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West Berlin Mayor Willy Brandt’s Appeal to the U.S. President (August 15, 1961)

Frustrated by the lack of a decisive American response to the building of the Wall, West Berlin Mayor Willy Brandt tries to make President John F. Kennedy more aware of its dire psychological effect on West Berlin’s population. Brandt asks for active countermeasures in order to restore confidence in the West’s commitment to the beleaguered city.

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The measures taken by the Ulbricht regime, backed by the Soviet Union and the rest of the Eastern Bloc, have almost completely destroyed the remnants of [Berlin's] Four-Power status. In the past, the commanders of the Allied Powers in Berlin protested against parades by the so-called People's Army [Volksarmee]; now, after the military occupation of the Eastern sector by the People's Army, they must content themselves with a belated and not very vigorous démarche. The illegal sovereignty of the East Berlin government has been recognized by tolerating the restrictions on border crossings and access to the Eastern sector. I regard this as a serious cleft in the postwar history of this city, the likes of which has not been seen since the blockade.

This development has not changed the West Berlin population's will to resist, but it has lent itself to doubts about the ability of the Three Powers to react resolutely. So it is decisive that the West has always appealed to the existing Four-Power status [of Berlin]. I am well aware that current guarantees for the freedom of the population, the presence of troops, and free access apply only to West Berlin. Nevertheless, we are dealing with a profound cleft in the life of the German people, and with a forced expulsion from areas of joint responsibility affecting Western prestige as a whole.

I see a two-fold political-psychological danger:

1. Inactivity and pure defensiveness could elicit a crisis of confidence with regard to the Western powers.

2. Inactivity and pure defensiveness could lead to excessive self-confidence on the part of the East Berlin regime, which is already boasting about the success of its demonstration of military power in today’s editions of its newspapers.

By deploying the German People's Army, the Soviet Union has already achieved half of its proposals with respect to giving Berlin the status of a Free City. The second act is only a matter of time. After the second act, there will be a Berlin that resembles a ghetto, that has not only lost its function as a refuge of freedom and a symbol of hope for reunification, but has also been cut off from the free part of Germany. Then, instead of a movement of refugees toward Berlin, we will experience a flight out of Berlin.

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