German Democracy between Scylla and Charybdis
THE MARSHALL PLAN IS BASED ON THE ASSUMPTION THAT POVERTY and despair lead people to reject democracy and follow the Com- munist lead; and that, in order to save the Western world from totalitarian tyranny, America must give the European nations on our side of the Iron Curtain enough dollars to reconstruct their economies and afford their people the opportunity to earn a decent living.
This theory is not, however, applied to Germany. We refuse to admit that it was poverty, unemployment, and despair which brought the Nazis to power, and may once again drive the German people to reject the political concepts and moral values of the West. Instead, we regard the Germans as a naturally aggressive people with a predilection for authoritarian rule, and treat them as if they were possessed of a devil which must be driven out by chastising them.
It is today forgotten that the Nazis did not in power by advo- cating war. They appealed in the first place to the German people’s longing for delivery from intolerable disorders and economic chaos. Their main slogan was “bread and work.” Hitler did not start to talk about the need to obtain Lebensraum by force until after he came to power, and while many a German joined the Nazi party because it was anti-Communist, others supported it because of the failure of the democratic parties to solve the unemployment prob- lem or to induce the democracies to make the concessions neces- sary for the German people to exist.
At the First Assembly of the Nazi Reichstag on May 17, 1933, Hitler specifically abjured war, saying:
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The outcome of war would be greater insecurity, increased economic misery and yet more ars. To start such utterlyw senseless action would lead to the collapse of the present order of society. A Europe sinking into Communist chaos would produce a period of crisis the duration of which cannot he estimated. The three principles which are the main- spring of our revolution do not menace the interests of other nations at all. On the contrary they can prevent the threatening Communist upheaval and lead to the construction of a people’s state based on the principle of private property as the basis of culture. The re-establish- ment of a stable and authoritative state leadership.*
Since many foreigners believed Hitler’s lies, it is hardly surprising that so many Germans did. To account them all guilty of Hitler’s crimes, after it was too late for them to escape from his tyranny, is to be unaware of the nature of totalitarian rule. It is doubtful whether any other nation, placed as Germany was, would have re- sisted the lure of Nazi propaganda. It should have been our objec- tive after the second World ar to convince the German peopleW that Hitler had not only failed but had been wrong, and that de- mocracy offers life and hope.
Instead, for the second time in thirty years, democracy has be- come synonymous in Germany with submission to intolerable con- ditions, and the denial of freedom, security and self-respect to the German people.
It is one of the paradoxes of modern times that in an age in which psychology is studied even in the schoolroom, and psycholog- ical warfare has become a branch of military science, we should conduct our foreign policy with less understanding of other peoples than our ancestors whose knowledge was confined to history and philosophy.
The lessons of psychology are apparently considered as having no application to the Germans. or although most Americans have F been sold on the idea that criminal tendencies are the result of en- vironment and that juvenile delinquency can be cured by psycho- logical treatment, they believe that the way to reform the Ger- mans is to treat them as hardened criminals, and punish them all, including the children who were unborn when Hitler came to power.
“If you call a child a thief often enough,” a German said to me,
* Quoted by Gunther Reimann in Germany: World Power or World
GERMAN DEMOCRACY BETWEEN SCYLLA AND CHARYBDIS 131
“he eventua lly becomes one. Similarly by treating all Germans as Nazi criminals, you have made more Nazis than Hitler ever did.”
The same idea was expressed in a variety show called “Mouse - trap” which my friend Joan Crane saw in Stuttgart. In one scene a dog who had done something naughty was shown as very ashamed of himself. But after a succession of people had screamed “Guilty, guilty,” and punished him, the dog became very fierce and com - pletely untamable.
People cannot be bludgeoned into repentance. They must retain their self-respect if they are to admit their guilt. Many Germans never realized what they were doing, or abetting, under Nazi rule, but might have been shocked into repentance after Nazi atrocities in occupied countries were revealed to them following Germany’s defeat, had not they themselves become the victims of similar “crimes against humanity.” All we have done is to convince them that everyone is bad and cruel.
How can we expect to bring home to the Germans a conscious- ness of their “guilt”, if we ourselves or our allies treat them as the Nazis treated the conquered? Today the Germans, far from being repentant, consider themselves to be the most oppressed of all peo- ples, and see no difference between Nazi rule and that of Western military government.
As Dr. Helmuth Becker, son of the internationally known edu- cator who was Minister of Education in Prussia before 1933, said to me at Nuremberg: “If the Military Government’s conception of democracy continues much longer, there will be no chance for de- mocracy in Germany for a hundred years.”
“Few Americans,” he continued, “realize that Germany followed Hitler because the democratic parties were bankrupt. Nor do they see that Military Government is very similar to Nazi rule. The Nazis and the Military Government would have got on very well together. They have the same belief in authoritarian rule, and they are regarded by the Germans in much the same light.
“We don’t believe your propaganda any more than we believed Nazi propaganda after the first ear or two. We judge you by whaty you do, not by what you say, and what you do is much the same as what the Nazis did.”
There is an inescapable contradiction between democracy, which means government by consent of the governed, and military gov- ernment based on force and the power of the conquerors to impose their will on the conquered. This contradiction has been accentu-
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ated by the attitude and behavior prescribed for the occupation forces in Germany; but it would in any case preclude the growth of a vigorous democratic movement in Germany.
Inevitably the German democrats in the Western zones appear in the eyes of most of their compatriots as quislings carrying out the orders of the conquerors. Since those orders have kept the Ger- mans starving in the ombed-out remnants of theirb cities without allowing them to rebuild them, deprived the workers of their liveli- hood by dismantlement, and the whole population of freedom, de- mocracy has once again become synonymous with defeat, misery, injustice, and servitude.
Once again, as in the days of the Weimar Republic, and to a far greater degree, we are denying the German democrats any possi- bility of proving to their countrymen that justice, the right to work and earn a living wage, and equality among the nations can be ob- tained except by force.
The predicament of the German Social Democrats outside of Berlin illustrates the sad consequences of our undemocratic atti- tude toward the Germans.
Talking to German labor leaders in the Ruhr, I could have ima- gined myself back in the days of the Weimar Republic when I had often visited Germany. The old Socialists who had survived both Nazi persecution and the war were back where they had been twenty years ago, but more gravely handicapped in their efforts to “sell emocracy” to the German people. Yet they still had faith in d peaceful methods and rational argument. They eschewed “direct action” or revolutionary methods to obtain just demands. They still believed in the possibility of uniting the “workers of the world”; they still placed their trust in British and French Socialists; they are as law abiding under British Military Government as under former German governments; they are not lacking in courage, but they seem incapable of bold and decisive action in a crisis.
They are in the tragic position of not being able to learn from past experience because to do so would be a denial of the demo- cratic basis of their beliefs. And since the situation they face today is similar to the one they faced following the first World War, they are once again in danger of losing the support of the German workers, and giving the right of way to the demagogues and apos- tles of violence and tyranny: to the extreme nationalists on the right and the Communists on the left who once before destroyed German democracy.
GERMAN DEMOCRACY BETWEEN SCYLLA AND CHARYBDIS 133
The Germans always seem to “go the whole hog.” Either they are extreme nationalists and violently aggressive, or they are more pacific, rational, and internationally minded than the socialists and liberals of any other country.
As one young German trade-union official said to me in Düssel- dorf: “Placed as we are in the center of Europe, influences from all sides meet and clash most violently in Germany. Here issues are more sharply defined than in any other country. Germans are inclined to make every issue a question of basic philosophy. The re- ligious wars were more destructive in Germany than anywhere else because we embrace our beliefs so wholeheartedly and see no virtue in compromise. So today in politics we go to the same extremes: from ultranationalism to the repudiation of all nationalist senti- ment. We adopt our politics with religious conviction and see an enemy in everyone who thinks differently. Like the power generated by positive and negative in electricity, the trongest incentives for good or ill are present in the German character.”
When nationalism is in the ascendant, the Germans are among the most violent and unscrupulous peoples; when they turn to paci- fism, internationalism, and reasonableness, they turn he other cheek with a restraint in face of provocation, injustice, and suffer- ing which few other nations ever exhibit. This tendency to go to extremes and eschew compromise also accounts for the violent party strife which helped destroy the Weimar Republic. Unlike the English, who instinctively put the national interest above party in- terests, the Germans carry political antagonisms to such lengths that, except when united for war under authoritarian rule, internal conflicts split the nation into warring factions. This is no doubt the reason why even liberal Germans will tell you today that Germany needs a monarchy, because only an established authority recognized by all parties can overcome the schisms which tear Germany apart.
Germany is not, perhaps, eculiar in this respect. The French are displaying a similar incapacity in making democracy work, and the British had their civil wars in the past. It is the comparative youth- fulness of the German state which has caused the swing from over- emphasis on ationalism,nto internecine strife regardless of the na- tional interest, and back again to extreme nationalism.
The renunciation of nationalist sentiment and aims by the Ger- man Social Democrats plays into the hands of both the extreme nationalists, and he Communists, who use German national senti- ment to further Russian aims: Many German Socialists in the
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Western zones strengthen the impression that they are puppets by seeming to echo the views of the conquerors who demand that the Germans, unlike other nations, should have no national feelings.
Patriotism, regarded as a virtue by the victors, is considered to be a sign of perverse tendencies when displayed by Germans. Every sign of “reviving German nationalism” is made the excuse for the revival of repressive measures. We treat the Germans like sexual delinquents who must be castrated or kept in prison and deprived of normal sexual intercourse, while their jailers are permitted to in- dulge their natural human instincts to the full.
Yesterday it was the Nazis; today it is their erstwhile allies and spiritual brothers, the Communists, who are taking advantage of Germany’s treatment at the hands of the Allies and of the weak - ness of German democracy. The Communists are appealing to the same passions and atreds and aggressive hnationalistic sentiments as the Nazis. They are leading the struggle against dismantlement and the so-called internationalization of the Ruhr, and in general showing up the incapacity of the German democrats to obtain, and the unwillingness of the democratic powers to grant, elemen- tary justice to the German people.
Although German experience of Communist terror in the Eastern zone and Berlin, and the German Army’s first -hand view of Soviet Russia as soldiers and prisoners of war, have so far prevented the re- vival of a strong German Communist movement, there is a sub- stantial minority of Communists in the Ruhr held in check only by the Socialists and Christian Democrats who still hope the West- ern Powers will come to their senses n face of the Soviet danger i and permit the German people to live and work.
About a third of the German trade-union members in the coal and steel industries of the Ruhr are reputed to be Communists or to follow the Communist lead. This substantial minority is bound to increase if only the Communists seem to be fighting against dis- mantlement. It must also grow if the occupation authorities, de- sirous of re-establishing free enterprise in Germany but refusing to release the German economy from the burden of reparations pay- ments and the tight controls established in the interests of Ger- many’s British and French competitors on the world market, con - tinue to promote the scarcity and inflation which keep the German workers without the necessities of life.
If the German Socialists who control the trade unions in the Ruhr fail to see that they will never obtain a fair deal from the
GERMAN DEMOCRACY BETWEEN SCYLLA AND CHARYBDIS 135
British by collaborating with them; if they continue to hold back the rank and file from organized strikes against dismantlement; if they fail in every possible way to support the German workers who are going to jail for refusal to obey British orders to destroy or re- move the machinery on which other Germans depend for their livelihood, the Communists will inevitably win the leadership of the German workers, in spite of German fear and hatred of the Soviet Union.
The British, so far, have derived great profit from the trusting at- titude of the German labor leaders. But in the long run the advan- tage they have taken of the German Socialists’ faith in the British Labour Government is likely to rebound to the advantage of the Communists. Just as the British are deriving temporary profit from the sale to Soviet Russia and her satellites of armaments and planes or the materials and machinery with which to manufacture them, but are likely in the future bitterly to regret their exclusive preoc- cupation with the accumulation of dollar funds to the detriment of their defenses, so also in Germany they may come to rue the day when they sacrificed to a commercial motive the good will of those who trusted them and could have become their strongest allies.
My visit to the Ruhr in the fall of 1948 brought home to me not only awareness of the similarity in the victors’ treatment of German democracy today and following the first World War, but also un- derstanding of the weakness of German social democracy.
Before Hitler came to power, when German social democracy still held the allegiance of a majority of the German working and professional classes, the German democrats had believed that the Western democracies would not allow them to perish by refusing the concessions which could keep the German people under peace- ful leadership. In 1948, in the Ruhr, I found that the German trade- unionists had een convincedb that the British Labour Government would not actually carry through the dismantlement program which must drive the German people once again to reject democracy.
Others had apparently been won over to accept dismantlement by a British promise to support socialization of the mining and steel industries against the Americans who favor private enterprise, if the trade-union leaders would collaborate with the British Mili- tary Government, or at least take no concerted measures to prevent the removal of machinery from German factories. This apparently accounted for the refusal of Hans Boekler and other old German
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trade union leaders to accede to the demands of the rank and file for a general strike against dismantlement. Like Samson, German labor ad beenh shorn of its strength, the temptress being the So- cialist ideal. Hoping to establish socialism by collaboration with the British conquerors the old German trade-union leaders had dis- armed the working class.
Whether or not a bargain had actually been struck between the British and German Socialists, it was made clear to me in my con- versations with Ruhr labor leaders that they were anxious above all not to embarrass or annoy the British Labour Government.
On the other hand I also had to realize hat the German trade- union leaders had little choice but to collaborate with the British. The dependence of the Germans on the food supplied by their conquerors constituted a terrible weapon in the hands of the Brit- ish and American military governments, and was used with few scruples. No one could forget that in 1947 the Western Powers had threatened to stop food shipments if the German workers went on strike.
As an outsider I cannot judge whether it is the carrot or the stick which plays the greater role in inducing the German trade- union leaders to collaborate with the British Military Government. The stick, starvation, is in all probability more potent than the So- cialist lure. Starvation as a method of coercion is used less blatantly by the British and American occupation authorities than by the So- viets, but hardly less effectively. It is the dependence of Western Germany on food imports which has cut the ground from under the feet of the German democrats, and placed German labor in an even weaker position today than under the Nazi tyranny.
It was essential for the Nazi government to encourage the Ger- mans to work to the limit of their capacity, since compulsion alone cannot secure maximum production. But the British Military Gov- ernment has no such interest. The British, to use their favorite expression, “couldn’t care less” if German labor chooses to starve by going on strike. Cessation of production in German factories may even be welcome to the British conquerors who are also Ger- many’s compet itors. Thus the German workers in the Ruhr have in effect been deprived of their only weapon against the destruction of their means of existence.
Since every German working class family is at all times on the verge of destitution, and dependent for its inadequate food on the good will of the conquerors, no German labor leader can lightly
GERMAN DEMOCRACY BETWEEN SCYLLA AND CHARYBDIS 137
defy the occupation authorities. “A week without work and wages,” one of them said to me, “means so many more thousands tuber - cular children, so many more invalids; we are so undernourished and weak that we can barely keep alive, and have no reserves of strength or food. One little extra push can mean collapse. How can we stand up against the organized might of the conquerors who hold our lives in their hands, and treat us all as criminals, or at best as prisoners on parole?”
Nevertheless, it was hard for me to understand the attitude of such men as Hans Boekler, the William Green of German labor. He had recently returned from London where he had talked to Ernest Bevin. When I asked him what answer Bevin had given to his argument against dismantlement, Boekler made excuses for the British Foreign Minister. “Bevin is so overburdened with other cares,” said Boekler, “so absorbed in the difficulties of foreign pol - icy: Palestine, Russia, and the rest, that he simply has no time to attend to our German problems.”
After this conversation I was hardly surprised when one of the Ministers in North-Rhine Westphalia, who is himself a Socialist, told me that Boekler was “too much orien tated toward Britain.” The middle ranks of trade-union officials, this Minister also told me, realized that the German workers were being victimized by the British and the workers themselves wanted to strike against dis- mantlement, but Boekler had prevented any effective action being taken. Boekler is both head of the metal workers trade union and chairman of the Federation of German Trade Unions.
Arnold Schmidt, the German miners’ leader, holds the same pro-British opinions. When I interviewed him in his house near Bochum I had already heard him speak to the British and Ameri- can Military Government officials assembled at Essen on October 2, and waited in vain for him to protest against dismantlement. So I was hardly surprised when he told me that the German workers were “full of admiration for the Socialist achievements of the British Labour Government.” Either from discretion or conviction, he had nothing to say against British policy.
Much as I respect the old-fashioned trade union leaders I met in the Ruhr I found it pathetic to witness their touching faith in the British Labour Government. In spite of the superior attitude adopted toward them as toward all other Germans by British Mili- tary Government officials, and in spite of the abundant evidence f British determination to wipe out German competition by ruthless
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dismantlement, they refused to believe that a British Labour Gov- ernment was not their friend. So, instead of leading the strikes and demonstrations demanded by the rank and file, they continued to argue that if the Germans were patient and submissive the British and French would eventually listen to reason and stop taking the bread out of the mouths of the German workers.
I was accompanied on some of my Ruhr visits by a German from the Social Ministry, recommended to me by Richard Stokes, the English Member of Parliament who has fought hardest to stop dismantlement. Although I speak German, my knowledge of the language is not such as to make it easy to understand every word when technical terms are involved. So Stokes’ friend, Zilliken, who spoke English fluently, was of great assistance to me in investigat- ing dismantlement in the Ruhr. He was, moreover, an intelligent, fearless and well-informed young man.
When I expressed my astonishment at the confiding trust which the older generation of German labor leaders appeared to place in the British Labour Government, Zilliken remarked, “Yes, the rela - tionship which the British Labour Government has managed to establish with the Social Democrats of the Ruhr is similar to that between the English aristocracy and the British working class.”
This comparison is not as apt today as fifty years ago. It would be truer to say that the Social Democrats in Western Germany stand in much the same position in relation to the British Labour Government as the Socialist Unity party (SED) in the Russian zone to Moscow. Both are dependent for such power as they have on the occupation authorities. Certainly the Social Democrats have more popular support than the ED, but they are well aware S that if the occupation forces were withdrawn they would in all probability be swept from office. This is not a reflection on the in- tegrity of the German Socialists, but a result of the identification of democracy in German eyes with subservience to the will of the conquerors.
In spite of its weak position German Social Democracy does not lack leaders who advocate a bolder course than that pursued by the Boeklers and Schmidts. There is a militant opposition which argues that effective direct action against both dismantlement and the conversion of the Ruhr into an Anglo-French colony, is pos- sible; and that if the Socialists fail to fight for the rights of German labor and the German people, the Communists will take the lead. This militant wing of the German Socialist and trade-union move-
GERMAN DEMOCRACY BETWEEN SCYLLA AND CHARYBDIS 139
ment advocates mass strikes and demonstrations against dismantle- ment, believing that the British will not dare, at this stage, to crush the German working class by naked force, seeing that the only beneficiaries must be Communists.
Early in 1949 the militants appeared to be assuming the lead in the Ruhr, no doubt because the Communists had begun to take the lead in opposing dismantlement, and because the number of registered unemployed has risen to a million in the combined Brit- ish and American zones.*
In Dortmund I visited an outstanding personality among the militant Socialist trade union leaders, who was in hospital after losing his right hand in a street accident a few days before. Herr Meyer had started life as a miner, been a trade-union organizer before Hitler came to power, and subsequently earned his living in such various occupations as a film company publicity agent, elec- tric-bulb salesman and hotel manager, and had been both a soldier and a draftee in a glass plant during the war. But he looked like Beethoven. His massive torso, pale face, aquiline nose, generous mouth and massive forehead, shock of black hair streaked with grey, and burning black eyes made an unforgettable impression, and I was no less struck by his outspoken and fearless attitude, and the contrast between his views and the narrow sectarian Socialist attitude of such men as Boekler and Schmidt.
Meyer told me how, after being redrafted into the army, in spite of his age, in the last desperate weeks of the war, he had been taken prisoner by the Americans but had been lucky enough to be interrogated by a former trade-union colleague who had emigrated to the United States and become an American citizen. This friend of Weimar Republic days had at once released him, and he had thereupon joined up with his former trade-union chief, Boekler, in reconstituting the German trade-union movement.
Meyer did not, however, agree with Boekler in his present tactics. In the summer of 1948, when dismantlement on a big scale began in the British zone, he had proposed that the German trade unions, chambers of commerce and guilds of artisans, executives and owners of German factories, together with the Protestant and Catholic clergy, should all simultaneously go on strike and refuse all co-oper- ation with the British Military Government.
Meyer’s proposal, he told me, had been squashed by Boekler’s
* These unemployment figures do not include the mass of German expellees living in camps.
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lieutenants who had said that Boekler did not want any disturb- ances or threats to mar the good results he expected from his talks in London and Paris. It was also probable that Boekler was averse to taking any action which involved forming a united front with “the capitalists” and the churches in defense of the whole German people.
Fritz Hentzler, the Socialist mayor of Dortmund, whom I inter- viewed the same day, although not a young man, was also a mili- tant man of broad outlook. Like Ernst Reuter of erlin he repre- sented the interests of all his people, and was more concerned with human needs, freedom and justice than with “state ownership of the means of production and distribution.” He shared none of the illusions of the Boeklers and Schmidts who ike Rip Van Winkles in a changed world, continue to believe that the Socialists of other countries are as internationally minded as themselves.
Hentzler told me that the German trade-union leaders had at first refused to believe that a British Labour Government would ever deprive the German workers of their means of existence, and that the majority of German workers had accordingly never imag- ined that dismantlement on a big scale would actually be carried out. They had ascribed the outcry of the employers and executives as merely a capitalist or nationalist reaction against disarmament measures. Thus the trade unions in the Ruhr, voting to restrict their activities to particular objectives, refrained from causing diffi- culties for the British occupation orces. Later when the full effectf of the planned dismantlement was becoming obvious, the German workers had been confident that the Marshall Plan meant that it would stop, and that a higher level of industry would be permitted to Germany. Having first vainly placed their trust in the British Labour Government, they were now looking for justice from cap- italist America.
Hentzler and a few others had realized from the beginning that dismantling was a serious menace and had little hope that America would stop it. For, in his view, dismantlement on a big scale had been planned by the United States and Britain as the means to bring about an accord with France; and he thought that in 1948 they had promised to carry it through, whatever its cost and how- ever disastrous the consequences to the German workers and the German democrats.
Hentzler also told me that when he had first spoken to General Robertson about the financial consequences, the British Military
GERMAN DEMOCRACY BETWEEN SCYLLA AND CHARYBDIS 141
Governor had been sympathetic but now was “ice cold.” vidently there was a firm Anglo-French-American agreement on steel, de- signed to destroy Germany’s productive capacity and double French and Belgian production.
“Since antidemocratic and destructive are synonymous terms, the net result of dismantlement,” said Hentzler, “is the demon- tage* of democracy.’ ”
“Every economic difficulty,” he continued, “is a reflection on democracy and is welcomed by the Nazis and other extreme na- tionalists in Germany, as well as by the Communists.”
The Ruhr is the center f Communist influence in Germany o and the Communists take every possible advantage in their propa- ganda of the ruin brought about by dismantlement. They play upon nationalist sentiment almost as effectively as the Nazis did, proclaiming that dismantlement and the Anglo-American-French agreement on control of the Ruhr, are planned to turn Germany into a colony of slaves working for the profit of the Anglo-Saxon and French imperialists. Their propaganda contains sufficient truth for it to be effective. Seeing their Social-Democratic leaders failing to protect their livelihood and Germany’s basic interests, the Ger - man workers would naturally follow the Communists, were it not for their firsthand experience of the Russian terror.
When I asked Hentzler how it as possible for any German to w fall for Communist propaganda, since all knew or heard of the terrible treatment Germans received in Russia and in the Eastern zone, Hentzler smiled sadly and said:
“You underrate the stupidity of the masses. Roosevelt and Churchill were both hoodwinked by Stalin, so why shouldn’t the German people be?”
He went on to tell me that some German nationalists believe today that they can rearm Germany with the help of the Soviets. “They are ready to be Russian mercenaries today in th e hope of creating an independent Germany in the future.”
As an example, Hentzler pointed to the case of Graf Einsiedel, Bismarck’s grandson, who today plays an important role in Rus - sia’s “Free German” movement, because he wants to revert to his grandfather’s policy of friendship with Russia.
I asked Hentzler whether he thought that such German national- ists really believed that Germany could regain her independence
* The German and French term for dismantlement.
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by collaborating with Russia against the West, or whether they were preparing to betray the Russians when they got the chance. He replied: “People on the negative side are always more apt to unite than progressives.”
I asked Hentzler if he thought that many former Nazis were now Communist collaborators, and he replied, “Very few with the idea of winning Germany for the Russians. A great many on the basis of the belief that they must win Russia’s aid to rebuild Ger - many and free her from Western domination.” He went on to point out that only a inority, such as the Nazis had been,m was needed to swing a country. “The former high Nazis and many for - mer Wehrmacht officers,” he continued, “will never be satisfied with low positions. They long above all for a system in which they can once again occupy the seats of power.”
Arnold, the president of North-Rhine Westphalia, whom I in- terviewed in Düsseldorf, drew my attention to the aid and comfort given to the German Communists by Bevin’s reported statement to General Marshall that dismantlement in the Ruhr should be continued “on security grounds,” since otherwise the Soviets might capture intact plants which could be put to their service.*
Naturally, he said, if it was expected that unarmed Germany would not be defended, but surrendered to the Russians in the event of war, many Germans would feel that there was no choice but to get on good terms with the Communists in advance.
“The anti -Communist sentiments of the Germans,” said Arnold, “are good and strong.” If only England and America would draw up an occupation statute giving the Germans freedom, self-govern- ment, and responsibility, there would be a solid basis for a demo- cratic development. “Then,” he continued, “we could speak to the East zone with a strong voice.”
The effect of a declaration that dismantlement was to be stopped at once would have an electrifying effect on the Germans. “Ger - mans are so ready to cooperate in European reconstruction,” said
Arnold, “that ‘Europa über Alles’ would then supplant ‘Deutsch- land über Alles’ in German hearts.”
It is easy to dismiss such statements as this as unworthy of belief and to argue that the Germans under the pretext of being good Europeans plan to dominate the Continent. Such distrust ignores
* Cf. Newsweek, XXXII (September 27, 1948), 11.
“E urope over (or above) all” instead of “Germany over (or above) all.”
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the “all or nothing” nature of the German character. Since they are inclined to pursue a line of policy to its logical conclusion, the Germans today, given the chance to utilize their brains, skills, and capacity for hard work in peaceful ways are perhaps more, not less, likely to become good Europeans than other nations with less singleness of purpose.
War propaganda has obscured the true facts of history, other- wise Americans might realize that the German record is no more aggressive, if as aggressive, as that of the French, British, and Dutch who conquered huge empires in Asia and Africa while the Germans stayed at home composing music, studying philosophy, and listening to their poets. Not so long ago the Germans were, in fact, among the most “peace -loving” peoples of the world and might become so again, given a world in which it is possible to live in peace.
Mistaken as the Boeklers of Germany may be in believing that concessions can be won from the Western powers by negotiation, their attitude proves the willingness of many Germans to trust to peaceful means to obtain their ends.
There is unfortunately little prospect that they will be able to do so. Again, as in pre-Hitler days, the German Social Democrats are between two fires. Twenty years ago they had to struggle against the Nazis on the one hand, and the Communists on the other. Today they are weakened in their struggle against the Communists by British and American Military Government.
“We are compelled to go softly in the Ruhr,” I was told, “be - cause there are strong Communist groups among the German workers, who interpret any action we take against dismantlement as opposition to the Western democracies.”
The force of this remark had already been borne in on me by what I had read in the Russian-licensed press in Berlin, which in- veighed against dismantlement in the Ruhr (though not of course in the Russian zone), and the treatment of Germany as a colony by the Western Powers. But it seemed to me that the German Social Democrats had no hope of maintaining their leadership of the workers, or any other Germans, if they were so afraid of seem- ing to be on the side of the Communists that they failed to lead Germany’s struggle for nat ional freedom and the right to work. This was notably the case with regard to the so-called international- ization of the Ruhr agreed upon by the British, French, and Ameri- cans early in 1949. This agreement provides for the permanent, or
144 THE HIGH COST OF VENGEANCE
long-term, control of Ruhr industries by Germany’s conquerors with only a minority voice for the Germans in the disposal of the product of their labors. There is no question that it does, in fact, reduce the Ruhr to the status of a British Crown Colony under tri- partite control. The leaders of German labor in the Ruhr, however, have seemed to display more interest in ensuring the appointment of their nominees as trustees of the Ruhr coal mines and iron and steel industries, than in opposing the virtual detachment of the Ruhr from the German economy.
So in January 1949 the Communists took advantage of the won- derful opportunity presented to them to pose as the champions of the conquered and oppressed German people. Max Reimann, the Communist leader in the Ruhr, struck a owerful blow for the Communist cause when he said in a public speech:
“German politicians who today co -operate with the occupation forces under the international Ruhr statute should not be surprised if they are considered quislings by the German nation. They may one day have to face reprisals.”
The British hardly helped their Social-Democrat friends by ar- resting Max Reimann for this statement and turning him into hero of the German resistance. The Communists turned his trial into a mass demonstration against the conversion of the Ruhr into an Anglo-French-American colony.
The crowd assembled by the Communists sang the “Interna - tionale” so loudly during Reimann’s trial that it forced a recess, and compelled the British public-safety officer, Colonel Pollock, to beg the Communist leader to calm the crowd and tell them to go away. Max Reimann was thereupon reported to have “smiled broadly” and answered, “I didn’t call them here.”
Finally German police dispersed the crowd, but when Reimann emerged from the ourt room he was