403. Breakthrough (VI)
Within East Berlin there was an enclave that belonged to the West, it was about as large as an American city block; remember that Berlin herself was divided into Eastern and Western sectors within the East at large—so this was an enclave within an enclave. This was the Haller Straße district; it was quite isolated, quite distant from the Berlin Wall. The East Germans sealed the district; there was one small turnstile watched by border troops and the Stasi.
It came about because one American unit, shortly after the fall of Berlin, became detached from their column and ended up camped in the district, soon to be completely surrounded by the Red Army. Due to the Basel Protocols it became apparent in the post-war period that this constituted a territorial claim; just before the Korean War broke out there was an idea that it could be given back to the East, but tensions went so high between the superpowers that nothing could be done.
The residents faced a hard time during the Berlin Blockade, since it was impossible to parachute supplies to them with any accuracy; they relied on a rationed diet; and, thankfully, minimal Red Cross food parcels were allowed through—though at least three people died due to starvation.
The district had another peculiarity; for, at the war’s end, a few Red Army soldiers were camped in an apartment in the district; as Soviet diplomats noted, this meant that the apartment was technically in their zone; and so there was an enclave within an enclave within an enclave. In a discovery that made the career of State Department official Henry S. Weever, it was determined that within that apartment several American soldiers, desperate for a billet, had fallen asleep in the bathroom during final negotiations on Germany’s post-war future. This made the bathroom within the American sector; and so, determined not to lose face, a small GI squad was rotated through the Soviet apartment to occupy the bathroom—they were only armed with batons to avoid escalation.
For the Kremlin, a small coup came about when it was determined that a Soviet conscript, V. I. Gregorivitch, had spent the night before the negotiations finalised in the apartment, in the bathroom—in the bathtub to be exact (the American troops slept on the floor). This meant that the bathtub was in the Soviet sector; and so whenever the GIs arrived to exercise their rights over the bathroom a Soviet conscript had to lie in the bath to retain parity.
During the 1970s, a small diplomatic scuffle broke out over the conscript’s right to use the toilet; usually, the conscript passed his ordure out the window in a bucket to the Soviet zone below; however, sometimes a conscript would ease the toilet seat up with his bayonet—from the Soviet zone—and then urinate from the bathtub into the toilet. American sergeants would insist that the conscript relieved himself in the bathtub, with the shower curtain closed; at one point tensions over this issue threatened to develop into a brawl—with the Soviet soldiers from the apartment soon to join in, then Americans from the Haller district, then Soviets from East Berlin, then West Berlin, then the East, and then the world.
Kissinger resolved the issue through highly confidential shuttle flights to Moscow—dubbed “restroom diplomacy” by the State Department. However, it is pointless to ask Kissinger about this issue today; he will always deny knowledge, since he believes its trivial nature diminishes his standing in history. It is rumoured that unreleased Watergate tapes reveal that Nixon would go so far as to suggest that they should “take the conscript’s towel and his soap” to put Brezhnev on the defensive during the SALT talks; however, Kissinger urged restraint for fear that the conscript would take the bathmat, shower cap, and the toothpaste in retaliation. “Mr. President, the consequences for world peace if the Soviets refuse to return the bathmat cannot be overestimated; as Metternich observed…”