The Marshall Plan is based on the assumption that poverty and despair lead people to reject democracy and follow the Communist lead; and that, in order to save the Western world from totalitarian tyranny, America must give the European nations on our side of the Iron Curtain enough dollars to reconstruct their economies and afford their people the opportunity to earn a decent living.
This theory is not, however, applied to Germany. We refuse to admit that it was poverty, unemployment, and despair which brought the Nazis to power, and may once again drive the German people to reject the political concepts and moral values of the West. Instead, we regard the Germans as a naturally aggressive people with a predilection for authoritarian rule, and treat them as if they were possessed of a devil which must be driven out by chastising them.
It is today forgotten that the Nazis did not win power by advocating war. They appealed in the first place to the German people's longing for delivery from intolerable disorders and economic chaos. Their main slogan was "bread and work." Hitler did not start to talk about the need to obtain Lebensraum by force until after he came to power, and while many a German joined the Nazi party because it was anti-Communist, others supported it because of the failure of the democratic parties to solve the unemployment problem or to induce the democracies to make the concessions necessary for the German people to exist.
At the First Assembly of the Nazi Reichstag on May 17, 1933, Hitler specifically abjured war, saying :
The outcome of war would be greater insecurity, increased economic misery and yet more wars. To start such utterly senseless action would lead to the collapse of the present order of society. A Europe sinking into Communist chaos would produce a period of crisis the duration of which cannot he estimated. The three principles which are the mainspring of our revolution do not menace the interests of other nations at all. On the contrary they can prevent the threatening Communist upheaval and lead to the construction of a people's state based on the principle of private property as the basis of culture. The re-establishment of a stable and authoritative state leadership.*
Since many foreigners believed Hitler's lies, it is hardly surprising that so many Germans did. To account them all guilty of Hitler's crimes, after it was too late for them to escape from his tyranny, is to be unaware of the nature of totalitarian rule. It is doubtful whether any other nation, placed as Germany was, would have resisted the lure of Nazi propaganda. It should have been our objective after the second World War to convince the German people that Hitler had not only failed but had been wrong, and that democracy offers life and hope.
Instead, for the second time in thirty years, democracy has become synonymous in Germany with submission to intolerable conditions, and the denial of freedom, security and self-respect to the German people.
It is one of the paradoxes of modern times that in an age in which psychology is studied even in the schoolroom, and psychological warfare has become a branch of military science, we should conduct our foreign policy with less understanding of other peoples than our ancestors whose knowledge was confined to history and philosophy.
The lessons of psychology are apparently considered as having no application to the Germans. For although most Americans have been sold on the idea that criminal tendencies are the result of environment and that juvenile delinquency can be cured by psychological treatment, they believe that the way to reform the Germans is to treat them as hardened criminals, and punish them all, including the children who were unborn when Hitler came to power.
"If you call a child a thief often enough," a German said to me,
"he eventually becomes one. Similarly by treating all Germans as Nazi criminals, you have made more Nazis than Hitler ever did."
The same idea was expressed in a variety show called "Mousetrap" which my friend Joan Crane saw in Stuttgart. In one scene a dog who had done something naughty was shown as very ashamed of himself. But after a succession of people had screamed "Guilty, guilty," and punished him, the dog became very fierce and completely untamable.
People cannot be bludgeoned into repentance. They must retain their self-respect if they are to admit their guilt. Many Germans never realized what they were doing, or abetting, under Nazi rule, but might have been shocked into repentance after Nazi atrocities in occupied countries were revealed to them following Germany's defeat, had not they themselves become the victims of similar "crimes against humanity." All we have done is to convince them that everyone is bad and cruel.
How can we expect to bring home to the Germans a consciousness of their "guilt", if we ourselves or our allies treat them as the Nazis treated the conquered? Today the Germans, far from being repentant, consider themselves to be the most oppressed of all peoples, and see no difference between Nazi rule and that of Western military government.
As Dr. Helmuth Becker, son of the internationally known educator who was Minister of Education in Prussia before 1933, said to me at Nuremberg : "If the Military Government's conception of democracy continues much longer, there will be no chance for democracy in Germany for a hundred years."
"Few Americans," he continued, "realize that Germany followed Hitler because the democratic parties were bankrupt. Nor do they see that Military Government is very similar to Nazi rule. The Nazis and the Military Government would have got on very well together. They have the same belief in authoritarian rule, and they are regarded by the Germans in much the same light.
"We don't believe your propaganda any more than we believed Nazi propaganda after the first year or two. We judge you by what you do, not by what you say, and what you do is much the same as what the Nazis did."
There is an inescapable contradiction between democracy, which means government by consent of the governed, and military government based on force and the power of the conquerors to impose their will on the conquered. This contradiction has been accentu-
ated by the attitude and behavior prescribed for the occupation forces in Germany; but it would in any case preclude the growth of a vigorous democratic movement in Germany.
Inevitably the German democrats in the Western zones appear in the eyes of most of their compatriots as quislings carrying out the orders of the conquerors. Since those orders have kept the Germans starving in the bombed-out remnants of their cities without allowing them to rebuild them, deprived the workers of their livelihood by dismantlement, and the whole population of freedom, democracy has once again become synonymous with defeat, misery, injustice, and servitude.
Once again, as in the days of the Weimar Republic, and to a far greater degree, we are denying the German democrats any possibility of proving to their countrymen that justice, the right to work and earn a living wage, and equality among the nations can be obtained except by force.
The predicament of the German Social Democrats outside of Berlin illustrates the sad consequences of our undemocratic attitude toward the Germans.
Talking to German labor leaders in the Ruhr, I could have imagined myself back in the days of the Weimar Republic when I had often visited Germany. The old Socialists who had survived both Nazi persecution and the war were back where they had been twenty years ago, but more gravely handicapped in their efforts to "sell democracy" to the German people. Yet they still had faith in peaceful methods and rational argument. They eschewed "direct action" or revolutionary methods to obtain just demands. They still believed in the possibility of uniting the "workers of the world"; they still placed their trust in British and French Socialists; they are as law abiding under British Military Government as under former German governments; they are not lacking in courage, but they seem incapable of bold and decisive action in a crisis.
They are in the tragic position of not being able to learn from past experience because to do so would be a denial of the democratic basis of their beliefs. And since the situation they face today is similar to the one they faced following the first World War, they are once again in danger of losing the support of the German workers, and giving the right of way to the demagogues and apostles of violence and tyranny : to the extreme nationalists on the right and the Communists on the left who once before destroyed German democracy.
The Germans always seem to "go the whole hog." Either they are extreme nationalists and violently aggressive, or they are more pacific, rational, and internationally minded than the socialists and liberals of any other country.
As one young German trade-union official said to me in Düsseldorf : "Placed as we are in the center of Europe, influences from all sides meet and clash most violently in Germany. Here issues are more sharply defined than in any other country. Germans are inclined to make every issue a question of basic philosophy. The religious wars were more destructive in Germany than anywhere else because we embrace our beliefs so wholeheartedly and see no virtue in compromise. So today in politics we go to the same extremes : from ultranationalism to the repudiation of all nationalist sentiment. We adopt our politics with religious conviction and see an enemy in everyone who thinks differently. Like the power generated by positive and negative in electricity, the strongest incentives for good or ill are present in the German character."
When nationalism is in the ascendant, the Germans are among the most violent and unscrupulous peoples; when they turn to pacifism, internationalism, and reasonableness, they turn the other cheek with a restraint in face of provocation, injustice, and suffering which few other nations ever exhibit. This tendency to go to extremes and eschew compromise also accounts for the violent party strife which helped destroy the Weimar Republic. Unlike the English, who instinctively put the national interest above party interests, the Germans carry political antagonisms to such lengths that, except when united for war under authoritarian rule, internal conflicts split the nation into warring factions. This is no doubt the reason why even liberal Germans will tell you today that Germany needs a monarchy, because only an established authority recognized by all parties can overcome the schisms which tear Germany apart.
Germany is not, perhaps, peculiar in this respect. The French are displaying a similar incapacity in making democracy work, and the British had their civil wars in the past. It is the comparative youthfulness of the German state which has caused the swing from overemphasis on nationalism, to internecine strife regardless of the national interest, and back again to extreme nationalism.
The renunciation of nationalist sentiment and aims by the German Social Democrats plays into the hands of both the extreme nationalists, and the Communists, who use German national sentiment to further Russian aims : Many German Socialists in the
Western zones strengthen the impression that they are puppets by seeming to echo the views of the conquerors who demand that the Germans, unlike other nations, should have no national feelings.
Patriotism, regarded as a virtue by the victors, is considered to be a sign of perverse tendencies when displayed by Germans. Every sign of "reviving German nationalism" is made the excuse for the revival of repressive measures. We treat the Germans like sexual delinquents who must be castrated or kept in prison and deprived of normal sexual intercourse, while their jailers are permitted to indulge their natural human instincts to the full.
Yesterday it was the Nazis; today it is their erstwhile allies and spiritual brothers, the Communists, who are taking advantage of Germany's treatment at the hands of the Allies and of the weakness of German democracy. The Communists are appealing to the same passions and hatreds and aggressive nationalistic sentiments as the Nazis. They are leading the struggle against dismantlement and the so-called internationalization of the Ruhr, and in general showing up the incapacity of the German democrats to obtain, and the unwillingness of the democratic powers to grant, elementary justice to the German people.
Although German experience of Communist terror in the Eastern zone and Berlin, and the German Army's first-hand view of Soviet Russia as soldiers and prisoners of war, have so far prevented the revival of a strong German Communist movement, there is a substantial minority of Communists in the Ruhr held in check only by the Socialists and Christian Democrats who still hope the Western Powers will come to their senses in face of the Soviet danger and permit the German people to live and work.
About a third of the German trade-union members in the coal and steel industries of the Ruhr are reputed to be Communists or to follow the Communist lead. This substantial minority is bound to increase if only the Communists seem to be fighting against dismantlement. It must also grow if the occupation authorities, desirous of re-establishing free enterprise in Germany but refusing to release the German economy from the burden of reparations payments and the tight controls established in the interests of Germany's British and French competitors on the world market, continue to promote the scarcity and inflation which keep the German workers without the necessities of life.
If the German Socialists who control the trade unions in the Ruhr fail to see that they will never obtain a fair deal from the
British by collaborating with them; if they continue to hold back the rank and file from organized strikes against dismantlement; if they fail in every possible way to support the German workers who are going to jail for refusal to obey British orders to destroy or remove the machinery on which other Germans depend for their livelihood, the Communists will inevitably win the leadership of the German workers, in spite of German fear and hatred of the Soviet Union.
The British, so far, have derived great profit from the trusting attitude of the German labor leaders. But in the long run the advantage they have taken of the German Socialists' faith in the British Labour Government is likely to rebound to the advantage of the Communists. Just as the British are deriving temporary profit from the sale to Soviet Russia and her satellites of armaments and planes or the materials and machinery with which to manufacture them, but are likely in the future bitterly to regret their exclusive preoccupation with the accumulation of dollar funds to the detriment of their defenses, so also in Germany they may come to rue the day when they sacrificed to a commercial motive the good will of those who trusted them and could have become their strongest allies.
My visit to the Ruhr in the fall of 1948 brought home to me not only awareness of the similarity in the victors' treatment of German democracy today and following the first World War, but also understanding of the weakness of German social democracy.
Before Hitler came to power, when German social democracy still held the allegiance of a majority of the German working and professional classes, the German democrats had believed that the Western democracies would not allow them to perish by refusing the concessions which could keep the German people under peaceful leadership. In 1948, in the Ruhr, I found that the German trade-unionists had been convinced that the British Labour Government would not actually carry through the dismantlement program which must drive the German people once again to reject democracy.
Others had apparently been won over to accept dismantlement by a British promise to support socialization of the mining and steel industries against the Americans who favor private enterprise, if the trade-union leaders would collaborate with the British Military Government, or at least take no concerted measures to prevent the removal of machinery from German factories. This apparently accounted for the refusal of Hans Boekler and other old German
trade union leaders to accede to the demands of the rank and file for a general strike against dismantlement. Like Samson, German labor had been shorn of its strength, the temptress being the Socialist ideal. Hoping to establish socialism by collaboration with the British conquerors the old German trade-union leaders had disarmed the working class.
Whether or not a bargain had actually been struck between the British and German Socialists, it was made clear to me in my conversations with Ruhr labor leaders that they were anxious above all not to embarrass or annoy the British Labour Government.
On the other hand I also had to realize that the German trade-union leaders had little choice but to collaborate with the British. The dependence of the Germans on the food supplied by their conquerors constituted a terrible weapon in the hands of the British and American military governments, and was used with few scruples. No one could forget that in 1947 the Western Powers had threatened to stop food shipments if the German workers went on strike.
As an outsider I cannot judge whether it is the carrot or the stick which plays the greater role in inducing the German trade-union leaders to collaborate with the British Military Government. The stick, starvation, is in all probability more potent than the Socialist lure. Starvation as a method of coercion is used less blatantly by the British and American occupation authorities than by the Soviets, but hardly less effectively. It is the dependence of Western Germany on food imports which has cut the ground from under the feet of the German democrats, and placed German labor in an even weaker position today than under the Nazi tyranny.
It was essential for the Nazi government to encourage the Germans to work to the limit of their capacity, since compulsion alone cannot secure maximum production. But the British Military Government has no such interest. The British, to use their favorite expression, "couldn't care less" if German labor chooses to starve by going on strike. Cessation of production in German factories may even be welcome to the British conquerors who are also Germany's competitors. Thus the German workers in the Ruhr have in effect been deprived of their only weapon against the destruction of their means of existence.
Since every German working class family is at all times on the verge of destitution, and dependent for its inadequate food on the good will of the conquerors, no German labor leader can lightly
defy the occupation authorities. "A week without work and wages," one of them said to me, "means so many more thousands tubercular children, so many more invalids; we are so undernourished and weak that we can barely keep alive, and have no reserves of strength or food. One little extra push can mean collapse. How can we stand up against the organized might of the conquerors who hold our lives in their hands, and treat us all as criminals, or at best as prisoners on parole?"
Nevertheless, it was hard for me to understand the attitude of such men as Hans Boekler, the William Green of German labor. He had recently returned from London where he had talked to Ernest Bevin. When I asked him what answer Bevin had given to his argument against dismantlement, Boekler made excuses for the British Foreign Minister. "Bevin is so overburdened with other cares," said Boekler, "so absorbed in the difficulties of foreign policy : Palestine, Russia, and the rest, that he simply has no time to attend to our German problems."
After this conversation I was hardly surprised when one of the Ministers in North-Rhine Westphalia, who is himself a Socialist, told me that Boekler was "too much orientated toward Britain." The middle ranks of trade-union officials, this Minister also told me, realized that the German workers were being victimized by the British and the workers themselves wanted to strike against dismantlement, but Boekler had prevented any effective action being taken. Boekler is both head of the metal workers trade union and chairman of the Federation of German Trade Unions.
Arnold Schmidt, the German miners' leader, holds the same pro-British opinions. When I interviewed him in his house near Bochum I had already heard him speak to the British and American Military Government officials assembled at Essen on October 2, and waited in vain for him to protest against dismantlement. So I was hardly surprised when he told me that the German workers were "full of admiration for the Socialist achievements of the British Labour Government." Either from discretion or conviction, he had nothing to say against British policy.
Much as I respect the old-fashioned trade union leaders I met in the Ruhr I found it pathetic to witness their touching faith in the British Labour Government. In spite of the superior attitude adopted toward them as toward all other Germans by British Military Government officials, and in spite of the abundant evidence of British determination to wipe out German competition by ruthless
dismantlement, they refused to believe that a British Labour Government was not their friend. So, instead of leading the strikes and demonstrations demanded by the rank and file, they continued to argue that if the Germans were patient and submissive the British and French would eventually listen to reason and stop taking the bread out of the mouths of the German workers.
I was accompanied on some of my Ruhr visits by a German from the Social Ministry, recommended to me by Richard Stokes, the English Member of Parliament who has fought hardest to stop dismantlement. Although I speak German, my knowledge of the language is not such as to make it easy to understand every word when technical terms are involved. So Stokes' friend, Zilliken, who spoke English fluently, was of great assistance to me in investigating dismantlement in the Ruhr. He was, moreover, an intelligent, fearless and well-informed young man.
When I expressed my astonishment at the confiding trust which the older generation of German labor leaders appeared to place in the British Labour Government, Zilliken remarked, "Yes, the relationship which the British Labour Government has managed to establish with the Social Democrats of the Ruhr is similar to that between the English aristocracy and the British working class."
This comparison is not as apt today as fifty years ago. It would be truer to say that the Social Democrats in Western Germany stand in much the same position in relation to the British Labour Government as the Socialist Unity party (SED) in the Russian zone to Moscow. Both are dependent for such power as they have on the occupation authorities. Certainly the Social Democrats have more popular support than the SED, but they are well aware that if the occupation forces were withdrawn they would in all probability be swept from office. This is not a reflection on the integrity of the German Socialists, but a result of the identification of democracy in German eyes with subservience to the will of the conquerors.
In spite of its weak position German Social Democracy does not lack leaders who advocate a bolder course than that pursued by the Boeklers and Schmidts. There is a militant opposition which argues that effective direct action against both dismantlement and the conversion of the Ruhr into an Anglo-French colony, is possible; and that if the Socialists fail to fight for the rights of German labor and the German people, the Communists will take the lead. This militant wing of the German Socialist and trade-union move-
ment advocates mass strikes and demonstrations against dismantlement, believing that the British will not dare, at this stage, to crush the German working class by naked force, seeing that the only beneficiaries must be Communists.
Early in 1949 the militants appeared to be assuming the lead in the Ruhr, no doubt because the Communists had begun to take the lead in opposing dismantlement, and because the number of registered unemployed has risen to a million in the combined British and American zones.*
In Dortmund I visited an outstanding personality among the militant Socialist trade union leaders, who was in hospital after losing his right hand in a street accident a few days before. Herr Meyer had started life as a miner, been a trade-union organizer before Hitler came to power, and subsequently earned his living in such various occupations as a film company publicity agent, electric-bulb salesman and hotel manager, and had been both a soldier and a draftee in a glass plant during the war. But he looked like Beethoven. His massive torso, pale face, aquiline nose, generous mouth and massive forehead, shock of black hair streaked with grey, and burning black eyes made an unforgettable impression, and I was no less struck by his outspoken and fearless attitude, and the contrast between his views and the narrow sectarian Socialist attitude of such men as Boekler and Schmidt.
Meyer told me how, after being redrafted into the army, in spite of his age, in the last desperate weeks of the war, he had been taken prisoner by the Americans but had been lucky enough to be interrogated by a former trade-union colleague who had emigrated to the United States and become an American citizen. This friend of Weimar Republic days had at once released him, and he had thereupon joined up with his former trade-union chief, Boekler, in reconstituting the German trade-union movement.
Meyer did not, however, agree with Boekler in his present tactics. In the summer of 1948, when dismantlement on a big scale began in the British zone, he had proposed that the German trade unions, chambers of commerce and guilds of artisans, executives and owners of German factories, together with the Protestant and Catholic clergy, should all simultaneously go on strike and refuse all co-operation with the British Military Government.
Meyer's proposal, he told me, had been squashed by Boekler's
lieutenants who had said that Boekler did not want any disturbances or threats to mar the good results he expected from his talks in London and Paris. It was also probable that Boekler was averse to taking any action which involved forming a united front with "the capitalists" and the churches in defense of the whole German people.
Fritz Hentzler, the Socialist mayor of Dortmund, whom I interviewed the same day, although not a young man, was also a militant man of broad outlook. Like Ernst Reuter of Berlin he represented the interests of all his people, and was more concerned with human needs, freedom and justice than with "state ownership of the means of production and distribution." He shared none of the illusions of the Boeklers and Schmidts who like Rip Van Winkles in a changed world, continue to believe that the Socialists of other countries are as internationally minded as themselves.
Hentzler told me that the German trade-union leaders had at first refused to believe that a British Labour Government would ever deprive the German workers of their means of existence, and that the majority of German workers had accordingly never imagined that dismantlement on a big scale would actually be carried out. They had ascribed the outcry of the employers and executives as merely a capitalist or nationalist reaction against disarmament measures. Thus the trade unions in the Ruhr, voting to restrict their activities to particular objectives, refrained from causing difficulties for the British occupation forces. Later when the full effect of the planned dismantlement was becoming obvious, the German workers had been confident that the Marshall Plan meant that it would stop, and that a higher level of industry would be permitted to Germany. Having first vainly placed their trust in the British Labour Government, they were now looking for justice from capitalist America.
Hentzler and a few others had realized from the beginning that dismantling was a serious menace and had little hope that America would stop it. For, in his view, dismantlement on a big scale had been planned by the United States and Britain as the means to bring about an accord with France; and he thought that in 1948 they had promised to carry it through, whatever its cost and however disastrous the consequences to the German workers and the German democrats.
Hentzler also told me that when he had first spoken to General Robertson about the financial consequences, the British Military
Governor had been sympathetic but now was "ice cold." Evidently there was a firm Anglo-French-American agreement on steel, designed to destroy Germany's productive capacity and double French and Belgian production.
"Since antidemocratic and destructive are synonymous terms, the net result of dismantlement," said Hentzler, "is the 'demontage* of democracy.' "
"Every economic difficulty," he continued, "is a reflection on democracy and is welcomed by the Nazis and other extreme nationalists in Germany, as well as by the Communists."
The Ruhr is the center of Communist influence in Germany and the Communists take every possible advantage in their propaganda of the ruin brought about by dismantlement. They play upon nationalist sentiment almost as effectively as the Nazis did, proclaiming that dismantlement and the Anglo-American-French agreement on control of the Ruhr, are planned to turn Germany into a colony of slaves working for the profit of the Anglo-Saxon and French imperialists. Their propaganda contains sufficient truth for it to be effective. Seeing their Social-Democratic leaders failing to protect their livelihood and Germany's basic interests, the German workers would naturally follow the Communists, were it not for their firsthand experience of the Russian terror.
When I asked Hentzler how it was possible for any German to fall for Communist propaganda, since all knew or heard of the terrible treatment Germans received in Russia and in the Eastern zone, Hentzler smiled sadly and said :
"You underrate the stupidity of the masses. Roosevelt and Churchill were both hoodwinked by Stalin, so why shouldn't the German people be?"
He went on to tell me that some German nationalists believe today that they can rearm Germany with the help of the Soviets. "They are ready to be Russian mercenaries today in the hope of creating an independent Germany in the future."
As an example, Hentzler pointed to the case of Graf Einsiedel, Bismarck's grandson, who today plays an important role in Russia's "Free German" movement, because he wants to revert to his grandfather's policy of friendship with Russia.
I asked Hentzler whether he thought that such German nationalists really believed that Germany could regain her independence
by collaborating with Russia against the West, or whether they were preparing to betray the Russians when they got the chance. He replied : "People on the negative side are always more apt to unite than progressives."
I asked Hentzler if he thought that many former Nazis were now Communist collaborators, and he replied, "Very few with the idea of winning Germany for the Russians. A great many on the basis of the belief that they must win Russia's aid to rebuild Germany and free her from Western domination." He went on to point out that only a minority, such as the Nazis had been, was needed to swing a country. "The former high Nazis and many former Wehrmacht officers," he continued, "will never be satisfied with low positions. They long above all for a system in which they can once again occupy the seats of power."
Arnold, the president of North-Rhine Westphalia, whom I interviewed in Düsseldorf, drew my attention to the aid and comfort given to the German Communists by Bevin's reported statement to General Marshall that dismantlement in the Ruhr should be continued "on security grounds," since otherwise the Soviets might capture intact plants which could be put to their service.*
Naturally, he said, if it was expected that unarmed Germany would not be defended, but surrendered to the Russians in the event of war, many Germans would feel that there was no choice but to get on good terms with the Communists in advance.
"The anti-Communist sentiments of the Germans," said Arnold, "are good and strong." If only England and America would draw up an occupation statute giving the Germans freedom, self-government, and responsibility, there would be a solid basis for a democratic development. "Then," he continued, "we could speak to the East zone with a strong voice."
The effect of a declaration that dismantlement was to be stopped at once would have an electrifying effect on the Germans. "Germans are so ready to cooperate in European reconstruction," said Arnold, "that 'Europa über Alles' would then supplant 'Deutschland über Alles' † in German hearts."
It is easy to dismiss such statements as this as unworthy of belief and to argue that the Germans under the pretext of being good Europeans plan to dominate the Continent. Such distrust ignores
the "all or nothing" nature of the German character. Since they are inclined to pursue a line of policy to its logical conclusion, the Germans today, given the chance to utilize their brains, skills, and capacity for hard work in peaceful ways are perhaps more, not less, likely to become good Europeans than other nations with less singleness of purpose.
War propaganda has obscured the true facts of history, otherwise Americans might realize that the German record is no more aggressive, if as aggressive, as that of the French, British, and Dutch who conquered huge empires in Asia and Africa while the Germans stayed at home composing music, studying philosophy, and listening to their poets. Not so long ago the Germans were, in fact, among the most "peace-loving" peoples of the world and might become so again, given a world in which it is possible to live in peace.
Mistaken as the Boeklers of Germany may be in believing that concessions can be won from the Western powers by negotiation, their attitude proves the willingness of many Germans to trust to peaceful means to obtain their ends.
There is unfortunately little prospect that they will be able to do so. Again, as in pre-Hitler days, the German Social Democrats are between two fires. Twenty years ago they had to struggle against the Nazis on the one hand, and the Communists on the other. Today they are weakened in their struggle against the Communists by British and American Military Government.
"We are compelled to go softly in the Ruhr," I was told, "because there are strong Communist groups among the German workers, who interpret any action we take against dismantlement as opposition to the Western democracies."
The force of this remark had already been borne in on me by what I had read in the Russian-licensed press in Berlin, which inveighed against dismantlement in the Ruhr (though not of course in the Russian zone), and the treatment of Germany as a colony by the Western Powers. But it seemed to me that the German Social Democrats had no hope of maintaining their leadership of the workers, or any other Germans, if they were so afraid of seeming to be on the side of the Communists that they failed to lead Germany's struggle for national freedom and the right to work. This was notably the case with regard to the so-called internationalization of the Ruhr agreed upon by the British, French, and Americans early in 1949. This agreement provides for the permanent, or
long-term, control of Ruhr industries by Germany's conquerors with only a minority voice for the Germans in the disposal of the product of their labors. There is no question that it does, in fact, reduce the Ruhr to the status of a British Crown Colony under tripartite control. The leaders of German labor in the Ruhr, however, have seemed to display more interest in ensuring the appointment of their nominees as trustees of the Ruhr coal mines and iron and steel industries, than in opposing the virtual detachment of the Ruhr from the German economy.
So in January 1949 the Communists took advantage of the wonderful opportunity presented to them to pose as the champions of the conquered and oppressed German people. Max Reimann, the Communist leader in the Ruhr, struck a powerful blow for the Communist cause when he said in a public speech :
"German politicians who today co-operate with the occupation forces under the international Ruhr statute should not be surprised if they are considered quislings by the German nation. They may one day have to face reprisals."
The British hardly helped their Social-Democrat friends by arresting Max Reimann for this statement and turning him into a hero of the German resistance. The Communists turned his trial into a mass demonstration against the conversion of the Ruhr into an Anglo-French-American colony.
The crowd assembled by the Communists sang the "Internationale" so loudly during Reimann's trial that it forced a recess, and compelled the British public-safety officer, Colonel Pollock, to beg the Communist leader to calm the crowd and tell them to go away. Max Reimann was thereupon reported to have "smiled broadly" and answered, "I didn't call them here."
Finally German police dispersed the crowd, but when Reimann emerged from the court room he was carried for miles on the shoulders of cheering crowds. As a high British official is reported to have ruefully admitted : "It looks like the trial is backfiring. It has made the Communists the champions of all Germans who oppose the control given to the International Ruhr Authority over German coal, coke and steel."*
Reimann was nevertheless sent to prison by the British court on the charge of having broken a Military Government law against "interference with persons who give aid and sustenance to the oc-
cupying powers," that is, persons who collaborate with the conquerors. Nothing could have suited the Communists better. Their leader was now able to pose as the champion of the oppressed German nation. Anti-Communist German politicians were compelled to come to Reimann's defense. Kurt Schumacher, chairman of the German Social-Democratic party, stated that if the principle of "obedience" to Military Government was applied as a protection for German politicians, it would prove helpful to the Communist cause; and Heinrich Hellwege, chairman of the right-wing Deutsche Partei, declared that Reimann's conviction appeared to confirm the Communist charge that non-Communist German politicians were "performers of the will of the occupation power," and that those who openly criticized measures of the Western Powers were subject to punishment.
Subsequently Military Government officials reported privately that they were again having trouble in getting Germans to take responsible administration positions.*
Unfortunately for the democratic cause, when some German workers at Essen were arrested by the British for their refusal to dismantle the Bochum Iron and Steel Works, or to permit its being dismantled, there was no such powerful popular support for them as the Communists had organized for their leader, Max Reimann. They were sent to jail unheralded and unsung. Nor did the Social-Democrat trade-union leaders do anything effective to prevent the use of British troops to compel the Bochum workers to give way, after the British had announced, on January 5, 1949, that "there will be sufficient British troops standing by to insure that the job will start, and that if the Bochumer Verein workers try to interfere this time, we are prepared to take counter measures."
A year earlier, in January 1948, the Social-Democratic leaders in the British zone had been intimidated by the double threat of starvation and British tanks into preventing the general strike demanded by the rank and file. The Ruhr workers had been literally starving that winter of 1947-48 when for a long period the daily ration had been reduced to 800-900 calories, which is less than the Nazis gave their concentration camp victims. Finally the trade union leaders had been called into a conference by the Minister of Food of North-Rhine Westphalia and told that there were only 3,000 tons of fat in the whole Ruhr area. The question was whether
to divide it so as to give a four-week fat ration to the miners, on whose labors all industry depended, or to give each worker an ounce a month for two months.
The trade-union leaders had refused to decide this awful question. Then the Minister of Food, having referred the decision to the Economic Council at Frankfurt, was told that even the 3,000 tons did not exist—that in the whole of North-Rhine Westphalia there was only 460 tons of fat, which constituted a bare week's supply for the miners if no other Germans received any fat at all.
In this desperate situation an appeal was made to Bavaria, which came through and supplied some fats.
"If we had allowed a general strike as was demanded by a third of the Ruhr workers," one trade union official said to me, "the last possibility of acquiring fats would have been destroyed by the stoppage of transport."
"We told the workers the truth," he continued, "and asked them to continue working without any fat ration. We prevented riots believing that if they occurred, the British would have used tanks, and there was a real danger that the Russians would then have come as our 'liberators' from Anglo-American tyranny. Anything was preferable to that."
In that terrible month of January 1948 Boekler had told the British and American authorities that they had better use their troops to get food from the German peasants, rather than send their tanks against the Ruhr workers.
It was hard in the Ruhr to resist the conclusion that by their law-abiding nature, their pacifism, and the mixture of respect, trust, and fear with which they regarded the British Labour Government, the German Social Democrats had indeed made themselves appear to be quislings. As in the late twenties, they were losing popular support and preparing the way for their own demise.
If most of the Ruhr's trade-union and Social-Democratic leaders appeared to have learned no more than the Occupation Powers from the tragic history of the past thirty years, the same could not be said of other Social-Democratic leaders in Germany. In an earlier chapter I have spoken of the clear-sighted and courageous Berlin Socialists. The views of Carlo Schmidt, the Social-Democratic leader from the French zone, offered a similar contrast.
Carlo Schmidt is an outstanding personality. The son of a French mother and a German father, he combines Teutonic strength and determination with Gallic wit and fire, and love of
life and beauty. A poet, a philosopher, and a professor of international law, as well as an eloquent speaker, Carlo Schmidt is too well known in the European literary world, and too influential, for the French to dare imprison him. Lesser German "heroes of the resistance" against French tyranny are summarily disposed of by the Sûreté. But Carlo Schmidt, who ruled a French province during the days of the German occupation, and achieved an enviable reputation for justice and fair dealing and courage in protecting the French from the Gestapo, is a man who can neither be smeared nor easily repressed.
I met Carlo Schmidt first in October 1948 in Bonn, where he was a delegate to the Parliamentary council endeavoring to hammer out a Constitution for Western Germany. In late November I met him again in Berlin where he had come to help his Social-Democratic colleagues in the elections. On both occasions I was impressed, not only by his intelligence and understanding of the problems of our time, but also by his humanity and freedom from class, racial, or national prejudices. Like Ernst Reuter of Berlin, and unlike most of the Socialists I met in the Ruhr, Carlo Schmidt represents a new, nondoctrinaire, Socialist movement, which is more liberal than socialist, more concerned with the preservation of freedom and the basic values of Western civilization than with economic theories.
"If the Allies decide to let us live," Carlo Schmidt said to me in Bonn, "they must be reasonable, they must leave us the means to earn our bread. If not, they should announce that they intend us to die of hunger, and, if they are merciful, they should provide the necessary gas chambers for our painless extermination."
The least harm, he said, was being done by the Americans, who took account of economic realities. But the British were determined to wipe out German competition whatever the political and moral cost, while in the French zone destruction had been carried to such lengths that the exports of major industries had been wiped out, and there was no longer any possibility of self-support.
Carlo Schmidt thinks it is a mistake to believe that Communist propaganda in Germany today falls on deaf ears. "If the Germans are driven to despair," he said to me in French, "they will follow the Communists, if only with the hope that the others will also die like dogs."
Later, at a factory in the French zone, I was told that some of the workers were already saying, "Let the Russians come. What-
ever they do to us, we shall at least be able to cut the throats of the French first."
I had no reason to doubt the value of Carlo Schmidt's warning that the day might come when the masses would get out of control. Like other German democrats, he also told me that the day after victory the Western Allies could have done anything they liked with the Germans.
"America," he said, "was like Almighty God in those days. Had she known what she wanted and announced it, she could have shaped Germany and Europe to her will. Today this is no longer the case, not only on account of Soviet Russia, but because the Germans have been disillusioned by the wide gap between democratic pretensions and practices, and the vacillation, weakness, and contradictions in American policy."
When later in our conversation I commented on the contrast between the heroism of the Berlin Social Democrats and the weakness of their Western colleagues in dealing with British and United States Military Government, Carlo Schmidt said this was not due to the cowardice of the latter, but to bitter experience. In Berlin the Germans could look to American support, but in the Western zones they were alone and defenseless. Moreover, the fact that they realized that all open and strong criticisms of the Military Government played into the hands of the Communists, put them in an extremely difficult position.
In Berlin the German democrats had the Western democracies on their side; in the Western zones they had no support since they refused to accept the Communists as allies, or play off Russia against the West.
Nor could the German democrats in the Western zone count on having grievances and injustices remedied by publicity or appeals to the Congress of the United States and the British Parliament. The Germans have no government to speak for them. They are without rights and live in what is in many respects a vast internment camp. Very few Germans are allowed to travel abroad; foreign newspapers and books are generally unobtainable; their contacts with foreigners outside the Military Government are few, and they are not even informed about the debates in Congress on Germany, or given the official texts of documents, such as those relating to ECA, which most intimately concern them.
After fifteen years of semi-isolation under Hitler, the Germans under Western Military Government are still cut off from the free world outside.
At a meeting of Generals Clay and Robertson with German industrialists, officials, and trade-union leaders which I attended at Essen on October 2, 1948, I was astonished to hear neither Hans Boekler nor Arnold Schmidt speak up strongly against dismantlement. Here was a meeting open to the press of the world in which the Germans had had a rare opportunity to cry out loud and be heard. But only Kost, the representative of the coal owners, did more than give utterance to polite platitudes. When a few days later in Düsseldorf, I asked for an explanation from an official of the metal-trades union, he said :
"Boekler and the others have for so long had dealings only with the Military Government authorities that they didn't realize that for once they had an opportunity to speak to the outside world. We are rather like prisoners brought suddenly into the light of day, blinking and unable to believe we are free."
Nor are they free. Although the Germans are today allowed far greater freedom of speech than in the first years of the occupation, the press is still controlled, and any editor who publishes articles or comments reflecting the real opinions of the Germans is liable to be slapped down and told he is encouraging "nationalism." Even Americans are not exempt from this charge as was proved when Kendall Foss, the former correspondent of the New York Post who was made editor of the United States Military Government's newspaper, Die Neue Zeitung, in 1948, was reprimanded in January 1949 and placed under the supervision of three representatives of the Information Services Division. This action was taken by Colonel Textor as a means of assuring that "a strong American staff would control the editorial output of the paper."
Mr. Foss, who is that rara avis, a real liberal, had made the mistake of assuming that freedom of the press meant that a newspaper should be "a forum for the expression of German ideas." He learned, rather later than most Germans, that the "freedom" the United States Military Government allows means only the expression of opinion favorable to itself. Since Die Neue Zeitung is privileged with respect to paper allocation, communication, and transport facilities, it has a much larger circulation than other German-language newspapers. So the curbing of its freedom of expression was particularly harmful and its German editors resigned in protest.
With respect to freedom of speech and opinion, it would be more honest and less discreditable to democratic principle, to proclaim openly that such freedom is not permitted in Germany, than
to pretend that it exists. As one German said to me, "We should have more respect for America if she stopped preaching what she does not practice, since we now no longer have much hope of her practicing what she preaches."
The Germans are today a little better off than in the first years of the occupation, only because of the disagreements among their conquerors. While the Russian-licensed press exposes us, we expose the Russians; and Anglo-French-American antagonism makes it possible for British-licensed German newspapers to criticize the American Military Government, American-licensed papers to criticize the British, and the French to criticize both.
If the German people have been permitted to raise their heads again on account of the quarrels among their rulers, this right is not unquestioned. Every time the Germans dare to protest against their intolerable situation and claim the rights of free men, a spate of articles is let loose in the United States press concerning this dangerous manifestation of "nationalism."
An article published in the excellent and outspoken Wirtschaftszeitung of Stuttgart on January 29, 1949, concerning Allied complaints of German "arrogance" is very much to the point :
As long as the Germans were pulling their hand wagons and had no idea in their heads other than getting to the country to "organize rucksacks of potatoes," the Germans seemed more agreeable than today.
They were then too engulfed in misery, physically weak, and overwhelmed by the catastrophe which had befallen them and the revelation of the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime, to arise and plead their case. They were too discouraged and apathetic then to have much interest in the future. They grumbled, but they did what they were told.
But since they are now a little better off, they are becoming more active—perhaps sometimes even rebellious. Above all they are now industrious and filled with a pathetic desire to reconstruct their country.
The Allied occupation authorities, having permitted the Germans to be a little better off, are now surprised and indignant that there is no gratitude for the improvement. The Germans complain that there is insufficient improvement and demand more opportunity to develop their strength and have become "too bold."
One might say with some exaggeration that, as compared with the former apathy which prevailed, the smallest expression of the will to live on the part of the Germans is now regarded as "arrogance."
Not only is the German press under military government still kept in a strait-jacket; the Germans are not allowed any direct
communication with the outside world, or any press representation abroad, so they are entirely dependent on American, British, and French correspondents for the expression of their grievances, which are therefore rarely brought to the attention of their conquerors.
Officially the Germans may have no communication with any authority outside and above the Military Government.
As one German Social Democrat said to me : "The American people are far away but General Clay is very near. We have little faith in the effectiveness of the principles and good will of the American people, as against the power of General Clay. Since General Clay is badly advised, especially on economic questions, we have more reason to fear him than to trust to the good will of the American people."
When at a meeting of the Minister Presidents of all the German states, one bold German proposed to address an appeal direct to Congress on the dismantlement question, begging for help, the majority voted against the proposal saying that the result was uncertain and it would anger the American occupation forces.
"Hoffman does not exist for us," said Carlo Schmidt. "The ECA people will have to come to us, for we are not allowed to communicate with them."
It caused much resentment that the Military Government should use the situation of the Berliners as a means to blackmail the Western German democrats. In effect, the Germans were told on more than one occasion that protests against dismantlement might result in the starvation of Berlin. The threat was, of course, made in more veiled terms. The German authorities in the Western zones were told that if American, British, or French people were antagonized by active opposition to dismantlement, it might be impossible for the Military Government to obtain the means to supply and hold Berlin.
This seems to the Germans not only a denial of the unity of interests between the Western powers and the German democrats in face of Soviet aggression and Communist crimes against humanity. It also recalled the early days of the occupation when the Americans had not scrupled to coerce individual Germans by the threat of handing them over to the tender mercies of the Russians. To hint that Berlin might have to be surrendered to the Communist terror, if the Germans of the Western zone refused to submit quietly to the loss of their livelihood through dismantlement, was both dishonorable and politically stupid.
While in Germany I was often reminded of the story told by a
South American ambassador to a New York audience. I cannot vouch for its authenticity but it illustrates my point.
The Foreign Minister of San Marino, the story ran, came to Washington to try to get a loan. At the State Department the first question put to him was : How many Communists are there in San Marino? The diplomat answered that San Marino was a very small state and a happy one and had no Communists. "Very sorry," said the State Department; "in that case we can't give you a loan."
So the Foreign Minister of San Marino went to Paris, and said to Monsieur Bidault, the Foreign Minister : "France and San Marino have always been friends, would you do us a favor and lend us a few Communists in order that we may get a loan from America?"
"I regret it exceedingly." replied Monsieur Bidault. "I would be delighted to help the good people of San Marino if I could. But unfortunately we cannot spare you a single one of our Communists since we need them all for the same purpose."
The sequel to this story provides the moral. Today the Republic of San Marino has a Communist-dominated government.
If there had been a strong Communist movement in Germany, as in Italy, the Germans would be receiving far better treatment at our hands. The great majority of Germans, having met communism in Russia face to face, or having suffered under it following Germany's defeat, or having relatives in the Soviet Union's concentration camps, or having seen the living skeletons of the former soldiers who return from Russian imprisonment, or being immune to Communist blandishments on account of their experiences under Hitler's similar regime, are anti-Communist. This has led the British, French, and American authorities to believe that however badly we treat the Germans they must take our side. We seem to act on the theory that we should bribe those whom we fear may become our enemies, while we can safely maltreat those most certain to be on our side.
Thus the Germans who, for good or ill, are a consistent and straightforward people, suffer today in consequence of the belief that, however hardly we treat them, they will never join our Communist enemies.
While seeking by endless subsidies to maintain the weak forces of French democracy, we insult and browbeat the German democrats, and cut the ground from under their feet by appeasing France, as we formerly appeased Soviet Russia. It is therefore
hardly surprising that Communist influence in the Western zones is far from being negligible. Although very few Germans have any illusions about Communism, a considerable number are beginning to think that "it couldn't be worse" under the Russians, and that perhaps in the long run it might be better. A more powerful incentive to coming to terms with the Soviet Government is the refusal of the West either to guarantee Germany's defense or allow her to defend herself.
A former high German administrative official under the United States Military Government said to me in Munich : "If the Germans continue to be told that the United States is only concerned with the defense of France, England, and the Low Countries, and doesn't care a damn what happens to Germany, Western Germany may be forced to join up with Soviet Russia."
A young German employed by the Military Government in Munich said that more and more Bavarians were saying : "If after being disarmed by the United States we are also going to be abandoned in the event of war, we had better not offend Russia."
This same young man told me that he was reproached by everyone, including people who had always been anti-Nazi, for working for the Military Government, so complete is the disillusionment with America among liberal circles which had first welcomed us as liberators.
Moreover, he said, it was considered very dangerous now to work for the Military Government, since anyone who did so could expect to be liquidated "when the Russians come."
"Everyone is now looking for a Communist friend who will protect him, and wants to be able to say to the Russians. 'I never collaborated with the Americans.' Factory owners who refuse contributions to the other parties give money to the Communist Party as a form of insurance."
Dr. Mauritz, a German working in the Public Opinion Section of Military Government, said that the uncertainty of United States policy and the fear that Germany would be left defenseless before Russian attack played into the hands of the Communists. American Military Intelligence, however, seemed to ignore the danger because it took the election returns as proof of the small number of Communist sympathizers. It ignored the fear and the desperate search for security which led men to try and establish "good relations" with the Communists.
"Men who have lived through both the Nazi terror and the
Communist terror and have come here after losing everything they possessed," said Dr. Mauritz, "are now in deadly fear that the Russians will come, and are seeking for any kind of security."
Some, he continued, think that they can win only with the Communist Party, not against it. Others, whose houses and furniture have been taken from them for the use of the occupiers, or who have been rendered destitute by currency reform, say : "The Americans have stripped us of everything we possessed; what more can Russia do to us?"
These sentiments were not confined to the former middle classes who are now paupers. They were also expressed to me by a considerable number of workers. At Lindau on Lake Constance, for instance, where the train on which I was re-entering Germany from Switzerland stopped for an hour, I spoke to some of the men working on the railway. When I asked how people felt here about Russia, one of them shrugged his shoulders and said, "What can they do to me? I have nothing more to lose."
The feeling that there is no hope on either side, is reviving the belief that "only a strong man can save us." Whereas the Nazis were utterly discredited by the end of the war, many Germans now think that, after all, Hitler was right. The success of Military Government in creating Nazis, is illustrated by the joke about the German who came to the denazification office to register as a Nazi. "Why the h-- didn't you come three years ago?" he is asked. "I wasn't a Nazi then," he replied.
After spending a few weeks in Bavaria, I could appreciate the force of Carlo Schmidt's speech at a Social-Democratic party meeting in Berlin which I attended on November 27, 1948. He said that thousands of marks had been collected in Bavaria for the Communist Party by people who were "laying in stocks of Persil* for the next cleaning." People who were preparing for any eventuality were trying secretly to insure themselves against a Communist victory while voting for "reaction," meaning the Christian-Democratic party (CDU)
"I wish," Carlo Schmidt said, "that I could take some of the strength of Berlin back with me to the West. In the Western zones—where, as compared to the East, we enjoy some freedom and peace—there is defeatism. The future seems to offer us nothing but suffering, and hope is almost dead. But here in Berlin you are show-
ing that we Germans can still make history as well as suffer—here a glorious chapter is being written in the record of man's struggle for freedom. The Berliners are showing the world how a brave people can behave in defeat under alien occupation."
"The German name," he continued, "has been rehabilitated in Berlin. It is honored once more. We have only Berlin to thank for the fact that there is today some sympathy for the German people.
"We in the Western zones are sending you a few calories, but we are receiving from you something infinitely more precious : our moral calories come to us from Berlin. We owe it to you that Germany has regained its self-respect, and that we can hope that at last Germans will again be at home in their own country."
The hall was icy cold, unheated except for the body warmth of the thousands assembled. Carlo Schmidt had fired them; Ernst Reuter, who spoke next, evoked a warmth of affection which few democratic leaders in the world today can inspire. Looking like a sad sea lion, in his overcoat and with a muffler around his neck, hoarse and tired and with a bad cold, Reuter spoke to the crowd as their elected mayor rather than as a leader of the Social-Democratic party. Schmidt had spoken against the Christian-Democratic party in the Western zones, although he had been careful to distinguish between the Berlin Christian Democrats fighting together with the SPD for liberty, and the Bavarian CDU leaders whom he called "hard-faced men" who "mean money when they speak of God." But the only part of Reuter's speech which could be construed as Socialist appeal was also a plea for unity. "Adenauer."* he said, "is a foreigner to Berlin which he does not visit. He lives on the lovely Rhine, but he should remember that Berlin is also German and that the Rhine belongs to us too."
"The Communists," continued Reuter, "will never win power if the Germans remain united against them."
Carlo Schmidt had appealed to the Berliners to "free us of the West" from the domination of the reactionaries who "deny the right of the masses to be a subject instead of an object in the economic process." The people, he had said, see no value in democracy if it means that they have to "endure despotism in the factories six days a week, and become free men only once in every four years when sticking a paper in the ballot box."
Reuter, however, addressed this Socialist meeting in much the
same terms as I had heard him speak to the hundreds of thousands of Germans of all parties assembled outside the Reichstag in September.
"We are the only people in Europe still forced to live in war conditions," said Reuter. "We cannot rebuild our besieged city; we still live in fear and deprived of the possibility to work and reconstruct our devastated homes."
And again, as on every occasion on which I heard him speak, Reuter insisted : "We are not enemies of the Russian people. We are fighting against the policy of the Soviet occupation power."
"We cannot help it that our women will never forget what happened to them at the hands of the Russian soldiers." Reuter continued, "but we are haters of no people, race, or nation."
Both speakers emphasized Berlin's position as the capital of Germany, and Schmidt assured the Berliners that the Germans of the Western zones would insist on Berlin's being represented in the Parliament of Western Germany.
I did not meet Kurt Schumacher, the chairman of the SPD, who was in the hospital recovering from the amputation of a leg while I was in Germany. So Ernst Reuter and Carlo Schmidt are the two outstanding Social-Democratic leaders I got to know. I cannot say which is the greater man of the two, since their experience and the problems they face today are so dissimilar. Reuter spent the war years in exile in Turkey; Schmidt was an officer in the German Army, although never a Nazi. Reuter is leading the German resistance in Berlin against Communism with some Anglo-American support. Schmidt is fighting a battle on two fronts : against Communism and against the Western Military Governments which still treat the Germans as unworthy of the rights of free men.
Both men are brave, sincere, and unflinching in their defense of democracy. Both are physically strong and dynamic personalities. Reuter, the Prussian who used to be a professor, and Schmidt the poet who was a soldier, are at one in their repudiation of the narrow, doctrinaire socialism of the past. The basic aims and values of both men are primarily liberal. They have both assimilated the experience of the past decades and understand, far better than most Western Labour and Socialist leaders, that the economic organization of society is secondary to the preservation of basic liberties, justice, respect for the dignity of man, honor and truthfulness and fair-dealing between men and groups and nations. They are also realists who refuse to accept words for deeds, and know that all the
fine proclamations of the United Nations mean nothing, if denied by actions contrary to the principles professed by the democracies.
As I sat listening to Reuter in my seat next to his wife, I sensed her fears as well as her love and pride. Few others have thus defied Soviet terror at close quarters and escaped death. Frau Reuter lives in perpetual fear that the Russians will murder, or kidnap and execute, her brave husband. She also had good reason to dread that his health will break, since he never spares himself and works night and day without sufficient good food, for the Western occupying powers, unlike the Soviets, give no material aid to those who fight our battles.
Three months earlier I had sat with the Reuters in the little garden of their house in Zehlendorf, where in his "spare time" Ernst cultivates his vegetables like any other Berliner lucky enough to have a small plot of land to produce some food to supplement their inadequate rations.
We had discussed the chances of continuing American support of German democracy, and I had expressed my horror and disgust of the conqueror versus conquered attitude of the British and Americans in Berlin, which reminded me of the behavior of the "whites" toward Asiatic and African peoples. Reuter had replied that all that was "your business," not his. He had made me understand, without precisely saying so, that just as he, like all Germans had to suffer the consequences of Nazi crimes, so we in the West would similarly be held responsible before the bar of history for our government's "crimes against humanity" in defeated Germany. It was our affair, not his. He was concerned with Germany's present fight for freedom against the Communist totalitarian tyranny which threatened to supplant Hitler's.
Reuter told me that it was he who had first formulated the slogan "Berlin is not Prague." He was expressing the feeling of the Berliners that if they could stand firm, in spite of hunger and cold and Communist terror, they would eventually be able to win freedom and "make it impossible for the West any longer to treat us as natives."
The world, having seen the fall of Czechoslovakia without a struggle, had merely watched and said, "Who will be the next victim of Communist aggression?" But Berlin had shown that even an unarmed people, given the will and courage to resist, could withstand the Communist assault.
Reuter was amused, instead of bitter, about the British. While
not at all flattering in his remarks about the United States occupation authorities, he said that the Americans were less self-confident, more curious and somewhat more human in their contacts with the Germans than the British, who are "the real master race." Conversations with the Americans in Berlin were "possible"; although he and other Germans were still treated as underlings, they could at least discuss with the Americans the situation caused by the blockade. But the British continued to be "stiff." The British knew their business and made fewer mistakes than the Americans, but the latter at least behaved as human beings. The behavior of British officers, on the contrary, seemed similar to that of the stiff-necked German officials who respected nothing but force.
One day, Reuter said, he had got really angry with the British and told them that he would no longer obey their orders unless they changed their attitude. "Tell your general," he had said, "that he can expect complete disintegration of the administrative machinery." The result of this defiance was a call to visit the British general in command.
"Is it true," Reuter was asked, "that you have said you will no longer obey us."
"If the situation continues as at present, I cannot obey," Reuter replied.
The British general thereupon smiled and terminated the interview. He had wanted to make it clear that the Germans must obey under any circumstances. Confronted with a blunt refusal, he had climbed down.
The Communist menace had forced the Western Powers to start treating the Germans with more politeness. After the Soviet blockade of Berlin began, both the American and British representatives in the Allied Kommandatura had actually got up when the German representatives arrived.
Reuter was convinced that the Social-Democratic party's majority in Berlin had been won through the confidence engendered by its behavior. Eventually this confidence would enable it to become the leading party in Germany as a whole, and thus enable it to carry out its economic and social program. But, he said, "we shall never try to establish a socialist economy by force. We shall endeavor to lead Germany to socialism, but not to force it upon our people. We don't think of economic problems in the old terms.
So many things formerly believed impossible have been proved possible; and so many simple solutions have proved fallible. We
are no longer doctrinaire Socialists, for according to theoretical writings we all ought to be dead. We know, from our terrible experiences, that reliance on absolute theories can lead us to ruin; we must experiment and judge by trial and error what are the best forms of economic organization, but always conceiving of freedom and respect for individual rights, justice, and human dignity as the criteria of progress."
It had been warm and peaceful in Reuter's garden, and he had stilled my fears that Western civilization was doomed, by his calm and confident belief that in the end right and decency and reason would triumph. Afterwards, in the Western zones, it had been far harder to believe in the victory of democracy than in Berlin. In the West instead of the sound of American planes flying in supplies to defend democracy, there was the sight of factories being torn down to discredit it.
How long would German fears of the Communist terror prevent their coming to terms with the Russians if we continue to demonstrate that there is no hope for Germany on our side?
In Berlin no one is ever likely to forget the murder and rape and pillage of the Russian occupiers when they held the whole town, and everyone knows what is going on now in the Eastern zone. But in the Western zones they are mainly concerned with their own grievances under Western occupation.
One of the German Defense Counsel at Nuremberg who has a French wife and lives on Lake Constance under French occupation, said to me :
"Russia could create a powerful pro-Russian movement in Germany in a few weeks, if she would give even the smallest practical proof of good will in deeds, instead of words. She would only have to offer to give back our lost territories and give us a national government. The Russians have this chance to play on German patriotism while the Americans haven't. Moreover, the Americans want us to have no patriotic feelings at all.
"Although almost all Germans are anti-Communist and terrified of what the Communists would do to them, if the Russians came with patriotic slogans and ceased to use the German Communists, they would be wonderfully successful.
"Most Germans would think twice before becoming soldiers of America. Not only is there little faith left in your democratic professions after the way you have treated us. The very fact that we still recognize that you are more humane and civilized than the
Russians plays into their hands. Having little confidence that America will defend Germany or win the war quickly, it seems safer to go along with the Russians who will kill everyone who opposes them if they occupy Germany. We know, on the other hand, that those who fight for Russia won't all be killed after America's victory.
"Since the West offers us nothing to fight for and we have no illusions left about anybody or any political creed, don't expect us to think nowadays about anything but our personal security. Having been both Nazified and denazified with equal disregard for justice and honesty, and having also observed America's benevolent attitude toward the Communists so long as it suited her interests, we Germans are today disinclined to believe anything or fight for anybody."
This young German lawyer, although anti-Communist, had conceived a great affection and respect for the Russian people while on the Russian front in the early stages of the war. He had marched on foot from the Polish frontier to the Sea of Azov and been very much moved and impressed by the kindness of the people and the virtue of the women. When the German soldiers arrived footsore, hungry, and weary at the end of a long day's march the villagers would come with milk and make them comfortable.
"Their instinct was to help the suffering because they themselves have suffered all their lives. Yet the women who tended to us were extremely virtuous. They were friendly, but they would have no sexual intercourse with us. They were human beings helping other human beings and unconcerned with national hatreds and passions."
"Coming from Nazi Germany where everything was action, it made a tremendous impression on me to come to Russia where suffering is constant and borne with passive courage. Many of us who were soldiers in Russia now feel that we have more to learn from Russia than from the West.
"By being so active and working hard, we Germans have made the whole world unhappy. Our greatest need is to develop our contemplative faculties, and here we can learn much from the Russian people.
"We Germans are always either too hostile or too friendly to other people, whereas the Russians take people as individuals, and know that principles are just principles, and that it is human be-
havior which counts. We ask, What has he done, but the Russian people ask, What kind of a man is he?"
This is a romantic view. But there is no doubt that many Germans feel sympathy for the Russian people, who are as miserable, oppressed, and poor as themselves.
A few of the returned prisoners of war I talked to in Germany, without having any such philosophical concepts as those I have just quoted, felt friendly toward the Russians who had suffered as much or more as themselves. And down in Munich where I met a whole group of Russians who had been prisoners of war or "slave laborers" in Germany, I found a reciprocal friendliness toward the German people. The maxim that suffering makes all men brothers may yet bring the Germans and Russians together against the rich, comfortable, and complacent West. The Germans and Russians are held apart only by the cruelty and stupidities of the Soviet Government. Should the latter be able or willing to reverse its policies, I have no doubt that it is true that Russia could win immense influence in Germany. Fortunately for the Western world the crimes and follies of the Soviet dictator are greater even than ours. Nevertheless our belief that however badly we treat the Germans they must remain on our side, is a dangerous delusion.
The fact that the United States Military Government has its headquarters in Berlin probably gives it an unduly optimistic view of German sentiments. As a well-known German politician in Bavaria said to me : "The sentiments of the Berlin population are quite different from those of the Germans in the Western zones. Not only do the Berliners know better what to expect from Russia : they are also terrified at the prospect of the revenge the Soviet Government will exact if Berlin is abandoned by the West. But in the Western zones where the people have experienced only the injustices perpetrated by America, Britain, and France, and where there has been no such strong opposition to Communism as in Berlin, the people are less afraid of Russia."
Back to table of contents
To the next chapter
To the previous chapter
Back to archive