The Acting Political Adviser for Germany (Heath) to the Secretary of State
871. Dramatic extraordinary session Berlin City Assembly April 11 voted non-confidence in Lord Mayor Otto Ostrowski (SPD) by 85 against 20 with one abstention. Remytel 493, February 28.39 Motion [Page 862] of non-confidence was put by Ostrowski’s own party and supported by CDU and LDP. SED leaders strongly defended Ostrowski. Motion was originally to demand resignation entire Magistrat. Necessary two-thirds majority to carry this was lacking since about ten CDU leaders were campaigning in British Zone elections and LDP would not support motion.
Although Ostrowski has not yet resigned, crisis of major importance in relations between Berlin city govt and allied Kommandatura may be forced by non-confidence vote. SPD dissatisfaction with Ostrowski stems not only from his inefficiency and his unauthorized coalition negotiations with SED but also from his failure to remove excessive SED members from city administration. Elected Magistrat was originally hindered from making widespread purge by contract between previous Soviet appointed Magistrat and FDGB, each have joint appeals commissions of six SED members final authority on hiring and firing. Ostrowski had legal authority denounce this contract but did not exercise it. SPD now intends renegotiate contract to eliminate FDGB political controls over city govt. Moreover, Magistrat feels hindered by Kommandatura agreement February 28 on leading persons whose hiring, firing or transfer require Kommandatura approval. In city assembly debates, SPD speakers pointed out that Ostrowski had asked Kommandatura for such directive. SPD leaders feel Ostrowski should have fired SED officials first and told Kommandatura of new appointments. As situation now exists, SED still runs city administration through its control of bureaucracy and sabotages from Communist policies.
SPD plans elect Ernst Reuter new Lord Mayor. Reuter is strong man and vigorously anti-Communist. He is now department chief for electricity and gas, Berlin Magistrat. Reuter has never been confirmed in office by Kommandatura because of Soviet opposition but holds position provisionally. Soviets have led steady fight in Kommandatura against him, charging inefficiency, failure obey Kommandatura electricity sub-committee orders and insolence to allied representatives. French have sided with Soviets in demanding his removal, which Americans and British oppose. Therefore seems certain Reuter would not be confirmed as Lord Mayor. Although he might be permitted provisionally hold office since Americans and British have never admitted that elected Magistrat members need Kommandatura approval, Soviets could prevent him from entering office. This would probably lead to SPD, CDU and possibly LDP refusal to govern Berlin further.
Russians through Kommandatura have already obstructed city government to point of exasperation through refusal permit reorganization education department and firing ten SPD officials there (Soviet [Page 863] view agreed to by Kommandatura Education committee), rejection creation youth department and department for defense of democracy, refusal permit dissolution SED dominated womens committee, delay in handling some city assembly laws, attacks on Reuter and others, etc. French have often supported Soviets, and Americans and British have sometimes and reluctantly acceded to compromises on Soviet proposals when to have done otherwise appeared inadvisable. SPD directed by Schumacher now intends force showdown as to what democracy means as regards Berlin Govt.
Sent Department as 871; repeated Moscow for American Delegation CFM as 255, Paris as 149; London as 137.
- Not printed; it reported a strong movement among some German Socialist Party (SPD) leaders, who had long been critical of Ostrowski’s delay in eliminating the excessive number of Communist officials from the city government, to force Ostrowski’s resignation (862.00/2–2847).↩