February 1, 2017

1948. The Western Powers Appeal to the UN Over the Berlin Blockade

Another Period of Hysteria
An East German VoPo guards a bridge between East and West Berlin in 1961 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

September 26, 1948

The TASS agency release from Moscow, which lays down the Russian terms for further negotiation of the Berlin and Germany problem, is regarded here as a preview of the actual reply to the Western Power note.

I learned a few hours ago that France, Britain, and America already have decided on a course of action should it be decided that the Russian reply is unsatisfactory.

In other words, we should know soon whether or not the three Western Powers will go ahead with their negotiations in Moscow or whether the German crisis will get a full airing in the United Nations.

In any event, the TASS agency story marks the first breakaway from the secret diplomacy that has marked the Moscow talks, and perhaps now the public will be allowed to know what has been happening in these negotiations which have such importance for all of us.

Meanwhile the bitterness in the struggle between East and West here in Berlin has taken on almost symbolic significance among the German people living in the divided sections of this city. Taking their cue from the nations involved, Berliners in the Western sectors are literally being separated from Berliners in the Soviet section by that invisible line down the streets and bridges that divide this community.

The newspaper boycott between the sector publications is an example. Yesterday the Western sector news dealers banned the sale of the Red Army newspaper Tägliche Rundschau, the New Germany, and the rest. My secretary said she had to run away from an incident in-the-making when she purchased the Soviet-sponsored papers for me in the American zone of Berlin.

On the electrical railway that runs through the city, young hoodlums are going through the trains, seizing American-sponsored newspapers from passengers carrying them as they travel through the Russian sector.

Today we got the Soviet-sponsored newspapers from a vendor in the American zone who is selling them under the counter.

Typical of the again-rising temper of the people was the incident yesterday afternoon when young anti-Communists of the British sector attempted to break up an outdoor meeting of the Communist Party in that Western zone of Berlin.

Police fought off some fifty hoodlums who attempted to rush a speakers' stand on which a German Communist orator was denouncing America and other Western Powers. The meeting drew only 2,500 people, mostly hecklers. Two men were arrested.

As always happens in situations like this, freedom of speech is the first casualty.

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

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

September 27, 1948

The Western Powers' decision to throw the problem of blockaded Berlin before the United Nations seems to have caught the Communists here by surprise, and today the Soviet-sponsored press and radio appear to be waiting for a new line from Moscow before opening their counterattack on this latest move.

There is a report circulating here—which I have not been able to confirm—that Marshal Sokolovsky has been called back to Moscow for consultations.

Meanwhile the Berlin city council is now meeting to make recommendations concerning the new situation to the city assembly which convenes later this afternoon.

It is expected that the city assembly will pass a resolution demanding that the Berlin city government be represented when the question of the Berlin Blockade is brought before the UN Security Council. It is known that both the British and the Americans are reluctant to let such a thing happen. But it is considered likely that the Berlin assembly will act anyway in demanding that it have representation at the UN when the blockade is discussed.

Most of the Berlin press does not publish on Monday, so we don't have very much comment from the Soviet side of the city. But the newspaper Forward charges the West with playing with fire in Berlin. The newspaper says that bringing the situation before the UN means driving a wedge into the United Nations, which might break the organization into pieces with a hint that Russia may walk out.

On the Western side of the fence, the British-sponsored newspaper Telegraph says that yielding on the Berlin problem would merely be a new Munich. The newspaper quotes some old-time Communist doctrine to prove its point.

The Soviet Union is in a most dangerous position as a result of the blockade, it says. And now Russia stands where Trotsky said she must never stand—with the entire world united against her.

The Berlin Airlift is ninety days old today. The total count of coal, food, and supplies flown in: 201,498 tons. Total number of flights: 28,846.

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

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

September 28, 1948

The people of the Soviet sector of Berlin this morning read in their Communist-dominated newspapers these headlines:
"General Clay Breaks up Berlin Negotiations"

"Western Powers Want to Torpedo UN"

"Western Powers Attempt Interference with Soviet Zone"

"Bankruptcy of Marshall's Berlin Policy"

"Air Corridor Cannot Remain Uncontrolled"

"Moscow Agreement on Berlin Broken at Last Minute by Western Powers"

"The Plot Against Peace"

"War Provocations of Western Powers in Answer to Russian Peace Proposals"
And, finally, the headline in the newspaper New Germany:
"The Western Press Wants New Bombing Nights for Berlin"
These headlines from the Soviet-licensed publications this morning just about tell the propaganda story which the Russians are trying to sell to the people of Berlin. The Communist line is to place responsibility on America, Britain, and France for breaking off negotiations, and by booming up the war talk, to scare Berliners into the Soviet camp.

The publications of the Western sector are talking right back. The American-licensed newspaper Tagesspiegel says that all attempts to negotiate with the Soviet Union have failed, and that the world stands now where it stood ten years ago—amidst the aggression of a totalitarian system; amidst spiritual oppression, lies, slander, and all the terror with which totalitarianism threatens the world. Tagesspiegel demands that Russia be banned from the United Nations and that she must withdraw from Germany.

So it appears that we are in for another period of hysteria in this split city.

The case for the Western Powers right now is being presented in deeds rather than words. General Curtis LeMay, commander of our air forces in Europe, reveals that he has asked for a minimum of 225 C-54s be thrown into the airlift. Right now between 115 and 120 C-54s are operating, and if the increased number is used it would mean that some 4,700 tons of supplies could reach the city daily this winter.

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