141. Telegram From the Berlin Element, HICOG, to the Office of the High Commissioner for Germany, at Bonn2
637. Bonn pass USAREUR Heidelberg. During monthly informal meeting between Allied Commandants and Mayor Suhr in which both parties freely exchanged views, only question brought up by Mayor [was] increase in toll rates in DDR levied on non-East German vehicles (Berlin to Bonn 628, Department 575, and Berlin to Bonn 636).3 Suhr, who is somewhat of a pessimist (and probably realizes this reputation since he took pains to say that the views he was expressing were not the most extreme voiced by the members of his Senat) stated that it was possible that we might be making the first move in the initiation of a new blockade. The Senat had already met that afternoon, will meet again this morning, and the Senat will discuss with the Berlin House of Representatives and with Bonn.
According Suhr trucks serving West Berlin paid a total of 5,000,000 DMW last year. On basis of new rates, same total and composition of traffic as last year, this total would be 40,000,000 DMW. Last year Berlin budget provided 1,500,000 DMW in order to help West Berlin truckers bear toll charges at previous rates. On basis this new figure, Berlin contribution would have to be 31,000,000 DMW. Very large truck which has been paying 20 DMW would, according to Mayor, have to pay 280 DMW. Many small independent truckers could not afford pay these increases out of their own pockets and if shortly after April 1, when the new rates come into effect, shortages should develop in some fresh foods such as milk, reaction of population could be serious and might even border [Page 350] on panic. Therefore, Senat decided yesterday afternoon temporarily to advance what sums might be necessary to truckers in order to insure normal transport of food. (Suhr said fifty-nine percent of trucks serving Berlin are Berlin-owned.) This, however, can only be stop-gap temporary measure.
Mayor Suhr recommends immediate action on side of West. Based on successful precedent in September 1951,4 he favors immediate interruption of East/West German talks now going on regarding implementation IZT agreement. (Report reached us this morning that this already done.) If this not successful, next step in his opinion should be stoppage of deliveries to East Zone. Certain other measures should be considered, such as increase of demurrage charges in West German ports against ships bringing cargoes for DDR. (Consideration might also be given to Kiel Canal possibility.) Furthermore, in Mayor’s opinion this abusive toll rate increase represents a breach of May 12, 1949, agreement ending blockade.5 Because of this he urges immediate protest of three Western Allies to Soviets. Suhr was fearful FedRep will react lethargically and therefore requested general Allied support in Bonn of seriousness of situation being expressed not only by Berlin Senat but also by Bundestag Committee for All-German Affairs which has been meeting in Berlin during last three days and which yesterday adopted unanimous resolution being forwarded to Bundestag.
Commandants assured Mayor Suhr that they shared his concern about potential grave seriousness this development and that they would communicate with their HICOMers. General Honnen told Mayor that we had already acted along this line and that we had learned that representatives of the three Western Allies had already discussed this situation in Bonn during the afternoon.
After Mayor had left, it was decided that it would be undesirable and time consuming to attempt coordinate Allied position both in Berlin and in Bonn and in view of nature of subject, coordination should be within AHC. French appeared agree with our tentative reaction that course of action most likely yield immediate results and therefore safest in long run would be immediate tripartite protest today to Soviets. British Deputy Commandant suggested desirability of first assessing whether Berlin-owned trucks with help of Senat subsidy could assure Senat essential Berlin requirements. However, British Commandant recognized that such an approach might not [Page 351] take adequately into consideration importance of principle involved and possibilities inherent in this Communist move.
Since two out of three commandants were under pressure depart quickly, discussion was very brief and above positions given more as indications of preliminary reactions rather than as their considered views.
In general, we recommend as immediate first steps delivery today of tripartite note along lines suggested to Bonn yesterday6 together with such preliminary German measure as interruption implementation talks relating to IZT agreements. We would doubt wisdom at this stage, when possibility still exists Communist retreat (not impossible if their desire was harassment without intention of going so to extremes such as blockade) of actually taking positive counter-measure such as immediate increase of demurrage charges in Hamburg, since in turn this might lead to further positive step on Communist side, etc., making settlement more difficult.
Paragraph which we suggest in our telegram to Bonn 636 as possible close (i.e., blandly suggesting, if in fact need for funds was responsible for measure, discussion either at technical German level or even between Allies and Soviets) increasingly desirable in our eyes for two basic reasons: (a) Such a suggestion would appear eminently reasonable, and (b) any regular Allied contribution to the upkeep of the Helmstedt Autobahn should strengthen our assertion as to Allied basic right use this access to Berlin.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 962A.7162B/3–3155. Secret; Niact. Repeated to Paris, London, Heidelberg, and Washington. The source text is the Department of State copy.↩
- Telegram 628 from Berlin to Bonn reported that the German Democratic Republic had announced greatly increased road tolls for non-East German vehicles effective April 1. (Ibid., 962A.7162B/3–3055) Telegram 636 from Berlin to Bonn transmitted the text of a draft note from the U.S. High Commissioner to his Soviet counterpart. (Ibid., 962A.7162B/4–155)↩
- Reference is to the signing of the interzonal trade agreement on September 21, 1951, which brought about a reduction in Autobahn tolls. For documentation on the negotiations leading to this agreement, see Foreign Relations,, 1951, vol. III, pp. 1828 ff.↩
- For text of the communiqué of May 5, 1949, which ended the Berlin blockade and removed the restrictions on communications, transport, and trade to Berlin, effective May 12, 1949, see ibid., 1949, vol. III, p. 751.↩
- For text of the letter from Conant to Pushkin as delivered on April 1, see Department of State Bulletin, April 18, 1955, p. 648.↩