August 1, 2017

1949. Berlin Readies for May Day

The Eve of May Day in Germany
The Soviet war memorial in the Tiergarten in the British sector of West Berlin on May 1, 1949 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

April 29, 1949

Sunday is going to be a big day in Berlin in both the blockaded and non-blockaded parts of the city. May 1st is not only a Communist holiday but, for Europe, it also is Labor Day.

Driving into the Russian sector of the city today, workmen are busy draping Unter den Linden with red banners and putting up the slogans for the year. There seems to be a softening of attitude toward the West in the banners I saw today. There were the usual calls for "struggle against the Marshall Plan," but the United States and Britain were not singled out as "capitalist beasts" and the attacks on capitalism were much milder than I have seen in former years.

However, all the bunting and slogans were not up, and it may be that the most nasty attacks are being saved for later.

German police in West Berlin will be on a standby basis on May Day. The British and French authorities are allowing demonstrations by the Communist-supported Free German Trade Unions in their sectors. The American sector is not allowing this organization to meet.

As work goes ahead on the political organization of the Western zones of Germany, a parallel development is taking place in the Soviet zone. A few days ago, the Communist-dominated People's Congress of East Germany established an official "peace bureau" composed of the leading puppet political leaders there.

It is reported today that this "peace bureau" is working on a 24-point draft of a separate peace treaty between the Soviet Union and the East German government, if and when it is formed in opposition to the West German republic.

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

April 30, 1949

An informal check I made this morning of Western military government officials revealed only one consistent answer as to when the Berlin Blockade would be lifted. That answer is: "Your guess is as good as mine."

Foreign correspondents here have made a pool in which east person selected his date. For what it's worth, and on no authority whatsoever, I picked tomorrow, May Day.

Washington, please note.

This blockaded city is beset with rumors today. The city has something of the atmosphere that precedes a wedding. Everything is confused on what appears the eve of the joining of blockaded Berlin with the West once again.

For the first time in seven months, an official of the Soviet military government is conferring with a Western authority. Brigadier General E. R. Benton, deputy commander of the British sector, is conferring with General Kroshnin, Soviet transportation official, over the disputed barge traffic in the city's canals. British military police are on duty at three canal locks today, and traffic is proceeding after two Russian attempts to shut it down. Berlin's canals are technically under control of the Russians.

However, while this incident seems to be being smoothed over, Soviet officials are holding three other British military police taken yesterday near Gatow airport. The Tommies were disarmed and arrested yesterday when civilians reported that a force of sixty Russian zone police and Soviet soldiers confiscated livestock and property on a farm on the British-Russian sector border. The dispute is whether the farm is under British or Soviet control.

A British airlift plane disappeared mysteriously early this morning on a flight from Berlin to Hamburg. The RAF has sent out search planes and have asked the Russians to check their zone to see if they can find where the aircraft is down.

Among the blockade-lifting report circulating here concerns a passenger train which the Russians are supposed to have standing by on the outskirts of Berlin, waiting to make the trip westward. Railroad officials are closely guarding the train for fear that its window panes may be stolen.

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