September 2, 2017

1948. Signs of Economic Difficulty Reported in the Soviet Zone

East Berlin Struggles with Counter-Blockade
Members of the Kasenierte Volkspolizei, predecessor to the National People's Army of the German Democratic Republic, march in a May Day parade at Marx-Engels-Platz in East Berlin, May 1, 1953 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

December 18, 1948

A small announcement by the British military government this morning demonstrates better than anything else the status of the Berlin crisis, now and in the weeks to come.

The British announce that next week "Operation Union" will be resumed. "Operation Union" is the project wherein the families of British soldiers are allowed to join them on occupation duty.

No families were allowed into Berlin after the blockade began last June. Announcement that Operation Union will get underway again is another one of those bits of evidence that the Western powers expect Berlin to remain a crisis for a long time to come.

Persistent reports of increased economic difficulties in the Soviet zone of Germany are confirmed in part this morning by accusations that German railroad officials in the Eastern part of Germany have fallen down on the job.

These charges are printed in the leading editorial of the T√§gliche Rundschau, official Red Army publication in Berlin and main propaganda organ of the Communist Party. The editorial praises the workers in transportation for coal and crop deliveries and then lists a series of complaints—a lack of tank cars caused curtailment of the chemical industry; failure to move lime halted production there because there was no place to store it. The warehouses of the glass industry are so full that the percentage of breakage is high.

This shows lack of organization, the newspaper charges, adding the hint that managers leave their desks for a while and see how things have been changed since 1945.

American economic authorities say this is further proof of the effectiveness of the counter-blockade. Spare parts and repair depots for the entire German railway system are concentrated in the British zone in the Ruhr.

The American, British, and French military governors have referred to the disputed sections of the occupation statute to their respective governments for settlement. The French object to American and British proposals concerning costs of the occupation to be paid by the Germans and about legal relations with a future German government.

This probably will delay completion of the provisional constitution now in the making by the West German parliamentary council in Bonn.

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