September 30, 2017

1950. West Germany Celebrates Holiday as the East Prepares for Elections

Ascension Day in Germany
An inscription painted on a wall at the Bernauer and Schwedter Stra├če sectors in Berlin reads "Go home, Ami." A sign reading "You are now entering the French sector" is painted over, August 24, 1950 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

May 18, 1950

About the only real sign of peace in all Europe today is in the Bavarian mountain village of Oberammergau. At 8:30 this morning the villagers began the traditional performance of the Passion Play for the first time in sixteen years. The ceremony was abandoned during the war. 35,000 persons are attending including the American, British, and French high commissioners. They play lasts for ten hours, closing at six tonight.

It's Ascension Day in Germany, a holiday which for some reason is known as "husband's night out." The merriment has been making the streets of West Berlin noisy all morning. By tonight the hangovers should be fully constructed.

On the grimmer side of town, the East German Communist government is bending over backwards in thanking Comrade Stalin for reducing by fifty percent the reparations allegedly owed the Soviet Union.

The British claim that Russia already has taken more than ten billion dollars in reparations owed her. And that thanking the USSR for cutting the reparations is like thanking an extortionist for taking only fifty percent of one's salary for the next fifteen years.

The Communist government also announces its October election plans. The East German parties have announced they will have a National Front ticket—in other words, candidates handpicked by the party with no opposition slate.

General Maxwell Taylor made delivery today of the first of two million pounds of food to the city of Berlin for the needy and refugees. It's a gift from you through the International Rescue Committee.

The East German puppet administration is whipping up its "go home" campaign, and today there is even a poem addressed to High Commissioner McCloy advising him to take off.

A story circulating here concerns two Berliners standing by a "go home" sign painted on a wall. One says to the other, "What does it mean?"

The other replies, "That's English for 'Geh nach Hause.'"

The retort: "What a pity the Russians cannot read it."

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