February 9, 2017

1948. The French Destroy Soviet-Controlled Radio Transmission Towers

French Officials Take Down Radio Berlin to Make Room for the Airlift
"The dedication of Tegel Airfield, 1 December 1948. General Jean Ganeval, who ordered the demolition of Radio Berlin's broadcast tower, is saluting at front row left" (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

December 16, 1948

Russian-controlled Radio Berlin, the most powerful radio station in Germany, went off the air this morning when French engineers blew up two giant transmission towers as obstacles to the safety of the airlift.

Radio Berlin, seized by Soviet troops when they captured this city, is a kind of electronic, international orphan in this divided city. The station's studios are in the British sector. Its transmission towers are in the French sector. Its broadcasts are Russian-directed. The Soviet military government was allowed to use these installations outside of Russian-controlled territory on the theory that the radio station broadcasts not only to the city of Berlin, but to the Soviet zone as well.

However, the transmission towers are near the newly-completed Tegel airport in the French sector of the city. General Jean Ganeval, commandant of the French sector of Berlin, on November 20 notified the Soviet commandant of his intention to destroy the towers as a hazard to aviation and would proceed with the project unless the Russians gave a satisfactory answer as to why the towers should not be blown down. The Russians did not reply.

Today French authorities said they found it necessary to blow up the towers only because the Berlin Blockade made increased air facilities necessary.

It is expected that Russian-licensed radio broadcasting will be resumed from the Soviet zone. Whether Radio Berlin will continue to originate its anti-Western programs from the British sector is not known.

Radio Berlin has been the main instrument here of Communist propaganda against the Marshall Plan, the airlift, and other Western Power diplomacy.

The French destruction of the transmitter towers marks still another breach in the East-West struggle over Berlin.

The rump government of the Eastern sector of the city also is putting on the pressure. Some two thousand city employees have been discharged from their jobs when they refused to sign "loyalty pledges" to the Opera House government.

The three Western military governors are meeting in Frankfurt today for important decisions on the Occupation Statute. The American, British, and French military governors also will discuss the possibility of politically joining the blockaded portions of Berlin with the Western zones.

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

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

December 17, 1948

British and Russian officials this morning are investigating a shooting incident on the British-Russian zonal border that resulted in the serious wounding of one British soldier and the arrest of eight others. One report has it that the soldier has died.

Indicative of the increasing tension resulting from the Russian blockade was the British rabbit-shooting party that almost developed into a pitched battle.

The incident occurred Wednesday evening in the Harz mountains near Göttingten. The British hunting party is believed to have strayed over the border into the Russian zone and was attacked by a trigger happy Soviet border guard. Although the British have described the incident as "harmless," a Russian general and a senior British officer have gone to the scene of the shooting to investigate.

The French action of blowing up the transmission towers of Russian-controlled Radio Berlin has produced a propaganda furor in the Communist press here unequaled in the history of the occupation.

Russian reaction has been unprecedented. The Soviet commandant, General Kotikov, made a personal protest to the French commander. Radio Berlin, which went back on the air through a minor transmitter outside the city, spent all last night giving spot announcements denouncing the dynamiting as an outrage. Today the Communist press call the blowing up of the towers "cultural barbarism" and a "national offense against Germany." And following the usual line, the propaganda declares that the French took the action on orders of the United States.

It is reported that the incident has been referred to Moscow, and protest on a governmental level is expected.

The three Western military governors have extended their conferences in Frankfurt one day more in order to discuss German proposals to include the blockaded sectors of Berlin in the political program now being formulated for Western Germany. If accepted, it would mean that representatives from the newly-elected city government of Western Berlin would be eligible to sit in the present parliamentary convention meeting in Bonn, and that the Western sectors of the city would be governed by any constitution agreed upon by this convention.

In other words, this blockaded island would be constitutionally included in the political orbit of the Western Powers, even though it is one hundred miles inside the Russian zone.

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

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

December 20, 1948

An interesting test of Communist political policy as applied to the rump government of Eastern Berlin is in the making today.

On the northern edge of the city just outside of the French sector there is a little village called Stolpe. Three years ago the Soviet military government agreed that this area be loaned to the French so that an airport could be built there. However, since that time came the worsening relations between East and West—and the blockade. The Tegel airfield was built and the French did not utilize the Stolpe agreement between them and the Russians.

Last week, the French blew up the towers of Radio Berlin. And yesterday they announced that they were canceling their stewardship of the village of Stolpe and returning it to Russian control.

Ordinarily this would merely be a transfer of occupation authority. But in the meantime there were the Berlin elections, opposed by the Communists and declared illegal by the Soviet commandant. The thousand residents of Stolpe voted in this election to the tune of ninety-eight percent.

There naturally is fear that the East Berlin government may take reprisals. The village officials and resident police officers are withdrawing with the French.

Now the test comes as to whether the Opera House government of East Berlin will attempt to discipline the village for participating in the Western elections.

The threatened retaliation from the East Berlin government as a result of the French blowing of the Radio Berlin towers has not as yet materialized.

It has been reported many times during the past six months that the twenty-nine landlines connecting Berlin and Western Germany by telephone and telegraph would be cut by the Russians, thus further isolating this city. It is known that the lines are tapped and that much of Russian intelligence is dependent upon them.

However, the Western military governments have been quietly preparing for such an emergency. Today American officials announce that eight new radio-telephone circuits connecting Berlin and the Western zones have been put into operation and that eight other radio-telephone circuits are nearing completion. In addition, equipment for establishing other connections is now in manufacture.

The whole thing adds up to a kind of communication airlift by radio in the event the landlines are ever cut.

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