What it will be, no one knows.

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.