University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The History Collection

Page View

Information bulletin
No. 146 (October 19, 1948)

The Berlin crisis (US white paper),   pp. 32-42 PDF (9.0 MB)

Page 33

control the western Allies informed the Soviets
of their intention  to  introduce  into  the
western sectors of Berlin the new Deutsche
mark of the western zones (over-stamped 'B'
for Berlin). The public announcement was
made on June 23.
On June 23, the Soviets suspended all rail-
road passenger and freight traffic into Berlin,
because of alleged "technical difficulties" on
the Berlin-Helmstedt rail line. They also
stopped barge traffic on similar grounds.
Shortly before midnight of June 23, the
Soviet authorities issued orders to the Berlin
central electric switch-control station (located
in their sector) to disrupt delivery of electric
power from Soviet Zone and Soviet Sector
plants to the western sectors. Sho-rtage  of
coal was given as a reason for this measure.
Soviet traffic restrictions issued on June 19
were followed by subsequent prohibitions in
the following week. West-bound road traffic
only was still permitted for a time, subject to
Soviet control at check points. Mail and par-
cel post traffic was completely suspended.
On June 24, because of these unacceptable
restrictions, the American and British autho-
rities ordered all freight trains from US and
British  zones  to the Soviet Zone stopped.
Traffic from the East continued to be accepted.
On June 24, the Soviets issued orders pro-
hibiting the distribution of any supplies from
the Soviet Zone to the western sectors of
Berlin thereby violating a four-power agree-
ment for supplying Berlin from a common
pool. The western powers thereupon forbade
distribution of any supplies from western
sources to the Soviet Sector of Berlin.
On June 26, General Robertson in a letter
to Marsoal Sokolovsky protested against in-
terruption of essential freight traffic between
Berlin and the WeLst.
On June 29, Marshal Sokolovsky answered
General Robertson's letter. He described the
restrictions on interzonal passenger traffic as
connected with the currency exchange and
announced the reestablishment of rail facili-
ties for movement of the German population.
He declared that the restrictions on motor
traffic must be retained t6 prevent conveyance
to Berlin of currency from the western zones.
He announced that the technical defects on
the railroad line were in process of eli-
mination and his expectation that traffic
would recommence as soon as possible. He
protested against British stoppage of freight
train movements between the Soviet and the
British Zones.
General Robertson answered this letter on
July 3, stressing the positive elements of the
letter and reiterating his willingness to dis-
cuss use of one currency in Berlin. He
repeated his request for resumption of normal
transportation facilities between Berlin and
the West.
On July 3, Generals Robertson, Noiret and
Clay visited Marshal Sokolovsky. General
Robertson inquired what the technical difficul-
ties were which according to Sokolovsky's
letter were holding up train traffic. He asked
for assurance that traffic could be resumed
at an early date, and when. He further drew
attention to the fact that no alternative rou-
tes had been made available. Marshal Soko-
lovsky stated that the question raised by
Robertson was important to the Western Allies
and that they wanted it treated alone, whereas
there were other questions important to him.
He continued that he had never said that
traffic on the railway was held up for other
than technical reasons and that these reasons
still applied.
He declared at length that the Western
Allies as a result of their London Conference
had created economic disorders in the Soviet
Zone which made it impossible to provide
alternate routes. He reiterated that the present
Stoppage was for technical reasons, although
he would not guarantee that when these tech-
rlical difficulties had been  cleared,  others
Might not occur elsewhere.
It became thus evident that further endea-
7ors by the western military governors to
OCTOBER 19. 1948
settle the Berlin problem locally would serve
no useful purpose.
The Moscow Discussions
Exchange of Notes on Berlin Crisis
Accordingly the governments of the United
States, the United Kingdom and France
decided to make formal representations to
the government of the USSR. The three
western powers on July 6 delivered similar
notes to Soviet representatives in Washing-
ton, London and Paris.
The American Note of July 6. In the Ameri-
can note, the Soviet government was informed
that the United States regarded the blockade
measures as "a clear violation of existing
agreements concerning the administration of
Berlin by the four cocupying powers." The
United States categorically asserted that it
was in occupation of its sector of Berlin
with free access  thereto "as a matter of
established right deriving from the defeat and
surrender of Germany and confirmed by for-
mal agreements among the principal Allies."
The United States also emphatically declared
that it would "not be induced by threats
pressures or other actions to abandon these'
This consideration, together with respon-
sibility for the physical well-being of the
population of its sector of Berlin, including
hundreds of thousands of women and children,
obliged the United States to insist that "in
accordance  with  existing  agreements the
arrangements for the movement of freight
and passenger traffic between the western
zones and Berlin be fully restored."
The United States emphasized again its
willingness to settle by negotiation, or by
any of the other peaceful methods provided
for in Article 33 of the Charter of the United
Nations, any disagreement which might exist
between the USSR and the United States over
the administration of Berlin, but it stressed
that such negotiation could not be entered
into as a result of duress. Specifically, the
United States offered, once blockade measures
were lifted to participate in negotiations in
Berlin among the four Allied occupying
authorities. The full text of the American
note follows:
"The United States government wishes to
call to the attention of the Soviet government
the extremely serious international situation
which has been brought about by the actions
of the Soviet Government in imposing restric-
tive measures on transport which amount now
to a blockade against the sectors in Berlin
occupied by the United States, United King-
dom and France. The United States govern-
ment regards these measures of blockade as
a clear violation of existing agreements con-
cerning the administration of Berlin by the
four occupying powers.
"The rights of the United States as a joint
occupying power in Berlin derive from the
total defeat and unconditional surrender of
Germany. The international agreements un-
dertaken in connection therewith by the
governments of the United States, United
Kingdom, France and the Soviet Union de-
fined the zones in Germany and the sectors
in Berlin which are occupied by these powers.
They established the quadripartite control of
Berlin on a basis of friendly   cooperation
which the Government of the United States
earnestly desires to continue to pursue.
"These agreements implied the right of free
access to Berlin. This right has long been
confirmed by usage. It was directly specified
in a message sent by President Truman to
Premier Stalin on June 14, 1945, which agreed
to the withdrawal of United States forces to
the zonal boundaries, provided satisfactory
arrangements could be entered into between
the military commanders, which would give
access by rail, road and air to United States
forces in Berlin. Premier Stalin replied on
June 16 suggesting a change in date but no
other alteration in the plan proposed by the
President. Premier Stalin then gave assuran-
ces that all necessary measures would be
taken in accordance with the plan. Correspon-
dence in a similar sense took place between
Premier Stalin and Mr. Churchill.
"In accordance with this understanding, the
United States, whose armies had penetrated
deep into Saxony and Thuringia, parts of the
Soviet Zone, withdrew its forces to its own
area of occupation in Germany and took up
its position in its own sector in Berlin.
Thereupon the agreements in regard to the
occupation of Germany and Berlin went into
effect. The United States would not have so
withdrawn its troops from a large area now
occupied by the Soviet Union had there been
any doubt whatsoever about the observance
of its agreed right of free access to its sector
of Berlin. The right of the United States to
its position in Berlin thus stems from pre-
cisely the same source as the right of the
Soviet Union. It is impossible to assert the
latter and deny the former.
"It clearly results from these undertakings
that Berlin is not a part of the Soviet Zone,
but is an international zone of occupation.
Commitments entered into in good faith by
the zone commanders, and subsequently con-
firmed by the Allied Control Authority, as well
as practices sanctioned by usage, guarantee
the United States together with other powers,
free access to Berlin for the purpose of
fulfilling its responsibilities as an occupying
power. The facts are plain. Their meaning is
clear. Any other interpretation would offend
all the rules of comity and reason.
"In order that there should be no misunder-
standing whatsoever on this point, the United
States government categorically asserts that
it is in occupation of its sector in Berlin with
free access thereto as a matter of established
right deriving from the defeat and surrender
of Germany and confirmed by formal agree-
ments among the principal Allies. It further
declares that it will not be induced by threats,
pressures or other actions to abandon these
rights. It is hoped that the Soviet Government
entertains no doubts whatsoever on this point.
"This government now    shares with the
governments of France and the United King-
dom the responsibility initially undertaken at
Soviet request on July 7, 1945, for the physical
well-being of 2,400,000 persons iin the western
sectors of Berlin. Restrictions recently imposed
by the Soviet authorities in Berlin have
operated to prevent this Government and the
Governments of the United Kingdom and of
France from fulfilling that responsibility ih an
adequate manner.
"The responsibility which this Government
bears for the physical well-being and the
safety of the German population in its sector
of Berlin is outstandingly humanitarian in
character. This population includes hundreds
of thousands of women and children, whose
health and safety are dependent on the con-
tinued use of adequate facilities for moving
food, medical supplies and other items in-
dispensable to the maintenance of human life
in the western sectors of Berlin. The most
elemental of these human rights which both
our governments are solemnly pledged to
protect are thus placed in jeopardy by these
restrictions. It is intolerable that any one of
the occupying authorities should attempt to
impose a blockade upon the people of Berlin.
"The United States government is therefore
obliged to insist that in accordance with
existing agreements the arrangements for the
movement of freight and passenger traffic
between the western zones and Berlin be
fully restored. There can be no question of
delay in the restoration of these essential
services since the needs of the civilian
population in the Berlin area are imperative.
"Holding these urgent views regarding its
rights and obligations in the United States
Sector of Berlin, yet eager always to resolve
controversies in  the  spirit of fair con-
sideration for the viewpoints of all concerned,
the government of the United States declares
that duress should not be invoked as a
method of attempting to dispose of any dis-
agreements which may exist between the
Soviet government and the government of the

Go up to Top of Page