January 25, 2017

1949. The Communists Lose Influence in West Germany

"Vacation from Crisis" After the Blockade
Poster of Joseph Stalin displayed on the House of the Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany in the Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood of East Berlin in honor of his birthday, December 12, 1949 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

August 19, 1949

The big news for Americans in Germany today does not directly involve the Germans. It concerns the people who work under our High Commission, which will conclude its occupation policy after the Federal Republic is established.

High Commissioner John McCloy has confirmed earlier reports that he was going to cut down on staff—and, incidentally, on costs to the American taxpayer—and that his commission staff to watch over forty-five million West Germans will be limited to one thousand persons. This is a substantial reduction in the number of jobs required by the military government, which had the initial task of establishing the occupation of this defeated country. Like the airlift, the military government is being phased out in favor of the civilian commission. McCloy said that staff changes would be completed by November 15.

Reports are circulating today that the Communist Party leadership of Western Germany is due for a major shakeup after Sunday's election defeat. It comes under the heading of what the Comrades call "self-criticism," and will parallel the recent purge of the Soviet zone party which had a major house-cleaning to remove unstable elements in that organization. However, according to my sources, the thing that impressed the leadership of Eastern Germany was not the poor showing of the Communists, it was the campaigning of the other major parties when all sections of Western German political thought blasted America, Britain, and France for their occupation policies. The thing that impresses the East is that the Western Powers allowed these attacks to be made on themselves—a situation that could not arise under totalitarianism. Thus, according to their way of thinking, the Western Powers must be extremely strong in Germany to allow such things to go on.

Within the next few days we should know the constitution of the new cabinet for the Federal Republic of Germany. Winston Churchill's proposal that the new German government be included in the Council of Europe and McCloy's approval of such a move has made a deep impression on Western politicians. It has revived speculation that the right-wing Christian Democrats may form a working arrangement with the opposition Socialists to present a united German front aimed at incorporating the German government into the European union.

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

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

August 20, 1949

A late-summer hiatus has settled over Germany today; a kind of "vacation from crisis" while the country gathers its harvests. The only political activity is the horse-trading by party leaders in West Germany trying to arrive at a coalition government before the new Federal Republic convenes its first parliament three weeks from now.

The East-West modus vivendi in Berlin is working with a minimum of friction. At a meeting of the Big Four commandants the other day, the process of normalizing the split city is making slow progress on minor matters—but it is progress.

Even the Eastern propaganda machine sounds a little weary. Berlin's American commandant, General Frank Howley, today comes in for a half-hearted attack after he charged that the Soviet military government is attempting to regain its veto power in Berlin. The Communist press today charges that Howley is piqued because the United States government would not let him make war over Berlin. The press says that things will be more peaceful when Howley leaves, which he is scheduled to do early next month. But the Communist attack lacks its usual conviction.

Here in Berlin, the city fathers in the Western sectors of the town are plugging to have some agencies of the new West German state establish headquarters in this city. In fact, they hope that Western Berlin eventually will be incorporated into the new government as the twelfth state. Although it hardly seems likely right now, the inclusion of Berlin in the government would completely change the parliamentary picture in Bonn if Berlin went Socialist as it did in the last election. Berlin would send a dozen delegates to the parliament, most of which would be Socialist, thus giving that party the plurality.

But the German people are leaving this behind-the-scenes juggling to the politicians. Most of them are gathering the ripening fruits of their gardens—a good grain crop is being harvested.

And already today there is a biting tang of fall in the air.

Here in Berlin we needed two blankets for comfort last night, and the G.I. athletes here already are putting their baseball equipment away and blowing up footballs.

Political observers predict that with the football season will come another period of East-West crisis, but right now the comparative peace is wonderful.

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

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

August 21, 1949

Liberal hopes that the new West German government would be a united front coalition of the right-wing Christian Democrats and the left-wing Socialists appear to have vanished today.

Dr. Konrad Adenauer, the probable new chancellor of the Federal Republic, this afternoon is holding a series of conferences with the conservative leaders of his party to map final plans for his cabinet and the coalition of right-wing parties which will control the parliament.

Since last Sunday's election in which the Christian Democrats gained a plurality, some German political leaders have been trying to bring about a compromise government based on a desire to make the new parliament as strong as possible by combining the 139 delegates of the CDU with the 131 Socialists for solid control of the government.

But these efforts have failed. Adenauer will have to move to the right for his coalition. The Socialists will be a powerful opposition which may be able to cause early embarrassment to the Christian Democrats. The two major parties failed to reach a compromise on economic policy. The Socialists insist on pursuing their nationalization program as the price of their entry into the government. The Adenauer party refuses to compromise their free enterprise stand.

The East German Communists have been comparatively noncommittal about the elections a week ago, partly because their West German comrades did so badly at the polls.

However, today we have a statement from Germany's number one Communist, Wilhelm Pieck. The British-licensed newspaper Die Welt published an interview with Pieck in which he said that another government, allegedly for all Germany, will be establish in the Eastern zone, but that for the moment to establish this Communist-dominated government will depend upon further developments in West Germany.

In other words, the Communists have not yet made up their mind exactly what to do about the new Federal Republic. I learned that Communist feelers already are going out to political leaders in the West German state not only through their own party organization in the West, but through other emissaries who are contacting the right-wing parties in an attempt to reach some kind of arrangement to project unity and therefore Communist influence on the Western government. This pressure is being brought to bear on the right-wing politicians because the Communists feel they have a better chance of making a deal with them than with the anti-Communist left-wing Socialists.

Pieck's statement today admitted difficulty in establishing contacts with the Western government. "I have to blame the Western German governmental institutions," he said, "that no East-West German talks have officially taken place.

High Commissioner John McCloy has ordered a full-scale manhunt for two American youths on a bicycle vacation trip through Germany who have been missing for almost two weeks. Army investigators have been ordered to search for Warren Oelsner, 20, of Long Island, New York, and Peter Sellers of Radnor, Pennsylvania.

Another Germany-wide search is underway today for the missing Rothschild jewels which disappeared during the Nazi occupation of France. Hermann Göring is alleged to have ordered some fifty cases containing the priceless jewels to be removed from Germany. The treasure includes pearls, emeralds, and diamonds valued at over one million dollars.