762A.00/9–3053: Telegram

No. 586
The Acting Director of the Berlin Element, HICOG (Maynard) to the Office of the United States High Commissioner for Germany, at Bonn 1

confidential

465. Death of Reuter,2 quite apart from great loss it represents to forces resisting Communist tyranny and to cause of German reunification, will obviously have serious unsettling effect for some time to come on West Berlin internal political situation. In view of his great popularity, his winning personality, his international reputation as an implacable foe of Communism, his capacity for moderate but forceful leadership, and his ability to hammer out reasonable compromises among warring political factions, he is virtually irreplaceable and there is no personality on local horizon approaching his stature.

For time being (until Reuter funeral and for reasonable time thereafter) Deputy Mayor Schreiber of CDU will be acting governing mayor and present Senat (or executive body) will carry on as now constituted. While terms of Berlin Constitution make no provision for present contingency. Constitution can be interpreted as requiring that new governing mayor must be chosen by majority vote of House of Representatives. In addition House of Representatives formal approval will probably be required for designation of new deputy mayor and of senators, whom Constitution provides are to be nominated by governing mayor. Therefore within period of time which is not specified in Constitution but presumably cannot be permitted spin out for more than several weeks at most, House of Representatives will probably be required take formal vote on constitution new executive, including new governing mayor, new deputy mayor, and senators.

Present alignment of parties in House of Representatives (61 SPD members, 34 CDW and 32 FDP) and absence of any really outstanding personalities available for post of governing mayor combine to make outlook re future composition of top level of Berlin executive branch very obscure. As largest party SPD continues to have theoretical claim to post of governing mayor in a “grand” coalition but it is in difficult position since none of remaining leading figures in party, such as party chairman Franz Neumann, Willi Brandt, [Page 1363] Kurt Mattick et al., are likely to be acceptable to CDUFDP, which have 5-vote majority over SPD. House of Representatives president Suhr might be so acceptable but it appears doubtful he would be willing enter his candidacy for this position.

At present therefore it appears not unlikely that CDUFDP will wish make use of their 5-vote majority (and certainly there will be strong pressure to this end from extremist element within both parties) to insist on designation CDU or FDP man as governing mayor. In such event acting Mayor Schreiber would be strong candidate if his health permits. (It will be recalled he was candidate for post in January 1951 and that first House of Representatives vote on matter ended in 62–62 tie between Reuter and Schreiber.) Lemmer of CDU, a consistent supporter of “grand” coalition, might also be available.

Should SPD decide to insist at all costs on designation SPD man, then there would probably be no alternative to break-up of present big coalition, with CDUFDP trying to run city with 5-vote majority and SPD in opposition. If on other hand local SPD, which has been considerably chastened by results federal elections and immeasurably more so by loss of Reuter, would now be content with number 2 spot, then there would appear possibility of compromise which could permit coalition to continue more or less along present lines until next direct Berlin elections in late 1954. Further factor which is likely to constrain SPD to moderation, even though SPD position in government may become relatively weakened by developments, is fact many SPD party members have important jobs throughout city administration as result SPD’s participation in big coalition and these would be largely wiped out by dissolution of coalition.

With all local political leaders entirely preoccupied at moment with Reuter death and preparations for funeral, it will obviously not be possible for us to take any definitive soundings among them for several days as to future outlook. We shall continue, however, to watch situation closely and to report developments.

Maynard
  1. Repeated to Heidelberg, London, Paris, and Washington; the source text is the copy in Department of State files.
  2. Mayor Reuter died of a heart attack on Sept. 29.