Berlin: The Wall

  • Share
  • Read Later

(4 of 10)

Shooting Grouse. For three days there was neither retaliation nor official word from Washington, London or Paris as the Vopos worked feverishly to finish their wall. Critics of Western policy were quick to point out that several avenues of action were actually open. In Remagen, Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, campaigning hard for next month's West German elections, stole a march on his opponent, West Berlin's Socialist Mayor Willy Brandt, with the suggestion that West Germany's lucrative trade pact with East Germany might be terminated to penalize Ulbricht. Another possibility: a ban against East Germans traveling anywhere in the free world. But the Big Three seemed determined to take no hasty action that might aggravate an already dangerously tense situation. Britain's Prime Minister Harold Macmillan calmly went grouse shooting; De Gaulle looked the other way.* Finally, a note from Berlin's allied commanders rapped Khrushchev's knuckles, threatened no reprisals at all. Furious West Berliners massed in front of Willy Brandt's town hall to hear the mayor demand "not merely words but political action" from President John F. Kennedy. As the crowd roared its assent and waved placards ("Kennedy to Berlin," "You can't stop tanks with paper"), Brandt went on to suggest that Berlin was becoming a "new Munich."

Saving Ammunition. Mayor Brandt might be forgiven his electioneering zeal, his on-the-spot emotions, but for a German of any political persuasion to remind the British of Munich was a bitter gibe. What mattered to the U.S. and Britain and France were the vital access routes that cross the 110-mile reach of East Germany and enter West Berlin; what also mattered was the welfare of West Berlin itself. Even Willy Brandt took heart when President Kennedy showed his colors by sending Vice President Lyndon Johnson as a personal emissary to Berlin, and a battle group of 1,500 U.S. soldiers raced down the Autobahn, reasserting the allied right of access to the beleaguered city.

The world waited to see how far Nikita Khrushchev might press the rest of his threats—to sign a peace treaty with Ulbricht's barbed-wire corral, to declare West Berlin a free city. The Russian also had other complaints: the West's use of the city as a propaganda and espionage center. But the biggest bone in Nikita's throat had been the refugee flow that threatened to destroy his East German satellite, machine shop for the whole Red bloc and the vital buffer between the West and Red Poland. Now the exodus was stopped.

The Carpenter. Walter Ulbricht. 68, the man who stopped the refugees, had held the buffer together ever since 1945. No other satellite leader can make so lengthy a claim to power. Cold, tough Ulbricht has been able to survive not only Moscow's postwar purges, but Communism's intraparty conflicts and democracy's popular revolts.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9
  10. 10