How Not to Teach Democracy
THE BEHAVIOR PATTERN SET FOR AMERICAN SOLDIERS AND CIVILIAN in Germany is perhaps no ess important than our economic l pol- icies and repudiation of democratic legal principles, in convincing the Germans that the United States Military Government and the Nazis have much in common.
I have already referred to the behavior of the Western Powers toward “the natives” in Berlin, but it is in the Western zones that the contrast between our actions and our much-boasted democratic principles is most grotesquely displayed. It seemed that the further away the Russians were, the greater the contempt displayed for democracy by the United States and British occupation forces.
It was therefore fitting, however depressing, to find that in Nu- remberg, where Hitler first promulgated his racial laws, our Jim Crow regulations should be most in evidence.
Lest any person of inferior race should dare to pass the portals of the Grand Hotel, which we have taken over for our exclusive use, notices have been posted outside forbidding the entry of Ger- mans, DP’s and dogs. “Anyone violating the above,” it is written, “wi ll be booked by the Military Police for proper disciplinary action.”
Recently a line has been added in small red letters at the bottom, saying that it is possible to obtain a guest card admitting Germans and displaced persons by applying to the officer on duty at the billeting office further along the street. However, any German per- mitted to enter the hotel by special dispensation is continually re- minded of his inferior status. On the wine list in the bar, for in- stance, there is a printed list of instructions concerning the correct
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behavior of Americans toward what Kipling called “the lesser breeds without the law.”
In the Nuremberg-Furth Military Post Officers Club and bars, it is written,
We Do not :
(1) Bring Germans or DP’s as guests.
(2) Tip or become familiar with any of the help.
Paragraphs 3 to 8 of this guide for the proper behavior of Ameri- can officers include the recommendation that they should not gamble, bring in bottles, cut in on people they do not know, dance boisterously, or order an excessive number of drinks. Positive as well as negative instructions are included:
“We do wear class A uniform or the equivalent (coat and tie) and we do believe that a man can drink and enjoy himself and still remain a gentleman.”
Kipling in the days when the British bore “the white man’s bur - den” could hardly have done better than the Nuremberg military authorities who were endeavoring to teach American officers the correct behavior of officers and gentlemen in a colonial country.
The Grand Hotel faces toward the ruins of the beautiful medi- eval city which our bombs have utterly destroyed. Many centuries have passed since Hans Sachs sang, and the memory of the Meister- singer is preserved only in a restaurant in the modern part of the city which our bombs left partly standing. But Wagner lived at time when Americans believed in liberty, equality, and fraternity, and would have been horrified at the notice outside the Grand Hotel.
Could any satirist imagine a greater contrast between the Statue of Liberty and its welcome to the poor, starved, and oppressed, and the commands now given to Americans to avoid contact with the wretched of the earth?
I saw no such notices outside the hotels and clubs of the British occupation forces in Germany. This is presumably because the British, with their centuries-old experience in ruling over subject peoples, do not need to be told how to behave in a conquered country.
Americans are far less at ease in a colonial country such as Ger- many has become. While retaining the privileges of a master race they have lowered the barriers to social intercourse with “the
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natives” in many places. At the PX cafeterias, in the press clubs and in the hotels reserved for visiting businessmen, Congressmen, VIP’s and other transients, Ge rmans are admitted as guests, al- though not allowed to sleep there. But the British, even in Berlin and Frankfurt, still exclude all Germans from the clubs, hotels, bars, and restaurants they have requisitioned. British journalists, wishing to entertain erman guests, have to resort to the AmericanG press clubs, whose only restriction is the necessity to pay for food and drink in dollar scrip.
The British also go even further than the Americans in their washroom regulations. At the Bizonia Coal Commission ead- quarters in the Krupps’ villa in Essen, I was not sure whether I had any right to use the lavatory labeled “For the use only of English ladies.”
The United States Military Government, as I have already noted in my account of Berlin, also has separate washrooms for American and “indigenous personnel,” but the notices in American offices say nothing about “ladies” and “gentlemen.” I am being a bit un - fair to the British here, since all lavatories in England are labeled “Ladies” or “Gentlemen,” not “Men” and “Women.” But in Ger - many the prefix “English” makes the British Military Govern - ment’s notices look excessively insular and absurd.
The more liberal members of the United States and British oc- cupation forces explain these particular Jim Crow regulations as due to the fact that toilet paper and soap are so scarce that if Ger- mans were admitted to the same washrooms as their conquerors, there would not be enough of these supplies to go around. They do not seem to realize that it is a shameful reflection on us that four years after the end of the war we do not let the Germans, who have a passion for cleanliness, manufacture enough soap and paper to provide for their minimum needs. We have allowed the British to dismantle the largest soap factory in Germany, the Hänckel Works at Düsseldorf, and German wood has been exported for the profit of the British and French.
Germans working for the Military Government are, of course, also restricted to different eating places and provided with food much inferior to that provided for United States personnel. This in itself can be justified on grounds of economy and the fact that American occupation currency has to be used to buy the good food in our restaurants, most of which is brought from the United States. The unpleasant thing about our treatment of the Germans work-
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ing with us is the way the meals they buy for marks are served to them. Even highly qualified German employees or advisers of the Military Government had their food served out to them as if they were prisoners.
If our discrimination against the Germans were due only to the belief that, as conquerors, we have a right to enjoy all the material comforts of life, to live in spacious and warm apartments or houses, have plenty of hot water and soap, better food and more personal service than at home, while the Germans are crowded two or three to a room or cellar without the necessities as well as the amenities of life, the Germans would consider this natural, although hardly democratic. But we add insult o injury by our race segregation t regulations.
Many picture theaters as well as clubs and hotels are reserved for Allied personnel. In Frankfurt there are three kinds of street cars: Those for Allied personnel, those for “indigenous personnel” work - ing for us, and a third for the mass of the German population. All the first-class, and most of the second-class carriages on the trains are reserved for the master races, and are usually half empty, while the Germans travel in the overcrowded third-class coaches. When, as rarely happens, we permit a German to travel on a plane, he is not allowed any food. All eating places at the airports are forbidden him.
Anti-Nazi Germans returning from exile abroad receive the same treatment as all others. Dr. Alexander Boeker, a former Rhodes scholar who has lived as an exile in the United States for many years, told me how when visiting Germany in the summer of 1948, he had been dumped in the street with his baggage when he ar- rived at Frankfurt from the airport, and had been unable to get a room in a hotel for the night although he had dollars with which to pay for his accommodations, simply because he is a German. He also told me of his annoyance in Wiesbaden when he found him- self debarred from using the swimming pool, he tennis courts, and t his favorite café, and found the outdoor dancing place which he had frequented in the past converted into a parking lot for military vehicles.
German youth today is denied simple pleasures and normal rec- reation by our sequestration of so many sport places, cinemas, cafés and dance halls. Instead of releasing more accommodations for German use as our occupation forces have dwindled, we seem to have requisitioned more and more of the places of entertainment
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which survived the air raids. In Munich, for instance, during the first year of occupation we had shut the Germans out of only two of the four popular restaurants fronting on the Englischer Garten. In the second year we took over another, and in 1948 we requisi- tioned the last of them.
Later I give some details of occupation costs, and the manner in which the Western Powers have unnecessarily deprived the Ger- mans of housing space. For the moment I am concerned, in par- ticular, with the racial bias we have displayed. Why should not Germans play tennis on the same courts or swim in the same pools as Americans, or listen to music and watch movies in our company? If we ever seriously meant to teach them democracy and show them how wrong Nazi race prejudices were, we have certainly shown a strange way to set about it.
No doubt, we had some vague idea that sending the Germans to Coventry would “learn ’em.” In fact, all we have taught them is that there is little to choose between Anglo-American Military Gov- ernment and Nazi government. In fact, the Wehrmacht in France, Holland and Belgium seems to have behaved better in many re- spects than we do.
I remember one young German, who had been in occupied France, saying to me, “When I was a soldier in France, I never had a chance to enjoy life and kick other people around as you do. We were strictly disciplined and told to be polite and considerate to the French; we lived with them in their houses, and did not throw them into the gutter as you do us. We have learned our lesson though; if there is ever a next time you have taught us Germans what is permitted to a conqueror.”
Other Germans, less cynical and bitter, took pride in the fact that they still corresponded with the French families they had lived with during the occupation, and just thought us silly to stir up un- necessary resentment and hatred.
For the past two years or so we have gradually been abandoning the idea that the way to teach democracy to the Germans is to punish them for the sins of the Nazis by ourselves behaving as ruthlessly, unchivalrously, and with as little regard for democratic and Christian principles as Hitler’s bullies. Nevertheless, the old “hate the Germans and kick them in the teeth” propaganda and indoctrination still colors our thinking and our actions.
GI’s fi nd ways to make friends with German families as well as to pick up “Fräuleins,” but United States officers and civilians
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have little social intercourse with the conquered people. Many of them are quite satisfied to live after the fashion of the British in India when they ruled there. Military Government officials who have brought out their families can enjoy home life, and be satis- fied with the narrow social intercourse provided by mixing only with Americans and with the British and French. But the pilots of the air lift and many a young American officer would be far hap- pier if billeted on German families, and provided with a little of the comforts of home and an opportunity to enjoy social inter- course with decent Germans, instead of being restricted to clandes- tine “affairs” with such girls as they can pick up on the streets. This was brought home to me by a talk I had with the pilot of the plane flying me to Berlin on the air lift late in the evening of Thanksgiv- ing Day. He came from Chicago, and he talked a lot because, as he said, it was their loneliness in Germany which was the hardest thing to bear for the Air Force pilots whose life consists only of flying, sleeping, and eating. “I have a wife and two kids at home,” he said, “whom I hope to ge t back to soon. I don’t want a love affair with a Fräulein, and I can’t afford to go out with an Ameri - can girl in my liberty hours, for American women want you to spend too much money.”
Then he went on to tell me that he had had the luck a few days before to get acquainted with a nice German girl who had taken him to her house. He had suggested taking her out to a meal and a movie but she had seen he was very tired, and had put him to rest on the family sofa listening to music. He had gone to sleep and woke up to find a rug over him and the light dimmed. He had been touched and grateful and only wished that he were allowed to live with a German family instead of being segregated in an ex- clusive American billet.
It is indeed a curious fact that United States policy fosters prosti- tution and makes normal decent social intercourse almost out of the question for the occupation forces. After World War I, the United States and Britain observed international law and billeted their officers and soldiers in German families in the towns we then occupied in the Rhineland. But this time, wishing to punish the whole German people and prevent our soldiers from being con- taminated by contact with an accursed people, we threw the Ger- mans out of the houses we requisitioned instead of letting them occupy a part of their old homes.
This practice, which still continues, was not only particularly
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brutal in view of the bombing which had destroyed so many houses in almost every German town. It also penalized our own soldiers.
Officers and civilian officials on permanent duty in Germany, in- stalled in emptied German houses, with German servants hired to attend to all their wants, and with their social needs cared for by intercourse among themselves, enjoyed more comforts than at home. But the GI’s, and also the pilots doing temporary duty on the air lift, are deprived of the homelike comforts they might other- wise have enjoyed in their leisure hours. They are permitted to pick up girls on the streets, but they are carefully xcluded from the society of respectable German families. Some of them, of course, break through the Jim Crow barriers, and some of the girls they pick up are no worse than those they knew in their home towns would be if driven by the drab misery and hopelessness of their starved lives in cellars and bombed-out buildings to seek a substi- tute for love, or some food and a few hours enjoyment of light and warmth at movies or other entertainment.
The fact that many German girls, casually met, win the real love and affection of American soldiers and marry them is a tribute to the qualities of German women, not a reflection on the American GI.
Many of the latter have displayed the best qualities of the Amer- ican tradition in helping children, giving food to the old and weak, and in general helping whole families to exist, without thought of personal advantage. Others, of course, take advantage of their posi- tion as conquerors to take everything and give nothing, accumulate small fortunes by exploiting the acute want of soap, cigarettes, candy and other “luxuries” which can only be bought in the PX stores for American money, and can be disposed of at a huge profit on the black market.
By 1948 it was no longer easy for every American soldier and civilian to make his fortune by importing cigarettes and coffee and exchanging them for silverware and precious china, furs, heirlooms, cameras, and anything else the Germans had left to exchange, but it was still easy for the clever and unscrupulous to trade on the black market. It was quite usual to see huge consignments of coffee arriving at the Frankfurt Press Center for correspondents who knew how to sell what had cost them one mark a pound at the official rate of exchange for fifteen marks a pound. They might use the marks to pay their servants or to dine in German restaurants, or they could buy the German luxury goods which had appeared
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in the shops since currency reform. Without joining the big rack- eteers engaged in shipping abroad via the French zone large quan- tities of German goods needed on the home market, many Ameri- cans still did their bit to undermine the value of the new currency, stimulate inflation, and deprive the German workers of the neces- sities of life.
Although German women can no longer be hired for a carton of cigarettes or some food now that famine conditions no longer pre- vail, labor is still the cheapest thing in Germany. So Army wives and those of civilians who would do their own work and look after their own children back home in the States have servants to attend to all their wants so long as their husbands work for the Military Government. Some few take an interest in the condition of the German people and organize charities, but for many of them bar- gain hunting is the favorite pastime. The remark I heard one eve- ning in the Bar of the Grand Hotel at Nuremberg was typical of many conversations among the women of the occupation forces. “My dear!” said a shrill voice rising above the din, “You can get wonderful Madonnas there for a carton.”
The contrast between America’s desire to teach the Germans to be democratic and the undemocratic treatment they receive at our hands was strikingly illustrated as late as the spring of 1949, when a group of German women was brought over to the United States as “the guests of the Military Government” to study American democratic institutions under the direction of the Carrie Chapman Catt Foundation. The indignities, abuses, privations, and discom- forts these women suffered before they arrived in the United States might well have disgusted them with “democracy” for the rest of their lives.
Nora Melle, whom I have already mentioned in my chapter on Berlin, was one of them. She told me in Washington in April 1949 how she was first unable to get her visa to come to America, be- cause the United States consul in Berlin refused to issue it until she could pay ten dollars, which she neither had nor was permitted to possess, since no Germans are allowed to own United States cur- rency. Finally a Military Government official paid the ten dollars out of his own pocket.
When she went to get her ticket as instructed, she was told she could not have it till the date of her departure was known. Finally
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at 9:00 o’clock one morning she was told that she must be at the airport at 11:00 a.m., but must first collect her ticket in another part of Berlin. No transport was provided for her, but she managed somehow to get to the airport on time, only to be told she must wait until evening. When she asked if she might eat something, she was told, “No. No Germans are allowed in the airport restau - rant.” When she begged to be allowed to telephone to her husband to bring her some food, she was told Germans were not allowed to use the telephone. Nor was she allowed to leave the airport.
When she arrived at the Rhine-Main airport late on a cold and rainy night in February, without having eaten anything all day, she was refused transport to Frankfurt fifteen miles away, and any ac- commodation for the night. After standing in the road a ong time she managed to thumb a ride. Although she had been told in Ber- lin that the Military Government would look after her on arrival in Frankfurt, she had luckily had her doubts and had reserved room in a German hotel.
Next morning she reported at he Western Airline office in Frankfurt as instructed, but no one there knew anything about her. Furious by now, she telephoned the Military Government in Ber- lin at her own expense and said she was coming home. Thereupon action was finally taken and after a few days she was sent to Brem- erhaven by train.
The Berlin authorities who had arranged her trip to America had assured her that, once she joined the other women delegates from the Western zones, everything would be all right and they would all be properly looked after. But when the seven German women specially selected by the Military Government on account of their anti-Nazi record to “study democracy” in the United States, boarded the ship on which they were to sail, they found themselves confined to the hold next to the stokers’ quarters, but in worse ac - commodations. The one small “cabin” into which they were all crammed was icy cold and they had to pass through the Negro crew’s sleeping quarters to reach the washroom and lavatory which they were permitted to use.
Nora Melle next day managed to persuade the purser to assign them two cabins, still on E deck but warmer and further away from the propellers which had kept them awake all night.
Two of the German women were sixty years old and were ill throughout the voyage. But their companions were forbidden to carry any food to them, and were themselves fed from the leftovers
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of the American passengers after the latter had finished eating. They had their food dumped down on dirty tables and were al- lowed only the napkins already used by the non-German passengers. The only alleviation of the misery of the sick women was provided by sympathetic Negro members of the crew who surreptitiously brought them food and ice water.
The German “guests of Military Go vernment” were also strictly forbidden by the captain of the ship to enter the covered portions of the deck or the passengers’ recreation room. This Captain Nel - son of the Army transport Henry Gibbins was thought to be mainly accountable for their treatment. No doubt he was a spir- itual brother of the Nazis who would have treated Jews in exactly the same way as he treated these German women, several of whom had been in prison under Hitler’s rule.
As one of the German women delegates said to me: “If the hatred of Germans is so great that we had to be subjected to such treatment no Germans should be invited to visit America, or the Military Government should have selected Nazis to come who de- served such treatment as we have received.”
The stupidity of this kind of thing is all the greater because of the very different treatment given by the Russians to the Germans they try to win over to the antidemocratic cause. The Berlin women who accept invitations to visit the Soviet Union are treated as honored guests. Automobiles are sent to fetch them from their homes; they travel first class and, far from being subjected to indig- nities and privations, they are showered with attentions.
Yet such is the steadfast loyalty of the German democrats to our cause and theirs that I found the women so wretchedly treated by the American Army reluctant to have their experiences pub- lished because this would give ammunition to the Communists in their propaganda against the democracies.
Moreover, as Nora Melle said to me, they had been treated in the most friendly fashion in the United States, and they under- stood that their treatment on the voyage was not the fault of the Military Government. I have written about it to show the legacy of the original Roosevelt-Morgenthau directives which still poison our relations with the Germans, and too frequently hamper the sincere endeavor of the higher Military Government authorities to en- courage the German democrats.
The friendly behavior of the Negro crew of the Army transport Henry ibbinsGtoward the ill treated German “guests of Military
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Government” was not exceptional. In the United States zone found that the Negro soldiers of America have won the affection and respect of many Germans. The children of Negroes and Ger- man women, far from being treated as outcasts were accepted into the community and admired for their good looks, according both to what I was told and my own observations when traveling in German coaches.
Either because they are naturally kinder and more polite than white people, or because they are accustomed to treating all white people with respect, or because they sympathize with the Germans who are subject to the same insulting discrimination in their coun- try as they themselves suffer in America, the Negro soldiers seem to have behaved more chivalrously than most white Americans.
The cynical and the racially prejudiced say that the Germans who consort with the negro GI’s are thinking only of their PX cards, and that the Negroes are only interested in the opportunity to have sexual intercourse with white women. But there is certainly more to it than this. The colonial soldiers whose cruel lusts were given free license by the French in the early days of the occupation are still regarded with fear and loathing by the Germans. It seemed from what the Germans told me that the colored United States soldiers had taken less advantage of their position as conquerors than the white GI’s and officers.
Like other Americans, colored soldiers appreciate the qualities of German women; their loyalty and readiness to give as well as take. Driving from Nuremberg to Frankfurt with a Negro corporal as my driver, and a young white American as my fellow passenger, listened with interest to the two of them discussing the reasons why American soldiers and officers who had “fraternized” with Ger - man girls so often fell in love with them and married them. Both said it was because American women were so spoiled and selfish that no one who had had a love affair with a German woman would ever again be satisfied with what passes for love in the States. The astonishing thing to me was that the young colored corporal criti- cized the women of his own race in the States for the same short- comings as white women in America: that they wanted you o en- tertain them all the time and spend all your money on them; whereas German girls were not spenders and were quite happy to sit quietly at home with you; that American women never thought that you might be tired after a hard day’s work, whereas German women would attend to your comfort and give you peace and rest.
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These sentiments, of course, reflected the natural liking of the male for women who were ready to serve and wait instead of de- manding and dominating. While listening to this conversation s we rushed through the night, I remembered Nietzsche’s dictum that the function of women is to give pleasure to the warrior, and reflected that their experiences as conquerors was hardly likely to fit the men of the occupation forces, white or colored, for married life in the United States.
My Negro driver did not confine his conversation to the qualities of German women. He disserted at length and in graphic fashion on the absence of a color bar in Germany which made it so much happier a place for colored people than the United States. That was why there were so many reenlistments, and why men ordered home had been known to commit suicide or desert. It was, he said, a funny thing that the Germans, whom Americans had been taught to believe were the most brutally race-conscious people in the world, had proved to be just the opposite.
I told him that I had learned years ago in China that most Ger- mans had far less of the inbred “white man’s” superiority toward the colored races than the British and Americans and had conse- quently been the most popular foreigners in China before Hitler came to power. I also said that this was no doubt due to the fact that the Germans had never possessed extensive African or Asiatic colonial empires or any Negro slaves, so that they had not needed to create the kind of race theory required to justify the oppression and exploitation of colored races. Hitler had invented the myth of Aryan superiority in order to provide an “ethical” basis for the con - quest of Europe, just as the Anglo-Saxons had subscribed to the myth of white superiority to justify colonial empire and Negro slavery. So it was only natural that the Germans were comparatively free of prejudice against the Negroes, whom they had no reason to hate or despise, while egarding Poles and Russians as