740.00119 Control (Germany)/5–2349: Telegram

The Acting United States Political Adviser for Germany ( Riddleberger ) to the Acting Secretary of State


795. Western commandants met this morning to discuss strike situation. US Commandant General Howley presided. Howley reviewed situation, mentioning occupation of many stations by Soviet controlled railway police [who] fired on or beat striking railroaders, attempts of Soviet controlled railway administration to break strike, announcement that all strikers would lose jobs, and presence of platoon of armed Soviet troops in railway yards at Wannsee in US sector. Howley then proposed that an order be sent to railway administration directing removal of railway police from Western sector stations by two o’clock today, and further directing that negotiations be opened with strikers. This proposal arose in part from written request by city magistrat that West sector police be empowered to restore law and order and occupy all stations West sectors.

British Commandant General Bourne opposed this proposal. He stated no Soviet troops had appeared in his sector and he would not tolerate their presence there. He stated that although disturbances, including shooting by railway police, had occurred in the British sector, worst trouble spot had been removed by occupation of Charlottenburg station yesterday evening by West sector police acting on British order. He stated complete calm existed today in British sector, although railway police still occupy some stations. He felt it was better for each commandant to authorize West sector police to intervene in specific cases if necessary to restore order, including occupation of stations, that this procedure had proved advantageous and is preferable to provoking possibly serious reactions by superior Soviet controlled forces by issuance of sweeping order such as proposed by Howley. He proposed merely to inform magistrat that Western commandants had full authority to maintain law and order and would [Page 843] continue to authorize West sector police to restore order as and when necessary. He disapproved ordering railway administration to negotiate as all allied authorities up to now had insisted that strike is purely German matter and this would smack of intervention on behalf of strikers. He renewed his proposal of April 28 that commandants order railway administration to collect fares in West marks, and pay salaries in West marks in compliance with Kommandatura ordinance No. 3.

French Commandant General Ganeval completely shared Bourne’s views. He stated that French authorities had also had troublesome moments and had ordered West sector police to intervene yesterday by occupying Gesundbrunnen station. Today calm likewise reigns in French sector. No Soviet troops had appeared there and should they appear, he would react immediately with all measures “even most violent” to remove them. He likewise favored policy of action as and when necessary but avoidance of sweeping decrees which might commit us further than necessary or desirable.

Howley stated he did not understand “policy of inactivity” favored by other two commandants and he considered it very necessary to issue clear statement of principle that only West sector police were responsible for maintenance law and order in West sectors including railroad stations. He expressed astonishment that British wished to issue orders concerning collection of fares and payment of wages, which are “purely operational matters” left by agreement in hands of Soviet authorities, but were unwilling to issue orders assuming general responsibility for law and order on railroad property. He was unable, however, to persuade his colleagues to abandon their preference for action only in individual cases as required, and finally agreed to sending reply to magistrat as proposed by General Bourne. Howley reiterated his unwillingness to issue any orders concerning payment of railroad workers in West marks.

As of mid-afternoon today, therefore, situation is generally quiet with West sector police in occupation of several stations in British and French sectors with approval of sector authorities. No disturbances reported from any Western sector. Soviet troops have now left Wannsee, but reports have been received that another armed group of Soviet troops numbering 39 has been located in Schoeneberg repair yards in US sector where they reportedly have been since beginning of strike.

Sent Department 795, repeated Paris for USDel 303.