March 22, 2017

1949. The Blockade Nears an End as Germany's Division Solidifies

Changing Political Fates
A crowd listens to speakers in front of the Reichstag in Berlin, 1949 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

April 24, 1949

It was just about four years ago today that the Russian army entered Berlin. At that time, the capture of the Nazi capital was a symbol of German collapse.

The political fates have been fickle, and today Berlin stands as the symbol of German resistance against the country that brought about its downfall.

Somehow one gets the feeling here that in a few centuries from now historians will write: "The civilization of 1949 was a most confused and foolish one."

Tomorrow may be the day we know for sure when and if Europe will see the formation of a new democratic nation. West German politicians are scheduled to meet with the American, French, and British military governors to find if an agreement has been reached on a constitution for the West German state.

The next few days also should tell whether or not there is anything to the rumors that the Russian plan to lift their blockade of the city as a measure to frustrate the establishment of a new government in West Germany.

There have been a lot of second thoughts about what would happen if the blockade were lifted here. Outside of opening up the road and rail supply routes, the face of Berlin would not be much changed.

There would still be two city governments—the Communist-dominated administration of East Berlin, and the popularly elected government of the Western sectors. There would still be two currencies: the East mark and the West mark.

And the airlift would continue to operate on a reduced scale, for until the East-West dispute over Germany is settled, any blockade that the Soviet Union might lift as a policy expedient can be clamped back on again without warning.

The Russian zone newspaper Neues Deutschland this morning comments on the war in China. "The crossing of the Yangtze," the Communist-dominated paper says, "not only means the end of the Kuomintang regime, it also is the end of the power of the dollar in China." The paper concludes: "The United States will never win in Western Europe what they lost in China."

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