March 14, 2017

1948. The Allied Kommandatura on the Future of Germany

Preparing for the New West German State
The four Allied military commandants of Berlin (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

December 12, 1948

For the past two weeks Western political experts here have been puzzling over the precipitous establishment of the rump magistrate of Eastern Berlin only five days before the elections in the Western part of the city. These observers maintain that the Communist action was premature and just plain bad international politics, because by waiting only five days the Communists would have had their excuse for setting up their own Berlin government and the onus of splitting the city could have been placed on the West.

So we have been waiting for some reaction from Moscow, and today it appears that the purge has come. For the past week, a Colonel Yelisarov has been signing official Soviet government documents as "acting military commandant of the Soviet garrison of Berlin." The Russian commander, General Kotikov, has not been seen in the city for some days.

The report is that Kotikov, who suffers from heart disease, is presently in Moscow.

But the other report is that Kotikov is the man who is taking the rap for the premature splitting of the city, and that any heart disease the general might be suffering is of the political type induced by unfriendly contact with the Soviet political police. We don't know for sure.

The Western Berlin press today almost ignores the conclusion of this meeting of the United Nations, carrying only brief reports of the wrangling there. However, the official Russian army newspaper leads with the story and comments that "as large as is the number of unsettled problems remaining, the UN meeting itself was of historic importance because it revealed the methods of the warmonger bloc which wants to dominate the organization or paralyze it.

The Rundschau tees off again on America's Dulles and Jessup with the usual warmonger charges.

The editorial comment is interesting only insofar as it would appear to be official Communist policy to continue to make life difficult in the United Nations, which means that when the UN meets again in April we can expect more of the same.

Blockaded Berliners have adopted a ho-hum attitude toward the UN. They gave up hope weeks ago that the Berlin crisis would be settled there.

The voices of international statesmen have an eerie quality, heard from inside the blockade—like men shouting cooking recipes across a great stretch of desert.

It would appear it will take more than a mere recipe to get us out of this international stew.

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

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

December 14, 1948

Germany is as much a political dilemma for the Western Occupying Powers as it is for the Germans themselves.

On Thursday, the American, British, and French military governors meet in Frankfurt for the final discussion of the Occupation Statute. This statute is a kind of occupation constitution defining the powers of the victorious nations and laying the ground rules for the military government's regulation of economic and political affairs in the Western zones of this defeated country.

However, the military governments of the three Western nations have not been able thus far to agree on certain basic points. One is the method of assessing the costs of the occupation, which eventually is to be paid by the Germans. The British and the Americans want to set a fixed figure so that the German government, when it is formed, will have a budgetary goal toward which to work. The French object, demanding that no ceiling be put on occupation costs at this time.

If the military governors do not agree on the points at issue on the day after tomorrow, then the Occupation Statute will go to the American, British, and French governments for settlement.

The Occupation Statute's most important point is that it formally reserves the right of the conquerors to rule on any action taken by any German governmental body during the period of occupation.

The Western Powers are sponsoring the parliamentary council composed of German political leaders from all over Western Germany which is now sitting in the city of Bonn attempting to draw up a provisional constitution.

But the work on this constitution has gone ahead very slowly. The German politicians are reluctant to take any action on the constitution for fear they will be blamed for splitting Germany.

The international disputes between the West and the Soviet Union—with its blockades and counter-blockades—already have split Germany economically.

But the Western nations believe that if there is to be a democratic Germany in the future, then German political leaders must begin to work on it at once; that nothing good can come out of the present political vacuum.

The provisional constitution should be completed before Christmas. It is expected to touch off another East-West war of words and perhaps achieve what all Germans dread: a politically and economically divided nation.

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