Berlin in the summer and fall of 1948 reminded me of Shanghai ten years ago. In China then, as in Germany now, the Americans, British, and French were living safely and comfortably while "the natives" risked their lives against the enemy who was preparing to attack us in the fullness of time. A decade ago the United States and Britain had endeavored to maintain "good relations" with the Japanese aggressors in spite of their Nanking Massacre and other "crimes against humanity"; and in spite of Japan's disregard of Western interests in China, her insults, and such hostile acts as the blockade of the British concession at Tientsin, and the bombing of the United States gunboat Panay. In Germany we were trying to reach an understanding with the Soviet Government in spite of the blockade of Berlin and Moscow's open proclamation of bitter enmity toward the Western "capitalist-imperialist" Powers.
In the first years of the Sino-Japanese War, when I was a correspondent in China, America and England, while seeking to preserve their own interests by appeasing Japan and sacrificing China, treated the Japanese with far greater respect than the Chinese who were fighting our battles as well as their own. In the Cold War in Europe, we were trying not to "provoke" the Russians, and were begging Stalin in Moscow to meet our envoys to discuss the Berlin Crisis with the same disregard of the interests of the German people as we had shown with regard to the Chinese. Just as we had formerly proffered the hand of friendship to militarist Japan if only she would refrain from attacking our interests in China, so now we were assuring the Soviet dictator that we would be delighted to cooperate with him once again if only he would keep his demands
within reasonable limits. We still held the whole German people responsible for Hitler's crimes, while prepared to condone and abet Stalin's if only he would not attack us and our friends. We blamed the Germans for having submitted to Nazi dictatorship, but we ourselves continued to demonstrate our willingness to renew our wartime collaboration with Russia's national socialists.
While treating the representatives of the Soviet dictator with deference, and pleading with Stalin to come to terms permitting us to embrace him, we continued to regard the democratic leaders of the Berlin population as inferiors unworthy to sit down with us to discuss our mutual defense on terms of equality. General Clay and his staff who had formerly had no scruples in entertaining and being entertained by the military representatives of Stalin's bloodstained tyranny, never met the elected representatives of the Berliners except as masters giving orders to their subordinates. True a little more courtesy has been shown to the Mayor and members of the Berlin City Council, but there has been no disposition to treat them as friends.
In Shanghai there had been the International and French concessions where the white people lived in safety with all the conveniences, services, and material advantages of a master race, protected by their own soldiers and the power of their governments, while the great mass of the Chinese population fought and labored and starved in the Chinese city. The Japanese had had their own concession to use as the base for their attack on China, just as the Russians now had their sector of Berlin from which to operate.
In Berlin there was no native city; the whole town was divided up among the four "master races," all enjoying special privileges comparable to those which the Western Powers and Japan had enjoyed in China as a result of the "unequal treaties" which gave them "extraterritorial" rights on Chinese soil. We, the Western Powers, had won our privileged position in China by aggressive war and threats; the Germans whom we now treat like the "inferior" peoples of Asia had got themselves into their present situation by their failure to aggress successfully.
The whole setup in Berlin was so similar to the one I had known in Shanghai in the twenties and thirties that I found myself unconsciously referring to the British, American, French, and Russian "concessions." The Germans, commonly referred to by the American Military Government as "the indigenous population," were as wretchedly housed and fed and as rightless and defenseless as the
mass of the Chinese population; and the "conquerors" seemed as callous in their attitude toward German sufferings as the whites had been toward "the natives" in India and China in the bad old days of Western imperialism at the height of its power. Susceptibilities had been hardened by the constant sight of poverty and hunger and our belief in our own moral superiority.
In China during the war, the Westerners had shown rather more sympathy for the poorly armed Chinese attempting to resist Japan than the majority of Americans and British in Berlin showed toward the Germans, part of whose country was already under Soviet Russia's Iron Heel by our consent. Then as now we wanted to "do business" with the aggressors, but we had at least sympathized with the Chinese and cheered them on to fight. The Chinese were not "enemy nationals," so it was correct to be sorry for them and to collect money for their relief. On the other hand the Chinese are not white, so Washington and London never considered Japanese aggression against China as nearly so wicked as German aggression in Europe.
When I came from China to the United States in 1938, I found there was infinitely greater indignation over the rape of Czechoslovakia than over Japan's partial conquest of China with the aid of the American and British war materials she was permitted to buy in huge quantities.
Sun Yat-sen described the China of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as a "subcolony," meaning that his country was in an even worse situation than a colony, since all the Western Powers together with Russia and Japan had exploited and oppressed China, while no one of them was responsible for her defense. Today it seemed to me that Germany was in much the same situation. Her conquerors, while quarreling among themselves, jointly hold Germany down. Her people, deprived of all means of self-defense, have no guarantee that the West will defend them from Soviet aggression; and they fear that at any moment Russia and the Western Powers may resurrect the Yalta and Potsdam agreements for their mutual benefit. The Germans had ample proof in the first years of the occupation that democratic principles were of little or no importance to any of their conquerors, and that it is only Stalin's greed and openly declared hostility toward America which has caused the rift between the Eastern and Western victors.
The Germans in Berlin and in the Western zones were being
permitted to raise their heads again only because their masters were at odds. They knew only too well that should Stalin choose to make concessions to the Western Powers they, the conquered, would once again be crushed, and might once again be forced by the Western occupying Powers to pretend that Communists are democrats and to admit Stalin's German stooges into a "coalition government."
In their defenseless situation the Berliners might have been expected to resign themselves fatalistically to whatever blows fate still held in store for them. Instead, they were drawing upon spiritual forces, the very existence of which had been denied during the thirteen years of Nazi domination. They were displaying greater courage and fortitude in adversity than in the days of Hitler's power and glory. Alone among the peoples of Europe close to the terrifying power of Soviet Russia, the Berliners were defying it.
Perhaps it is true on earth as in heaven that the last shall be first and the first last. France, who had once been in the forefront of the struggle for liberty, now seemed to be lagging behind Germany in the will and courage to resist tyranny. The French, who ten years ago had asked, "Why die for Danzig?" were now saying, "What, die for Berlin!" Yet the Berliners, ex-enemy nationals as they are, were surely right in believing that if the Western Powers failed this time to recognize the indivisibility of Europe, the need to defend principles as well as self-interest, and the call of the unarmed millions in Germany and Eastern Europe endeavoring to resist the Communist terror, not all the arms and atom bombs manufactured in America would later on be able to save our civilization.
Without weapons, hungry, and in rags, living in squalor in the bomb-shattered buildings of their once proud city, and well aware that the Western Powers would not risk a clash with the Soviets to protect them from "arrest" or kidnapping by the Communists even in the Western sectors of the city, the people of Berlin refused to be cowed.
They were being encouraged in their resolution by General Clay, who, although his attitude towards the Germans was still that of a conqueror, had shown a bold front toward Stalin and was credited with having prevented the State Department from giving way to the Soviets when they started the blockade. It was said that Clay wanted to run an armored convoy through at the outset but had been held back by Washington as well as by the British and
French. While the Berlin Mayor and the city councilors resented the cavalier treatment they too often received at the hands of the Military Government, they realized that General Clay was mainly responsible for the air lift and the preservation of a free Berlin.
It was my impression that on the whole, American military men behaved better toward the Germans and had more sympathy and respect for them than the civilians. There was still a good sprinkling of "Morgenthau Boys" among the civilian officials in the economic, financial, and information sections of the Military Government; and it is in any case a truism that those who fight wars do less hating than the civilians who have never learned to respect a brave enemy.
Many United States officers, air-force pilots, and GI's openly proclaimed their admiration for the courage of the Berliners. Colonel Babcock, Deputy Commandant in Berlin, said to me in August : "The courage of these people is really something to wonder at. The City Council members risk their lives and liberty, each time they go to a meeting, since the Stadthaus ("City hall") is in the Russian sector and we can give them no protection there."
I realized how true this had become, for, the day before, I had met Jeanette Wolff, a woman Social-Democratic leader who had been manhandled by the Communists on her way home from a meeting of the Council, and been called a "dirty Jew" by Stalin's bullies. She had escaped serious injury only because a Soviet sector policeman, who had known her when they were together in one of Hitler's concentration camps, protected her and led her to safety.
As against the encouragement they were receiving from Military Government, the Berliners had to reckon not only with the anti-German sentiment still spread in America by most of the press, but also with the influence of such advocates of appeasement as Walter Lippmann and Sumner Welles. The extent of this influence was exaggerated in Germany because the New York Herald Tribune was the only stateside daily newspaper with a European edition, and because the German Communist press seized upon Lippmann's and Sumner Welles's columns as evidence of the lack of support in the United States for General Clay's bold stand in Berlin.
At a meeting I attended in Berlin at America House, a German newspaper editor told a joke then current in the city : A telegram had been dispatched to Washington by a mass meeting of Berlin
citizens saying : "Take courage, don't be afraid and give way to Russian threats. We are a hundred per cent behind you!"
This witticism contained a substantial truth. It was in fact the courage of the Berlin population and their unwavering support of the stand against Russia at the cost of acute hardship, which had given the United States the backing it required to hold on in Berlin.
It was interesting in Berlin to witness the "conversion" of many visitors. However great their resistance to the idea on their arrival, many of them left at least partially convinced that the capital of Hitler's infamous Third Reich has been transformed into the focus of resistance to total tyranny. This seeming paradox is not only the result of the rapid tempo of history in our times. It also must be remembered that in the tragic record of Hitler's rise to power in Germany, Berlin was conspicuous for its anti-Nazi vote, and succumbed only after the Communists had made common cause with the Nazis to destroy German democracy.
It seemed to me, in August and September 1948, and even more forcibly at the end of November when darkness and cold were adding to the misery of the inhabitants, that a phoenix had arisen from the ashes of the ruined city. A new resolute, hardened, and purified democratic movement was inspiring the unarmed people of Berlin to resist Soviet Russia's armed might with a courage unequaled anywhere else in Europe. German bravery, discipline, and singleness of purpose were at last, to judge from Berlin, being directed toward the defense, instead of the destruction, of Western civilization.
The unanimity of the Berlin population, in contrast to the divisions which weaken the democratic forces in France and even in Britain, is the more remarkable because the Germans are receiving less encouragement and help from America than any other European country. Although it is true that the United States has saved the German people from mass starvation, they have been at the end of the line in the allocation of food and raw-material subsidies from America. Even more important is the fact that the Germans still lack the moral support they would derive from being accepted as fighting allies in the American-led opposition to Communist aggression. Although they are in the front line of the world-wide struggle against Communist tyranny, the Germans are still suspect for their former acceptance of Nazi leadership. While struggling to be free, they drag the chains with which the democracies have
shackled them as punishment for Hitler's crimes. Nevertheless the Germans in Berlin were providing a lesson for all Europe, and in particular for divided and frightened France. They were risking their lives for liberty, while others only talked about their devotion to democracy.
The Germans, it seemed, have learned through bitter experience that the battle today is not one between different economic systems, or between classes or even nations, but one for or against the basic values of Western civilization. A nation whose best spirits recognize that it has sinned mightily was demonstrating in Berlin that it now has greater courage in resisting evil than others who have never been tempted, and have never learned what are the consequences of succumbing to a dictatorship which repudiates all moral values.
"We know, now," a young German said to me, "that in the long run power depends upon the extent to which it is based on spiritual and moral values. Everything which Germans ever won by the sword is lost; our only permanent gains have been those won by moral force. Frederick the Great, Bismarck, and Hitler gave us nothing which has not passed away, but the influence of Luther and the Reformation have been permanent."
The man who said this to me, Rainer Hildebrandt, is not a pacifist. Nor did he think that his own country was alone guilty of "crimes against humanity." To him it seemed that Western civilization as a whole was on trial, and had failed so far to meet the test of the machine age and of a world in which the misery of one people affects all others.
"The crisis in Berlin," he said, "is an explosion of all the evils which evoked the previous totalitarianism and now threatens us with the endless night of Communist domination."
Hildebrandt was one of several Germans I met whose ancestry was partly Jewish. They were treated as second- or third-class citizens by the Nazis and never shared, nor, wished to share, in the fruits of Hitler's victories, but they have identified themselves with the German nation in the hour of its defeat and humiliation. He combined an abiding love for the country of his birth with the international and humanitarian outlook of the most idealistic Jews. Thin to the point of emaciation, with classically perfect features and eyes which are both brilliantly intelligent and kind, Rainer
Hildebrandt has a vision which transcends nationality and race, burning energy and a zeal for "righteousness" in the Biblical sense of that almost forgotten word.
Hildebrandt had been a friend of the younger Haushofer who was executed for his part in the July Twentieth plot against Hitler and he has written a book for a Swiss publisher on the German resistance movement. He told me that prior to the Soviet occupation he had been among those Germans who had imagined that the Russians would liberate them. Today, having met the Communists face to face, having witnessed the horrible atrocities they committed when they took Berlin, and knowing all about the concentration camps in the Eastern zone and in Russia, he is one of the most fearless and active anti-Communists in Germany. He is in constant touch with the resistance movement in Russian-occupied Germany and has organized help for the neglected victims of Communism who escape to Berlin from the lands under Soviet domination. When I first met him Hildebrandt was trying to get permission from the Military Government to organize an international league to help the victims of Communism on the same lines as the associations formed to help the victims of Nazi terror in prewar days. Failing to obtain American or British support, withheld presumably in the interests of lingering hopes of an accord with Stalin, Hildebrandt has on his own initiative started an organization called "Kampfgruppe gegen Unmenschlichkeit" ("Action Group against Inhumanity").
The following is an extract from a speech he delivered in Berlin :
Decency requires that we take up this fight. We have a responsibility toward ourselves and toward the millions of people in Soviet concentration camps. We want peace, but we do not speak the word peace if it means a continuation of the Cold War. We want a peace which presupposes freedom and respect for human values; a peace which will eliminate the internal as well as external causes of war. The two great motive forces of history are, on the one hand, fear, a bad conscience, and lust for power; on the other hand, responsibility, confidence, brotherhood. These two motors cannot run side by side. The road grows ever narrower, the course which humanity takes will be determined by whichever car takes the lead. If the first car draws ahead, the other will never be able to pass it; a curtain will descend upon us heavier than the Iron Curtain, and the darkest word in the history of the world will have been spoken : "Too late."
The reaffirmation of spiritual values, faith in the spirit of man, and readiness to die for liberty; in a word, recognition of the importance of the intangibles which decide the fate of civilizations was, it seemed, the explanation for the spirit of hope which pervaded the besieged city of Berlin.
Reading the stateside press was as depressing as the bombed and fire-gutted buildings of Berlin which stretch mile after mile in every sector of the city. One had an unhappy feeling that the role of the Germans and that of the victorious and powerful democracies had been reversed. For, to judge by most of the American and British newspaper reports and commentaries, the conflict in Berlin was regarded in terms of pure power politics; as if the city where West meets East was just a point on the map, worth so much or so little as a bargaining counter in an American-Russian conflict.
It was more than a little ironic to read the comments of Walter Lippmann, Sumner Welles, and others whose writings were quoted almost daily in the Russian-licensed German press. The same writers who were advocating a deal with Russia which would involve extinction of the lamp of freedom lighted in Berlin, were reproving General Clay for standing up to Russia instead of "concentrating upon the conversion of the German spirit to individual freedom and democracy"!
How was it possible, one thought in Berlin, that anyone could still imagine that the punishment of opinion by denazification courts and penalties, "decartelization," land reform, or the preaching of democracy would decide the issue in Germany? How was it that these and many other writers failed to see that it was example, deeds, our own attitude in the face of totalitarian aggression, and our support and protection of the fighting democrats in Berlin which were all-important? That if we should decide to retire from the battle for the sake of a temporary truce in the Cold War, and leave the Berliners to be overwhelmed by the Soviet Union, it might never again be possible to enlist the German people on our side; and that the resistance movements in Poland, Czechoslovakia and other Soviet satellite countries would be dealt a mortal blow.
If we should once again appease Russia and betray those who trusted in our promise not to abandon Berlin, the unholy alliance of Communists and Nazis—so evident in Berlin where even the Chief of the Russian Sector Police, the notorious Markgraf, is a former prominent Nazi—would be able to destroy the democratic movement of infinite promise born in this ruined city. Germany
might then once again be driven to repudiate Western civilization instead of becoming a bulwark for its defense.
As one woman Social Democrat said to me during the Moscow negotiations, "You can't treat people like pawns in a chess game to be moved forward, encouraged to fight for freedom against tyranny while America is at odds with Russia, and then sacrificed in another move to appease Russia. If you once again come to terms with Stalin over our heads and at our expense, you will never again be able to evoke the spirit which is now keeping us on your side in spite of Russia's greater strength and the hunger and terror Communism uses to break men's spirits."
As in a performance of Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark, the role of the chief protagonists in the drama was omitted in much of the American comment on Berlin. Occasional tributes were paid to the courage and endurance of the Berliners who were daily risking their liberty or their lives by defying the Soviets in the Eastern sectors of the city. But the effect on them and all the Germans of the decisions being arrived at over their heads in Moscow, Washington, London, or Paris, was barely mentioned. The elected representatives of the Berliners in their City Council were not even allowed to participate as advisors in the abortive currency negotiations which began in Berlin in September. We were still the conquerors and the Germans the conquered. While still vainly proffering the hand of friendship to the Russian dictator, we still refused to treat as allies even those Germans who were daily proving the reality of their democratic professions.
The German people have suffered too much not to be realists. Ready as many of them were at the beginning of the occupation to atone for the sins of the Nazis, they naturally refuse to accept the thesis that other nations should be allowed to commit crimes against humanity with impunity. They have begun to ask questions about our deals with the dictators, and our failures to take action against the Communists.
The Berlin weekly, Sie, stated on August 22 :
We do not understand why the Communists are allowed to act according to the old maxim, Might is Right, which they have reformulated as, Arrogance Wins. We do not understand why Lübeck (in the British zone) continues to supply the Communist zone with electricity while tormenting darkness reigns in the Western sectors of Berlin. We do not understand why the gangster Markgraf who is wanted by the prosecutor (for war crimes) can arrest people while his employees are
not arrested when they come into the Western sectors. We do not understand why what was regarded yesterday as the collective guilt of the German people, namely tolerance of SA-like gangsterism, today passes as "conciliation."
When I returned to Berlin at the end of November, more questions were being asked. Why were the British exporting planes and machinery to Soviet Russia and even repairing the Red Army's transport in the British sector of Berlin? Why were the French surreptitiously exporting machinery from Berlin to Russia? Why was the United Nations in Paris failing to condemn the Soviet blockade of Berlin—surely an obvious "crime against humanity"? Why was machinery still being dismantled and sent to Czechoslovakia and other Soviet satellite countries from the Western zones?
I had never thought of the Olympic games as of great importance, but Germans of all classes in Berlin in August 1948 asked me how we justified the exclusion of German athletes from the games being held that summer in England, although the very same people, Lord Vansittart among them, who today held all Germans responsible for Nazi atrocities had themselves come to Berlin in 1936 to participate as Hitler's guests in the Olympiad of that year.
To the Berliners our former readiness to "fraternize" with the Nazis was on a par with our more recent willingness to accept the Soviet Union as a "democratic" state and join hands with Stalin in depriving all people of German race of liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Why should only Germans be punished and others go scot free?
In spite of all the questions and doubts about our good faith, the Berliners were still holding on. Indeed the most remarkable and significant fact, it seemed to me, was that neither our long-continued appeasement policy toward Russia, nor our treatment of the Germans as a conquered people without rights, nor our original identification of Communism with democracy, had failed to destroy all faith in Western professions and principles.
Here among the ruins and the rubble, among a great people brought down to an Asiatic level of subsistence by war and defeat and the universal abhorrence of Nazi crimes which has led us to treat all Germans as deserving of punishment; here where the children went ragged and barefoot and left cold schoolrooms to wait in dark homes for their mothers to return from work—work like that of Chinese coolies—stacking bricks, pulling heavy loads along the
streets, and doing a man's heavy labor on the airfields; here, in spite of hunger and humiliation and back-breaking labor, one found, not despair, hatred of the East and West alike, and a futile lust for revenge, not nihilism or a cynical defeatism and self-seeking, but a stubborn faith in the values of Western civilization which the Nazis had denied and Western occupation policies have done little to revive.
In the city where the anti-Nazis had fought hardest, but not hard enough, to prevent Hitler's coming to power, one sensed in every word and deed, not only of the Mayor and the City Council, but of the mass of people, a determination never to let it happen again.
A student from the port of Rostock in the Russian zone, who came to see me in Berlin in September, said that the German workers there would prefer war, even if it meant death, to the misery of their life under the Communists. He also told me how depressing it was to hear every night on the radio that the Western Powers were still negotiating in Moscow, although they had said originally that they wouldn't negotiate until the Berlin blockade was lifted. "We are allowed no other papers but the Russian-licensed ones," he said, "and it is not encouraging to see the headlines about 'The great defeat of America' and to read how you are begging Stalin to talk to you and come to terms."
I talked to many other visitors and refugees from the Soviet zone, to returned prisoners of war from Russia, and to several people who had escaped, or been released, from the concentration camps at Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen in the Soviet zone, where hundreds of thousands of Germans are today even worse treated than Hitler's victims in the same camps. I met others who were ostensibly free, but to whom life in Russian-occupied Germany seemed little better than prison. One and all they echoed the saying I heard everywhere in Berlin : "Better a horrible end, than horror without end."
In America, "Give me liberty or give me death," is only an echo from the past, without urgent appeal for people who take freedom for granted. But the liberties men fought and died for a century and a half ago are felt to be worth more than life by those who live in or near the Russian zone, and have experienced a servitude far more terrible than any which formerly existed in Europe under its Kings.
The word democracy has been too debased by identification with communism for it to be heard often in Berlin. An older, cleaner
word is used by the people and their leaders : freedom. At the great demonstration I witnessed on August 26, held outside the gaunt, fire-gutted Reichstag building after the Communist storm troopers and police had driven the City Council out of the Stadthaus in the Russian sector, the keynote of all the speeches was "freedom." This was the word which roused tumultuous applause among the hungry, shabby multitude.
The faces of all the people around me showed signs of privation and sorrow. Everyone, from the skinny children to the women old before their time, might have been expected to care more for promises of bread and peace. But it was not until a speaker said, "The fight is not only for Berlin but for freedom everywhere," that the tired sad faces lit up and the applause rang out.
"We are unarmed but our spirit is stronger than theirs," said Ernst Reuter, the elected Mayor of Berlin who was prevented from taking office by the Russians. And the eyes of the crowd turned toward the Russian soldiers standing guard close by at the Soviet War Memorial.
The cynic may say that the Berliners are not democrats, that they are merely fearful of the Russian terror which every one of them has experienced in one form or another. True, that tragedy has touched every German one speaks to in Berlin, whether it is the women raped by the Soviet soldiers; the mothers whose husbands or sons were massacred in the Russian sack of the city or are still held as slave laborers in Soviet mines or factories; the families whose homes were burnt over their heads by the Russians; or those who have recently had someone arrested by the Communists and sent to the dread concentration camps at Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen. Yet Reuter that day had the crowd with him when he said : "If the Russian people were free to speak, they would be fighting together with us for liberty."
Another popular speaker, the lovely and gracious Frau Annadora Leber, whose Alsatian husband was killed by the Nazis, declared at an open-air meeting I attended in Spandau : "Not every Russian is responsible for the crimes of those who rule over him. We all know that some Russians have shown us kindnesses. They are victims of the same system which oppresses us in the Eastern zone and now threatens all Berlin. Germany must become part of the Western world again. To win freedom, we must endure starvation and face death."
And she continued with these words of warning : "In the depres-
sion years many of you said : 'it couldn't be worse,' but you found out later that under the Nazis it eventually became far worse. Now in spite of our terrible difficulties with food—no Berlin woman knows from day to day how she will be able to feed her family—we know that it would be even worse than now if the Russians ruled over us. We know that we would be taken away to slave labor camps and be ruled over by the same methods the Nazis used. The new PG's* (Communists) are the same as the old PG's (Nazis)."
Every speech I heard and every talk I had with Germans of all kinds in Berlin, convinced me that it is not only the close and ever present fear of Russia which inspires the German resistance to communism. It is as much their experience under the Nazis, and their realization that communism means a repetition of it, which holds the Germans on our side of the Iron Curtain.
Those who have experienced life under a totalitarian dictatorship are better aware of the supreme value of liberty than others who have never known servitude. This perhaps explains why the Germans, in spite of their aptitude for a century past in submitting to authority, are less susceptible today to Communist propaganda than Americans who have accepted liberty as their birthright and cannot even imagine what it means to be without it.
The Berliners are regaining their self-respect and that of the whole German nation by their courage in resisting the Communist threat to themselves and all Europe. The former enemies of democracy have become its foremost defenders.
"Berlin is not Prague" is more than a patriotic slogan. It expresses the German determination to show the West that those whom we fought yesterday are more to be relied upon in today's world-wide struggle against the totalitarians than some former allies in whom we put our trust, but whose leaders succumbed without a struggle to Communist pressure.
In a long talk I had with Ernst Reuter in his house in Berlin, he said that the feeling in the city was that by a certain kind of behavior the Germans could redeem themselves and "make it impossible for the West to treat us any longer as 'natives.'"
When I asked how it was that, after all they had experienced, not only under the Nazis, but also under Western occupation, the Germans had not all become nihilists, Reuter replied : "Today we have a chance to do something to help ourselves; to struggle in our
own defense even though we are unarmed. The most effective remedy for despair is action. Our life has been given meaning again by our struggle against Communism. Berlin today is proud of itself. We have won back our self-respect, and we are confident that eventually we shall also win your respect."
The war was, however, still too recent for the United States and Britain to accept the Germans as allies. If the courage of the Berliners had convinced American military men, from generals to GI's, that the Germans could become our best allies on the Continent, sentiment at home, French fears and blindness, and the original pattern of behavior set by our occupation policies, precluded a radical change in our attitude toward the Germans. We had made a half turn since we began to understand that "you can't do business with Stalin"; we had begun to revive Western Germany and to set our faces against further dismantling; and friendly relations with the German people were now encouraged rather than discouraged. But we still failed to treat the Germans as equals. We were still obsessed by the totalitarian concept that some nations are "good" and "peace-loving" and others wicked and aggressive. We still refused to recognize the fact that people are people everywhere, and that our primary purpose should be to encourage and support the truly liberal forces to be found among all peoples.
In besieged Berlin American and British buses, reserved for Allied personnel, still drove around town almost empty, while the Germans trudged on foot or waited in long queues for the few and overcrowded streetcars and buses allowed by the Russian blockade. We "the conquerors" still occupied the best houses, reserving ample space for ourselves, while the majority of Berliners lived in squalor in cellars and bomb-wrecked apartments. We still ate to repletion, drank well, and even had fresh milk imported by air from Denmark, while Berlin babies had none, and no Germans except black-marketeers had enough to eat. The demarcation line between the occupation forces and the "natives" was still applied even to the lavatories in Military Government offices—some were labeled only for use by Americans, and others were permitted to German personnel. We had electric lights eight hours out of twenty-four, while the Germans had only two hours' use of current and only enough gas to boil a kettle of water a day. In some parts of the Western sectors of the city electric light and gas were available only at 1 A.M. and tired women who had worked all day had to rise to cook and wash in the middle of the night; but we could
still dance by electric light till 11 P.M. When winter came our houses or apartments were warm night and day, but the Germans had no coal. German hospitals overflowing with patients were in darkness and lacked medicines and even bandages, but almost empty American and British hospitals had their lights burning all night.
The automobile and jeep drivers, and all other Germans, from clerks to experts, employed by the Military Government were not only receiving their wages six weeks in arrears, thanks to the control over the Berlin banks which we had originally given to the Russians in 1945. They were also receiving only a quarter of their wages in the new Western marks introduced after currency reform. The other three-quarters were paid in the Russian marks which were worth only a fourth of the Western marks we had half-heartedly brought into Berlin. Appeasement, or what was more politely called the desire "not to provoke" the Russians, had led us to penalize all the Berliners, including those working for us, by using the Russian marks as legal tender.
The June currency reform will be discussed in a later chapter. It is, however, necessary to comment here on the curious policy of the Finance Office of the Military Government. Having first given the Russians an excuse for their siege of the city by introducing the new Western mark, it then refused to bring in a sufficient quantity to permit the city administration and the Military Government to pay wages and salaries in Deutsche (D) marks. While flying food into Berlin at tremendous cost, we accepted Russian marks in payment for it, thus effectively supporting the value of the Russian sponsored currency.
The Communists had the whip hand over the city administration, since the banks are in the Russian sector, and the Communists could withhold the funds necessary to pay wages. They were also in a position to block the accounts of every factory owner and business enterprise in the city.
On the other hand, if more D marks had been flown in, more of them would have fallen into the hands of the Russians to use for the purchase of the goods they needed from the Western zones. For, whereas we accepted the Russian mark in payment for the supplies we flew into the city, the free, or black, market was controlled by the Russians, and D marks were demanded for most unrationed supplies, such as the meager quantities of fresh fruit and vegetables and coal which entered the Russian sector of the
city. D marks were also required for the purchase of the clothing and household goods which had appeared in the shops following currency reform. The trouble was, of course, that there was little of anything to be bought in the Russian zone, which the Soviets were stripping for their own use. Such few goods, or raw materials to make them, as could be brought into Berlin through the blockade had to be paid for with D marks. Naturally the Russians would not sell anything they controlled for their own paper marks.
In these circumstances it would have been more sensible to give the food ration free to all workers in the Western sectors than to take Russian marks in payment for it.
The day I left Berlin on the air lift I was provided with a small, but symbolic, example of how our attitude toward the Germans hampers us in the Cold War for Berlin.
While I stood watching the German workers unloading the plane on which I was to fly to Frankfurt, the United States Air Force pilot waiting beside me said : "We'll be delayed at least half an hour longer beyond our scheduled time, because our cargo, as you see, is airstrips, and the Germans can't handle the stuff fast, not only because it's so heavy, but because they haven't got gloves."
The United States was spending millions of dollars each week to supply Berlin. "Operation Vittles" is a miracle of American organization, as I realized to the full while I listened in on the radio operator's headphones to the instructions being given even few seconds to each of the Big or Little "Willies," which take off and land at two- to three-minute intervals. A second's mistake or miscalculation of time, altitude, or position could be disastrous. Yet operations can be slowed down, and tired American pilots compelled to work a fifteen, instead of a normal twelve-hour shift, because a hundred or so dollars have not been spent to provide the Germans who load and unload the planes with gloves!
Obviously this omission was not due to the practice of petty economies, although in effect cents were being saved and dollars wasted. It was the hardening of our sensibilities through the accustomed sight of hungry, cold, and ragged people, through three years of occupation of a conquered country, which had, no doubt, induced this costly disregard for the human needs of the Germans working with us in Berlin. Not that the GI's and pilots and American mechanics I talked to on the airfield and during this and subsequent flights had a "master race" attitude toward the Germans. On the contrary, they called my attention to the barefooted
women strewing sand on the runway and exclaimed : "Did you ever see anything like it! Aren't those German women wonderful?" And my pilot said : "I used to think that it was only in China you could see women working like that; I never imagined white people could do it. I admire their guts."
I admired them too, but I also wondered how it must feel to go home at night to cook and wash and care for children after doing a man laborer's heavy work all day. I also wondered how these ragged women would be able to work in the cold of winter.
The women are the silent chorus, the unsung and weary heroines of the struggle dramatized by the spectacular air lift. The women outnumber the men by more than two to one in Berlin, and it is upon them that the chief burden of the struggle rests. Many of them have lost their husbands, or wait in vain for them to return from Russian prisons. They are the sole support of their children and often also of a grandmother or some relative crippled or blinded in the air raids. Day after day they must not only earn their living but also tend to and comfort their cold and hungry children, while never getting enough to eat themselves.
The ration in Berlin is now 1,800 calories; before the blockade when the Allies could have provided enough food, it was even lower. One wondered in Berlin how human flesh and spirit could stand the long ordeal of the women whose life is one continuous round of drudgery and want without any pleasures ever, or any future hope of a happy married life. Yet the Berlin women knew that there was one thing left they had not yet lost : and they would endure to the end to preserve it for their children : freedom. A greater proportion of women than men had voted in the October 1946 elections which defeated the Communists in Berlin; and in December 1948, 86 per cent of the population was to register its vote for the democratic parties. In the happy West such a large proportion of voters has never gone to the polls, although we have streetcars and subways and automobiles and plenty of leisure.
I visited the "homes" of several German workers and their families, and marveled that the women, somehow or other, managed to keep a cellar, or one or two patched-up rooms in a bombed tenement house, clean and neat in spite of overcrowding and the lack of hot water and sufficient soap. Their children, who in most other countries would be dirty and unkempt in such circumstances,
are still kept looking respectable by their mothers' continual darning and patching of clothes.
Instead of the extraordinary industry of German women evoking sympathy and respect, it too often only results in Americans' thinking that the Germans are quite well off. Mrs. Roosevelt, for instance, after spending a day or so in Berlin reported that she saw no destitute and hungry children, and that the Germans did not seem to be as poor as the French and other former victims of Nazi aggression. She cannot have had time to see more of Berlin than Dahlem and Zehlendorf where the United States occupation forces live—suburbs inhabited by the former well-to-do which we never bombed with the same intensity as the working-class districts of Berlin. But even if she had taken the time to visit the poorer parts of the city, Mrs. Roosevelt might not have revised her opinion. To win the pity of some people it is necessary to imitate those beggars, who although they may be "earning" a good living by appealing to the charitable for alms, appear in rags and dirt to evoke sympathy.
I wished that all the complacent visitors and residents from the victor countries could see what I had seen, and that they had the imagination to put themselves in the situation of the majority of Berlin's women and children.
There were some Military Government officials who felt as I did. Elizabeth Holt, for instance, wife of a State Department official and herself assistant to the head of the Educational and Religious Affairs branch of the Military Government, was in constant contact with German women and was wearing herself out, not only because of the help and encouragement she gave them, but also because she could not rest or enjoy life thinking of the suffering all around her. Thanks to Mrs. Holt, I made my first contacts with German women active in the social work conducted by all three parties : Socialists (SPD), Christian Democrats (CDU), and Liberals (LDP).
Ursula Kirchert, a Socialist, took me to spend a morning at a medical clinic, where I watched a procession of the sick, the crippled, the undernourished, and the old receiving what help could be given them by the doctor, in the absence of many medicines and the even greater need of nourishing food. One patient had a huge abscess on his neck, which after being lanced had to be bound up with paper, since the Germans had no cotton bandages, no absorbent cotton or lint. The doctor told me that his great difficulty
was that medical supplies could be bought only with D marks, since the Russian zone could not supply them. Consequently social-security funds, which are under Russian control, are useless in obtaining them, and his patients whose wages or pensions consisted mainly of Russian marks could not buy them.
The saddest and hardest-working people in Berlin are the women with children whose husbands fell in the war, or are still prisoners. The expellees from Silesia thrown out of their homes and driven westwards with nothing but what they could carry on their backs are in an even more destitute condition.
I visited one woman from Silesia, Frau Scheibner, whose husband was, she hoped, a prisoner of war in Russia and not already dead. She had three young children and they had all walked to Berlin, the mother carrying the youngest child. Her mother and father were Berliners and until a week before my first visit they had all lived with her parents in two tiny rooms. Now she was "happy" because by great "good fortune" she had obtained possession of a not-too-damp cellar in the same building. She had of course no linen and her furniture consisted of two mattresses and a packing case used as a table. Her eldest child, a girl of twelve, looked after the two youngest while the mother worked as a "trimmer"—the German word used in Berlin to describe the thousands of women who collect, stack, and cart the bricks from bombed-out houses.
The youngest child, a pretty girl of five, was playing on the stone cellar floor with a little friend from next door, while her brother, a boy of eight, did his school homework, sitting on one of the mattresses. When I gave her a can of dried milk, Frau Scheibner told me what upset her most was the little girl begging for more milk every day. Of course these children, like the rest of those in Berlin, never received any fresh milk, but there was a small ration of dried milk. Their mother felt that if she could only get enough food for her children, she would be content in their new "home."
Upstairs in the same house, I found a couple who considered themselves among the luckiest people in the world because the husband, missing for five years, had returned from Russia a few days before. Frau Woltherz had had no news of her husband since 1943 and had given him up for dead. Her joy was indescribable when he suddenly appeared, having been freed because he was too ill to work any more. I wondered how he would ever be able to get well on the inadequate ration on which the Berliners somehow
exist, but his wife was so happy to have him back that she thought nothing of their hardship. Woltherz said to me : "If the Russians had behaved differently, they would have won us. It is too late now. After the treatment we have received we will never go along with them. I shall probably be an invalid for the rest of my life, but if I could fight again I would join up with America against the Soviets."
Another day I visited a widow with two children whose husband had been killed on the Russian front. She had just been joined by two younger sisters who had spent three years as Russian slave laborers in the Urals. One had been a seamstress and the other a worker on a farm, and both looked to be typical "proletarians." But in March 1945, they had been arrested, put in a cellar and beaten until they "confessed" to having been members of Hitler's Jung Mädel. Apparently the Red Army soldiers who had arrested them had been ordered to round up a certain number of Nazis, and the simplest way to do this was to take anybody they could lay their hands on and torture them until they would say they had been Nazis.
After signing a paper written in Russian which they could not understand, the two girls, whose name was Graubusch, had been placed in cattle trucks and transported to the Urals. There had been forty-three people in the car and several had died of suffocation and thirst. They had been given only one cup of water each two days. On arrival at the prison camp they had been set to work making bricks. They had been forced to take the hot bricks out of the ovens with bare hands, and to push loads of them in wheelbarrows for fourteen hours a day.
Many of the German women in the camp had died—in one year, more than half of the original number. Typhus had carried off many in spite of a German doctor prisoner who had tried to help them. The manager of the camp had been a Volksdeutsche and very brutal. Presumably he had saved his own life, which would have otherwise been forfeit on account of his race, by taking the position.
The prisoners had to sleep on wooden benches without blankets. They were fed on cabbage soup and a small bread ration, but had been told to say how good it was in Russia and that only Germans behaved like devils. They were never allowed any contact with the Russian population, being led out to work under armed guards and returned to their prison after their day's labor. A few of the guards had been kind but most of them were brutes. One "bitch
of a woman" had forced the prisoners returning from work to stand at the prison gates for an hour or more in the cold with their clothing damp from perspiration and their dresses "burning on their bodies."
Atrocities are now "old stuff." No one cares what innocent Germans suffer, although still ready to make them pay for Nazi atrocities. But I think that if Americans at home could see and hear what the Germans have gone, and are going, through we might begin to help the people of Berlin and the released or escaped victims of Communist cruelty and oppression. It was with a sense of impotent pity that I learned that only one of these two German sisters was permitted to remain in the United States sector of Berlin. The other was forced to live in the Russian sector, where she might at any moment be arrested again, because she had not formerly lived in Berlin, and the regulation is that only those may register and receive ration cards who were residents before 1945. The elder sister was in bad enough circumstances herself, but she would somehow or other have found room for both sisters, if only the United States authorities had permitted her to shelter them.
It was not only the poor and the victims of Communism who aroused one's pity in Berlin. The most overworked widows and wives of prisoners of war, if they had children, were perhaps less unhappy than such lonely girls as Elsa, the housekeeper of my billet in the Press Camp. She looked after an empty house reserved for visiting American women journalists, who were so few and far between that it was usually empty. No longer a girl, but still not old and quite good looking, she spent day after day alone. Her fiancé had been killed in the war and her only surviving relative was her mother who was not allowed to live with her in the house reserved for the conquerors and their servants. As one of the latter she had more to eat than most Berliners, but the hunger of the heart is perhaps worse than physical starvation. She was not the type for light love affairs and had no "boy friend" among the Americans; nor was it likely she would ever have the opportunity of social intercourse to meet a German who might marry her. The future offered her nothing but loneliness.
In contrast to the timid and gentle Elsa for whom there was no place in the harsh world of today, Annalena von Caprivi, editor of the Women's Page of the British licensed Telegraph, had the spirit, intelligence, and adaptability to overcome the handicap of an aristocratic origin and an unhappy marriage. Her maiden name
was Lindquist, and her family, originally of Swedish origin, had owned the island of Ruetgen in the Baltic for centuries past. Her grandfather had been one of Bismarck's ministers, and her father, Ambassador to South Africa before World War I. Annalena was therefore of real Junker origin, but many Prussian aristocrats, like her parents, had never been pro-Nazi, or taken office under Hitler. Her parents, who had for long been living retired lives on their island, had committed suicide when the Russians came. Annalena had found them dead when, after the war's end, she had made her way on foot from Western Germany to the Russian zone, carrying a bundle on her back and dressed like a peasant.
The Russians had, of course, confiscated the family property and Annalena now worked for the support of her two little girls as well as herself. She had divorced her husband, heir also to an ancient name and as incapable of adapting himself to conditions in defeated Germany as his wife was capable.
I came to know Annalena von Caprivi well and to have a great liking and respect for her character and keen and objective mind. She was not in the least sorry for herself and somehow managed always to look well groomed, and even elegant, although her clothes were made out of such relics as her grandfather's military uniform.
There are one hundred women to every 60 men in Germany and the tragedy of many of them is that they have no hope of marriage. But Annalena, who is both attractive and intelligent, wrote an article for her newspaper in which she said that many German women could not now "afford" a husband. German men, she said, still expected to be waited upon hand and foot by their wives, as if they were the breadwinners, even if their wives were earning the family's living. It was too much to expect, and unless German men would abandon their lordly ways they could not expect any capable women to marry them.
A young unmarried woman who had been a war correspondent, but had taken up a rifle and fought herself in the last desperate days of Berlin's defense against the Red Army, gave me another angle on the relation between the sexes in Germany. She said that German men not only cannot forget that they were once "brilliant and victorious" and are therefore incapable of adapting themselves to the lowly work and status which is all life now offers them. She also thought that they were too bitterly ashamed of their failure to defend their country and save its women from rape and rough treatment at Russian hands to be psychologically capable of loving.
They hate the girls who go around with Americans but are themselves unable to offer companionship or any possibility for happiness in marriage.
Of course not all German men have developed complexes which keep them in bitter isolation and drive German women either to have affairs with the "conquerors" or to live alone. But even in undefeated and prosperous countries men who have spent years soldiering find it difficult to settle down to civilian life. In Germany where many men have spent ten years of their life in the army, and the younger ones have known no other life since they left school; where most jobs offer a bare livelihood and where there are so many sick as well as crippled veterans, the problem is even more acute.
In these days of adversity it is the endurance of German women and their determination to keep their families alive that constitutes the strength of Germany even in defeat.
Having lived six years in Soviet Russia, I too had been a wife struggling for food and shelter for my family in a world not very different from theirs. Consequently, I felt a sense of identification with the people of Berlin. Today I was one of the privileged enjoying the same comforts, conveniences and luxuries as the rest of the American and British correspondents and occupying forces, but I did not feel that I belonged with them. The memory of my life in Moscow, when I lived as ordinary Russians do, was still too vivid.
Most Americans and even the British have no real conception of what hunger means, nor any repugnance to eating well and driving in automobiles or jeeps, while the "natives" starve and walk. It was not that I was better than the rest, or even that I had more imagination. It was simply my past experience and the close presence of the Soviet Power which so vividly recalled it to me.
When I saw German women carrying heavy loads in the streets, I remembered how I had once thought nothing of carrying home 44 pounds of potatoes, happy only to have obtained so much food. When I saw the thin, sad-eyed Berlin children, I remembered my own son, born in Moscow, who had never suffered actual hunger but would have become like these German children if I had not escaped with him from Russia after my husband's arrest. When I visited German homes consisting of one dilapidated room, I recalled similar crowded and damp places where I and my Russian friends and acquaintances had lived.
When I bought my cigarettes, chocolate, and soap ration at the PX store, I remembered how much in those distant days in Moscow
a gift of coffee, soap, or toilet paper from some friend in England, had meant to me.
In Germany I felt ashamed to be like one of those foreign visitors to Moscow who had gorged themselves in the Intourist Hotels while the Russians starved. When I invited Germans to eat with me at the Press Club, I remembered what it had once meant to me to be invited to a good meal in a Moscow hotel by some visiting foreigner.
As I watched the German waiters at "our" clubs and hotels, I remembered those in the Moscow Intourist ones, who like these Germans served good food to others without ever partaking of it themselves. Tips had been forbidden in Communist Russia, where Russians still gave them but foreigners rarely did, because they had been told it was beneath the dignity of a waiter to accept them in the "Socialist fatherland." In Germany, one was not allowed to give tips either (since our occupation money could not legally be used by Germans) except in the form of a cigarette or two left on the table.
Worst of all, the attitude of the Military Government officials toward the Germans reminded me all too forcibly of the aloof disdain with which the Communist bureaucracy had treated the Russian "common man". Not, of course, that Americans had yet learned to behave with the same arrogance as Soviet Russia's ruling class. There was still a good bit left of the natural American tendency to be friendly and generous to everyone. But these Americans had been taught to treat the Germans as inferiors and many of them thought that to show sympathy or kindness, would be what the British call "bad form."
I could not feel superior to the Germans for I too had once been guilty. If the Germans deserved to suffer indefinitely for having followed the false and evil lead of the Nazis, so I also, and many other Britishers and Americans, should also be punished for once having been Communists or Communist fellow travelers and dupes. "There, but for the Grace of God, go I," was the thought which came to me continually in Berlin and the other bombed cities of Germany, where a people condemned by all the world, defenseless, hungry and without rights or liberties, continues to live only because of its indestructible vitality or the consolations offered by religion.
I knew that the impulses and illusions which led me to become a Communist in my youth were not fundamentally so different to
those which led many young Germans to follow Hitler. Being English, having been brought up a socialist, and living in a rich country and in the capital of an Empire upon which, in those days, the sun never set, I had been concerned with the emancipation of the human race, not that of my own country. I had embraced communism because it promised equality of all men, irrespective of nation, race, or creed. The Communist ideal had seemed to me the fulfillment of the age-long struggle of mankind for freedom and justice.
The Nazis had not appealed to the same generous impulses and international ideals as the Communists had done. But to many a young German, Nazism must originally have seemed the only way to obtain freedom and equality for the German people, "shackled", as they saw it, by the Versailles Treaty. When Hitler promised them bread and work, an end to unemployment, and a proud and strong Germany in place of the weak and defenseless Weimar Republic, most of them could not have known that he would lead them to commit horrible atrocities and wage aggressive war; no more than I had known that communism meant the liquidation of millions of Russian peasants, starvation for the workers, and slave labor on a scale never seen before. In Russia I had seen how young men and women were induced by an appeal to "idealism" to carry out the operation of liquidating the so-called kulaks—a crime as great and horrible as the Nazi liquidation of the Jews. For to me it seems equally terrible to kill people or send them to concentration camps for their "class" as for their "race."
It is incomprehensible to me that the very same Americans who had glorified Stalin's bloody dictatorship during and after the war are now most insistent in demanding endless punishment for all Germans. If all the Germans are to be considered guilty of Hitler's crimes, and anyone who was ever a Nazi to be damned forever, then Communists in all countries, and also those who were their dupes and supported them, must be held accountable for the atrocities committed by Stalin.
I had escaped from Russia, and as a foreigner I had been able to get out of the Communist Party without being liquidated years before I left the Soviet Union. But I knew that if I had stayed, I might have been forced by the Soviet dictatorship to do horrible things myself, if the life of my husband or son were the penalty for disobedience. Having lived under the Communist dictatorship,
and knowing what terror means, I cannot blame the Germans for not having "revolted against Hitler," as others do who are safe in America and have all their lives enjoyed inherited liberties.
Another reason, besides my Russian experiences, for my inability to regard the Germans as more wicked than other peoples, is no doubt the fact that I was born an Englishwoman. I recognize the fact that the Germans made the profound mistake of endeavoring to follow in the footsteps of Britain, France, Holland, and Belgium, in an age when empire building is no longer respectable except for Communists. But I cannot quite see why the Germans, who have no Asiatic and African colonies to exploit, should be considered as innately more aggressive than the Western European nations who derive revenues from their colonial empires.
My old anti-imperialist sentiments, and intense dislike for the sight of any one lot of people denying to another the rights and liberties it claims for itself, had made me both anti-Communist and anti-Nazi. But I could not, on account of my own past mistakes and lost illusions, consider the whole German people as guilty of Nazi crimes, any more than I considered myself responsible for the past evil doings of British imperialists, or past and present atrocities committed by Stalin and his followers. My punishment for my past foolishness, if nothing worse, had been the loss of my husband in Russia. But I had saved my son and escaped with him to the free Western world. The Germans, innocent and guilty alike, had suffered obliteration bombing attacks, starvation, the torture of husbands, sons and brothers in Russian prisons, and the opprobrium of the world. I could not but feel that their punishment was out of proportion to mine.
It was with a sense of shame that I heard the German driver of the automobile assigned to me in Berlin say : "I have worked for three years for the Americans and you are the first who has spoken to me as a human being."
I had asked him how much he earned, how many hours he worked, whether he had a wife and family, whether they got enough to eat, and how he got home at night after leaving me at my hotel. It was not, I think, the fact that I displayed some interest in his personal situation, or my gifts of chocolate, soap, and cigarettes, or my sharing with him the ample breakfast I received, which eventually broke down the barrier he had erected between us by his correct behavior as a servant, or as one of the conquered toward the
new master race. It was after I remarked to him one day that we were treating the Germans like colonial subjects that he became communicative and friendly. My observation had been occasioned by my first sight of the half-naked, barefoot young German boys who pick up the balls on the Press Club tennis courts. It had seemed to me they should be playing games themselves instead of running around like little slaves.
It was from this chauffeur of mine that I got a view, from the other end of the telescope, so to speak, of how our original "treat the Germans rough" occupation policy affected the mass of the German people. "I suppose," he said, "that the rudeness and lack of consideration of the Americans is due to the great size of their country. Probably many Americans never go to school and learn good manners, and that is why they are so rough and tactless."
I told him that he was mistaken and tried to explain that Americans were not really either uneducated or heartless; that it was the hatred of Nazi brutality and the consequent belief that all Germans deserved punishment and rough treatment which had originally inspired our occupation policy. But he remained unconvinced. How, he asked me, could I explain the American attitude of friendliness and consideration toward the Russians if it was Nazi Germany's atrocities which had inspired the American lack of humanity toward the conquered Germans?
The word which he used, and which I have translated as "lack of humanity," was Unmenschlichkeit. Menschlichkeit, its opposite, was the word I heard most often on the lips of Germans. It is a word difficult to translate because it means so much : behavior worthy of a human being, decency, kindness, consideration for others, respect for the individual irrespective of nationality, class, religion, or power—everything which should distinguish a free man from a brute, a slave, or a robot.
It is the realization that the Rights of Man, in the good old-fashioned eighteenth-century sense which inspired the French and American revolutions, are primary, and that no economic and social system which denies them is bearable; it was this realization that had united the Socialist, Liberal, and Christian-Democratic parties of Berlin in face of the Communist threat to their liberty.
Here, in the front line of the conflict between Western democ-
racy and Soviet totalitarian tyranny, there was a reborn faith in the ideals of the Renaissance, the Reformation and the Counter Reformation.
There was a unity to be found nowhere else in Europe, between agnostics and Christians, Protestants and Catholics, socialists, liberals, and conservatives, because they one and all realized that the struggle for the world is primarily one between the individual and the machine, or state, which seeks to reduce everyone to slavery; between the totalitarians who would drag us all down to the level of beasts by denying individual responsibility, conscience, and Menschlichkeit, and those who insist that "security" is only to be won by submission to tyranny.
Perhaps, I thought, it is the new content of socialism, as demonstrated in Berlin, where the Social Democrats are the largest party and the leaders in the anti-Communist resistance, which holds out most hope for Western civilization.
"The change in the inner content of German socialism is the most important development in Europe today," was the comment made to me by Frau Doctor Ulrich-Biel, a woman leader of Berlin's Liberal Party. A white-haired elderly lady whose former husband is a professor of philosophy at Harvard, and whose son had been miraculously restored to her through his daring escape from a Russian prison camp, she is today mainly occupied in trying to secure relief for the homeless, ragged, and starved German refugees from the East, many of whom are in the Russian zone of occupation.
In her little room in an apartment house in what was once a sector of Berlin with a large Jewish population, she said to me :
I could not in the past join the Socialists because of my fear of regimentation and because of the Socialist opposition to religion. Not that I was a churchgoer, but because I always had respect for the secret of the world and could not reduce everything to materialistic terms. Now after all I have seen and experienced, all the sorrow and fear and misery of our life in Berlin these past fifteen years, I look to having the church on my side. The life of man is too short and he is too frail for him to dispense with a home for the great truths of Christianity. Men are too weak to preserve the truth alone; they must have a tradition to preserve it : a church. Many German Socialists realize this today. They are more concerned with preserving the values men live by than with economic theories. All those who do not believe that liberty and human rights are the primary concern have gone over to the SED [Socialist Unity party].
Otto Stolz, a young man who had been expelled from the University of Berlin for his anti-Communist activities and had already made a name for himself as a writer, told me that he and many other German Socialists no longer believed that "nationalization of the means of production and distribution" would solve the problems of human society. "We know now," he said, "that the end of capitalism may, as in Russia, lead only to tyranny."
Writing on the anniversary of the Revolution of 1848 which had failed, in Germany, to establish the liberal principles and democratic rights won in Western Europe, Otto Stolz, although he belongs to the Socialist party, reminded his countrymen that the struggle then and now is not for "an economic theory of production and distribution" but for the rights of man : equality before the law, individual responsibility and freedom, security of personal rights, government by consent, freedom of speech and opinion, freedom from arbitrary arrest and imprisonment without trial by due process of law.
From these premises he developed the thesis that in the twentieth century, in countries where representative government and free speech have already been secured, no violent revolution is required to establish greater social justice and a better economic system. Revolutions today, far from being progressive, lead to the establishment of authoritarian governments under "popular" dictators. Thus revolutions in democratically governed countries are in fact counterrevolutions led by reactionaries calling themselves progressives, but wanting to lead the world back to the predemocratic era when liberty of the individual and human rights were denied by autocratic monarchies, as they are today denied by Nazis and Communists.
"The real revolution of our time," said Otto Stolz, "is a spiritual one, not economic or social. And here in Europe it must be directed toward the establishment of a European family of nations, with equal rights for all in a democratic federation."
The unity displayed by the Socialist, Christian-Democratic, and Liberal-Democratic parties in resisting the Communist onslaught was made possible by the recognition by members of all three parties that no one has a monopoly of truth, and that tolerance, integrity and Menschlichkeit are the primary needs of a free society.
Lothar Wille, Bürgermeister of the Berlin borough of Steglitz, who is a Catholic and a Christian Democrat, said to me :
"Our party, the Christian-Democratic Union, should have leaders
who are not specifically Catholic or Protestant but Christian. To defend the Christian culture and values of Europe the primary need is good men. The best religion is a good moral life and a man who never goes to church, even an agnostic, may be in fact a good Christian. The important thing is to recognize one's duty to society and perform it." "The Catholic church," he added with a smile, "has also got to change with the times and become more catholic."
Most people in Berlin have nothing to lose but their freedom. Perhaps it is this and the terrible trials and privations they have endured that gives them their clear view of essentials and their inner strength. They have become so inured to material hardships and have experienced such great sorrows that those who have not been broken have acquired a rare spiritual fortitude.
Nora Melle, a City Council representative of the Liberal-Democratic party who had been thrown into the street with her little girl when the Russians came, had seen her husband carried off by them, her sister raped, her father killed, and her mother die of shock, said to me : "We are no longer influenced by fear of losing our possessions, since we have none, and because we have lost so much more than material comforts. Germans in the Western zones may think that there could be nothing worse than the Anglo-American occupation, and the loss of their savings through the recent currency reform. But in Berlin we know that all that is nothing compared to the ultimate horror of the Communist domination."
Jeanette Wolff told me : "The Berliners, unlike other people, do not wear blinkers. They know what they are up against and are facing it. It is vital to the survival of Western civilization that this political center of resistance to totalitarian tyranny be preserved."
Jeanette Wolff herself is one of the finest persons I ever met. An old Socialist of Weimar Republic days, she spent six long and terrible years in Hitler's concentration camps and lost her whole family except for one daughter who was crippled by the Nazis. But, instead of hating the German people, like so many others who have never even seen them; Jeanette has become one of the best-loved leaders of the Berlin population. An eloquent and moving speaker, elected member of the City Council in 1946, she is called the Trumpet of the Socialist party. A woman with a warm heart which has somehow failed to be corroded by the sufferings she has undergone, she is full of compassion for all the oppressed and
miserable people of the world and also too good a socialist of the old international kind to consider any one nation or race as worse or better than another. Her understanding and human feeling are so great that she has been known to argue on denazification boards for the release of men who had belonged to the party which tortured her and killed her family, saying she knew that many young men had followed Hitler out of ignorance and should be forgiven if they would "go and sin no more."
I first met Jeanette Wolff, thanks to Hanna Bornovsky, a German girl engaged to George Silver, who worked in the manpower division of Military Government. George Silver was a former AFL trade unionist from Philadelphia. Although a young man, he had the same, prewar vintage, international socialist outlook as Jeanette. Hanna's Jewish mother had been killed in one of our air raids and her Aryan father was also dead. After having been treated as a second-class citizen by the Nazis because she was half-Jewish, Hanna had not been allowed to marry George because we considered her a German. But now that he was about to leave Germany after three years service there, they were getting married.
Many American visitors who might otherwise never have met any Germans socially got to know the leading democratic leaders of Berlin at the Silvers' house. Hanna had also managed to raise funds to reconstruct a part of Ribbentrop's bombed-out Berlin residence, which she had renamed Leuschner House and established as a meeting place for the Germans who were taking the lead in Berlin's anti-Communist struggle.
I owe a lot to the Silvers who put me in touch with many Germans, both prominent and unknown, and gave me the opportunity to meet men and women of all parties at their home.
Hanna and George were practicing socialists. She cooked a meal every other day, out of her husband's American rations and the vegetables she grew in the gardens of Leuschner House, for the students who came to her house, and who, like most German students today, are the poorest of the poor and always hungry. These Berlin students were extraordinarily mature in their thinking. I was impressed most of all by the fact that war, defeat, hunger, and the ever-present fear of ending up in a Soviet concentration camp had not broken their spirit or sapped their energies.
It seemed to me surprising that our original occupation policy had not succeeded in turning German youths into cynics, timeservers, or ruthless egotists. For in the first two years of our occupa-
tion we had made a mockery of our democratic professions and ideals, not only by treating all of the Germans, including the victims of Hitler's prisons, as pariahs, but also by condoning Soviet atrocities and treating Communists as democrats. We had even insisted upon the inclusion of Communists in the City and Länder administrations and put Communists on denazification boards.
In Berlin, for instance, although the October 1946 elections had given the Socialists, Liberals, and Christian Democrats 80 per cent of the votes, the allied Kommandatura had refused to allow majority rule, insisting instead on the inclusion of Communists in a "coalition," although their party (Socialist Unity party—SED) had polled only 19 per cent of the city's vote. And even today, I was told, the British and American Occupation authorities do not permit the Germans to oust the Communists who still hold some positions in the Food, Labor and Health offices of the Western sectors of Berlin unless they are proved to be incompetent, or sending "open" reports to the Russians!
"Yet you still place your trust in us?" I enquired.
"Yes," replied a pretty girl with red hair and an impudent smile, "we know we must have patience and wait until Americans stop being political babies."
"All the same," said a young man studying Slavonic languages, "it's funny to hear you Americans now saying the same things about the Soviet Union which you used to forbid us to say and regarded as a proof of our being pro-Nazi."
I am aware, of course, that not only is Berlin not Prague; it is also not all of Germany. The important fact, it seemed to me in Berlin, is that there is a movement there which could lead Germany to become a real democracy, and which might also reinvigorate and unite by its example the divided and confused anti-totalitarian forces of Europe and America.
There was a sinister reverse side of the hopeful Berlin picture. Some of the die-hard Nazis have made common cause with the Communists, and there was the threat of a recrudescence of aggressive German nationalism under a Red instead of a Black flag.
Former National Socialist theoreticians today hold leading positions in the University of Berlin and other universities under Russian control. The head of the disciplinary Court of the University of Berlin, Fritz Moglich, who now gives lectures on the social and
political situation, which all Berlin students must attend, was formerly a leading Nazi anti-Semite and anti-Catholic writer. In a famous book on Ludendorff he had once urged a union of German and Russian National Bolshevism against the West.
Many other examples could be cited. Perhaps even more important is the fact that the Russians are using the full force of economic pressure to suppress the democratic opposition. Only "reliable" students can get grants to study, and special privileges in money and kind are given to those who support the Communist dictatorship. All Germans who can and will be useful to Russia are offered "Stalin parcels" of food and fuel. Those who join the Socialist Unity party for the material advantages this gives them can perhaps not be counted upon by the Russians. Their most reliable allies, and the most dangerous to us, are the former Nazis who hope that by submitting to the Soviets now, and working with them against the West, Hitler's "Thousand-Year Reich" will eventually be restored.
The political weakness of the Communists, evident in Berlin, proves that there are as yet too few Nazi or other collaborators of the Communists to bolster up their dictatorship.
Nevertheless, it is a mistake to assume that the Germans must inevitably remain on our side, even if we continue to refuse them the rights of free men.
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