July 7, 2015

1949. Germany Reacts to Soviet Atomic Bomb Revelations

The Inevitable War Between East and West
"RDS-1, the first Soviet atomic test" (source)

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

September 26, 1949

The news that Soviet Russia has devised an atomic explosion is creating surprisingly little public sensation in Germany. Surely everyone is talking about it, but there is little of the war scare psychology that might have been expected from a recently defeated people caught, as it were, in undefended territory between Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Atomgrad in the Urals.

The Communist-controlled press of East Germany does not comment on the revelation, only quoting the Soviet Tass agency statement. The West German press admits the likelihood of Russia having the atom bomb but handles the new situation much more calmly than, for example, the recent Berlin rail strike.

This evident resignation of the German people in an atomic world is based on the common belief that the East and the West must settle their differences by war. The question here is not where or with what—atom bombs or cutlasses. German public opinion agrees that the only important factor for this future war is "when."

This morning German scientific writers are having a field day describing just how the Russians can use their new atomic weapon against Western Europe. It will be done with rocket weapons, they say—something that the Germans know something about since they developed the V-1 and V-2 during the war.
The Russians are known to have a number of German scientists working on these projects, just as America and Britain also have German experts. But reports that the Soviet Union is constructing a curtain of rocket launching bases up and down the Iron Curtain cannot be confirmed. However, it is likely that the Soviet Union would take steps to defend itself just as Western European nations are making similar defense plans under the Atlantic pact and the American military aid plan.

In divided Berlin, the average person fears that these latest atomic developments in the USSR may weaken the Western stand here. This morning a wood dealer from the Russian zone came to my house huckstering logs for my fireplace. I ordered a few baskets of them, but he was insistent that I take the whole truckload. If you buy all my wood you'll have to use it up." Then he added, "That way I'll know that you plan to stay here all winter."