March 26, 2017

1949. The Swedish Red Cross Caught in the Berlin Blockade

The Swedish Red Cross is Denied Access to Food Stores
Spectators watch as a plane flies over during the Berlin airlift, June 1948
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

February 12, 1949

The Russian military government has taken another step in the Berlin Blockade that promises to stir up more indignation among Western sector Germans than any single event in the Berlin crisis thus far.

It was revealed this morning that the Swedish Red Cross has been refused access to stores of food in Russian-controlled East Berlin with which the Swedish relief agency has been providing supplementary meals daily for about 30,000 children living in the blockaded parts of the city. The ban was imposed on the first of this month.

The Swedish Red Cross, which concentrates its aid to children between three and six years old, has been feeding Berlin children in all four sectors of the city.

However, American authorities state today that the Russians have refused the Swedes passage across the city borders even for food for the three to six-year-olds in the American, British, and French sectors. Presumably the meals are still being distributed to the children of the Russian sector.

The American military government is making arrangements to transport the Swedish Red Cross food over the airlift. The irony of the situation is that the project entails only about one ton of food a day, which is no serious hardship to the airlift.

However effective the Soviet blockade has been against Swedish Red Cross food for small children, it most certainly is not one hundred percent effective.

I was stopped on the street the other day by two suspicious looking men who spotted me for an American.

They had two diamond rings they wanted to sell—a one carat diamond; the other weighing a carat and a half. The price was about what it would be in New York, around eight hundred dollars for the smaller one.

The smugglers said the rings were from once-wealthy families in the Russian zone of Germany now down to the last of their family jewels which they must sell in order to live.

When I refused, they said they thought they could get me a mink coat—very fine—but the price: 22,000 West marks, which breaks down to more than seven thousand dollars. No thanks.

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