How the West considered selling out West Berlin

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Fifty years after the Berlin Wall went up, a German magazine Sunday revealed how the West German government and the United States for a time considered selling out West Berlin.

West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer made the suggestion that West Berlin, occupied by French, British and US forces but totally isolated inside communist East Germany after the Wall went up on August 13, 1961, might be exchanged for parts of the East German state, Spiegel magazine said.

Citing recently released government documents, Spiegel said Adenauer spoke of the idea both to US Secretary of State Dean Rusk and to President John F. Kennedy, suggesting the United States might offer such a deal to the Soviet Union, whose forces controlled eastern Germany.

The idea was to let East German and Soviet forces take over control of West Berlin, a long-sought after goal of Soviet policy, in exchange for West Germany extending its border eastwards into Thuringia and parts of Saxony and Mecklenburg-Western Pomarania.

These areas were occupied by western powers at the end of World War II before being handed over to the Soviet army in line with post-war agreements.

Berlin, which had been totally occupied by the Red Army in 1945, was similarly treated with its western sector being later handed over to the western allies.

West Germany did not really believe Moscow would accept the deal as the newly-created East German state would have had to hand over part of its industrial base to the West.

But Adenauer thought he might profit from such an exchange or, at the very least, stir up trouble between Soviet and East German authorities if Moscow were tempted by the idea.

Western powers would have benefited because the deal would have ended tensions with the Soviet bloc over control of West Berlin, a hot spot in the then Cold War.

According to the documents, it was Kennedy who finally turned down the idea.

In June 1963, Kennedy visited Berlin where he famously declared his support for West Berliners with the words: "Ich bin ein Berliner" (I am a Berliner).

© 2011 AFP

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