July 12, 2017

1948. Eastern Sector Communists Oppose the West Berlin Election

Upcoming Elections Threaten to Disrupt UN Negotiations
Anti-American cartoon from East Germany (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

November 28, 1948

The next seven days most likely will decide the fate of the current United Nations attempts to solve the Berlin crisis. And the decision will be made here in Berlin, not in the UN.

This is the opinion of a high military government official with whom I talked today—and it would appear that the Berlin problem is about to enter a new phase of crisis.

The issue hinges around the city elections to be held in the blockaded Western sections of the city next week. The Western powers have given official permission for the elections to be held under the provisional constitution of Berlin. The Soviet military government has declared them illegal.

Russian authorities have warned that these elections will mean a complete split of the city, and today Communist-sponsored political parties and labor unions are calling for a separate city government in the Eastern sector which, in their words, "would create a democratic order for all of Berlin."

The international importance of this move, if it develops that Berlin is split into two cities, is that it changes the whole basis for negotiating a settlement of this critical problem—in the UN or any place else.

The United Nations peacemakers have been attempting to bring the opposing powers together on the issue of the blockade and on the issue of uniform currency for the city.

However, if the anticipated official bisection of Berlin occurs, then there imposes itself still another problem for settlement among the great powers.

It would mean still another violation of the Yalta agreement for four-power administration of Berlin as a whole, and would place the Berlin problem on a more hazardous basis than even the blockade has imposed.

In other words, if Berlin becomes two cities after the Western sector elections on December 5th, then the basis for the present United Nations peace efforts will be changed, and the efforts of Mr. Bramuglia and Mr. Evatt will have failed.

The next step? No one knows. But there are still seven days to go before the Berlin crisis becomes even more critical.

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

November 29, 1948

The Communist Party of Germany has refused to run candidates in the crucial Berlin elections next Sunday, but in this final week of campaigning it is the Communists who are making the most noise and causing the most disturbance in their attempts to discredit and break up the elections.

At two meetings—one a right-wing Liberal Democratic Party meeting, the other a Socialist Party meeting—young Communists attempted to break up the campaign sessions.

At the Liberal Party meeting about 150 young men began singing "The Internationale" during the candidates' speeches. The Liberal Democrats joined with German police to throw the Communists out of the meeting.

In the American sector, five men were arrested from a group wearing red shirts who tried to break up a Socialist Party meeting. There was a short fight in which authorities relieved one demonstrator of his knife.

And last night when I came home, pasted on my garage gate was a sticker that said: "On December 5th, if you vote, you split Berlin. If you do not vote: Unity." The sticker was signed "The Democratic Bloc of Berlin."

Military government officials say that a Communist campaign of intimidation against the Western sector voters has now been launched. Incidents are expected to increase. However, responsible American military government officials predict that between 85 and 90 percent of those registered to vote will be at the polls next Sunday.

American commandant Colonel Frank Howley said that no disturbances would be allowed during the campaign. "This is an issue of ballots versus force—and we recognize ballots."

And a final election note. In Lower Saxony, German citizens held their elections yesterday. With 75 percent of the vote counted, the Socialists lead with 38 percent, the Christian Democrats with 23 percent, the Deutsche Democratic Party with 18 percent, and the Communist Party with three percent. This means that the Communists lost thirty percent of the vote they cast at the previous election.

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

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

November 30, 1948

Today's assembly by the so-called "Democratic Bloc of Berlin" began meeting an hour ago with the announced purpose of establishing a "truly democratic city government for all of Berlin." This meeting is being attended by leading members of the Communist-sponsored Socialist Unity Party, by leaders of the Communist-sponsored Federation of Trade Unions, and by Soviet-endorsed city officials now in office in the Eastern sector.

This is the Communist answer to the elections set for next Sunday in the blockaded Western part of the city—an election which the Communists have boycotted and which the Soviet military government calls illegal.

After the so-called "Democratic Bloc assembly meeting" in the State Opera House, the Eastern sector political leaders have called for a mass meeting on Unter den Linden before the Humboldt University. The Socialist Unity Party ordered that Eastern sector workers lay down their tools at noon and attend the mass meeting, which should draw a crowd of some 200,000 persons. This mass meeting, which is scheduled to begin in half an hour, will be harangued in protest against the December 5th elections, it will be advised of the plan to set up a separate government for "all of Berlin" in the Eastern part of the city—and presumably the cheers of the meeting will endorse the action.

Hundreds of East sector workers are now streaming through the foggy streets of the Russian sector to the university on Unter den Linden.

Ten thousand German police in the American, British, and French sectors have been alerted for possible trouble. Special patrols of German police radio cars accompanied by Western military police will patrol the sector borders to ensure peace and security.

This action follows by only a few hours a protest letter sent by Marshall Sokolovsky to the three Western military governors. The letter places blame for the internal crisis in the city on the Western powers.

General Clay, who is in Frankfurt today, replied that the December 5th elections are a German affair and that we neither approve nor disapprove of them. The elections are provided for in the Berlin provisional constitution signed by all four occupying powers.

Heavy fog, which has been blanketing Central Europe the past several days, has completely shut down the airlift. There have been no deliveries over the blockade since about three o'clock Berlin time yesterday afternoon.

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

November 30, 1948

Berlin is now split into two separate cities.

At an extraordinary meeting in the State Opera House in the Soviet sector of the city, the Communist faction of the Berlin city administration declared that the present magistrate—that is the city council and city assembly—has not fulfilled its duties and therefore is dismissed.

A resolution setting up a so-called "temporary democratic magistrate" was adopted unanimously by the Russian-sponsored assembly.

What it means is that the Communist faction has taken the initiative in finally dividing Berlin into Eastern and Western cities—an action which they claim was precipitated by the scheduled elections in the Western part of the city next Sunday.

It is certain that the American, British, and French military governments in Berlin will not recognize this precipitous action by the so-called Democratic Bloc from the Soviet sector. The action of dismissing the magistrate is not expected to influence the Western sector elections set for next Sunday.

Here's a late bulletin:

The son of the former president of the Weimar government, Friedrich Ebert, has just been elected the new Oberb├╝rgermeister for Berlin by the Soviet-sponsored assembly.