When the summit conference begins in Paris May 16, one of the main topics for urgent discussion will undoubtedly be the unification of Germany and its capital...
When the summit conference begins in Paris May 16, one of the main topics for urgent discussion will undoubtedly be the unification of Germany and its capital...BERLIN. Since its conquest by Russian forces May 2nd 1945, and its subsequent division into four sectors controlled by Russian, American, British and French military commanders, Berlin has continued to be a focal point of international tension.
Friction between Russia and her Western allies began after the October 1946 municipal elections - the first free elections held for the inhabitants of Greater Berlin since 1933 - which resulted in a resounding defeat for the Communist Unity Party (SED). Negotiations between advisers of the four Occupation Powers on a uniform currency reform for Greater Berlin resulted in deadlock June 22. The following day, the Soviet delegate insisted that the "Deutsche Notenbank" (eastmark) was the only valid currency in their sphere of influence.
After various infringements upon agreements regarding free access to Berlin - finally disregarding them completely - the Soviet left the Control Council and the Commandantura respectively.
The Western Powers monetary reforms in their sectors - now known as West Berlin - was the pretext seized on by Russia to close East Germany and isolate Berlin. The last life-line to Western Germany, 150 miles across USSR controlled territory, the Berlin-Helmstedt railway, was closed ostensibly for repairs June 24, 1948. The blockade of West Berlin had begun, and lasted until May 4, 1949, during which time the 2,200,000 population were kept alive by the now famous 'Berlin Air Lift.'
An island - 340 square miles - West Berlin is completely surrounded by communist dominated East Germany, totally dependent for supplies on four roads, four railway lines, three air corridors and one waterway.
Division of Berlin into East-West sectors came finally on Sept 6, 1948. Unwilling to continue meeting in East Berlin, under pressure exercised by the Communists, democratically elected Councilors adjourned to West Berlin. On Nov 30 an assembly called and dominated by Soviet sponsored SED members installed a new municipal government for East Berlin. On Dec 2, 1948 the Soviet Commandant declared the government installed by the Communists to be the "sole legitimate executive organ of the municipality." The City was divided . Telephonic communication between the two sectors was cut May 27, 1952, and travel to the East sector became dependent on issuance of an entry permit.
Millions of tons of debris - one seventh of the entire mass of debris in Germany - covered Berlin's sites at the end of World War two. At first a planned rebuilding of the City was impossible. It was only ten years after the blockade that reconstruction and rebuilding really began. Housing ranked first, for every third dwelling had been completely destroyed. The number of new dwellings rose annually. In 1959 it reached its highest point so far, with 23,051 dwellings. One hundred and sixty five thousand dwellings have been built in West Berlin within the past ten years.
Thanks to the aid of the United States and the West German Government, West Berlin has again become Germany's largest industrial city. Its economy has been reconstructed and expanded. There is no longer any unemployment; there is even a shortage of skilled labor.
Berliners try to overcome the partition of their city at least, in their personal relations. A network of friendships, family relationships, and business connections still maintains some semblance of unity between the sectors. Some of the people - forty thousand altogether - are still employed on either side of their respective borders, though they come mostly from the East to work in the West. Many East Berliners come to the West of the City not only to work there but also for their entertainment. West Berlin's cinemas and theatres, well stocked shops, exhibitions, and museums and general air of prosperity is an almost irresistible attraction.
Western Powers and the Soviet Union exist side-by-side. They still have supreme legal authority; they still have their occupation troops there. It is possible to envisage an agreement. The Soviets have tried to create the impression that the question of Berlin simply consists of finding a new status for the city. They suggest making the whole of Greater Berlin a "Free City", and promise to guarantee all normal conditions safeguarding its existence as an autonomous organism.
Soviet insistence on a "Free City" would mean that West Berlin would have to renounce financial aid and purchasing power from West Germany. They fear that is this came about they would face severe economic difficulties. A shrinkage of its production and income, a serious disturbance of its economic and social balance, budgetary disaster and large-scale unemployment would be inevitable. They would be forced their standard of living to their own economic resources.
Assured of Western support for their cause and welfare, West Berliners wait anxiously for results of the Summit. The artificial division of Greater Berlin is a constant source of international tension. As long as Germany remains divided, no peace treaty with Germany can be signed, and no permanent stability in Europe can be achieved.