Henry regnery company



Download 1.18 Mb.
Page3/17
Date conversion15.05.2016
Size1.18 Mb.
1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   17
lavatories in Military Government offices— some were labeled only for use by Americans, and others were permitted to German personnel. We had electric lights eight hours out of twenty-four, while the Germans had only two hours’ use of current and only enough gas to boil a kettle of water a day. In some parts of the Western sectors of the city electric light and gas were avail- able only at 1 A.M. and tired women who had worked all day had to rise to cook and wash in the middle of the night; but we could

THE SPIRIT OF BERLIN 35

still dance by electric light till 11 P.M. When winter came our houses or apartments were warm night and day, but the Germans had no coal. German hospitals overflowing with patients were in darkness and lacked medicines and even bandages, but almost empty American and British hospitals had their lights burning all night.

The automobile and jeep drivers, and all other Germans, from clerks to experts, employed by the Military Government were not only receiving their wages six weeks in arrears, thanks to the on- trol over the Berlin banks which we had originally given to the Russians in 1945. They were also receiving only a quarter of their wages in the new Western marks introduced after currency reform. The other three-quarters were paid in the Russian marks which were worth only a fourth of the Western marks we had half- heartedly brought into Berlin. Appeasement, or what was more po- litely called the desire “not to provoke” the Russians, had led us to penalize all the Berliners, including those working for us, by using the Russian marks as legal tender.

The June currency reform will be discussed in a later chapter. It is, however, necessary to comment here on the curious policy of the Finance Office of the Military Government. Having first given the Russians an excuse for their siege of the city by introducing the new Western mark, it then refused to bring in a sufficient quantity to permit the city administration and the Military Gov- ernment to pay wages and salaries in Deutsche (D) marks. While flying food into Berlin at tremendous cost, we accepted Russian marks in payment for it, thus effectively supporting the value of the Russian sponsored currency.

The Communists had the whip hand over the city administra- tion, since the banks are in the Russian sector, and the Communists could withhold the funds necessary to pay wages. They were also in a position to block the accounts of every factory owner and business enterprise in the city.

On the other hand, if more D marks had been flown in, more of them would ave fallen into the hands of the Russians to use for the purchase of the goods they needed from the Western zones. For, whereas we accepted the Russian mark in payment for the supplies we flew into the city, the free, or black, market was con- trolled by he Russians, andt D marks were demanded for most unrationed supplies, such as the meager quantities of fresh fruit and vegetables and coal which entered the Russian sector of the

36 THE HIGH COST OF VENGEANCE

city. D marks were also required for the purchase of the clothing and household goods which had appeared in the shops following currency reform. The trouble was, of course, that there was little of anything to be bought in the Russian zone, which the Soviets were stripping for their own use. Such few goods, or raw materials to make them, as could be brought into Berlin through the blockade had to be paid for with D marks. Naturally the Russians would not sell anything they controlled for their own paper marks.

In these circumstances it would have been more sensible to give the food ration free to all workers in the Western sectors than to take Russian marks in payment for it.

The day I left Berlin on the air lift I was provided with a small, but symbolic, example of how our attitude toward the Germans hampers us in the Cold War for Berlin.

While I stood watching the German workers unloading the plane on which I was to fly to Frankfurt, the United States Air Force pilot waiting beside me said: “We’ll be delayed at least half an hour longer beyond our scheduled time, because our cargo, as you see, is airstrips, and the Germans can’t handle the stuff fast, not only because it’s so heavy, but because they haven’t got gloves.”

The United States was spending millions of dollars each week to supply Berlin. “Operation Vittles” is a miracle of American organization, as I realized to the full while I listened in on the radio operator’s headphones to the instructions being given every few seconds to each of the Big or Little “Willies,” which take off and land at two- to three-minute intervals. A econd’s mistake or s miscalculation of time, altitude, or position could be disastrous. Yet operations can be slowed down, and tired American pilots compelled to work a fifteen, instead of a normal twelve-hour shift, because a hundred or so dollars have not been spent to provide the Germans who load and unload the planes with gloves!

Obviously this omission was not due to the practice of petty economies, although in effect cents were being saved and dollars wasted. It was the hardening of our sensibilities through the ac- customed sight of hungry, cold, and ragged people, through three years of occupation of a conquered country, which had, no doubt, induced this costly disregard for the human needs of the Germans working with us in Berlin. Not that the GI’s an d pilots and Ameri- can mechanics I talked to on the airfield and during this and subsequent flights had a “master race” attitude toward the Ger - mans. On the contrary, they called my attention to the barefooted

THE SPIRIT OF BERLIN 37

women strewing sand on the runway and exclaimed: “Did you ever see anything like it! Aren’t those German women wonderful?” And my pilot said: “I used to think that it was only in China you could see women working like that; I never imagined white people could do it. I admire their guts.”

I admired them too, but I also wondered how it must feel to go home at night to cook and wash and care for children after doing a man laborer’s heavy work all day. I also wondered how these ragged women would be able to work in the cold of winter.

The women are the silent chorus, the unsung and weary heroines of the struggle dramatized by the spectacular air lift. The women outnumber the men by more than two to one in Berlin, and it is upon them that the chief burden of the struggle rests. Many of them have lost their husbands, or wait in vain for them to return from Russian prisons. They are the sole support of their children and often also of a grandmother or some relative crippled or blinded in the air raids. Day after day they must not only earn their living but lso tend to and comfort their cold and hungry children,a while never getting enough to eat themselves.

The ration in Berlin is now 1,800 calories; before the blockade when the Allies could have provided enough food, it was even lower. One wondered in Berlin how human flesh and spirit could stand the long ordeal of the women whose life is one continuous round of drudgery and want without any pleasures ever, or any future hope of a happy married life. Yet the Berlin women knew that there was one thing left they had not yet lost: and they would endure to the end to preserve it for their children: freedom. greater proportion of women than men had voted in the October 1946 elections which defeated the Communists in Berlin; and in December 1948, 86 per cent of the population was to register its vote for the democratic parties. In the happy West such a large proportion of voters has never gone to the polls, although we have streetcars and subways and automobiles and plenty of leisure.

I visited the “homes” of sever al German workers and their fam- ilies, and marveled that the women, somehow or other, managed to keep a cellar, or one or two patched-up rooms in a bombed tenement house, clean and neat in spite of overcrowding and the lack of hot water and sufficient soap. Their children, who in most other countries would be dirty and unkempt in such circumstances,

38 THE HIGH COST OF VENGEANCE

are still kept looking respectable by their mothers’ continual darn - ing and patching of clothes.

Instead of the extraordinary industry of German women evoking sympathy and respect, it too often only results in Americans’ think - ing that the Germans are quite well off. Mrs. Roosevelt, for in- stance, after spending a day or so in Berlin reported that she saw no destitute and hungry children, and that the Germans did not seem to be as poor as the French and other former victims of Nazi aggression. She cannot have had time to see more of Berlin than Dahlem and Zehlendorf where the United States occupation forces live— suburbs inhabited by the former well-to-do which we never bombed with the same intensity as the working-class districts of Berlin. But even if she had taken the time to visit the poorer parts of the city, Mrs. Roosevelt might not have revised her opinion. To win the pity of some people it is necessary to imitate those beggars, who although they may be “earning” a good living by appealing to the charitable for alms, appear in rags and dirt to evoke sympathy.

I wished that all the complacent visitors and residents from the victor countries could see what I had seen, and that they had the imagination to put themselves in the situation of the majority of Berlin’s women and children.

There were some Military Government officials who felt as I did. Elizabeth Holt, for instance, wife of a State Department official and herself assistant to the head of the Educational and Religious Affairs branch of the Military Government, was in constant con- tact with German women and was wearing herself out, not only because of the help and encouragement she gave them, but also because she could not rest or enjoy life thinking of the suffering all around her. Thanks to Mrs. Holt, I made my first contacts with German women active in the social work conducted by all three parties: Socialists (SPD), Christian Democrats (CDU), and Liberals (LDP).

Ursula Kirchert, a Socialist, took me to spend a morning at medical clinic, where I watched a procession of the sick, the crippled, the undernourished, and the old receiving what help could be given them by the doctor, in the absence of any medicines and the even greater need of nourishing food. One patient had a huge abscess on his neck, which after being lanced had to be bound up with paper, since the Germans had no cotton bandages, no ab- sorbent cotton or lint. The doctor told me that his great difficulty

THE SPIRIT OF BERLIN 39

was that medical supplies could be bought only with D marks, since the Russian zone could not supply them. Consequently social- security funds, which are under Russian control, are useless in ob- taining them, and his patients whose wages or pensions consisted mainly of Russian marks could not buy them.

The saddest and hardest-working people in Berlin are the women with children whose husbands fell in the war, or are still prisoners. The expellees from Silesia thrown out of their homes and driven westwards with nothing but what they could carry on their backs are in an even more destitute condition.

I visited one woman from Silesia, Frau Scheibner, whose husband was, she hoped, a prisoner of war in Russia and not already dead. She had three young children and they had all walked to Berlin, the mother carrying the youngest child. Her mother and father were Berliners and until a week before my first visit they had all lived with her parents in two tiny rooms. Now she was “happy” because y greatb “good fortune” she had obtained possession of not-too-damp cellar in the same building. She had of course no linen and her furniture consisted of two mattresses and a packing case used as a table. Her eldest child, a girl of twelve, looked after the two youngest while the mother worked as a “trimmer” — the German word used in Berlin to describe the thousands of women who collect, stack, and cart the bricks from bombed-out houses.

The youngest child, a pretty girl of five, was playing on the stone cellar floor with a little friend from next door, while her brother, a boy of eight, did his school homework, sitting on one of the mattresses. When I gave her a can of dried milk, Frau Scheibner told me what upset her most was the little girl begging for more milk every day. Of course these children, like the rest of those in Berlin, never received any fresh milk, but there was small ration of dried milk. Their mother felt that if she could only get enough food for her children, she would be content in their new “home.”

Upstairs in the same house, I found a couple who considered themselves among the luckiest people in the world because the husband, missing for five years, had returned from Russia a few days before. Frau Woltherz had had no news of her husband since 1943 and had given him up for dead. Her joy was indescribable when he suddenly appeared, having been freed because he was too ill to work any more. I wondered how he would ever be able to get well on the inadequate ration on which the Berliners somehow

40 THE HIGH COST OF VENGEANCE

exist, but his wife was so happy to have him back that she thought nothing of their hardship. Woltherz said to me: “If the Russians had behaved differently, they would have won us. It is too late now. After the treatment we have received we will never go along with them. I shall probably be an invalid for the rest of my life, but if could fight again I would join up with America against the Soviets.”

Another day I visited a widow with two children whose husband had been killed on the Russian front. She had just been joined by two younger sisters who had spent three years as Russian slave laborers in the Urals. One had been a seamstress and the other worker on a farm, and both looked to be typical “proletarians.” But in March 1945, they had been arrested, put in a cellar and beaten until they “confessed” to having been members of Hitler’s Jung Mädel. Apparently the Red Army soldiers who had arrested them had been ordered to round up a certain number of Nazis, and the simplest way to do this was to ake anybody they could lay t their hands on and torture them until they would say they had been Nazis.

After signing a paper written in Russian which they could not understand, the two girls, whose name was Graubusch, had been placed in cattle trucks and transported to the Urals. There had been forty-three people in the car and several had died of suffoca- tion and thirst. They had been given only one cup of water each two days. On arrival at the prison camp they had been set to work making bricks. They had een forced to take the hot bricks out of the ovens with bare hands, and to push loads of them in wheel- barrows for fourteen hours a day.

Many of the German women in the camp had died— in one year, more than half of the original number. Typhus had carried ff many in spite of a German doctor prisoner who had tried to help them. The manager of the camp had been a Volksdeutsche and very brutal. Presumably he had saved his own life, which would have otherwise been forfeit on account of his race, by taking the position.

The prisoners had to sleep on wooden benches without blankets. They were fed on cabbage soup and a small bread ration, but had been told to say how good it was in Russia and that only Germans behaved like devils. They were never allowed any contact with the Russian population, being led out to work under armed guards and returned to their prison after their day’s labor. A few of the guards had been kind but most of them were brutes. One “bitch

THE SPIRIT OF BERLIN 41

of a woman” had forced the prisoners returning from wo rk to stand at the prison gates for an hour or more in the cold with their clothing damp from perspiration and their dresses “burning on their bodies.”

Atrocities are now “old stuff.” No one cares what innocent Ger - mans suffer, although still ready to make them pay for Nazi atro- cities. But I think that if Americans at home could see and hear what the Germans have gone, and are going, through we might begin to help the people of Berlin and the released or escaped vic- tims of Communist cruelty and oppression. It was with a sense of impotent pity that I learned that only one of these two German sisters was permitted to remain in the United States sector of Ber- lin. The other was forced to live in the Russian sector, where she might at any moment be arrested again, because she had not for- merly lived in Berlin, and the regulation is that only those may register and receive ration cards who were residents before 1945. The elder sister was in bad enough circumstances herself, but she would somehow or other have found room for both sisters, if only the United States authorities had permitted her to shelter them.

It was not only the poor and the victims of Communism who aroused one’s pity in Berlin. The most overworked widows and wives of prisoners of war, if they had children, were perhaps less unhappy than such lonely girls as Elsa, the housekeeper of my billet in the Press Camp. She looked after an empty house reserved for visiting American women journalists, who were so few and far between that it was usually empty. No longer a girl, but still not old and quite good looking, she spent day after day alone. Her fiancé had been killed in the war and her only surviving relative was her mother who was not allowed to live with her in the house reserved for the conquerors and their servants. As one of the latter she had more to eat than most Berliners, but the hunger of the heart is perhaps worse than physical starvation. She was not the type for light love affairs and had no “boy friend” among the Americans; nor was it likely she would ever have the opportunity of social intercourse to meet a German who might marry her. The future offered her nothing but loneliness.

In contrast to the timid and gentle Elsa for whom there was no place in the harsh world of today, Annalena von Caprivi, editor of the Women’s Page of the British licensed Telegraph, had the spirit, intelligence, and adaptability to overcome the handicap of an aristocratic origin and an unhappy marriage. Her maiden name

42 THE HIGH COST OF VENGEANCE

was Lindquist, and her family, originally of Swedish origin, had owned the island of Ruetgen in the Baltic for centuries past. Her grandfather had been one of Bismarck’s ministers, and her father, Ambassador to South Africa before World War I. Annalena was therefore of real Junker origin, but many Prussian aristocrats, like her parents, had never been pro-Nazi, or taken office under Hitler. Her parents, who had for long been living retired lives on their island, had committed suicide when the Russians came. Annalena had found them dead when, fter the war’s end, she had made her a way on foot from Western Germany to the Russian zone, carrying a bundle on her back and dressed like a peasant.

The Russians had, of course, confiscated the family property and Annalena now worked for the support of her two little girls as well as herself. She had divorced her husband, heir also to an ancient name and as incapable of adapting himself to conditions in de- feated Germany as his wife was capable.

I came to know Annalena von Caprivi well and to have a great liking and respect for her character and keen and objective mind. She was not in the least sorry for herself and somehow managed always to look well groomed, and even elegant, although her clothes were made out of such relics as her grandfather’s military uniform.

There are one hundred women to every 60 men in Germany and the tragedy of many of them is that they have no hope of mar- riage. But Annalena, who is both attractive and intelligent, wrote an article for her newspaper in which she said that many German women could not now “afford” a husband. German men, she said, still expected to be waited upon hand and foot by their wives, as if they were the breadwinners, even if their wives were earning the family’s living. It was too much to expect, and unless German men would abandon their lordly ways they could not expect any capable women to marry them.

A young unmarried woman who had been a war correspondent, but had taken up a rifle and fought herself in the last desperate days of Berlin’s defense against he Red Army, gave met another angle on the relation between the sexes in Germany. She said that Ger- man men not only cannot forget that they were once “brilliant and victorious” and are therefore incapable of adapting themselves to the lowly work and status which is all life now offers them. She also thought that they were too bitterly ashamed of their failure to de- fend their country and save its women from rape and rough treat- ment at Russian hands to be psychologically capable of loving.

THE SPIRIT OF BERLIN 43

They hate the girls who go around with Americans but are them- selves unable to offer companionship or any possibility for happi- ness in marriage.

Of course not all German men have developed complexes which keep them in bitter isolation and drive German women either o have affairs with the “conquerors” or to live alone. But even in un - defeated and prosperous countries men who have spent years sol- diering find it difficult to settle down to civilian life. In Germany where many men have spent ten years of their life n the army, and the younger ones have known no other life since they left school; where most jobs offer a bare livelihood and where there are so many sick as well as crippled veterans, the problem is even more acute.

In these days of adversity it is the endurance of German women and their determination to keep their families alive that constitutes the strength of Germany even in defeat.

Having lived six years in Soviet Russia, I too had been a wife struggling for food and shelter for my family in a world not very different from theirs. Consequently, I felt a sense of identification with the people of Berlin. Today I was one of the privileged enjoy- ing the same comforts, conveniences and luxuries as the rest of the American and British correspondents and occupying forces, but did not feel that I belonged with them. The memory of my life in Moscow, when I lived as ordinary Russians do, was still too vivid.

Most Americans and even the British have no real conception of what hunger means, nor any repugnance to eating well and driving in automobiles or jeeps, while the “natives” starve and walk. It was not that I was better than the rest, or even that I had more imagination. It was simply my past experience and the close pres- ence of the Soviet Power which so vividly recalled it to me.

When I saw German women carrying heavy loads in the streets, I remembered how I had once thought nothing of carrying home 44 pounds of potatoes, happy only to have obtained so much food. When I saw the thin, sad-eyed Berlin children, I remembered my own son, born in Moscow, who had never suffered actual hunger but would have become like these German children if I had not escaped with him from Russia after my husband’s arrest. When visited German homes consisting of one dilapidated room, I recalled similar crowded and damp places where I and my Russian friends and acquaintances had lived.

When I bought my cigarettes, chocolate, and soap ration at the PX store, I remembered how much in those distant days in Moscow

44 THE HIGH COST OF VENGEANCE

a gift of coffee, soap, or toilet paper from some friend in England, had meant to me.

In Germany I felt ashamed to be like one of those foreign visitors to Moscow who had gorged themselves in the Intourist Hotels while the Russians starved. When I invited Germans to eat with me at the Press Club, I remembered what it had once meant to me to be invited to a good meal in a Moscow hotel by some visiting foreigner.

As I watched the German waiters at “our” clubs and hotels, remembered those in the Moscow Intourist ones, who like these Germans served good food to others without ever partaking of it themselves. Tips had been forbidden in Communist Russia, where Russians still gave them but foreigners rarely did, because they had been told it was beneath the dignity of a waiter to accept them in the “Socialist fatherland.” In Germany, one was not allowed to give tips either (since our occupation money could not legally be used by Germans) except in the form of a cigarette or two left on the table.

Worst of all, the attitude of the Military Government officials toward the Germans reminded me all too forcibly of the aloof dis- dain with which the Communist bureaucracy had treated the Russian “common man”. Not, of course, that Americans had yet learned to behave with the same arrogance as Soviet Russia’s ruling class. There was still a good bit left of the natural American ten- dency to be friendly and generous to everyone. But these Americans had been taught to treat the Germans as inferiors and many of them thought that to show sympathy or kindness, would be what the British call “bad form.”

I could not feel superior to the Germans for I too had once been guilty. If the Germans deserved to suffer indefinitely for having followed the false and evil lead of the Nazis, so I also, and many other Britishers and Americans, should also be punished for once having been Communists or Communist fellow travelers and dupes. “There, but for the Grace of God, go I,” was the thought which came to me continually in Berlin and the other bombed cities of Germany, where a people condemned by all the world, defenseless, hungry and without rights or liberties, continues to live only be- cause of its indestructible vitality or the consolations offered by religion.

I knew that the impulses and illusions which led me to become a Communist in my youth were not fundamentally so different to

THE SPIRIT OF BERLIN 45

those which led many young Germans to follow Hitler. Being English, having been brought up a socialist, and living in a rich country and in the capital of an Empire upon which, in those days, the sun never set, I had been concerned with the emancipation of the human race, not that of my own country. I had embraced com- munism because it promised equality of all men, irrespective of na- tion, race, or creed. The Communist ideal had seemed to me the fulfillment of the age-long struggle of mankind for freedom and justice.

The Nazis had not appealed to the same generous impulses and international ideals as the Communists had done. But to many young German, Nazism must originally ave seemed the only way h to obtain freedom and equality for the German people, “shackled”, as they saw it, by the Versailles Treaty. When Hitler promised them bread and work, an end to unemployment, and a proud and strong Germany in place of the weak and defenseless Weimar Re- public, most of them could not have known that he would lead them to commit horrible atrocities and wage aggressive war; no more than I had known that communism meant the liquidation of millions of Russian peasants, starvation for the workers, and slave labor on a scale never seen before. In Russia I had seen how young men and women were induced by an appeal to “idealism” to carry out the operation of liquidating the so-called kulaks— a crime as great and horrible as the Nazi liquidation of the Jews. For to me it seems equally terrible to kill people or send them to concentra- tion camps for their “class” as for their “race.”

It is incomprehensible to me that the very same Americans who had glorified Stalin’s bloody dictatorship during an d after the war are now most insistent in demanding endless punishment for all Germans. If all the Germans are to be considered guilty of Hitler’s crimes, and anyone who was ever a Nazi to be damned forever, then Communists in all countries, and also those who were their dupes and supported them, must be held accountable for the atro- cities committed by Stalin.

I had escaped from Russia, and as a foreigner I had been able to get out of the Communist Party without being liquidated years before I left the Soviet Union. But I knew that if I had stayed, might have been forced by the Soviet dictatorship to do horrible things myself, if the life of my husband or son were the penalty for disobedience. Having lived under the Communist dictatorship,

46 THE HIGH COST OF VENGEANCE

and knowing hat terror means,w I cannot blame the Germans for not having “revolted against Hitler,” as others do who are safe in America and have all their lives enjoyed inherited liberties.

Another reason, besides my Russian experiences, for my inability to regard the Germans as more wicked than other peoples, is no doubt the fact that I was born an Englishwoman. I recognize the fact that the Germans made the profound mistake of endeavoring to follow in the footsteps of Britain, France, Holland, and Belgium, in an age when empire building is no longer respectable except for Communists. But I cannot quite see why the Germans, who have no Asiatic and African colonies to exploit, should be considered as innately more aggressive than the Western European nations who derive revenues from their colonial empires.

My old anti-imperialist sentiments, and intense dislike for the sight of any one lot of people denying to another the rights and liberties it claims for itself, had made me both anti-Communist and anti-Nazi. But I could not, on account of my own past mistakes and lost illusions, consider the whole German people as guilty of Nazi crimes, any more than I considered myself responsible for the past evil doings of British imperialists, or past and present atrocities committed by Stalin and his followers. My punishment for my past foolishness, if nothing worse, had been the loss of my husband in Russia. But I had saved my son and escaped with him to the free Western world. The Germans, innocent and guilty alike, had suf- fered obliteration bombing attacks, starvation, the torture of hus- bands, sons and brothers in Russian prisons, and the opprobrium of the world. I could not but feel that their punishment was out of proportion to mine.

It was with a sense of shame that I heard the German driver of the automobile assigned to me in Berlin say: “I have worked for three years for the Americans and you are the first who has spoken to me as a human being.”

I had asked him how much he earned, how many hours he worked, whether he had wife and family, whether they got enough to eat, and how he got home at night after leaving me at my hotel. It was not, I think, the fact that I displayed some interest in his personal situation, or my gifts of chocolate, soap, and cigarettes, or my sharing with him the ample breakfast I received, which even- tually broke down the barrier he had erected between us by his cor- rect behavior as a servant, or as one of the conquered toward the

THE SPIRIT OF BERLIN 47

new master race. It was after I remarked to him one day that we were treating the Germans like colonial subjects that he became communicative and friendly. My observation had been occasioned by my first sight of the half-naked, barefoot young German boys who pick up the balls on the Press Club tennis courts. It had seemed to me they should be playing games themselves instead of running around like little slaves.

It was from this chauffeur of mine that I got a view, from the other end of the telescope, so to speak, of how our original “treat the Germans rough” occupation policy affected the mass of the German people. “I suppose,” he said, “that the rudeness and lack of consideration of the Americans is due to the great size of their country. Probably many Americans never go to school and learn good manners, and that is why they are so rough and tactless.”

I told him that he was mistaken and tried to explain that Amer- icans were not really either uneducated or heartless; that it was the hatred of Nazi brutality and the consequent belief that all Germans deserved punishment and rough treatment which had originally in- spired our occupation policy. But he remained unconvinced. How, he asked me, could I explain the American attitude of friendliness and consideration toward the Russians if it was Nazi Germany’s atrocities which had inspired the American lack of humanity to- ward the conquered Germans?

The word which he used, and which I have translated as “lack of humanity,” was Unmenschlichkeit. Menschlichkeit, its opposite, was the word I heard most often on the lips of Germans. It is word difficult to translate because it means so much: behavior worthy of a human being, decency, kindness, consideration for others, respect for the individual irrespective of nationality, class, religion, or power— everything which should distinguish a free man from a brute, a slave, or a robot.

It is the realization that the Rights of Man, in the good old- fashioned eighteenth-century sense which inspired the French and American revolutions, are primary, and that no economic and so- cial system hich denies w them is bearable; it was this realization that had united the Socialist, Liberal, and Christian-Democratic parties of Berlin in face of the Communist threat to their liberty.

Here, in the front line of the conflict between Western democ-

48 THE HIGH COST OF VENGEANCE

racy and Soviet totalitarian tyranny, there was a reborn faith in the ideals of the Renaissance, the Reformation and the Counter Refor- mation.

There was a unity to be found nowhere else in Europe, between agnostics and Christians, Protestants and Catholics, socialists, lib- erals, and conservatives, because they one and all realized that the struggle for the world is primarily one between the individual and the machine, or state, which seeks to reduce everyone to slavery; between the totalitarians who would drag us all down to the level of beasts by denying individual responsibility, conscience, and Menschlichkeit, and those who insist that “security” is only to be won by submission to tyranny.

Perhaps, I thought, it is the new content of socialism, as demon- strated in Berlin, where the Social Democrats are the largest party and the leaders in the anti-Communist resistance, which holds out most hope for Western civilization.

“The change in the inner content of German socialism is the most important development n Europe today,” wasi the comment made to me by Frau Doctor Ulrich-Biel, a woman leader of Berlin’s Liberal Party. A white-haired elderly lady whose former husband is a professor of philosophy at Harvard, and whose son had been miraculously restored to her through his daring escape from a Rus- sian prison camp, she is today mainly occupied in trying to secure relief for the homeless, ragged, and starved German refugees from the East, many of whom are in the Russian zone of occupation.

In her little room in n apartment house in what was oncea sector of Berlin with a large Jewish population, she said to me:

I could not in the past join the Socialists because of my fear of regi- mentation and because of the Socialist opposition to religion. Not that I was a churchgoer, but because I always had respect for the secret of the world and could not reduce everything to materialistic terms. Now after all I have seen and experienced, all the sorrow and fear and misery of our life in Berlin these past fifteen years, I ook to having the church on my side. The life of man is too short and he is too frail for him to dispense with a home for the great truths of Christianity. Men are too weak to preserve the truth alone; they must have a tradition to preserve it: a church. any German Socialists realizeM this today. They are more concerned with preserving the values men live by than with economic theories. All those who do not believe that liberty and human rights are the primary concern have gone over to the SED [Socialist Unity party].

THE SPIRIT OF BERLIN 49

Otto Stolz, a young man who had been expelled from the Uni- versity of Berlin for his anti-Communist activities and had already made a name for himself as a writer, told me that he and many other German Socialists no longer believed that “nati onalization of the means of production and distribution” would solve the prob - lems of human society. “We know now,” he said, “that the end of capitalism may, as in Russia, lead only to tyranny.”

Writing on the anniversary of the Revolution of 1848 which ad failed, in Germany, to establish the liberal principles and demo- cratic rights won in Western Europe, Otto Stolz, although he be- longs to the Socialist party, reminded his countrymen that the struggle then and now is not for “an economic theory of pro duc- tion and distribution” but for the rights of man: equality before the law, individual responsibility and freedom, security of personal rights, government by consent, freedom of speech and opinion, freedom from arbitrary arrest and imprisonment without trial by due process of law.

From these premises he developed the thesis that in the twen- tieth century, in countries where representative government and free speech have already been secured, no violent revolution is re- quired to establish greater social justice and a better economic sys- tem. Revolutions today, far from being progressive, lead to the establishment of authoritarian governments under “popular” dicta - tors. Thus revolutions in democratically governed countries are in fact counterrevolutions led by reactionaries calling themselves pro- gressives, but wanting to lead the world back to the predemocratic era when liberty of the individual and human rights were denied by autocratic monarchies, as they are today denied by Nazis and Communists.

“ The real revolution of our time,” said Otto Stolz, “is a spiritual one, not economic or social. And here in Europe it must be di- rected toward the establishment of a European family of nations, with equal rights for all in a democratic federation.”

The unity displayed by the Socialist, Christian-Democratic, and Liberal-Democratic parties in resisting the Communist onslaught was made possible by the recognition by members of all three par- ties that no one has a monopoly of truth, and that tolerance, integ- rity and Menschlichkeit are the primary needs of a free society.

Lothar Wille, Bürgermeister of the Berlin borough of Steglitz, who is a Catholic and a Christian Democrat, said to me:

“Our party, the Christian -Democratic Union, should have leaders

50 THE HIGH COST OF VENGEANCE

who are not specifically Catholic or Protestant but Christian. To defend the Christian culture and values of Europe the primary need is good men. The best religion is a good moral life and man who never goes to church, even an agnostic, may be in fact a good hristian. TheCimportant thing is to recognize one’s duty to society and perform it.” “The Catholic church,” he added with a smile, “has also got to change with the times and become more catholic.”

Most people in Berlin have nothing to lose but their freedom. Perhaps it is this and the terrible trials and privations they have endured that gives them their clear view of essentials and their inner strength. They have become so inured to material hardships and have experienced such great sorrows that those who have not been broken have acquired a rare spiritual fortitude.

Nora Melle, a City Council representative of the Liberal-Demo- cratic party who had been thrown into the street with her little girl when the Russians came, had seen her husband carried off by them, her sister raped, her father killed, and her mother die of shock, said to me: “We are no longer influenced by fear of losing our possessions, since we have none, and because we have lost so much more than material comforts. Germans in the Western zones may think that there could be nothing worse than the Anglo-American occupation, and the loss of their savings through the recent currency reform. But in Berlin we know that all that is nothing compared to the ultimate horror of the Communist domi- nation.”

Jeanette Wolff told me: “The Berliners, unlike other people, do not wear blinkers. They know what they are up against and are facing it. It is vital to the survival of Western civilization that this political center of resistance to totalitarian tyranny be preserved.”

Jeanette Wolff herself is one of the finest persons I ever met. An old Socialist of Weimar Republic days, she spent six long and terrible years in Hitler’s concentration camps and lost her whole family except for one daughter who was crippled by the Nazis. But, instead of hating the German people, like so many others who have never even seen them; Jeanette has become one of the best- loved leaders of the Berlin population. An eloquent and moving speaker, elected member of the City Council n 1946, she is called i the Trumpet of the Socialist party. A woman with a warm heart which has somehow failed to be corroded by the sufferings she has undergone, she is full of compassion for all the oppressed and

THE SPIRIT OF BERLIN 51

miserable people of the world and also too good a socialist of the old international kind to consider any one nation or race as worse or better than another. Her understanding and human feeling are so great that she has been known to argue on denazification boards for the release of men who had belonged to the party which tor- tured her and killed her family, saying she knew that many young men had followed Hitler out of ignorance and should be forgiven if they would “go and sin no more.”

I first met Jeanette Wolff, thanks to Hanna Bornovsky, a Ger- man girl engaged to George Silver, who worked in the manpower division of Military Government. George Silver was a former AFL trade unionist from Philadelphia. Although a young man, he had the same, prewar vintage, international socialist outlook as Jeanette. Hanna’s Jewish mother had been killed in one of our air raids and her Aryan father was also dead. After having been treated as second-class citizen by the Nazis because she was half-Jewish, Hanna had not been allowed to marry George because we con- sidered her a German. But now that he was about to leave Ger- many after three years service there, they were getting married.

Many American visitors who might otherwise never have met any Germans socially got to know the leading democratic leaders of Berlin at the Silvers’ house. Hanna had also managed to raise funds to reconstruct a part of Ribbentrop’s bombed -out Berlin residence, which she had renamed Leuschner House and established as meeting place for the Germans who were taking the lead in Ber- lin’s anti -Communist struggle.

I owe a lot to the Silvers who put me in touch with many Ger- mans, both prominent and unknown, and gave me the opportunity to meet men and women of all parties at their home.

Hanna and George were practicing socialists. She cooked a meal every other day, out of her husband’s American rations and the vegetables she grew in the gardens of Leuschner House, for the students who came to her house, and who, like most German students today, are the poorest of the poor and always hungry. These Berlin students were extraordinarily mature in their think- ing. I was impressed most of all by the fact that war, defeat, hunger, and the ever-present fear of ending up in a Soviet concentration camp had not broken their spirit or sapped their energies.

It seemed to me surprising that our original occupation policy had not succeeded in turning German youths into cynics, time- servers, or ruthless egotists. For in the first two years of our occupa-

52 THE HIGH COST OF VENGEANCE

tion we had made a mockery of our democratic professions and ideals, not only by treating all of the Germans, including the vic- tims of Hitler’s prisons, as pariahs, but also by condoning Soviet atrocities and treating Communists as democrats. We had even insisted upon the inclusion of Communists in the City and Länder administrations and put Communists on denazification boards.

In Berlin, for instance, although the October 1946 elections had given the Socialists, Liberals, and Christian Democrats 80 per cent of the votes, the allied Kommandatura had refused to allow ma- jority rule, insisting instead on the inclusion of Communists in a “coalition,” although their party (Socialist Unity party — SED) had polled only 19 per cent of the city’s vote. And even today, was told, the British and American Occupation authorities do not permit the Germans to oust the Communists who still hold some positions in the Food, Labor and Health offices of the Western sectors of Berlin unless they are proved to be incompetent, or sending “open” reports to the Russians!

“Yet y ou still place your trust in us?” I enquired.

“Yes,” replied a pretty girl with red hair and an impudent smile, “we know we must have patience and wait until Americans stop being political babies.”

“All the same,” said a young man studying Slavonic languag es, “it’s funny to hear you Americans now saying the same things about the Soviet Union which you used to forbid us to say and regarded as a proof of our being pro-Nazi.”

I am aware, of course, that not only is Berlin not Prague; it is also not all of Germany. The important fact, it seemed to me in Berlin, is that there is a movement there which could lead Germany to become a real democracy, and which might also re- invigorate and unite by its example the divided and confused anti- totalitarian forces of Europe and America.

There was a sinister reverse side of the hopeful Berlin picture. Some of the die-hard Nazis have made common cause with the Communists, and there was the threat of a recrudescence of ag- gressive German nationalism under a Red instead of a Black flag.

Former National Socialist theoreticians today hold leading posi- tions in the University of Berlin and other universities under Rus- sian control. The head of the disciplinary Court of the University of Berlin, Fritz Moglich, who now gives lectures on the social and

THE SPIRIT OF BERLIN 53

political situation, which all Berlin students must attend, was for- merly a leading Nazi anti-Semite and anti-Catholic writer. In famous book on Ludendorff he had once urged a union of German and Russian National Bolshevism against the West.

Many other examples could be cited. Perhaps even more im- portant is the fact that the Russians are using the full force of economic pressure to suppress the democratic opposition. Only “reliable” students can get grants to study, and specia l privileges in money and kind are given to those who support the Communist dictatorship. All Germans who can and will be useful to Russia are offered “Stalin parcels” of food and fuel. Those who join the Socialist Unity party for the material advantages his gives them can perhaps not be counted upon by the Russians. Their most reliable allies, and the most dangerous to us, are the former Nazis who hope that by submitting to the Soviets now, and working with them against the West, Hitler’s “Thousand -Year eich” will R eventually be restored.

The political weakness of the Communists, evident in Berlin, proves that there are as yet too few Nazi or other collaborators of the Communists to bolster up their dictatorship.

Nevertheless, it is a mistake to assume that the Germans must inevitably remain on our side, even if we continue to refuse them the rights of free men.


1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   17


The database is protected by copyright ©essaydocs.org 2016
send message

    Main page