August 12, 2017

1949. Rumor-Happy Berlin

New Wave of Speculation Over the Blockade
"Loudspeaker vans carry the latest news to blockaded West Berliners," May 1945 (Photo by Charles Steinheimer - source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

April 19, 1949

Berlin is "rumor happy" today. On the streetcars, in the subways, in the shops, and on street corners, all you hear is: "Is it true that the Russians are going to lift the blockade?"

The only answer to this question still lies with the Russians. The highest Western power officials here say they have no indication that the Soviet authorities intend to change their blockade policy.

This latest wave of speculation was touched off a week ago by proposals of Soviet zone German officials that trade should be resumed between the Eastern and Western parts of this divided country. Four days ago the mayor of the East Berlin rump government made a similar proposal to open trade between the blockaded and un-blockaded sections of this city.

Since German authorities in the Soviet zone speak only under direction of the Communists, the natural assumption is that the party is preparing to change its line on Germany.

There is no doubt that there is a lot of wishful thinking going on in Berlin today, both by the Germans and by some officials. Rightly or wrongly, they are the optimists who see hope of settlement of the Berlin crisis now emerging.

These men will point out that the new Soviet military governor, General Chuikov, today notified his American, French, and British counterparts that he has now assumed his new post. By this action, says this school of thought, the Russian military government of Germany still recognizes the four-power Allied Kommandatura for Berlin.

Another optimistic straw-in-the-wind is the departure for Poland today of General Frank Howley, the American commandant for Berlin. Howley is going as a guest of the Polish military mission.

The general said there is no political importance to his trip. However, the optimists ask: "Would the satellite Poles invite an American general to their country if some kind of East-West agreement is not in prospect?"

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