762B.00/6–1752: Despatch

No. 701
The Director of the Berlin Element, HICOG (Lyon) to the Department of State

confidential
No. 946

Reference:

  • Berlin/EAD Despatch No. 883 of May 14, 1952.1

Subject:

  • Pattern of Recent Soviet Action Relative to East Zone and West Berlin

Three weeks after signature of the contractual agreements—a date heralded in advance as a possible detonator to intensified pressure on East Germany and Berlin—it may be appropriate to review the visible pattern of Soviet policy toward these areas. This review will carry forward the “Summary of Recent Evidence” contained in the Despatch referenced above.

A tabulation is appended below which lists chronologically some of the more significant actions and official statements emanating from the GDR since April 1. Neither prognostications nor unverified reports are included, but only specific events which seem to point toward a coordinated plan. The events in turn derive a portion of their significance from the background against which they take place—ceaseless repetition of the current Commie line: up with peace and German unity, down with contractuals and western integration.

Conclusions suggested by the tabulation are as follows:

1)
Without exception the events listed either act toward, or prepare the ground for, progressive isolation of the Soviet Zone from the Western Zones and West Berlin.
2)
Certain of the measures taken, while fulfilling the above criterion, also appear designed to have an adverse effect on the morale and economic viability of West Berlin.
3)
Certain other measures indicate an intent to build up GDR armed forces.
4)
Actions of the type enumerated became more frequent as signature of the contractuals approached; were considerably intensified just after signature; and have tapered off to some extent since.
5)
The cumulative effect of such action to date has been to reduce contacts considerably between East and West Germany, between the East Zone and West Berlin, but not as yet between East and West Sectors of Berlin. It has also created some apprehension regarding the ultimate fate of West Berlin, perhaps had some adverse effect on its economy, largely from psychological causes, but so far not interfered with the city’s normal life to any great extent.

[Page 1554]

On the whole it appears that the pattern of Soviet action over the past two months has followed very closely that reported in Berlin/EAD Despatch No. 833 of April 21, 1952,2 and it is believed that underlying Soviet motivation has been approximately as suggested therein. When considering only the period after signing of the contractuals, reactions have been largely as anticipated in the last paragraph of Berlin tel 1160 to Bonn, 1390 to Department of May 23, 1952.3 The four reactions considered less likely within a short period have not yet eventuated. Three of the four considered more likely have come to pass, while one of these has not yet taken place.

In looking ahead, it is believed that recent developments have not been such as to change the basic Soviet outlook on Germany; and consequently that the pattern of Soviet action will not change greatly over the next few weeks. That is to say, it still seems probable that the Soviets will continue their campaign to stop the process of Western integration, first through propaganda and efforts to stimulate mass action, and secondarily through attempts to reach a satisfactory (to them) agreement on the international level. And consequently it seems logical that they should continue with a program of isolating the East Zone, of militarization and of harassing West Berlin, but should do so gradually and with an attempt to avoid antagonizing German public opinion to the extent possible. It is true that veiled threats to Berlin still crop up periodically from the East, and there is some evidence of plans to widen the split between its two sectors. At the same time, the calling of a session of the World Peace Council in Berlin for early July, the adverse publicity given to Soviet restrictions affecting the city, and the possibility that four-power talks may eventuate (now apparent from press reports) would all tend to support the view that serious intensification of harassment to Berlin is not very likely in the near future.

For the Director:
N. Spencer Barnes

Chief
Eastern Affairs Division
[Page 1555]

Annex I

confidential

Recent Events Indicative of Soviet Policy Toward Germany4

[Page 1556][Page 1557]
April 16 Ulbricht calls for mass meetings, demonstrations and strikes against the contractual agreements. (Repeated regularly since)
April 20 Substantial numbers of FDJ youth penetrate West Berlin in demonstration. (Some repetition of this tactic since)
April 30 Attack on Air France plane by two Soviet MIGs.
May 1 Pieck calls for creation of East German armed forces. (Need for same repeated and explained consistently since)
May 3 ADN accuses Bonn of turning zonal into international border. (Similar accusations subsequently)
May 7 GDR Supreme Court imposes heavy sentence on alleged spies and saboteurs from West. ADN accuses American and West German agencies of creating black market organizations to operate from GDR to West Berlin.
May 8 US and British MP patrols forbidden use of autobahn.
May 9 Soviets claim new violation of air corridor by French aircraft.
Appointment of Willi Stoph, formerly connected with procurement for HVA, as GDR Minister of Interior.
Soviets close down two West Berlin railroad terminals (Anhalter and Stettiner); only one West Berlin station now handles German interzonal passenger traffic.
May 11 Communist riots in Essen.
May 12 Ulbricht’s speech threatening West Berlin with reprisals if contractual agreements signed.
May 13 Dresden Land court sentenced 13 defendants to total of 65 years penal servitude for illegal sales in West Berlin.
May 14 Two defendants accused of terror activities given life sentences under the “Law for Protection of the Peace”.
May 15 ADN carries alleged letters of protest from East Zone residents, requesting GDR Government to protest zonal border lines. May 19 Short distance interzonal railroad traffic cut between two points near border.
May 20 Three interzonal check points closed. Freight rates raised in GDR, raising West Zone-West Berlin transport costs.
May 23 Volkskammer passes government enabling act. Soviets close down five more minor interzonal check points, leaving four open.
May 25 GDR Supreme Court imposes death sentence on alleged western agent.
East Zone press campaign against RIAS played heavily. (Intensified steadily since)
Soviets accuse British aircraft of violating air corridor.
(Signing of Contractual Agreements)
May 26 GDR Government regulations issued on measures to be taken along demarcation line between zones, to increase safety of border, prevent infiltration of spies, agents, etc.
300 West Berlin railroad workers released by Soviet Zone railroad administration.
Order given to construct another by-pass rail line around West Berlin.
May 27 East Berlin Administration splits city telephone system, effects partial cut-off of telegraphic communication from West Berlin to West Zone.
Announcement of creation of five-kilometer “No-Man’s Land” strip along zonal border.
Clarification of regulations to effect that German citizens must carry GDR passes to travel or sojourn in GDR.
4th Parliament of FDJ opens at Leipzig. (Tenor of conference is to emphasize militarization)
May 28 Erection of barriers between West Berlin and Soviet Zone. (Continuous, several days)
June 1 People’s Police interfere with travel to and from West Berlin exclaves in East Zone—Steinstuecken, etc.
June 3 East press accuses West Berlin police of taking identity cards from GDR citizens.
June 4 Two small areas separated from East Berlin and joined to Soviet Zone.
People’s Police fire on US MP patrol. (Other border “incidents” being reported periodically)
June 5 Soviets again demand payment for use of Berlin–Frankfurt cable—at $14 million.
June 6 Eviction of German citizens from no-man’s land zonal border strip begun. (Continuous since)
June 8 Report of 4½ years prison sentence given to radio shop proprietor in East Berlin who allowed RIAS dance music to be played.
June 12 ADN reacts to West German treatment of Berlin by giving heavy play to KPD members’ effort to lay blame for Berlin’s difficulties on West.
  1. Document 695.
  2. Despatch 833 contained an estimate of probable Soviet intentions with respect to Berlin, and concluded that the Soviets would wish to perpetuate the status quo “until such time as the Soviets feel they have little more to gain by playing up the unity and German nationalism lines”, when “sharply intensified efforts to insulate the Soviet Zone from West Berlin” would occur. (662A.62B/4–2152)
  3. Document 697.
  4. Drafted by Barnes and coordinated with Creel.

    A note on the source text indicates that the dates below “are only approximate, in some cases refer to time when information became available.”