August 10, 2017

1949. Western Occupation Powers Urge Statehood for West Germany

The Western Political Initiative in Germany
The three Western military governors in Germany gather in Frankfurt to approve the basic law of the Federal Republic of Germany. From left to right, French General Kœnig, British General Robertson, and American General Clay, May 12, 1949 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

April 23, 1949

America, Britain, and France moved today to hasten the creation of a West German state by sending a note of conciliation to the German constitutional convention now deadlocked by political party differences in Bonn.

This surprise move—which is an unconcealed attempt to bring about reconciliation between the right and left-wing parties—proves the urgency felt by the Western powers to establish a democratic government in Western Germany.

In other words, the creation of the new West German state has become a keystone of United States foreign policy; a policy which calls for the consolidation of all democratic Western Europe into an economic whole to expedite the workings of the Marshall Plan.

The three-power note to the German politicians said that the occupation powers would review sympathetically the points of disagreement between the Socialists, who demand a strong central government, and the Christian Democrats, who are going along with Western power demands that the new Western Germany be a federalized state.

After all the bitter words that have passed between the German politicos the past eight months, it comes as a bit of a surprise this morning that all factions welcome the three-power note as a means of settling their differences.

They are meeting now in Bonn to discuss a compromise constitution. Whether all differences will be settled by Monday when the constitution committee is scheduled to meet with the Western military governors is problematical. However, the wheels of organization of this new state are again turning, and it would appear that the West once more has the political initiative in Germany.

This new development has not yet evoked reaction from the German Communists or the Soviet occupation authorities. Last week, when formation of the West German state seemed imminent, a flood of rumors about the lifting of the Russian blockade appeared designed to halt work by the West German political leaders.

Whether these rumors will recur, or whether the Russians actually will lift the blockade in an attempt to block formation of the new government, is not clear today.

The theory is that the lifting of the blockade, which splits Germany economically, would make a political split of the country unnecessary, and that the German political parties from the East and West could then attempt to work out a unified country.

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

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

April 25, 1949

General Lucius Clay and his British and French colleagues heading the occupation of Western Germany flew to Frankfurt this morning to attend what may be a historic meeting in the fight for postwar European recovery.

The three military governors will, in a half hour from now, join a seventeen-man delegation of German political leaders. The purpose is to study German proposals for a compromise constitution for a new West German state.

So important is the meeting that the State Department sent the head of its German and Austrian section, former ambassador Robert Murphy, to attend.

The disputing German Socialists and right-wing Christian Democrats reached agreement on the compromise proposal over the weekend after the Western powers modified their demands that the new government be federalized with strong powers to the states. The new constitution will provide for a more centralized form of government, particularly in the field of financing.

The atmosphere in Frankfurt is optimistic this morning. It is expected that if all goes well, the basic law constitution will be ratified by the Bonn parliamentary council next month. After that, there must be elections for the two houses of the new German parliament, and British authorities say that the new West German state should be operational by August or September.

There as yet has been no reaction to these rapid political developments from the Soviet Union.

With the Communist holiday, May 1, only five days away, the Russian-licensed newspapers of East Berlin are beginning the ritual of printing the slogans to guide the struggle of the workers. The Communist SED party of the Soviet zone has fifty-two slogans for the occasion, but none of them reveal any change in the party line.

There are the usual demands for German unity, a "just peace and a withdrawal of occupation troops," and the usual invocations against the Marshall Plan and "warmongery."

But the Russians have yet to make a countermove against our urgent efforts to get a West German government established and working.

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