April 16, 2017

1948. The Schism of Berlin Nearly Complete

East Berlin Communists Warn of Disaster
The Brandenburg Gate surrounded by the newly-constructed Berlin Wall, November 19, 1961 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

November 22, 1948

In just two weeks from today the blockaded Western sectors of Berlin will hold an election to choose representatives to the city assembly. And the way events are shaping up here, it probably will be one of the strangest elections ever held anywhere.

In many ways, Premier Joseph Stalin and President Harry Truman are running in these elections as much as the candidates of the Christian Democratic, Socialist, and Liberal parties here.

The Soviet military government has denounced the elections as illegal, although the British, American, and French authorities have declared them valid. The Communists in the Eastern sector warn of dire consequences to anyone who participates in the voting. The American commandant has countered this with assurance that no breach of the peace will be permitted on election day.

But it now appears that after December 5, Berlin will in reality become two cities. New identification cards will be issued to East Berliners, which mean that people living in the blockaded sectors will travel in the Soviet sector at their own risk.

In other words, West Berlin would be a separate city of about 2.5 million people—East Berlin would be a smaller city of about one million.

The Communists have warned that a complete schism between Eastern and Western Berlin will cause a breakdown in the transportation system, would cut off water and electricity from several districts, and would disrupt the telephone, telegraph, and mail system. And most importantly it would cause disruption in the city sewage system which offers a widespread threat of disease.

The average Berliner is taking this latest series of threats and cajoling pretty calmly.

An indignant working man who works in the Russian sector but lives in the Western part of the city told me the other day: "What does it matter? When I leave work and take the elevated to my home I buy a Rundschau"—the Russian paper—"I can read that until I get to Potsdamer Platz, then I have to go outside and buy a Tagesspiel or one of the Western papers, and I read that. It's a little ridiculous."

He shook his head and added, "It also is very serious."

The situation looks like it will become more serious after December 5.

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