November 25, 2016

1949. Preparations Amid the Yugoslav–Soviet Split

 The Volkspolizei Alleged to Be Training for Conflict with Yugoslavia
Portraits of Premier Joseph Stalin and Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito carried during a May Day demonstration in Belgrade, 1946 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Frankfurt

September 3, 1949

German military units may soon be fighting again in Europe. This is the opinion of reliable British and American intelligence officers, and confirmed today by a special report I have just received from an East German source.

The units are special cadres of the Communist-trained East German People's Police. I am informed that at a staff meeting held recently at Russian headquarters in Potsdam, Major General Hans Wulz, former Nazi officer and now chief of training for the new Soviet zone police, has ordered that these units be sent to participate in the Greek Civil War, ostensibly to gain experience in guerrilla fighting; but tactically to form part of a people's international army of Iron Curtain nationalities to be used, if so decided by Russia, in her current dispute with Yugoslavia.

Many of these units have "been sent to Czechoslovakia for special training in intelligence and espionage." My informant says the German units are composed of between 250 to 280 men, commanded by a major and disciplined by a police commissar.

But the question as to whether these German formations will be used for anything more than a war of nerves now underway in the Balkans still remains unanswered.

In Bonn, in the Western half of Germany, the men who are building the new Federal Republic also have the jitters. With only four days left before the opening of the new parliament, the entire city of Bonn is working frantically to get the new capitol building in shape for the big show.

Five hundred workmen are laboring around the clock trying to get an outside wall on the office wing of the capitol. In these closing hours, the whole thing appears like five hundred Marx brothers are engaged in the job. During one conference yesterday, the German official with whom I was talking was interrupted by four men who walked in with a telephone. One started drilling a hole in the floor, the other crawled under the desk. Without noticing them, the official continued his conversation.

In another office, however, a similar conversation was completely wrecked. I was interviewing the politician at a shout to be audible over the noise. We stopped talking when the point of a pneumatic drill punched through the wall.

The driller won the day. He was cutting a new door into the office.

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