We’re not being fair to West Germany
For the sake of argument
PEYTON V. LYON SAYS
While I was on the staff of the Canadian Embassy in Bonn (1954-58) my main task was to study and report on the German political scene. 1 then thought that the Canadian press gave too glossy a picture of Adenauer's new Germany, and I did what I could to point out the blemishes to visiting reporters.
Now, however, the pendulum has swung far — too far — to the other extreme. It has become fashionable for Canadian papers and the CBC to portray West Germany in the worst possible light. We are being given a frightening picture of reviving militarism, renewed trickery, and the return to power of hordes of unrepentant, vengeful Nazis.
In the last few weeks I have read in Canadian newspapers, or heard on CBC broadcasts, the following statements about West Germany:
• That there are, in Chancellor Adenauer's cabinet, men who were members of the "Nazi régime.”
• That there are “a thousand Nazi death-dealers” now sitting as judges in West German courts.
• That “Nazi militarism is back” — and also that it is not back and West Germany is refusing to pull its weight in western defense.
These are seriously inaccurate charges. They provide a misleading picture, one whose consequences could be to encourage in Germany the very developments we most fear. It may be un-British to hit a man when he is down: it is surely the ultimate in stupidity to prop him back up on his feet, thrust a loaded gun into his hands, and then heap unwarranted abuse on his head. Vet that is precisely what we arc doing to the Germans.
What are the facts concerning the rebirth of German militarism? The West Germans are rapidly becoming our strongest ally on the European continent, the core of the NATO shield. They are even receiving nuclear weapons, al-
though the warheads are to remain under U. S. control. I don’t like this situation; it doesn’t suit our interests — or the Germans’ —to make the German army so strong that Germany's neighbors again have cause to fear. This is especially true of the Poles and Czechs, who are thereby encouraged to cling even closer to their Muscovite big brother.
But it was we — not the Germans — who insisted that they rearm. They have done so reluctantly, at a slower pace than requested by their NATO allies. Even more indicative of the German mood is their consistent and ardent support for a thoroughly integrated European army — an arrangement that would rule out the possibility of independent military action. It was the French who scuttled this constructive proposal, partly because the British didn't give it enough support. Had we heeded the Germans, we should now have less cause to fear German militarism.
A recent issue of the Toronto Globe and Mail unconsciously illustrated the German predicament. The lead story was devoted to Senator David Croll’s passionate warning against reviving German militarism. Inside a correspondent complained that the German defense buildup “is distressingly slow . . . " For the Germans, it is clearly a case of “we're damned if we do, damned if we don't.”
"The Nazis are back!” is a charge with even less substance. True, many officials who held office under Hitler still occupy responsible posts. It would have been exceedingly difficult to re-establish the German state entirely of greenhorns or the few members of the resistance to Hitler who survived the Gestapo. But the fact is that “Nazi,” even "nationalist," is a label of abuse in contemporary Germany and a serious handicap to the politically ambitious. The vast ma-
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DR. LYON, NOW A PROFESSOR AT THE UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN ONTARIO, IS A FORMER OFFICER OF THE DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS.
For the sake of argument continued from page 8
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One German party regarded as neo-Nazi polled an insignificant one percent in the last election
jority of the influential members of the only two important parties (the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats) kept completely free of Nazi associations. Many were active in the resistance to Hitler or went into exile. The few exNazis who have reclimbed the political or civil-service ladders have done so in spite of — not because of — their tainted past. They have been totally excluded from the ranks of colonel and above in the new army.
Explicitly neo-Nazi parties were outlawed by the Bonn constitution; their leaders were imprisoned, or found sanctuary with Nasser and Perón. One group, the German Reich party, has managed to stay within the letter of the constitution and yet acquire the reputation of being neo-Nazi. It ran a well-publicized campaign in the last election and polled an insignificant one percent — chiefly in backward rural areas. I hope it will continue to be obliged to face the embarrassment of free elections.
Adenauer, who himself suffered Hitlerite persecution, has not entirely succeeded in his efforts to fill his cabinet with men free of Nazi associations. But his failures have been much exaggerated. For example, in a sensationally played frontpage story, the Toronto Telegram branded Defense Minister Franz-Josef Strauss as a member of “the former Nazi régime.” In fact he belonged to no Nazi organizations, still less the régime. He was 17 when Hitler came to power in 1933 and remained a student until the war when he enlisted in the regular army. By 1945 he had risen to the rank of captain.
The Telegram, and other papers, have leveled the same charge against Interior Minister Gerhard Schroeder. And, in fact, Schroeder is the one member of Adenauer’s present cabinet who did belong to the Nazi party, at least nominally. In 1933, at 23, he was obliged to join the
party or be refused permission to take up the practice of law for which he had trained. In 1938, however, he joined the church led by Pastor Martin Niemoeller, famous for defiance to Hitler. When the pastor was sent to concentration camp, his daughter was given a job in Schroeder’s law firm. In 1943, Schroeder was expelled from the party for having married a girl of Jewish descent.
There are other examples that suggest that Nazi party membership, by itself, should not be taken as proof of incorrigible Nazi sympathies. One is the record of Hasso von Etzdorf, formerly German ambassador in Ottawa, who has been attacked over the CBC. There is ample proof that Etzdorf risked his life from 1939 on by organizing resistance to Hitler among army officers. He was, it is true, a Nazi party member. So too were all eight German diplomats strung up on meathooks for their part in the July 20 plot against Hitler’s life in 1944.
Another favorite target is Hans Globke, now the top civil servant in Adenauer’s administration. He also held a senior post in Hitler’s civil service and was even co-author of a book that served for a time as the official commentary on the notorious Nuremberg race laws. However, his explanation — that he wrote the book to water down the harshness of the law—is supported by testimony from Jews who say he helped them. Further, a Roman Catholic bishop has testified that Globke had been requested by the church to stay at his post, from which he was often able to give warning of impending measures of repression.
There is no such excuse for the conduct of Professor Theodor Oberländer, the one dyed-in-the-wool ex-Nazi to have served in an Adenauer cabinet. Only the Communists claim to have proved his complicity in Nazi atrocities, and he is now a pillar of Moral Rearmament. Nevertheless he was an ardent Nazi and
closely associated with Hitler’s Eastern policy.
Even in this case, however, the Germans have had a worse press than the full story warrants. Oberländer was taken into the cabinet in 1953 as leader of the newly formed Refugee party. This is a pressure group to advance the claims of West Germany’s 12,000,000 refugees and expellees from countries such as Poland and Czechoslovakia. By saddling this group with limited government responsibility, Adenauer aimed to reduce the risk that it would become a radical and dangerous movement for the recovery of lost German territories. The tactic succeeded. Oberländer became so attached to office that he refused his party’s demand that he oppose the chancellor’s efforts to give the Saar an international status, as requested by the French. He was expelled from the Refugee party, which then split and failed to re-enter the Bundestag in the next elections.
Adenauer should have sacked Oberländer once he had served his purpose, but was understandably reluctant to penalize further a minister who had been repudiated by his party for loyalty to the key Adenauer policy of reconciliation with France. In any case, the Oberländer story does not establish the claim that it is an advantage in West Germany to have had a Nazi past, or that ex-Nazis again dominate the political stage. The contrary is true.
Anti-Semitism is being fought
Occasionally the Germans, and their allies, are given sickening reminders that the past is not entirely buried. An example was the rash of Swastikas and antiJewish slogans which, starting on the new Cologne synagogue on Christmas Eve, spread to many parts of the world, including Canada. Within Germany, only an infinitesimal minority took part; the vast majority was shocked and disgusted. Nevertheless, in view of recent history, it was especially repugnant that this obscene business should have had its start in Germany.
Before reading too much into these acts of desecration, one might usefully consider the observations of Gordon Donaldson, a correspondent of the Toronto Telegram who can scarcely be accused of charity toward the Germans. He has written: “All the Jews I talked with agreed that the Bonn government was doing its best to clamp down on antiSemitism.” He also quoted a prominent Jewish editor as maintaining that “there is less actual anti-Semitism in Germany today than in most other European countries ...” although “the potential is there.” While at the Canadian embassy in Bonn, I saw a depressing amount of anti-Semitic literature; all of it, however, was mailed from such countries as Sweden, the Netherlands and Argentina.
The Toronto Telegram recently accepted as true the East German Communists’ charge that “1,000 Nazi deathdealers” are presiding in West German courts. The press, public and government in West Germany have also shown lively concern about reports that judicial officials are still active who once participated in savage decisions based on Nazi “justice.” Such persons have been dismissed in the handful of cases where the charges have been substantiated; some are being prosecuted in the West German courts, as are many other individuals suspected of Nazi crimes. The Germans cannot be accused of having forgotten or forgiven those responsible for atrocities. Nevertheless, no responsible authority in West Germany, foreign or native, would be
prepared, as is the Telegram, to accept the Communists’ claims at face value; the highest authoritative estimate I have seen is that, instead of 1,000, up to a hundred of the 12,000 West German judicial officials may have participated in improper judicial proceedings under the Nazis, and they are being weeded out.
I am prepared to document further instances of one-sided inaccurate reporting on Germany from recent issues of all three Toronto dailies and Weekend magazine and from CBC broadcasts. I have never known in Canada such a spate of ill-based scare-mongering. I am told that other Canadian papers have also participated in this campaign, which was initiated by a segment of the British press. However, the reporters and editors should not get all the blame; they are obliging fellows, and clearly many of us, if not most, are eager to be told the worst of our former enemies.
Adenauer is no Rhee
Our hypercritical attitude to the Germans is reflected in comments one hears about Germany’s 84-year-old chancellor.
I am often asked, “What will happen when Adenauer goes?” About as often I hear the charge that he is a dictatorial and tricky old man, a disgrace to democracy. In fact he is inclined to be autocratic, especially in making foreign policy, and he can be unpleasant in political in-fighting. However, he is no Syngman Rhee. He is probably less autocratic than R. B. Bennett was, and either Mackenzie King or Duplessis could have taught him a few political gimmicks. The important thing is that Adenauer has good nerves, and is rock solid in his belief that Germany must earn and keep the confidence of the West. Nor am I very much concerned about his immediate successor. Ludwig Erhard, the Christian Democrats' heir apparent, is a better democrat, and as loyal to the West. So too is Willy Brandt, the courageous, hard - headed mayor of Berlin who will be the Social Democrats’ candidate for the chancellorship in next year’s elections. My guess is he will outpoll Adenauer. It will be no tragedy if he does.
Adenauer’s popularity is a good indicator of the internationalist outlook prevalent in West Germany. He won majority support even though it is widely recognized that he attaches more importance to West European unity, and NATO, than to German reunification. Brandt’s mounting popularity is similarly reassuring because he is known to have renounced his German citizenship during the Hitler period. He donned a Norwegian uniform for a time and returned to Germany after the war as press attaché in the Norwegian mission in Berlin. Not least of his assets is a stunning Norwegian wife. Brandt’s views on foreign policy are close to those of Adenauer, and he is displaying similar qualities of leadership and steadiness.
Although newcomers to the game, and far from perfect at it, the Germans have in many respects made a greater success of democratic government than any other major nation in the years since 1948. This is not just a matter of skilled leadership. The German voter himself has displayed an encouraging degree of common sense, and a reluctance to bite at tempting but insubstantial bait. If all our allies were as steady and democratic as West Germany has been, we should have less cause to worry.
But are there no clouds on the German horizon? Are the Germans now confirmed pacifists and democrats, incapable of being led astray by nationalistic pied
pipers? UnfortLinately, one cannot answer with a confident affirmative. For one thing, postwar Germany has not yet had to weather economic stress and strain. My guess is that it would now pass such a test. More worrisome are the problems created by the forced partition
of this vigorous, virile and potentially violent nation. While 17.000.000 Germans remain under Communist tyranny, there can be no guarantee against irrational, desperate action that could trigger World War III. When the East Germans revolted in 1953, there was no
West German army. Now there is, and the 70,000,000 Germans remain a sentimental, emotional people, in our own interest, we should seek to avoid situaaions in which German policy might again be determined by resentment, fear oir panic.
Such a situation would probably arise if the Germans came to believe that their aillies were preparing to sell out to the Russians vital German interests, such as the light to reunification. They would be strongly tempted to get to Moscow first and make the best deal possible. Such a course would not be in the long-run German interest, but then resentment, fear and panic rarely inspire rational policy.
The West Germans believe they are now behaving as loyal, co-operative allies, and democrats. Most of them are trying to make amends for the past. When their efforts are met with blatantly inaccurate criticism, they are inclined to become mistrustful. Some have already raised the question whether the anti-German campaign in the British press isn't justification in advance of a sellout.
Fortunately, most of the Western allies have been immune to the current wave of anti-Germanism. The Americans still appear in German eyes as loyal friends. Even more reassuring has been President dí Gaulle's attitude; he was expected to reverse the trend toward European unity based on a Franco-German partnership. Instead he has strengthened it. The loyalty to Germany of the other members of Little Europe — Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy — has also had a steadying influence, and prompts the Germans to attribute most of the venom of the British press to commercial rivalry.
So long as the virulent anti-German campaign is confined to Britain and the Communist world — and Canada — the worst possibilities are unlikely to be realized. However, there could be other unpleasant consequences. For example, Germany and France are the dominant members of the new West European trading bloc; if we adopt a consistently hostile attitude toward the Germans, can we expect then to influence the policies of this bloc to avoid damaging our vital trading interests? Rightly or wrongly, we helped restore Germany to her present position where she can no longer be ignored or abused with impunity.
I may be partial to the Germans; I certainly am to those I came to know during the three and a half years my family and I lived as the only foreigners in the cheerful, bustling community of Beuel, the “laundry capital of the Rhine valley." But I do not plead "justice" for the Germans, nor do I expect everyone to share my sentiments toward them. In view' of the crimes they committed against humanity. I censure no one for hating and fearing the Germans; no amount of unfair criticism could begin to match the evil done by them in our lifetime.
1 base my case for fairness toward contemporary Germany not on justice, or sentiment, but on Canadian self-interest. I agree that some apprehension is warranted — the German situation does have its dangers. But the vital question is: how can we minimize these dangers? Certainly not by keeping up the present unwarranted abuse. Obviously hostile, inaccurate criticism fosters the resentments and fears in Germany that could fuel a new w'ave of irrational nationalism. An attitude toward Germany based on emotion would be understandable, but could also be catastrophic. Objectivity toward Germany is now a matter of elementary common sense. ★