The Spirit of Berlin
BERLIN IN THE SUMMER AND FALL OF 1948 REMINDED ME OF SHANG- hai ten years ago. In China then, as in Germany now, the Ameri- cans, British, and French were living safely and comfortably while “the natives” risked their lives against the enemy who was prepar - ing to attack us in the fullness of time. A decade ago the United States and Britain had endeavored to maintain “good relations” with the Japanese aggressors in spite of their Nanking Massacre and other “crimes against humanity”; and in spite of Japan’s disre - gard of Western interests in China, her insults, and such hostile acts as the blockade of the British concession at Tientsin, and the bombing of the United States gunboat Panay. In Germany we were trying to reach an understanding with the Soviet Government in spite of the blockade of Berlin and Moscow’s open proclamation of bitter enmity toward the Western “capitalist -imperialist” Powers.
In the first years of the Sino-Japanese War, when I was a cor- respondent in China, America and England, while seeking to pre- serve their own interests by appeasing Japan and sacrificing China, treated the Japanese with far greater respect than the Chinese who were fighting our battles as well as their own. In the Cold War in Europe, we were trying not to “provoke” the Russians, and were begging Stalin in Moscow to meet our envoys to discuss the Berlin Crisis with the same disregard of the interests of the German peo- ple as we had shown with regard to the Chinese. Just as we had formerly proffered the hand of friendship to militarist Japan if only she would refrain from attacking our interests in China, so now we were assuring the Soviet dictator that we would be delighted to co- operate with him once again if only he would keep his demands
THE SPIRIT OF BERLIN 21
within reasonable limits. We still held the whole German people responsible for Hitler’s crimes, while prepared to condone and abet Stalin’s if only he would not attack us and our friends. We blamed the Germans for having submitted to Nazi dictatorship, but we ourselves continued to demonstrate our willingness to enew our wartime collaboration with Russia’s national socialists.
While treating the representatives of the Soviet dictator with def- erence, and pleading with Stalin to come to terms permitting us to embrace him, we continued to regard the democratic leaders of the Berlin population as inferiors unworthy to sit down with us to discuss our mutual defense on terms of equality. General Clay and his staff who had formerly had no scruples in entertaining and being entertained by the military representatives of Stalin’s bloodstained tyranny, never met the elected representatives of the Berliners ex- cept as masters giving orders to their subordinates. True a little more courtesy has been shown to the Mayor and members of the Berlin City Council, but there has been no disposition to treat them as friends.
In Shanghai there had been the International and French con- cessions where the white people lived in safety with all the con- veniences, services, and material advantages of a master race, pro- tected by their own soldiers and the power of their governments, while the great mass of the Chinese population fought and labored and starved in the Chinese city. The Japanese had had their own concession to use as the base for their attack on China, just as the Russians now had their sector of Berlin from which to operate.
In Berlin there was no native city; the whole town was divided up among the four “master races,” all enjoying special privileges comparable to those which the Western Powers and Japan had en- joyed in China as a result of the “unequal treaties” which gave them “extraterritorial” rights on Chinese soil. We, the Western Powers, had won our privileged position in China by aggressive war and threats; the Germans whom we now treat like the “inferior” peoples f Asiao had got themselves into their present situation by their failure to aggress successfully.
The whole setup in Berlin was so similar to the one I had known in Shanghai in the twenties and thirties that I found myself un- consciously referring to the ritish, American, French, and RussianB “concessions.” The Germans, commonly referred to by the Ameri - can Military Government as “the indigenous population,” were as wretchedly housed and fed and as rightless and defenseless as the
22 THE HIGH COST OF VENGEANCE
mass of the Chinese population; and the “conquerors” seemed as callous in their attitude toward German sufferings as the whites had been toward “the natives” in India and China in the bad old days of Western imperialism at the height of its power. Suscepti- bilities had been hardened by the constant sight of poverty and hunger and our belief in our own moral superiority.
In China during the war, the Westerners had shown rather more sympathy for the poorly armed Chinese attempting to resist Japan than the majority of Americans and British in Berlin showed toward the Germans, part of whose country was already under So- viet Russia’s Iron Heel by our consent. Then as now we wanted to “do business” with the aggressors, but we had at least sympathized with the Chinese and cheered them n to fight. The Chinese were o not “enemy nationals,” so it was correct to be sorry for them and to collect money for their relief. On the other hand the Chinese are not white, so Washington and London never considered Japa- nese aggression against China as nearly so wicked as German ag- gression in Europe.
When I came from China to the United States in 1938, I found there was infinitely greater indignation over the rape of Czecho- slovakia than over Japan’s partial conquest of China with the aid of the American and British war materials she was permitted to buy in huge quantities.
Sun Yat-sen described the China of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as a “subcolony,” meaning that his country was in an even worse situation than a colony, since all the Western Powers together with Russia and Japan had exploited and op- pressed China, while no one of them was responsible for her defense. Today it seemed to me that Germany was in much the same situation. Her conquerors, while quarreling among them- selves, jointly hold Germany down. Her people, deprived of all means of self-defense, have no guarantee that the West will defend them from Soviet aggression; and they fear that at any moment Russia and the Western Powers may resurrect the Yalta and Pots- dam greementsa for their mutual benefit. The Germans had ample proof in the first years of the occupation that democratic principles were of little or no importance to any of their conquerors, and that it is only Stalin’s greed and openly declared hostility tow ard Amer- ica which has caused the rift between the Eastern and Western victors.
The Germans in Berlin and in the Western zones were being
THE SPIRIT OF BERLIN 23
permitted to raise their heads again only because their masters were at odds. They knew only too well that should Stalin choose to make concessions to the Western Powers they, the conquered, would once again be crushed, and might once again be forced by the Western occupying Powers to pretend that Communists are demo- crats and to admit Stalin’s German stooges into a “c oalition gov- ernment.”
In their defenseless situation the Berliners might have been ex- pected to resign themselves fatalistically to whatever blows fate still held in store for them. Instead, they were drawing upon spir- itual forces, the very existence of which had been denied during the thirteen years of Nazi domination. They were displaying greater courage and fortitude in adversity than in the days of Hitler’s power and glory. Alone among the peoples of Europe close to the terrifying power of Soviet Russia, the Berliners were defying it.
Perhaps it is true on earth as in heaven that the last shall be first and the first last. France, who had once been in the forefront of the struggle for liberty, now seemed to be lagging behind Germany in the will and courage to resist tyranny. The French, who ten years ago had asked, “Why die for Danzig?” were now saying, “What, die for Berlin!” Yet the Berliners, ex -enemy nationals as they are, were surely right in believing that if the Western Powers failed this time to recognize the indivisibility of Europe, the need to defend principles as well as self-interest, and the call of the un- armed millions in Germany and Eastern Europe endeavoring to resist the Communist terror, not all the arms and atom bombs manufactured in America would later on be able to save our civ- ilization.
Without weapons, hungry, and in rags, living in squalor in the bomb-shattered buildings of their once proud city, and well aware that the Western Powers would not risk a clash with the Soviets to protect them from “arrest” or kidnapping by the Communists even in the Western sectors of the city, the people of Berlin re- fused to be cowed.
They were being encouraged in their resolution by General Clay, who, although his attitude towards the Germans was still that of a conqueror, had shown a bold front toward Stalin and was credited with having prevented the State Department from giving way to the Soviets when they started the blockade. It was said that Clay wanted to run an armored convoy through at the outset but had been held back by Washington as well as by the British and
24 THE HIGH COST OF VENGEANCE
French. While the Berlin Mayor and the city councilors resented the cavalier treatment they too often received at the hands of the Military Government, they realized that General Clay was mainly responsible for the air lift and the preservation of a free Berlin.
It was my impression that on the whole, American military men behaved better toward the Germans and had more sympathy and respect for them than the civilians. There was still a good sprinkling of “Morgenthau Boys” among the civilian officials in the economic, financial, and information sections of the Military Government; and it is in any case a truism that those who fight wars do less hating than the civilians who have never learned to respect a brave enemy.
Many United States officers, air-force pilots, and GI’s openly proclaimed their admiration for the courage of the Berliners. Colo- nel Babcock, Deputy Commandant in Berlin, said to me in August: “The courage of thes e people is really something to wonder at. The City Council members risk their lives and liberty, each time they go to a meeting, since the Stadthaus (“City hall”) is in the Russian sector and we can give them no protection there.”
I realized how true this had become, for, the day before, I had met Jeanette Wolff, a woman Social-Democratic leader who had been manhandled by the Communists on her way home from meeting of the Council, and been called a “dirty Jew” by Stalin’s bullies. She had escaped serious injury only because a Soviet sector policeman, who had known her when they were together in one of Hitler’s concentration camps, protected her and led her to safety.
As against the encouragement they were receiving from Mil- itary Government, the Berliners had to reckon not only with the anti-German sentiment still spread in America by most of the press, but also with the influence of such advocates of appeasement as Walter Lippmann and Sumner Welles. The extent of this influence was exaggerated in Germany because the New York Herald Trib- une was the only stateside daily newspaper with a European edi- tion, and because the German Communist press seized upon Lippmann’s and Sumner Welles’s columns as evidence of the lack of support in the United States for eneral Clay’s bold stand in Berlin.
At a meeting I attended in Berlin at America House, a German newspaper editor told a joke then current in the city: A telegram had been dispatched to Washington by a mass meeting of Berlin
THE SPIRIT OF BERLIN 25
citizens saying: “Take courage , don’t be afraid and give way to Russian threats. We are a hundred per cent behind you!”
This witticism contained a substantial truth. It was in fact the courage of the Berlin population and their unwavering support of the stand against Russia at the cost of acute hardship, which had given the United States the backing it required to hold on in Berlin.
It was interesting in Berlin to witness the “conversion” of many visitors. However great their resistance to the idea on their arrival, many of them left at least partially convinced that the capital of Hitler’s infamous Third Reich has been transformed into the focus of resistance to total tyranny. This seeming paradox is not only the result of the rapid tempo of history in our times. It also must be remembered that in the tragic record of Hitler’s rise to power in Germany, Berlin was conspicuous for its anti-Nazi vote, and suc- cumbed only after the Communists had made common cause with the Nazis to destroy German democracy.
It seemed to me, in August and September 1948, and even more forcibly at the end of November when darkness and cold were adding to the misery of the inhabitants, that a phoenix had arisen from the ashes of the ruined city. A new resolute, hardened, and purified democratic movement was inspiring the unarmed people of Berlin to resist Soviet Russia’s armed might with a courage un - equaled anywhere else in Europe. German bravery, discipline, and singleness of purpose were at last, to judge from Berlin, being di- rected toward the defense, instead of the destruction, of Western civilization.
The unanimity of the Berlin population, in contrast to the divi- sions which weaken the democratic forces in France and even in Britain, is the more remarkable because the Germans are receiving less encouragement and help from America than any other Euro- pean country. Although it is true that the United States has saved the German people from mass starvation, they have been at the end of the line in the allocation of food and raw-material subsidies from America. Even more important is the fact that the Germans still lack the moral support they would derive from being accepted as fighting allies in the American-led opposition to Communist aggression. Although they are in the front line of the world-wide struggle against Communist tyranny, the Germans are still suspect for their former acceptance of Nazi leadership. While struggling to be free, they drag the chains with which the democracies have
26 THE HIGH COST OF VENGEANCE
shackled them as punishment for Hitler’s crimes. Nevertheless th e Germans in Berlin were providing a lesson for all Europe, and in particular for divided and frightened France. They were risking their lives for liberty, while others only talked about their devotion to democracy.
The Germans, it seemed, have learned through bitter experience that the battle today is not one between different economic sys- tems, or between classes or even nations, but one for or against the basic values of Western civilization. A nation whose best spirits recognize that it has sinned mightily was demonstrating in Berlin that it now has greater courage in resisting evil than others who have never been tempted, and have never learned what are the consequences of succumbing to a dictatorship which repudiates all moral values.
“We know, now,” a young German said to me, “that in the long run power depends upon the extent to which it is based on spiritual and moral values. Everything which Germans ever won by the sword is lost; our only permanent gains have been those won by moral force. Frederick the Great, Bismarck, and Hitler gave us noth- ing which has not passed away, but the influence of Luther and the Reformation have been permanent.”
The man who said this to me, Rainer Hildebrandt, is not a paci- fist. Nor did he think that his own country was alone guilty of “crimes against humanity.” To him it seemed that Western civili - zation as a whole was on trial, and had failed so far to meet the test of the machine age and of a world in which the misery of one peo- ple affects all others.
“The cris is in Berlin,” he said, “is an explosion of all the evils which evoked the previous totalitarianism and now threatens us with the endless night of Communist domination.”
Hildebrandt was one of several Germans I met whose ancestry was partly Jewish. They were treated as second- or third-class citi- zens by the Nazis and never shared, nor, wished to share, in the fruits of Hitler’s victories, but they have identified themselves with the German nation in the hour of its defeat and humiliation. He combined an biding love for the country of his birth with the in-a ternational and humanitarian outlook of the most idealistic Jews. Thin to the point of emaciation, with classically perfect features and eyes which are both brilliantly intelligent and kind, Rainer
THE SPIRIT OF BERLIN 27
Hildebrandt has a vision which transcends nationality and race, burning energy and a zeal for “righteousness” in the Biblical sense of that almost forgotten word.
Hildebrandt had been a friend of the younger Haushofer who was executed for his part in the July Twentieth plot against Hitler and he has written a book for a Swiss publisher on the German re- sistance movement. He told me that prior to the Soviet occupation he had been among those Germans who had imagined that the Russians would liberate them. Today, having met the Communists face to face, having witnessed the horrible atrocities they commit- ted when they took Berlin, and knowing all about the concentra- tion camps in the Eastern zone and in Russia, he is one of the most fearless and active anti-Communists in Germany. He is in constant touch with the resistance movement in Russian-occupied Germany and has organized help for the neglected victims of Communism who escape to Berlin from the lands under Soviet domination. When I first met him Hildebrandt was trying to get permission from the Military Government to organize an international league to help the victims of Communism on the same lines as the asso- ciations formed to help the victims of Nazi terror in prewar days. Failing to obtain American or British support, withheld presumably in the interests of lingering hopes of an accord with Stalin, Hilde- brandt has on his own initiative started an organization called
“Kampfgruppe gegen Unmenschlichkeit” (“Action Group against Inhumanity”).
The following is an extract from a speech he delivered in Berlin:
Decency requires that we take up this fight. We have a responsi- bility toward ourselves and toward the millions of people in Soviet con- centration camps. We want peace, but we do not speak the word peace if it means a continuation of the Cold War. We want a peace which presupposes freedom and respect for human values; a peace which will eliminate the internal as well as external causes of war. The two great motive forces of history are, on the one hand, fear, a bad conscience, and lust for power; on the other hand, responsibility, confidence, broth- erhood. These two motors cannot run side by side. The road grows ever narrower, the course which humanity takes will be determined by whichever car takes the lead. If the first car draws ahead, the other will never be able to pass it; a curtain will descend upon us heavier than the Iron Curtain, and the darkest word in the history of the world will have been spoken : “Too late.”
28 THE HIGH COST OF VENGEANCE
The reaffirmation of spiritual values, faith in the spirit of man, and readiness to die for liberty; in a word, recognition of the im- portance of the intangibles which decide the fate of civilizations was, it seemed, the explanation for the spirit of hope which per- vaded the besieged city of Berlin.
Reading the stateside press was as depressing as the bombed and fire-gutted buildings of Berlin which stretch mile after mile in every sector of the city. One had an unhappy feeling that the role of the Germans and that of the victorious and powerful democracies had been reversed. For, to judge by most of the American and British newspaper reports and commentaries, the conflict in Berlin was re- garded in terms of pure power politics; as if the city where West meets East was just a point n the map, worth so much or so littleo as a bargaining counter in an American-Russian conflict.
It was more than a little ironic to read the comments of Walter Lippmann, Sumner Welles, and others whose writings were quoted almost daily in the Russian-licensed German press. The same writ- ers who were advocating a deal with Russia which would involve extinction of the lamp of freedom lighted in Berlin, were reproving General Clay for standing up to Russia instead of “concentrating upon the conversion of the erman spirit to individual freedom G and democracy”!
How was it possible, one thought in Berlin, that anyone could still imagine that the punishment of opinion by denazification courts and penalties, “decartelization,” land reform, or the preach- ing of democracy would decide the issue in Germany? How was it that these and many other writers failed to see that it was example, deeds, our own attitude in the face of totalitarian aggression, and our support and protection of the fighting democrats in Berlin which were all-important? That if we should decide to retire from the battle for the sake of a temporary truce in the Cold War, and leave the Berliners to be overwhelmed by the Soviet Union, it might never again be possible to enlist the German people on our side; and that the resistance movements in Poland, Czechoslovakia and other Soviet satellite countries would be dealt a mortal blow.
If we should once again appease Russia and betray those who trusted in our promise not to abandon Berlin, the unholy alliance of Communists and Nazis— so evident in Berlin where even the Chief of the Russian Sector Police, the notorious Markgraf, is former prominent Nazi— would be able to destroy the democratic movement of infinite promise born in this ruined city. Germany
THE SPIRIT OF BERLIN 29
might then once again be driven to repudiate Western civilization instead of becoming a bulwark for its defense.
As one woman Social Democrat said to me during the Moscow negotiations, “You can’t treat people like pawns in a chess game to be moved forward, encouraged to fight for freedom against tyranny while America is at odds with Russia, and then sacrificed in another move to appease Russia. If you once again come to terms with Stalin over our heads and at our expense, you will never again be able to evoke the spirit which is now keeping us on your side in spite of Russia’s greater strength and the hunger and terror Com - munism uses to break men’s spirits.”
As in a performance of Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark, the role of the chief protagonists in the drama was omitted in much of the American comment on Berlin. Occasional tributes were paid to the courage and endurance of the Berliners who were daily risk- ing their liberty or their lives by defying the Soviets in the Eastern sectors of the city. But he effect on them and all the Germans oft the decisions being arrived at over their heads in Moscow, Wash- ington, London, or Paris, was barely mentioned. The elected rep- resentatives of the Berliners in their City Council were not even allowed to participate as advisors in the abortive currency nego- tiations which began in Berlin in September. We were still the conquerors and the Germans the conquered. While still vainly prof- fering the hand of friendship to the Russian dictator, we still re- fused to treat as allies even those Germans who were daily proving the reality of their democratic professions.
The German people have suffered too much not to be realists. Ready as many of them were at the beginning of the occupation to atone for the sins of the Nazis, they naturally refuse to accept the thesis that other nations should be allowed to commit crimes against humanity with impunity. They have begun to ask questions about our deals with the dictators, and our failures to take action against the Communists.
The Berlin weekly, Sie, stated on August 22:
We do not understand why the Communists are allowed to act ac- cording to the old maxim, Might is Right, which they have reformu- lated as, Arrogance Wins. We do not understand why Lübeck (in the British zone) continues to supply the Communist zone with electricity while tormenting darkness reigns in the Western sectors of Berlin. We do not understand why the gangster Markgraf who is wanted by the prosecutor (for war crimes) can arrest people while his employees are
30 THE HIGH COST OF VENGEANCE
not arrested when they come into the Western sectors. We do not understand why what was regarded yesterday as the collective guilt of the German people, namely tolerance of SA-like gangsterism, today passes as “conciliation.”
When I returned to Berlin at the end of November, more ques- tions were being asked. Why were the British exporting planes and machinery to Soviet Russia and even repairing the Red Army’s transport in the British sector of Berlin? Why were the French sur- reptitiously exporting machinery from Berlin to Russia? Why was the United Nations in Paris failing to condemn the Soviet blockade of Berlin— surely an obvious “crime against humanity”? Why was machinery still being dismantled and sent to Czechoslovakia and other Soviet satellite countries from the Western zones?
I had never thought of the Olympic games as of great impor- tance, but Germans of all classes in Berlin in August 1948 asked me how we justified the exclusion of German athletes from the games being held that summer in England, although the very same people,
Lord Vansittart among them, who today held all Germans respon- sible for Nazi atrocities had themselves come to Berlin in 1936 to participate as Hitler’s guests in the Olympiad of that year.
To the Berliners our former readiness to “fraternize” with the Nazis was on a par with our more recent willingness to accept the Soviet Union as a “democratic” state and join hands with Stalin in depriving all people of German race of liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Why should only Germans be punished and others go scot free?
In spite of all the questions and doubts about our good faith, the Berliners were still holding on. Indeed the most remarkable and significant fact, it seemed to me, was that neither our long-con- tinued appeasement policy toward Russia, nor our treatment of the Germans as a conquered people without rights, nor our original identification of Communism with democracy, had failed to destroy all faith in Western professions and principles.
Here among the ruins and the rubble, among a great people brought down to an Asiatic level of subsistence by war and defeat and the universal abhorrence of Nazi crimes which has led us to treat all Germans as deserving of punishment; here where the chil- dren went ragged and barefoot and left cold schoolrooms to wait in dark homes for their mothers to return from work— work like that of Chinese coolies— stacking bricks, pulling heavy loads along the
THE SPIRIT OF BERLIN 31
streets, and doing a man’s heavy labor on the airfields; here, in sp ite of hunger and humiliation and back-breaking labor, one found, not despair, hatred of the East and West alike, and a futile lust for revenge, not nihilism or a cynical defeatism and self-seeking, but a stubborn faith in the values of Western civilization which the Nazis had denied and Western occupation policies have done little to revive.
In the city where the anti-Nazis had fought hardest, but not hard enough, to prevent Hitler’s coming to power, one sensed in every word and deed, not only of the Mayor and the City Council, but of the mass of people, a determination never to let it happen again.
A student from the port of Rostock in the Russian zone, who came to see me in Berlin in September, said that the German workers there would prefer war, even if it meant death, to the misery of their life under the Communists. He also told me how depressing it was to hear every night on the radio that the Western Powers were still negotiating in Moscow, although they had said originally that they wouldn’t negotiat e until the Berlin blockade was lifted. “We are allowed no other papers but the Russian -licensed ones,” he said, “and it is not encouraging to see the headlines about ‘The great defeat of America’ and to read how you are begging Stalin to talk to you and come to terms.”
I talked to many other visitors and refugees from the Soviet zone, to returned prisoners of war from Russia, and to several people who had escaped, or been released, from the concentration camps at Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen in the Soviet zone, where hundreds of thousands of Germans are today even worse treated than Hitler’s victims in the same camps. I met others who were ostensibly free, but to whom life in Russian-occupied Germany seemed little better than prison. One and all they echoed the saying I heard everywhere in Berlin: “Better a horrible end, than horror without end.”
In America, “Give me liberty or give me death,” is only an echo from the past, without urgent appeal for people who take freedom for granted. But the liberties men fought and died for a century and a half ago are felt to be worth more than life by those who live in or near the Russian zone, and have experienced a servitude far more terrible than any which formerly existed in Europe under its Kings.
The word democracy has been too debased by identification with communism for it to be heard often in Berlin. An older, cleaner
32 THE HIGH COST OF VENGEANCE
word is used by the people and their leaders: freedom. At the great demonstration I witnessed on August 26, held outside the gaunt, fire-gutted Reichstag building after the Communist storm troopers and police had driven the City Council out of the Stadthaus in the Russian sector, the keynote of all the speeches was “freedom.” This was the word which roused tumultuous applause among the hungry, shabby multitude.
The faces of all the people around me showed signs of privation and sorrow. Everyone, from the skinny children to the women old before their time, might have been expected to care more for prom- ises of bread and peace. But it was not until a speaker said, “The fight is not only for Berlin but for freedom everywhere,” that the tired sad faces lit up and the applause rang out.
“We are unarmed but our spirit is stronger than theirs,” said Ernst Reuter, the elected Mayor of Berlin who was prevented from taking office by the Russians. And the eyes of the crowd turned toward the Russian soldiers standing guard close by at the Soviet War Memorial.
The cynic may say that the Berliners are not democrats, that they are merely fearful of the Russian terror which every one of them has experienced in one form or another. True, that tragedy has touched every German one speaks to in Berlin, whether it is the women raped by the Soviet soldiers; the mothers whose husbands or sons were massacred in the Russian sack of the city or are still held as slave laborers in Soviet mines or factories; the families whose homes were burnt over their heads by the Russians; or those who have recently had someone arrested by the Communists and sent to the dread concentration camps at Buchenwald and Sachsen- hausen. Yet Reuter that day had the crowd with him when he said: “If the Russian people were free to speak, they would be fighting together with us for liberty.”
Another popular speaker, the lovely and gracious Frau Annadora Leber, whose Alsatian husband was killed by the Nazis, declared at an open-air meeting I attended in Spandau: “Not every Russian is responsible for the crimes of those who rule over him. We all know that some Russians have shown us kindnesses. They are vic- tims of the same system which oppresses us in the Eastern zone and now threatens all Berlin. Germany must become part of the Western world again. To win freedom, we must endure starvation and face death.”
And she continued with these words of warning: “In the depres-
THE SPIRIT OF BERLIN 33
sion years many of you said: ‘it couldn’t be worse,’ but you found out later that under the Nazis it eventually became far worse. Now in spite of our terrible difficulties with food— no Berlin woman knows from day to day how she will be able o feed her family— we know that it would be even worse than now if the Russians ruled over us. We know that we would be taken away to slave labor camps and be ruled over by the same methods the Nazis used. The new PG’s* (Communists) are the same as the old PG’s (Nazis).”
Every speech I heard and every talk I had with Germans of all kinds in Berlin, convinced me that it is not only the close and ever present fear of Russia which inspires the German resistance to com- munism. It is as much their experience under the Nazis, and their realization that communism means a repetition of it, which holds the Germans on our side of the Iron Curtain.
Those who have experienced life under a totalitarian dictatorship are better aware of the supreme value of liberty than thers who have never known servitude. This perhaps explains why the Ger- mans, in spite of their aptitude for a century past in submitting to authority, are less susceptible today to Communist propaganda than Americans who have accepted liberty as their birthright and cannot even imagine what it means to be without it.
The Berliners are regaining their self-respect and that of the whole German nation by their courage in resisting the Communist threat to themselves and all Europe. The former enemies of democ- racy have become its foremost defenders.
“Berlin is not Prague” is more than a patriotic slogan. It ex - presses the German determination to show the West that those whom we fought yesterday are more to be relied upon in today’s world-wide struggle against the totalitarians than some former allies in whom we put our trust, but whose leaders succumbed without a struggle to Communist pressure.
In a long talk I had with Ernst Reuter in his house in Berlin, he said that the feeling in the city was that by a certain kind of behavior the Germans could redeem themselves and “make it im - possible for the West to treat us any longer as ‘natives.’ ”
When I asked how it was that, after all they had experienced, not only under the Nazis, but also under Western occupation, the Germans had not all become nihilists, Reuter replied: “Today we have a chance to do something to help ourselves; to struggle in our
* Short for Partei Genossen (“Party Comrades”)
34 THE HIGH COST OF VENGEANCE
own defense even though we are unarmed. The most effective rem- edy for despair is action. Our life has been given meaning again by our struggle against Communism. Berlin today is proud of itself. We have won back our self-respect, and we are confident that eventually we shall also win your respect.”
The war was, however, still too recent for the United States and Britain to accept the Germans as allies. If the courage of the Ber- liners had convinced American military men, from generals to GI’s, that the Germans could become our best allies on the Continent, sentiment at home, French fears and blindness, and the original pattern of behavior set by our occupation policies, precluded radical change in our attitude toward the Germans. We had made half turn since we began to understand that “you can’t do business with Stalin”; we had begun to revive Western Germany and to set our faces against further dismantling; and friendly relations with the German people were now encouraged rather than discouraged. But we still failed to treat the Germans as equals. We were still obsessed by the totalitarian concept that some nations are “good” and “peace -loving” and others wicked and aggressive. We still re - fused to recognize the fact that people are people everywhere, and that our primary purpose should be to encourage and support the truly liberal forces to be found among all peoples.
In besieged Berlin American and British buses, reserved for Al- lied personnel, still drove around town almost empty, while the Germans trudged on foot or waited in long queues for the few and overcrowded streetcars and buses allowed by the Russian blockade. We “the conquerors” still occupied the best houses, reserving ample space for ourselves, while the majority of Berliners lived in squalor in cellars and bomb-wrecked apartments. We still ate to repletion, drank well, and even had fresh milk imported by air from Denmark, while Berlin babies had none, and no Germans except black-marketeers had enough to eat. The demarcation line between the occupation forces and the “natives” was still applied even to he