GERMANY DREAMS OF THE NEXT TIME
An old sickness infects Germany as Nazis come out of her past to play East against West for her future
BONN, GERMANY—The 30-year-old German in the white collar shouted excitedly at me: “You see, we could have won! We
could have been the victors! Well, next time we will know better.”
Next time. Yes, the man sitting beside me in the suburban train near Bremen, jarred out of his sullen acceptance of defeat, was thinking of the next time. In the bitter millions of Germany’s defeated, how many cherish this twisted dream?
I looked past him, through the train window, at the desolate ruins war had brought his country. It was the ruins which had touched off the explosion.
The German had been reading the best-selling pamphlet, “Hitler, the War Lord,” by General Franz Haider, former chief of staff of the Wehrmacht. Suddenly he looked up, exclaiming, “That dirty Hitler! That scoundrel, that impostor! Why on earth did they ever listen to him?”
He seemed to be seeing the light a little late, but I felt I should say something. I pointed at the passing ruins.
“Yes,” I said, “it sure doesn’t pay to start a war.”
The German stared at me for a second, then shouted in excitement: “What do you mean ‘to
start a war?’ The trouble is that he lost it.”
He held up Haider’s pamphlet. “Here, read what Haider himself writes: ‘Had Hitler followed the advice of the General Staff the campaign against Russia could have been successfully concluded.’
“And here: ‘The amateurish blunders of this
charlatan were a disgrace to all our traditions in the noble art of war.’ ”
That pamphlet sold 100,000 copies its first week of publication in a Germany twice thrashed in world wars within a generation.
I have been touring that Germany trying to find out what four years of Western-style democracy have accomplished. I am not going to try to draw you a picture of high-level diplomacy, of trends, or influences. I’m not going to try to balance the success of the Berlin air-lift against the dismantling of Ruhr factories. I’ll just take you along with me, looking at Western Germany, talking to the people we fought and defeated.
One Sunday morning I went down to the Bonn steamship station to buy tickets for a boat trip on the Rhine. There was a long queue of excursionists waiting. I joined them. However, two Britons also traveling pointed at a printed notice in the window. It decreed, under the dateline of February, 1916, that Allied military and civilian personnel had priority at all times. We said we preferred to wait for our turn, but the Britons moved to the head of the line. Well, you ought to have seen the reaction of the Germans in the queue!
“Who do these two think they are?” we heard them mutter. “Diese verdammten Englaender!”— “Just wait until it’s we who are on top again!” One tall young fellow remarked with an ironic grin: “Of course! The master race!”
Many Germans today are no longer the spineless creatures who wheedled around our soldiers in the summer of 1945. They have won back their selfconfidence and are beginning to get tired of the occupiers. The same old nationalism that made Hitler’s rise possible is rampant again and is looking for new forms of expression.
In May the U. S. Military Government polled 3,000 Germans on the question: “Do you feel
Nazism was a good idea badly carried out?” Sixty-one per cent answered “Yes.”
The revival of chauvinism doesn’t prevent these people from taking full advantage of Marshall Plan benefits though.
In Dusseldorf, my wife and I had a lunch date with Kurt Eberhard, a journalist who assisted me in Frankfurt in 1947. At that time Kurt was so thin and sickly that I arranged for him to have his meals in the kitchen of the U. S. Press Centre where the food was plentiful.
When we met him now I hardly recognized him. He had gained 20 pounds and looked elegant in a new double-breasted blue suit. I invited him to the British mess in the Park Hotel.
“Oh no, sir,” he protested, “the menu isn’t very good there. All the time corned beef and canned vegetables. Let me take you and your wife to a German restaurant where we can have something decent to eat.”
We went to a beer garden where we had an excellent noodle soup, Sauerbraten with cream, asparagus cheese, strawberries and coffee for about $2 a person, and that was only a small sample of the new prosperity in town.
In the Koenigsallee, a large and majestic thoroughfare, we found the store windows crammed with leather wares, toilet articles, cameras, household goods and electrical appliances. The ground floors of all buildings were repainted in a modernistic style. No one seemed to notice that all the rest was in ruins; the Germans, we were told, consider it good manners to ignore these signs of defeat.
Boeckmann, a streamlined café with an orchestra and smartly uniformed waitresses, was packed every afternoon. People went there to eat the most astonishing pies and cakes I ever saw. They were pieces of art made from famous recipes of the imperial era— and their very names—Prince Pueckler
cake, Sacher tart, Baum-Kuchen— reminded the consumer of a glorious and carefree past. Many housewives skip lunch or dinner twice a week to be able to taste some of that anachronistic pastry—a strange case of national selfassertion through the stomach.
At night Düsseldorfs theatres and movie houses were illuminated by huge electric billboards. General Bishop, military governor of Rhineland-Westphalia, repeatedly complained about the “extravagant waste of power for neon signs.” Nor could he understand why the city’s inhabitants “used gasoline paid for by England to go on pleasure rides which wouldn’t be allowed in England itself.” But the Germans didn’t listen. This was their first boom since the defeat and no one was going to spoil it for them. It didn’t even occur to them that they were spending other peoples’ money. As far as they were concerned they owed their blitz recovery above all to their own efforts.
“Herr Marshall has every reason to be content with us,” a tx>p-ranking German Ruhr official assured us. “We now produce 90% of our 1936 output. Last year we exported goods for 43 million marks; this year we will reach 250 millions. And that’s just a beginning. In 1952 we plan to export goods for 2.6 billion marks. Believe me, we Germans still are the most industrious workers in Europe.”
Obedient Workers Are “Quislings”
“What we need is full freedom of operation,” he went on. “That would open the door to American investors, too. The Ruhr factories need at least 6 billion marks to repair and modernize their installations.”
“Do you mean you would welcome American businessmen in control?” I asked.
“Of course not,” he replied quickly. “The German owners would have to keep a controlling interest in the plants, let us say 60%. But the remaining 40% could very well belong to foreigners.”
At this point he offered me a long cigar and began to plug for the old cartel system. In his opinion the Allied decartelization program was all a big mistake.
“Why, for instance, couldn’t the Western Powers have a share of 40%, in German steel, while Germany would own 40%) of French and Belgian heavy industry?” he asked.
So the Ruhr magnates are already looking for new bases abroad from where to recapture a dominant position in European industry. They don’t seem to feel at all that such projects are premature. On the contrary, anything reminding them of their official enemy status irritates them no end. That’s why they are making such an issue of the dismantlings in the British zone.
These dismantlings affect only 222 factories out of over 5,000—not even five per cent of Western Germany’s industrial capacity. But the Ruhr barons have been able to arouse the entire population against these measures.
Their campaign recently led to the incidents at Bergkamen where Belgian tanks had to smash through German barricades to occupy a synthetic oil plant scheduled for removal. This showed the Germans how futile open acts of defiance were, and there have been no repetitions, but popular resentment has grown deeper.
I went to the Bochumer Verein, a prominent mine from which a number of hydraulic hammers were being removed. The German laborers doing the removing were ostracized by their fellow workers. Two young welders pointed at them with an air of contempt and told us sternly: “These men are
Quislings. No one around here ever talks to them.”
It was no use reminding these people that Germany had to repair some of the damage she caused in Europe. They had no feeling of personal responsibility for that damage.
Several industrial leaders declared they would be ready to cede the plants to the Western Allies if such a step could stop the dismantlings. Not only were they offering something to which they had lost title—it never even came to their minds that some of those capital goods might serve to replace machines in Poland, Holland, Yugoslavia or Norway. In their view the British went on with the dismantlings solely because they were afraid of German competition on the world markets.
This idea has become such an obsession with some German businessmen that they have started to flirt with the Russians. They have formed the so-called Nadolny Circle and advocate a “more positive attitude” toward the Soviet Union.
Driving spirit of the circle is 76year - old career diplomat Rudolf Nadolny, the Nazis’ first ambassador to Moscow. He speaks Russian fluently and enjoys the special confidence of M. Somionov, political adviser to Soviet Military Government in Germany. From time to time, Nadolny travels from Berlin to the west to preach his gospel and, so far, he has made new converts on every trip.
One night, friends took us to a
meeting of Nadolny followers in the luxurious home of a coal merchant outside Essen. There were about 70 people there, many of them new recruits.
“We don’t need to be pawns in the conflict between Russia and America,” the coal baron told his audience. “Remember the old German proverb: ‘When two people quarrel, the third one rejoices.’
“The Anglo-Saxons will always try to keep our export trade down. Therefore we must not join the European Union. If we want to win back our rightful place on the continent we better see to it that Moscow opens up the eastern markets to our products.
“The Germany of tomorrow must stay on friendly terms with Stalin. Russia and the Balkans are our best prospective customers.”
When someone pointed to the dangers involved in that attitude the speaker replied: “We detest Com-
munism just as much as anyone else. But we are not Americans. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain from balancing between two chairs.”
It is an open secret in Western Germany that many politicians at the new “capital,” Bonn, share that point of view, even though they may profess different opinions in public. Here Germany’s postwar leaders are staging the comeback of their country. I went to meet them.
The majority are cantankerous old men, ghosts of the Weimar Republic who owe their second careers to the Allies. About 40% of them follow Dr. Konrad Adenauer, a solemn-faced Catholic and former Lord Mayor of Cologne. Today he represents all that is left of the staid and stiff-necked bourgeoisie in the Rhineland and the South.
His opposite number, Socialist Dr. Kurt Schumacher, is as pitiful a sight as a bombed-out German town. A veteran of Nazi concentration camps he has only one arm and one leg and suffers from stomach ulcers. But his nervous energy overcomes all physical handicaps, and the flame of his spirit burns high.
Schumacher feels that Western Germany’s recovery is mainly due to the workers and that they should reap the rewards of their labor: higher wages, a share in management, the nationalization of heavy industry.
The two camps are split on economic matters, but they fully agree on the basic political issues affecting the future of the country.
“Germany must be reunited sooner or later,” one of Adenauer’s aides told me. “We will have to keep on friendly terms with both East and West. At the same time we shall never rest until the German provinces annexed by Poland are recovered. We also wish the Western Allies would stop carrying away our factories and spying on our industries. You won’t find anyone in Bonn who thinks differently.”
This was confirmed by Dr. Heinrich Zinn, Minister of Justice for Hesse, one of the hopes of the Social Democrat Party. Zinn, in whom many Germans see a future chancellor, complained violently about the Allied interference with the new constitution.
Idealist at the Gas Tap
“First they invite us to draft a bill of rights,” he said, “and, like good little schoolboys, we work out a model of the kind. Then they ask us to make some corrections and we comply again. Thereupon our Assembly passes the bill by a majority vote, but what happens? The Allies issue new orders forcing us to violate the rules of the constitution just adopted. How do you like that? How are we ever going to establish a democracy under a foreign dictatorship?”
He paused. Then added, “Sometimes one really wonders whether the Russians wouldn’t handle these things better.”
If that was the way a responsible minister argued, it was not surprising to hear other German personalities utter even more disturbing thoughts.
Pastor Niemoeller, the famous Berlin evangelist who went to Nazi concentration camp rather than bow the knee to Hitler, recently testified before a German court that Kurt Gerstein, the SS colonel in charge of gas extermination at Auschwitz, had been “an idealist through and through.”
A few days later Dr. Otto Dibelius, president of the German Protestant Church, wrote to the wife of former Nazi Finance Minister SchwerinKrosigk who is serving a 10-year sentence: “We positively refuse as
Christians to recognize the verdicts of Nuremberg as justice. They are an act of revenge on a defeated people ... A new era of barbarism has been opened.”
These statements serve as spiritual guidance to many judges in Germany. Rather than punishing former Nazi big-wags, they treat them as men of distinction.
The other day a Stuttgart court tried Hubert Hildebrand, the deputy of slave-labor boss Fritz Sauckel who was hung at Nuremberg. The prosecu-
tion contended that HHdebrand had just as many victims on his conscience as his chief, but the court felt he was a mere Nazi follower and released him on the spot.
A Hamburg tribunal dismissed the case against movie producer Veit Harlan who had directed the antiSemitic film “Jew Suess,” a pernicious Nazi propaganda picture. “The defendant was found innocent on the charge of committing crimes against humanity,” the decision read. “The costs of the trial will be carried as a government expense.”
This was surpassed by the sentences given on July 5 in the Tuebingen “euthanasia trial.” Dr. Otto Mauthe and his aides, who had killed more than 10,000 hospital patients during the war because they were “unworthy of living” and “unwanted, useless eaters,” received prison terms of 18 months to five years.
Nazi Germs From the East
One result of this systematic leniency is that important Nazis who dropped out of sight in 1945 are trying to get back into circulation. Some of them dare enter the political scene quite openly, such as Hans Fritzsche, Walter Semmler and Joachim von Ostau, the three musketeers who helped Josef Goebbels wage his radio war against the Allies.
This unholy trio has founded the Association of Independent Germans which attacks all other parties and wants to put Dr. Hjalmar Schacht, Hitler’s financial wizard, back into power.
Other old-timers are less candid in their approach. “Ex-Nazis and Nazi sympathizers are beginning to infiltrate in key government positions,” Charles M. Lafollette, U. S. governor of Wuerttemberg-Baden, recently declared in an official speech, “and they try to make martyrs out of those who brought Germany to the moral and physical bankruptcy of 1945.”
An American legal adviser added: “They are coming back all over the place, not only in public office but also as directors of major commercial enterprises. The German authorities no longer enforce the laws barring certain categories of political offenders from other than manual work.”
He explained that refugees from the east had virtually nullified the whole Allied attempt at de-Nazification.
“How can we know whether a man from Silesia was a Nazi or not?” he said. “The records on his past are not available and often we aren’t even sure of his true identity. He may have whipped and tortured people under the Hitler regime and yet he is free to accept any job he desires in our territory.”
These refugees undoubtedly are the principal carriers of the new nationalist germs in Western Germany. There are 8 millions of them and 30,000 more slip through the Iron Curtain every month. The majority are destitute and desperate people, but the local residents do little to comfort them.
In fact, outside little towns, I have often seen huge posters, like American welcome signs, which read: “THIS COMMUNITY IS CLOSED TO ALL REFUGEES. ENTRANCE ST RI CTL Y FORBIDDEN.”
There exists only one bond of solidarity between those two groups of Germans: the easterners want to go back to their homes and the westerners would like to see them go. Both know that the chances of Russia and the West agreeing on a border revision are remote, and their frustration may well develop into an open spirit of revenge.