July 25, 2017

1948. Threats of Violence Overshadow West Berlin Elections

Heavy Police Presence in West Berlin as Voters Go to Polls
"The Resurrection," an East German propaganda cartoon depicting West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer as the successor to Adolf Hitler (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

December 5, 1948

Western Berlin streamed to the polls today in the city's first free elections in two years, and indications are that an extremely heavy vote is being cast despite threats of reprisal from the Communist-dominated government of East Berlin.

The polls have been open for seven hours now. Officially more than 40 percent of the vote is in the ballot boxes, while the American-licensed radio in Berlin said that as of a half hour ago 75 percent of the vote is in. On the basis of the early voting, some German officials are predicting that between 80 and 90 percent of the Western Berliners will cast their ballots—something more than a million voters.

Since the Communists for the past month have been pleading, demanding, cajoling, and even physically trying to keep the people away from the polls, a large vote will be interpreted as a protest against Soviet occupation policy and an endorsement of the stand of the Western powers in this Berlin crisis.

So far the elections have been quiet. Paradoxically the heaviest and earliest vote came in the districts which border on the Soviet sector. French patrols were called out once in the heavily industrialized Reinickendorf district when three Soviet soldiers, carrying Tommy guns and accompanied by three German civilians, walked across the French-Soviet border toward one of the polling sites. The Russian soldiers withdrew when the French patrol arrived.

So far twenty-two persons have been arrested for interfering with the elections. In the Kreuzberg district in the American sector, fourteen persons were arrested after one man tried to use false documents and entered the polls as an election official. He revealed the names of others under German police questioning. In Spandau, in the British sector, eight men were arrested demonstrating before a voting place.

Some ten thousand German police are alerted and guarding the voting places. American, British, and French troops have been confined to barracks and are under standby orders.

The threat of violence is still here. There are increasing rumors that attacks against the polls will be made tonight. During the night, many election posters and official election placards were torn down, and some polling places were smeared with red paint. Anti-election pamphlets are being thrown from windows of the elevated railway.

The airlift is having fog trouble again today, and only a few planes are getting in or out of the city. Early this morning, an American Air Force C-54 leaving the Faßberg airport crashed and burned shortly after taking off. The three crew members were killed. The plane was carrying a load of coal to Berlin.

This makes a total of sixteen Americans who have died flying over the Russian blockade. Six others killed were British.

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