April 1, 2017

1949. The Kremlin Reconsiders the Berlin Blockade

Rumors Spread as the Soviets Seek Trade Resumption
"How to Close the Gap?" - Cartoon by Daniel R. Fitzpatrick, 1948
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

April 20, 1949

There's something in the air here in Germany other than our planes flying over the Russian blockade.

The Communist-dominated Socialist Unity Party of the Soviet zone today reiterates its demand for resumption of trade between the Eastern and Western parts of Germany. In its official newspaper New Germany, the party makes the usual accusations against the Western Powers and baldly declares that there is no Soviet blockade but an American blockade—but, most importantly, the newspaper repeats the offers made last week for a renewal of commerce. In other words, this is a complicated, face-saving way of saying "the Russian blockade and the Western counter-blockade must be lifted."

British, American, and French officials here insist that no overtures have been made to them by the Russians. So it is still possible that the floating of these rumors is just another attempt to frustrate the formation of a West German government now in the making.

Just as we in the West are going ahead with plans for the West German government, so is the Soviet military government proceeding with its support of a separate East German administration to be set up in retaliation.

German officials in the East and the West are against this split of their nation. Some observers see the lifting of the blockade as a maneuver which might stymie the political split of Germany and one which would benefit Soviet policy. For no German wants his country divided. This is the strongest argument supporting the truth of the present plethora of unconfirmed reports over the imminent lifting of the blockade.

The other argument is an economic one. The Soviet zone is in bad shape because of the lack of coal, steel, machine tools, and other industrial materials. This not only makes the Russian stewardship of their zone difficult, but it also hampers reparation payments to the Soviet Union. Thus, the argument goes, by lifting the blockade and our counter-blockade, the Russian government would be the greatest beneficiary.

Today is the birthday of Adolf Hitler. It was his government's policy that to repeat a lie often enough is to have that falsehood believed.

These rumors of the blockade lifting certainly have been repeated often enough.

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