862.77/9–2849: Telegram

The United States Commander, Berlin ( Taylor ) to the United States High Commissioner for Germany ( McCloy ), at Frankfurt


135.1 For McCloy. Allied Kommandatura met September 28 to discuss problem of railway workers. Since September 24 French Commandant has sent repeated messages to Soviet Commandant Kotikov, and his deputy, Colonel Yelisarov, inviting them to attend quadripartite Commandant meeting September 28. Reply was Kotikov was out of town indefinitely and Yelisarov also away but expected back, first September 26th then 27th, and would answer immediately upon his return.

No reply received before today’s Kommandatura meeting, however. Western Commandants therefore agreed in accordance with High Commissioners instructions, to write new letter to Kotikov, issue two communiqués, and send order to magistrat. Action involved is explained in texts of documents which follow. All are being released to press 6 p. m. September 28 at press conference held by three Commandants. Letter to Kotikov was delivered before release of communiqué. Oberbuergermeister Reuter was informed of planned action informally several days ago by Ganeval, and officially this morning during Kommandatura meeting which he attended briefly. Texts are as follows:

Letter to Kotikov from Western Commandants:

“At our last consultative meeting held on the 12th of September,2 we all agreed that there could be no hope of a successful outcome of any quadripartite talks, held in accordance with paragraph three (c) of the Paris communiqué,3 for the normalization of the city of Berlin unless each Commandant could have confidence that agreements freely negotiated would be adhered to by all of his colleagues.

At the same meeting we drew the attention of your deputy Colonel Yelisarov, to a letter which we had sent to Kvashnin, chief of the Transportation Department, Soviet Military Administration of Germany, on the 9th of September, with a copy to you.4 In that letter we had protested against the repeated violations by the Reichsbahn-direktion, which the Soviet authorities claim to control, of its agreement for ending of the railway strike. We stressed the importance which we attached to the receipt of a satisfactory reply from Kvashnin, a reply which would create that confidence which all four Commandants agreed was vital. Yelisarov undertook to see Kvashnin and to request a speedy reply.

[Page 395]

Since that date, Ganeval as chairman, twice, on the 17th of September and again on the 24th of September requested you or your deputy to attend a quadripartite consultative meeting. In answer to his request, he was informed that both you and your deputy were out of Berlin. He has received no reply to his second.

On the 24th of September, Kvashnin replied to our letter of the 9th of September.5 This reply can only be described as a cynical repudiation of the undertakings which Kvashnin gave, both verbally and in writing. Kvashnin infers that there have been no dismissals of workers. He states that certain transfers have taken place in no way connected with the strike, but purely in order to effect economies.

The facts, of which both Kvashnin and you must be aware, are that more than 2,000 men of the Western sectors have received dismissal notices from the Reichsbahn. Of these more than half have actually been dismissed, and in almost every case they have been replaced by Communist sympathizers from the Soviet sector or zone. This cannot be a question of reorganization to effect economies. Kvashnin’s statement shows both a contempt for the workers and a disregard for his obligations.

Kvashnin’s letter of the 24th September, and your failure to attend a quadripartite consultative meeting make it impossible for us to retain any confidence in the willingness of the Soviet authorities in Berlin to abide by any agreements reached except when it suits them to do so. Without mutual confidence these quadripartite discussions are valueless. We have, therefore, been instructed by our High Commissioners to state that we are not prepared to continue with the discussions on the normalization of the life in Berlin until we can be confident that agreements freely negotiated will be honored in the letter and spirit by the Soviet authorities.”

Communiqué No. I

“During the railway strike contacts took place between the three Commandants of the Western sectors and Kvashnin, chief of the Transportation Department of the Soviet Military Administration of Germany.

During these contacts, Howley, the US Commandant, defined as follows the obligations to be assumed by the Reichsbahndirektion which the Soviet authorities claim to control.

The Reichsbahndirektion will pay in West marks at least 60 percent of the wages of railway workers residing in the Western sector of Berlin, beginning with return to work.
The Reichsbahndirektion will pay more than 60 percent to eligible persons insofar as its West mark income permits.
The Reichsbahndirektion will require West mark payment for all revenue collected from the sale of tickets and other services rendered by the Reichsbahn in relation to the three Western sectors of Berlin, as a basis for providing funds to pay salaries and wages in accord with this agreement.
The Reichsbahndirektion will take no punitive action against railway workers who have participated in the strike.
This assurance is intended to apply to all railway workers living in the Western sectors, regardless of union affiliation.

Kvashnin confirmed these commitments, first on 10th June, verbally, to Howley, then on 20th June by letter, to the three western Commandants.6

The terms of this agreement enabled the resumption of work on 28th June. Since that date, however, the Soviet authorities, through the Reichsbahndirektion, have continually violated their commitments, to wit:

The Reichsbahndirektion has paid 60 percent of their wages in West marks to railway workers living and working in the Western sectors, but declined to pay anything whatsoever in this currency to workers living in the Western sectors and working in the Soviet sector;
Although its receipts in West marks are now amply sufficient to pay all the workers concerned much more than the 60 percent minimum in this currency, it declines to do so under the pretext of reduction of personnel.
Finally, it has issued notices of dismissal for more than 2,000 employees of the Western sectors. Now the Western Commandants have ascertained beyond doubt that reprisals are involved in nearly every case. The railway workers affected are, as a fact, being immediately replaced by Communist sympathizers from the Soviet sector or zone.

This constant violation of commitments given has evoked action on the part of the Commandants of the Western sectors.

On 9th September, they sent a joint letter to Kvashnin, inviting his attention to the failure of the Reichsbahndirektion, to fulfill its commitments and requesting firm action on his part to remind it that a commitment should be respected.

On 12th September at a quadripartite meeting, the three Western Commandants stressed to the Soviet Commandant the importance they attached to receiving a prompt and satisfactory reply. They gave him clearly to understand that a matter of confidence was involved.

On 17th September, Ganeval, Commandant of the French sector, convened in his capacity as chairman, a meeting of the four Commandants for 21 September. He received a reply that General Kotikov and his deputy were away for an indefinite period.

On 21 September, Ganeval sent a second letter to Kvashnin inquiring whether he intended to abide by his commitments or not, and asking once again for a prompt reply to the joint letter of 21 September.

The reply finally arrived on 24 September. But it amounted in effect to a cynical repudiation on the assurances given, verbally and in writing, by Kvashnin.

The text of this letter, which is attached, shows clearly to what point distortion of the truth can be carried.

[Page 397]

On 28 September the French, British and US Commandants studied the situation arising as the result of this letter, as well as of the failure of the Soviet Commandant to reply to the invitation repeatedly extended by Ganeval since 24 September to attend a quadripartite meeting on 28 September.

The three Commandants have concluded, therefore, that the Soviet authorities are not willing to compel the Reichsbahndirektion, which they claim to control, to respect the commitments entered into by it in June last, under their own guarantee.

They consider that consequently the quadripartite conversations in in accordance with paragraph three (c) of the Paris communiqué for the purpose of normalizing the situation in Berlin for the present have become futile.

Under these conditions they informed Kotikov by a letter, the text of which is appended hereto, that they were no longer prepared to continue these conversations so long as they have no assurance that obligations entered into freely by the Soviet authorities will be respected.”

Communiqué No. II

“The Allied [Kommandatura decided on?] 28th September 1949, that:

The Magistrat is not authorized from 29th September 1949, to effect additional exchanges which might be necessary to bring the wages of the railway employees residing in the Western sectors up to 100 percent in West marks.
The Magistrat is authorized from 29th September 1949, to convert through the Lohnausgleichskasse up to 60 percent of their wages in respect of Reichsbahn employees residing in the Western sectors and working in the Eastern sector or zone.

The history of this deplorable affair clearly illustrates how the railway workers, living in the Western sectors of Berlin, have been deliberately victimized by the Reichsbahndirektion, over which the Soviet authorities have constantly claimed control. This history is summarized in a communiqué issued today.

During the past three months it has been the hope of the Western Commandants that the Reichsbahndirektion would conform to the letter and spirit of the agreement which terminated the strike, and would assume the full payment in West marks to the railway workers resident in the Western sectors.

Although there is definite evidence that the Reichsbahndirektion’s West mark receipts are now sufficient to pay well over 60 percent, it refuses to discharge its formal undertakings which were confirmed by Kvashnin. It would be wholly unjust to require the Magistrat to continue to bear a financial burden which is clearly the responsibility of the Reichsbahndirektion. Consequently, the Western Commandants have today relieved the city government of the requirement to effect the West mark conversion necessary to bring the wages of the West Berlin railway workers up to 100 percent.

However, to avoid a cruel injustice to those workers who live in the Western sectors but work in the Soviet sector or zone, the Magistrat [Page 398] is still authorized to exchange up to 60 percent of the wages of this category of worker.

The Western Commandants consider that, whilst the Reichsbahndirektion pay less than 100 percent in West marks, the balance to make up 100 percent remains a debt due to the workers by the Reichsbahndirektion. They will not cease in their efforts to oblige the Soviet authorities and the Reichsbahndirektion to recognize and fulfill the proper duties of an employer to the workers under his charge, including the eventual reimbursement of this debt.”7

Sent Frankfort 135; repeated Department 1399, London 447, Paris 500; Department pass Moscow 127.

  1. The source text is the copy in the Department of State files.
  2. Regarding this meeting see telegram 1356, September 13, p. 378.
  3. Post, p. 1062.
  4. Not printed, but see footnote 3 to telegram 1356, September 13, p. 378.
  5. Not printed; for the text of Kvashnin’s letter, see Berlin; Quellen und Dokumente, Hlbd. 2, p. 1774.
  6. Regarding Kvashnin’s letter to the Western Commandants, see editorial note, p. 849.
  7. The text of this telegram was repeated to Secretary Acheson in New York on September 29.