September 3, 2017

1949. Partial Blockade Slows Traffic to Berlin

Traffic Snafu at German Border Crossings
Barbed wire and a watchtower mark the border to the Soviet occupation zone, with a sign that reads "Beyond this point is the Russian zone—Hinter diesem punkt beginnt die Russische zone" (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

June 30, 1949

Another Berlin traffic snafu this morning has truck traffic from the west snarled in what amounts to a partial blockade of the autobahn connecting this city with the west.

Some eighty trucks, most of them carrying food into the Western sectors of Berlin, have been stopped by the Russians at the autobahn checkpoint just outside the city. The Soviet authorities claim that the truckers do not have the proper documents to proceed into Berlin and dispose of their goods.

The series of stoppages started yesterday when six trucks were halted by the Russians. This action was protested by American officials. But last night and today the truck traffic continues to be stopped. In some cases the food in the trucks has been confiscated in the Soviet sector.

Western authorities are not sure whether this is just another Soviet failure to coordinate its orders to sector guards or whether this is a deliberate Russian policy to further disrupt traffic into the city. The paradoxical thing is that the trucks are allowed through the Russian checkpoint at Helmstedt in the British zone and only are stopped when they reach Berlin.

American officials say that the trucks are halted only after search. Some of the vehicles are allowed through. Others have been escorted around the Western sectors to the Soviet sector in Berlin.

In other words, it appears we have another partial blockade on our hands.

Although the elevated strike ended three days ago, no trains have moved into the city as yet. Soviet authorities promise that rail traffic will get going tomorrow.

Today the anti-Communist union that went back to work on order of the Western military governors is charging that the Russian-controlled rail management already has broken its promise that no reprisals would be taken against the strikers. The independent union charges that 380 strikers were either dismissed when they tried to return to their jobs or told that the only railroad work for them is in the Soviet zone.

American authorities this morning said that no action would be taken on the matter until the union presented formal protests and evidence that the rail directorate has violated its agreement.

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

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

July 1, 1949

Well, it has taken a year and one week to do it, but this morning everything is running in Berlin—the elevated, rail freight traffic, barges, and trucks.

And although it is cold and rainy here today, the airlift planes continue to roar ahead as visibility gets better at the three airports which were the end of Berlin's lifeline during the late and unlamented blockade.

Eleven empty trains left Berlin for the west last night, and this morning two fully loaded trains have arrived in the American sector. Over the weekend the unloading will continue, after which railroad traffic will be back to normal by Monday. The Russians explained that yesterday's temporary stoppage of autobahn traffic on the outskirts of Berlin was all a misunderstanding due to new customs employees. The elevated railroad that was struck for more than a month started up at about four o'clock this morning. There have been no incidents involving the former strikers.

Tonight American military trains to Frankfurt and Hamburg will again go on schedule.

It seems strange to say it after all these months of tension, but as of this moment no particular crisis exists in Berlin.

The West Berlin city government is meeting today in an attempt to straighten out its financial affairs. The Russian blockade, which brought about the political split of Berlin, left the anti-Communist part of the city facing a 211 million mark deficit.

Gerhart Eisler, Communism's most famous fugitive, is back in the news today. He is turning up in the Soviet sector of Berlin as "Professor Gerhart Eisler of Leipzig." His new public position is chairman of the committee to free Max Reimann. Reimann is the West German Communist leader from the Ruhr serving a three month British sentence for holding unauthorized political meetings.

Professor Eisler is holding a news conference this afternoon to which American correspondents have been cordially invited.

Thus the fugitive Communist spy appears to be emerging as Moscow's number one mouthpiece in Germany. No one expects him to say anything new.

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