July 6, 2017

1948. The "Victims of Fascism" Rally in the Lustgarten

Communists Hold Rally in East Berlin
"A man watches a Communist rally from the bombed-out ruins of a building overlooking Berlin's Lustgarten Square. The rally, billed as a remembrance of the victims of fascism but featuring plenty of anti-American rhetoric, was held at the height of the Berlin Airlift," September 12, 1948 (Photo by Gerald Waller - source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

September 12, 1948

An estimated 100,00 Germans right now are demonstrating in the Russian sector of Berlin in what the Communists claim is the city's biggest-ever antifascist, anti-Western Power meeting.

I have just returned from the Lustgarten square a mile inside Berlin's Russian zone down Unter den Linden, and thus far there have been no incidents. Many Germans left after the speeches began. However, both American and British military police are standing by, and within a few hours it is expected that the huge banner-carrying crowd will march through the Brandenburg Gate into the Western zone of the city to lay wreaths on the big Russian war memorial as the climax of the demonstration.

The situation at this moment is loaded with dynamite. It might explode against the score of British and American correspondents on the scene—or later when the demonstrators converge on the Western zone.

The occasion officially is called a ceremony for the victims of fascism, but in reality it is a counter-demonstration against the Western mob which last week stoned Russian police and Russian soldiers, resulting in the shooting of two Germans and the wounding of a number of others. By comparison, today's Communist-sponsored demonstration is much smaller than that held in the Western sector.

The Communists have been beating the drums for this meeting for days. Over the Brandenburg Gate is a big red banner defiantly proclaiming: "Despite opposition, we demonstrate against Fascism and the splitting up of Germany." A new Red flag also flutters in the breeze.

I had no trouble entering the zone on foot. Special detachments of Soviet soldiers are on duty. Armed Eastern zone German police are much in evidence, and as you walk down the Linden, more long red banners in the Russian style say: "Struggle against Fascism—Fight for Freedom." Another sign reads: "Our international army fights against the warmongers." There also are ambulances just in case.

And when you arrive at the Lustgarten a strange sight greets your eyes. On the ruined national museum are banners of all the satellite Soviet countries—of France, the Low Countries, and even Britain—but no United States colors. And flanking the podium were three ceremonial fire pots, just like the Nazis used to use. It was an effort to make the old appeal to German mysticism, but the attempt didn't quite come off since the kerosene used gave off lampblack smoke that soiled everything around them for yards.

However, with the marching music and the new songs barrumping Communist rote, the ghost of Adolf Hitler must be having a good time in the Communist sector of Berlin today.

It is too early yet to say whether the vaunted Communist counter-demonstration is a success or a failure. It certainly has not been thus far very enthusiastic. Perhaps the best symbol of this demonstration was the little man I saw looking into a shop window on Unter den Linden.

With all the parading delegations—some carrying flowers and others banners with signs designating them as from Russia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the rest—this little man just kept staring through the glass, paying no attention. Inside was displayed posters saying: "Vacation in France, Switzerland, the Low Countries."