February 5, 2017

1948. Rumors of an "X-Day" Putsch in Berlin

Unease in Berlin
The Freie Deutsche Jugend (Free German Youth) rallies in East Berlin to protest the Marshall Plan and the Western Powers, with a banner reading "Yankee, go home," May 1950 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

September 13, 1948

Berlin this morning is in that uneasy and uncertain condition that passes for normal here. The expected fireworks from yesterday's Communist demonstration did not develop. The shooting incidents during last week's mass meeting in the Western zone are being pushed in the background. Right now everyone is waiting for the next development in this lukewarm war of blockade, words, and threats between the East and West.

Any official action here—namely further meetings of the four military governors of the city—must await more conferences in Moscow. It is expected that another round of negotiations between General Clay and his opposite numbers in the British, French, and Russian zones will take place, but only after new instructions have been received. Those instructions will have to be agreed upon in the Kremlin meetings which may begin today or tomorrow.

However, rumor has replaced action in this besieged city. One of the Berlin papers this morning carries a big scare story outlining what it claims is the second phase of a German Communist plot to bring about a dictatorship of the proletariat for Berlin. The story, which quotes no sources, speaks ominously of an "X-Day" for kicking the Western powers out; for abandoning parliamentary procedure. This is to follow a series of strikes, disruptions, and demonstrations designed to create such disorder of Berlin life that the so-called "people's government" will be able to seize power to preserve peace. The story speaks of the Communist training of "workers' commandos" and says that this second phase of a putsch will begin immediately. But the so-called "X-Day" will be sometime after the November elections in America.

We can expect more and more of these stories in the future. Meanwhile, in assessing the events of the past week, the East and West demonstrations and all, it is clear that the Western powers have a much greater popular support from the Berliners than even they expected—a fact that must give pause to the Soviet side.

But it will only be a pause. The Communist fight to discredit the West—to drive us out of Berlin if possible—will continue unabated.

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