IN JULY, 1946, I went with a small parliamentary deputation to Germany. We landed in Hamburg, stayed for two days in Hanover, motored to Berlin via t he autobahn which goes through the Russian Zone, came back to the Ruhr, visited Cologne, and then returned to London. According to custom, I wrote about it in the London Letter and made some observations about the future.
I have just, reread the three articles which I wrote on my visit, and for the sake of the argument which I want to put forward to you, it is not without interest to extract these quotations:
“Forty miles to Berlin and large colored signs in Russian began to stare us in the face. I assumed that they were traffic directions, but I was wrong. They were exhortations such as:
“‘Salute the glorious Red Army for its mighty victories against Fascist Germany !’
‘Workers and peasants unite in the struggle against Capitalism!’
“Every now and then there would be a sign in English:
“ ‘Warning. The road ahead is skiddy.’ “We agreed.”
Two years later the Russians closed the autobahn which was the main road artery for supplying the Allied Zones in Berlin. I am not pretending that we foresaw the air lift and the whole pattern of coming events, but we did sense the impossibility of the situation remaining as it was. Any delusion that Russia intended to act as an ally in peace was shattered by her brutal frankness in calling for a world revolution against Capitalism.
Nevertheless, we were less worried about Russia on that visit than about Germany.
Here is another quotation which gives our impression of the beaten enemy one year after the war had ended.
“The German, though he does not understand war guilt
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Germans Could Win the Cold War
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understands war. Deep down in his heart he admires us for having carried aerial warfare to a level of horror never thought possible by Hitler. He raises his hat and bows.
“This docility makes Germany an easy country to occupy. Many of us thought there would be an underground resistance movement, that youthful Nazis would murder by night, and that our soldiers would walk in fear of death. The German is not like that. He welcomes the conqueror with relief because it means a new discipline has come to take the place of the one that had existed.
“In 48 hours we could have had every German in the British Zone saying ‘Heil Churchill!’ . . . ‘Heil Democracy!’ said the Germans, without the faintest idea of what democracy meant.”
After Berlin, as I have stated, we came back to the Ruhr, lunching at the huge, ugly, magnificent house of Herr Krupp, then occupied as a British officers’ club. Here, in the Ruhr, is the iron heart, and the sharp steel of German aggression. The RAF had mauled it almost beyond recognition, but bombs cannot, destroy minas, and where there are coal and water power the potential strength remains, no matter how heavy the surface destruction.
Sensing this I wrote in the London Letter:
“The shadow of future trouble lies deep on the Ruhr. This massive district is the industrial base from which Germany draws her strength to make war. The French, with ruthless logic, demand that the Ruhr should be politically detached from Germany and placed under international control which would be preponderantly French. Thus the Ruhr would be made to serve all Europe and would be kept out of the hands of any militaristic superman who rose to carry on the work of Hitler and the Kaiser . . .
“We must think hard and think straight. I believe international control of the Ruhr is possible and that the Germans would accept it. Equally I believe that the political amputation of the Ruhr is dangerous even though it be just.”
Then there comes this observation:
“The zonal division of Germany must be ended, even if Russia refuses to co-operate . .
Finally there is a paragraph in that report which disturbs me now: “I
prophesy that before this grim battle for Germany is finished, Russia will turn on her puppet state of Poland and partition her once more, restoring to Germany her dispossessed lands of
East Prussia. The infamous pact signed by Ribbentrop and Molotov in 1939 will be repeated in a new form.”
The reason I have recalled these impressions of the summer of 1946 is that they have the merit of being a photograph of Germany in the first stage of abject defeat.
Another reason is that they pointed to the problems that lay ahead, problems that experienced politicians should have been able to foresee and, to some extent, forestall.
Not very long after my return I spent an evening with Harold Macmillan, one of the Conservative leaders in the House of Commons, who was going to wind up a foreign affairs debate the next day. We both agreed that unless Russia and the Allies could agree to work together, Germany would very soon become the supreme courtesan of Europe, casting her smiles first to the East and then to the West, and following these with frowns when it suited her purpose. In other words, this beaten nation, disgraced before history, would hold the balance of power in Europe within five years. Remembering the shambles of her cities it seemed a physical impossibility, but the relentless march of events would not be held up by the rubble of her ruins.
It was madness of the Russian leaders not to understand this. Russia had two alternatives before her—to try and plunge the world into revolution or to carry the grand alliance of the war into peace. They chose the former. It is difficult to believe that destiny will forgive them.
I don’t know whether the German will ever make war again, but he is still the same German of Frederick the Great, Bismarck, the Kaiser and Hitler.
When we went through Germany in 1946 as representatives of the British Parliament we hardly saw the faces of the deputations that came to see us because they bowed so low. “They are either at your throat or at your feet” . . . That saying is as old as Prussia itself.
Now let us come to the present day. What has happened to Germany in two years and a half? Well, for one thing Britain’s expenditure in putting Germany on her feet has reached the formidable total of 500 millions. The American expenditure must be astronomical.
That was the cash cost imposed on us by victory. Irony can surely go no further than when the conqueror is forced to pay reparations to the conquered.
Two things which seemed essential to me in 1946 have happened since. The zonal division of Western Germany was abolished and a new bizonal state
•was established with a German form of government. In addition, the Allies created a new currency which gave confidence to the workers and filled the shops with goods.
These were constructive accomplishments, and full tribute should be rendered to the men who labored to bring them about.
And are the Germans grateful?
Let us look at Western Germany today. The scene is a German court set up by the British with Herr Burkert as judge. A senior British official is taking notes.
“I forbid you to take notes,” say3 Herr Burkert, “in a German court.”
The Briton has the guts to demand a court of enquiry which, however, exonerates the German judge. Yet only two years ago I watched a solitary English lawyer sentence five men to death in Hamburg, and not one of their lawyers challenged the legality of the proceedings.
Dr. Hermann Weltz, Finance Minister of the Ruhr, has issued a long memorandum complaining of the extravagance and high cost of the British occupation.
When the British Commander-inChief, Sir Brian Robertson, issued a peremptory order to the German trade unions to get on with the job of dismantling factories which could be used for armament purposes, the unions replied with great indignation that such orders were undemocratic.
The Ruhr Wrangle
Herr Reuther, the anti-Communist Mayor of Berlin, has just made a public speech demanding that the Allies double their air lift to Berlin. According to the Berlin correspondent of the Daily Express, the Allies had flown 30 million miles when the mayor issued his demands.
In many clubs in the Western Zone where fraternization was adopted the Germans now boycott the British and Americans.
These are small matters, however, compared to the question of the Ruhr. As soon as the war ended, France demanded that the Ruhr should be politically detached from Germany and placed under the direction of an international commission in which the French would have the dominant place. That was what De Gaulle insisted upon and successive French Governments, no matter how much they differed from De Gaulle in other matters, followed his policy in that.
One might argue that France, having surrendered to Germany, was not in a position to state terms, but we must remember that three times in living memory she has been invaded by the Germans. The spectre of the Teuton with his massive armory of the Ruhr haunts the Frenchman in his sleep.
Britain and America recognized the emotional justice of the French claim but they also saw the danger of amputating a province from the German State, a danger which must eventually culminate in a move by a restored Germany to recover her lost territory.
For weary months the struggle with France went on until at last her government agreed. The Ruhr would not be politically detached. Instead its steel and coal products would be supervised by an international directorate, including Germans, and, instead of being a menace to peace, the Ruhr would become the servant of all Europe. Once again Anglo-Americans had won a notable victory of compromise.
Had this been done in 1946, the Germans would have kissed our feet and called us blessed among men. But it was in the last twilight days of 1948 that the long-discussed agreement was
reached and Fritz was in quite another mood.
In fairness we must remember the position of the various German political leaders. A party leader in any country must never allow himself to be less indignant than his supporters. Therefore, the political leaders of Germany felt called upon to criticize the Ruhr settlement very sharply indeed. It was a complete surrender to France, it was an unfortunate return to the spirit of early occupation days, it was an encouragement for Germans to look elsewhere for justice (everyone knew what was meant), and, if German industrial production was to be internationally controlled, what about the industrial production of America, Britain and France?
“Do you recognize that Hitler’s war was a crime?” we asked German after German in 1946.
“Yes,” they replied, “we lost the war.”
Now the Germans do not even recognize the crime of losing the war. The streetwalker is raising the price for her services.
Again we must try and see things through German eyes. American policy has made it perfectly clear that it regards Western Germany and Japan as the two forward bastions against Russian expansionism. It is perhaps small wonder that both the Germans and the Japs are saying to their master: “If we are to die for you as mercenaries, then you must feed us, pamper us and make us powerful. We are no good to you if we are weak and poor. If you don’t . . . well, there’s always Russia outside our chamber window. Remember how Ribbentrop and Molotov signed a pact in 1939. We don’t like the Russians any more now than we did then . . . but a poor unprotected girl must do the best for herself.”
It has been the language of the courtesan through the ages. It will never change.
Future of Poland
Therefore, let me venture uneasily into the realm of prophecy. I believe that Russia will have increasing trouble with her European satellites. Tito is in open rebellion, Hungary is seething with discontent, Czechoslovakia is longing for freedom, the hatred of the Poles for the Russians is deep in their hearts.
When the situation becomes impossible Russia may well offer the return of East Prussia to Germany and, as I wrote in 1946, a new partition of Poland. The offer would be on a basis of a Russo-German alliance to dominate the world.
Such a move would not be possible if the Allies keep real control of the Ruhr, and treat Germany as a wrongdoer which can only earn the respect and the rights of a great nation when it has proved itself the servant, and not the betrayer, of civilization.
Let me repeat the words: “We must think hard and think straight.” It was for fear of Russia that we let Hitler rise. Will it be fear of Russia that will bring the scourge of Germany on the world again?
Therefore, we should pay no heed when the German squeals, and we should not tolerate his bluster. There are good Germans struggling to learn the A B C of Democracy, but it is small encouragement to them if the old Nazi tricks are seen to be successful again.
Above all we should, while maintaining complete hostility to the godless philosophy of Communism, work to bring Russia into the comity of nations. Otherwise the murdered dead of two World Wars will not sleep,
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