Chapter Fifteen

Disarming Germany

The Allied Control Council on December 30, 1946, passed an important decree in the spirit of Potsdam for the speeding up of the "complete elimination of German war potential." It had previously been agreed that enterprises classified as Number 1 war plants and military installations would be destroyed by June, 1947, The Control Council decree of December 30, 1946, provided for four-power teams to tour the four zones, inspect the plants reported as destroyed and in general to ensure that there was no illegal manufacture of arms in these plants and that no undestroyed war potential remained.

In the early days of occupation, military and economic intelligence experts had co-operated splendidly to draw up lists of plants and objectives which could be regarded as "war potential." It was a comprehensive list covering thousands of installations ranging from the great bunkers in the centre of Berlin to submarine pens in Kiel, underground airfields, research stations and testing fields for secret weapons. Everything in fact brought to light by the pooling of four-power intelligence.

Each occupying power was responsible for the destruction of installations in his own zone. The agreed method of checking on demolitions, was that each military governor would submit a list of the installations which he claimed as destroyed and teams from the other three occupying powers would select sample plants from the list for spot inspection.

The scheme worked splendidly at first. I talked with British and American officers who took part in the first inspection tours in the Soviet Zone. They were enthusiastic about the thoroughgoing way in which the Russians carried out their demolitions. They were given, so they assured me, every facility to inspect installations, were offered every hospitality and were satisfied that the Russians really meant business in the matter of "elimination of war potential."

The Russians, however, were soon critical of the rate and type of destruction being carried out in the western zones, particularly in the British Zone which carried the greatest weight of military installations. They listed large numbers of plants which far from being destroyed were actually producing. They listed underground airfields, shipbuilding installations at Wilmershaven, even the great bunkers in the British sector of Berlin itself, which were undestroyed. Even plants inspected as destroyed in many cases fell far short of Soviet standards. In many cases the buildings, rail tracks and other gear were left to move the machines right back in again.

The wreckers in British and American headquarters began to be anxious about this Soviet "prying into their affairs." Somehow or other it had to be stopped. Those whose self-appointed task it was to prove to the public in the west that any co-operation with the Russians was impossible, did not even inform the press that inspection teams were wandering about the Soviet Zone, checking up on de-militarisation. It would have spoilt the barrage of propaganda about the "impenetrable veil" which made it impossible to know what was going on in the Soviet Zone. The "Zone of Silence," they allowed it to be called in the West-licensed press.

I stumbled across the story by accident in an interview with General Draper, at which was present the foreign editor of a great London daily paper. The latter could not believe his ears when Draper mentioned that joint British-French-American teams were wandering about in the Soviet Zone. An interview was arranged with members of the first teams to return. It is a striking commentary on the policy of top occupation officials that no press release was put out in this very important development in four-power relationships.

It was indeed a fact that news of this type was always suppressed, either at source or by the public relations chiefs. If there was something positive to report in the way of four-power co-operation, trade agreements between the Soviet Zone and the west, it was always left to the correspondents to dig it out for themselves. If there was anything that could be given an anti-Soviet twist, the Roneo machines were soon churning it out as a press release or the public relations officer whistled together a press conference.

This particular story, which cut clean across the propaganda of the day, was unfortunately published in a somewhat garbled form which made it appear that Allied teams were wandering around in the Soviet Zone checking up on ordinary industrial production.

The day following the publication of the story, I was invited to lunch with Mr. Christian Steel. I guessed the reason for this honour and took along a carbon copy of my original story. After he had broached the subject over coffee, murmuring that such "irresponsible" stories do a lot of harm, I explained the garble to him and showed him my original story.

"But that's even worse," he exclaimed indignantly when he had read it, "there's not a word of truth in it. We have no teams checking up on demilitarisation in the Soviet Zone. That's sheer nonsense. Whoever told you this poppycock?"

We had a heated discussion for several minutes, during which I told him of my interview with General Draper and later with members of the teams who had just returned from the first inspection tours. I listed some of the plants they had inspected and their impressions.

Incredible as it may seem, Mr. Christian Steel, then Chief of Political Division and shortly afterwards Ambassador Steel, chief political adviser to the Military Governor, who had stood me a lunch to deny an "irresponsible" story, knew nothing about one of the most significant developments at that time. And it was from the Steels that the British Government got its news and formed its policies on Germany.

"Well, I knew nothing about this," he said lamely, when I had convinced him that things were as I had described them. "I must say, I wish these people would keep me informed."

There were other important occasions on which I found "these people" appeared not to have kept Mr. Steel informed, and that after he had replaced Sir William Strang as political adviser. But that is another story to be related in its due place.

Before long the wreckers had switched their propaganda line from the "Impenetrable Soviet Zone" to the "Soviet Zone of Mystery." What is the good of us sending teams into a few factories which the Russians select themselves to inspect de-militarisation? What's the good of blowing up air-fields and bunkers when for instance shipyards aren't included in the lists? What do we know about what the Russians are building at Rostock on the Baltic?

Stories began appearing in the West Berlin press and from there in the world press that the Russians had revived the shipbuilding yards at Rostock, were building naval vessels and submarines there. The Peenemunde stories cropped up at that time; the Russians were building V weapons again, which were being regularly tested and fired over the coast of Sweden. What's the good of destroying airfields when research plants are not even included in the Control Council Agreement?

Such was the new propaganda line developed because the West had become so sensitive to Russian criticism of the failure to de-militarise which only came to light when the zones were thrown open to the joint inspection teams.

The wreckers hoped to scare the Russians off any wider demilitarisation agreement and by pressing their points, they hoped to get the Russians to withdraw from what had already been agreed. But the Russians called their bluff. They proposed that shipbuilding installations should be included and invited Allied teams to visit Rostock and see for themselves what was going on. They also intimated that they were anxious to have an agreement which would include every type of research installation. And this threw the wreckers into a panic. They really believed some of their own propaganda and thought the Russians were doing the same things in their zone as was being done in the west, stalling on some of the most vital aspects of de-militarisation. The inspection teams by this time had finished their work in the Soviet Zone and they had reported that the Russians had loyally carried out their task under the December 30 agreement.

Work in the British Zone had hardly started. Officials whom I interviewed on the subject said: "The Russians have every right to complain. But we just can't get the manpower, you know."

An Air Force Intelligence Officer who visited me to see my photographs of the Russian demolitions at Peenemunde, said: "I don't wonder the Russians complain that we are only playing at demolitions. This stuff makes our work look silly."

At all costs the mutual inspection of demolition of shipbuilding facilities had to be stopped. Everybody knew that they had been preserved substantially intact in the British Zone. Potsdam said: "The production of... sea-going ships shall be prohibited and prevented," but the Germany First group who were running Military Government, had other plans. They were determined that Germany should be allowed to build ships – as she is now doing, ocean-goers up to 7,000 tons – and so the installations had to be saved. The Forrestal-Royall-Draper school were already well away by this time with their scheme to revive Germany as the base for the next war against the Soviet Union.

A new line of propaganda was fed to the press. "What's the good of all this dismantling and destruction unless we are allowed to know exactly what goes on in the Soviet Zone. Military installations are not the most important war potential, industry itself is. Unless the Russians throw every square yard of their zone open, allow our teams to go where they like when they like; to inspect every plant at any time, no matter what it is making, we won't have any more Soviet representatives roaming around in our zones."

After that, the Russians no longer believed the western powers were sincere in wanting to demolish military installations. They recognised it for what it was, the old game of stalling, playing for time, talking about destruction of war potential but not destroying it. They wanted some evidence of sincerity, but got hypocritical demagogy instead. Once again the deliberate policy of wrecking four-power unity.

Had the western powers really believed their own propaganda about tanks, planes and warships being manufactured in the Soviet Zone, they would eagerly have taken the chance to inspect (a) all the plants listed by combined intelligence in the Soviet Zone; (b) every ship-building installation, and (c) all research institutes. They could have carried out a step by step, planned programme to have effected this. They had no grounds for complaints, if they were sincere in wanting to de-militarise. They were the ones who named the plants the Russians were to inspect in their own zones. The Russians had no more freedom to roam in the western zones than did the western representatives in the Soviet Zone. And they did not ask for any privileges they were not prepared to extend to the West.

Even had the western powers sincerely believed that tanks and planes were being built in textile factories in Saxony, they would at least have seized the opportunity offered of checking on what they could. But they did not want such an agreement. They feared such an agreement. They could not offer reciprocal facilities in their own zones without disclosing how miserably they had failed to carry out their obligations. Lest there should be any doubt about this, we have a statement provoked by a guilty conscience from no less an authority than Mr. Bevin himself, during a House of Commons debate    on Germany on Thursday, July 22, 1949.

Bevin was defending himself from Tory attacks on his dismantling policy in Germany.

"I made a promise in Moscow," said Mr. Bevin, "I think this is where the Russians have a grievance. I said I would complete the dismantling of what were called Number 1 war plants, by June, 1948. I tried my best but I was completely hampered by the Allies."

"By whom?" from a questioner.

"The Americans took one view at one time and then altered it and put up entirely different proposals. I doubt," he continued, repeating a lesson which had been drummed into him in Washington by the Clay-Draper school of anti-dismantlers, "if dismantling is any good except the plants which must be destroyed for security."

Perhaps some tremor of fear, caused by the knowledge of how far he had committed England to America's future plans for Germany, crossed Mr. Bevin's mind at this point, for he added: "It is all very well to write Germany off as never being a potential aggressor. I am not ready to do that yet. Nobody with responsibility in the Foreign Office is prepared to do it either."

Socialisation was abandoned by Mr. Bevin on his own admission because of American pressure, demilitarisation was abandoned by Mr. Bevin on his own admission because of American pressure. The Bevin's statement incidentally removes the last chance of an excuse for the actions of his representatives in Germany in stalling on the work of the inspection teams. The Agreement made by Mr. Bevin was a concrete one about Number 1 war plants, named and listed. There was no mention in that agreement of even research institutes, let alone ordinary industries. The Russians were pressing for inspection of the demolition of those specific plants which Mr. Bevin had promised would be destroyed.

The myth that the Soviet Zone was sheltered from the Allies by an "iron curtain" is one which was carefully cultivated but which had no foundation in fact. It was widely believed abroad that the Allies had no access whatsoever to the Soviet Zone, that we have no information as to what is happening there, except such as comes to us from "refugees."

Actually the Allies have maintained Military Missions to the Soviet Zone, stationed at Potsdam from the first days of occupation. Long after the Control Council crisis and the blockade difficulties, I know that Brigadier Curtis, head of the British Military Mission, was free to travel about the Soviet Zone and check up on reports of military activity, The last time I saw him, late in 1948, he had just come back from some remote spot, where Germans had reported an armored train, complete with guns, headed "in the direction of Moscow." (Obviously just, turned out of some secret plant camouflaged as a stocking factory.) Curtis found that there was an armored train there, sure enough, but completely wrecked and with the breech of every gun burst open by Soviet demolition squads. Brig. Curtis assured me that every facility was given him to carry on his work in the Soviet Zone.

Until the time I left Berlin in 1949, British teams were roaming where they liked in the Soviet Zone, sleeping and eating usually in Soviet messes. They were Grave Concentration Unit teams, and were given every help by Soviet officials in locating and recovering the bodies of British – mostly airmen – buried in the Soviet Zone. Their work took them over every inch of the Soviet Zone, checking up on rumours of Allied flyers shot down during the war. Often they returned without any bodies. My information is that the Russians, whose suspicions could easily have been aroused by these often fruitless trips, never once raised difficulties.

Apart from these constant activities, there were fairly frequent visits by Allied correspondents to the Soviet Zone. I believe that every time a request was made for a group of British correspondents to visit the Zone, the request was granted. Individual correspondents were sometimes refused, but there were certainly far more tours by western correspondents into the Soviet Zone, than of Soviet correspondents to the West. Hundreds of allied personnel travelled to Leipzig in the Soviet Zone for the spring and turn fairs by car across the Soviet Zone to Poland and Czechoslovakia. If through all these channels the Allies could not build up a fair picture of what was going on in the Soviet Zone, then there must be something wrong with their powers of observation.

After the legend of secret weapon tests at Peenemunde, another had to be invented. The uranium mines of Aue near Chemnitz, were a God-send to the propagandists and non-demolitionists. The Russians were attacked for operating the mines at all, for having them guarded by Soviet troops; for robbing Germany of valuable minerals – and above all for not allowing Allied teams to inspect the mines. This was the anti-demolitionists' trump card. "What's the good of inspecting demolitions in the Soviet Zone, if they won't let us inspect the Aue uranium mines? Who knows what they are up to there?" This was thrown in as an argument as to the futility of carrying out any agreements on demilitarisation.

The Americans and British had as much right to ask to inspect the Aue uranium mines, as the Russians would have to ask to see the American atom bomb centre at Oak Ridge or the British atom centre at Harwell. The Russians had taken over the Aue mines and were working them as a Russian industry as they were entitled to do, and as indeed they were obliged to. The Potsdam Agreement expressly forbade the Germans to develop or produce radio-active materials. Should the Russians leave the uranium in the ground to be developed by the Germans after the end of occupation – or to be sold to America?

Or should they take it themselves to help in peaceful projects like the great Davidov project to blast mountains and change the face of nature with atomic power, for the benefit of humanity?

As the main objective of occupation was to disarm Germany, one would have thought the western allies would have been relieved that the raw material for atom research was being removed from the country. There was certainly no grounds for seizing on the Russian exploitation of the Aue uranium mines, as an excuse to halt the demolition of German war installations.

If the record of demolition of actual war installations, Number 1 war plants, was bad in the western zones, the record of economic disarmament is still worse. The Potsdam Agreement in the section dealing with reparations laid down quite clearly what was to be done in this respect. It is interesting to scan this document in view of the anguished cries from the west, about Soviet demolitions and removals for reparations, claimed to have been a breach of the Potsdam Agreement.

Under the heading: "The Plan for Reparations and the Level of Post-War German Economy," the guiding principles were laid down as follow:

(1) Elimination of the German War Potential and the Industrial Disarmament of Germany.

(2) Payment of Reparations to the countries which have suffered from German aggression.

(3) Development of Agriculture and Peaceful Industries.

(4) Maintenance in Germany of average living standards not exceeding the average standard of living of European countries (excluding the United Kingdom and the U.S.S.R.

(5) Retention in Germany, after payment of reparations, of sufficient resources to enable her to maintain herself without external assistance.

“Removals of industrial equipment shall begin as soon as possible and shall be completed within two years from the determination in paragraph 5" (that the number of plants to be allotted from the western zones must be assessed within six months of the signing of the Potsdam Agreement.")

In other words, dismantling in the western zones, were to be completed at the latest by January, 1948. The rebuilding of German economy was to take place after reparations had been made. By October 16, 1948, ten months after all dismantlings were supposed to be completed, an announcement was made in Washington that the number of plants marked down for dismantling- – not dismantled mark you – in the American and British Zones, had been finally fixed at 682, compared with the total of 1,636 formerly listed. Exempted were quite a number of industries, banned as "war potential" under the "Level of Industry" agreement worked out by the four occupying powers. The plants which were reprieved included those for producing aluminium, vanadium, beryllium and magnesium, production of which was totally forbidden under the Potsdam Agreement; plants for ball-bearings, synthetic oil, ammonia and rubber (retained under the Potsdam Agreement only until imports of these materials were available and could be paid for by exports). Plants for producing dangerous chemicals and explosives were retained, and more important still, German ship-building facilities were saved.

"The Russians have a grievance..." comments Mr. Bevin, and so do the peoples of every nation who have suffered from German aggression have a grievance.

In the Soviet Zone, the dismantlings were completed long before January, 1948. The only exceptions were some plants to which the Russians were entitled as reparations, but which were left behind in the Soviet Zone to be worked there as Soviet concerns. These are plants of which the Soviet Union has no great need as plants, but the production of which they did need to bridge the gaps in their own consumer goods production due to the war. They cannot be regarded as war potential plants and will be eventually handed back to the German economy. Meanwhile they are giving employment to German workmen and a proportion of their production is retained for the German economy. These plants are the famous Soviet Share Companies, about which a great deal of fuss was made in the West German press, which tried to prove that the Russians had moved in and taken over the heavy industry of the Soviet Zone.

Paragraph (e) in the Level of Post-War German Economy provides for the retention after payment of reparations of "sufficient resources to enable her to maintain herself without external assistance."

Has this been done in the Soviet Zone? Yes, it has. Because of the refusal of the western powers to honour the protocols of the Yalta Agreement and allot reparations to the value of ten milliards of dollars available to the Soviet Union, the burden for all reparations has fallen upon the Soviet Zone. The leaders of the political parties in the Soviet Zone, accepted these obligations and never tried to hide the fact from the people. A very high proportion of these reparations have been paid, reparation payments and occupation costs figure as an important item in the yearly budget of the Soviet Zone. But the Soviet Zone is already economically self-supporting. Each year it is reducing the debt incurred by Hitler's armies in the Soviet Union. The day will soon come when these reparation payments are finished, and the Soviet Zone, the new German Republic will start life, economically independent, without one dollar of debt.

In Western Germany exactly the opposite is true. Despite the fact that reparations agreements were repudiated, the Germans have lost their economic independence; every month increases their dollar debts (estimated at present at five billion dollars). When the bill for occupation costs; forced feeding and air-lift is finally presented, the West German people will understand their future is mortgaged to America for generations.

The Level of Industry plan, which supplemented the Reparations Agreement, was even more explicit than the former as to exact details of what Germany should be allowed to produce and in what quantities. This was later torn up by the western powers and without reference to the Russians – or even the French – they produced another level of industry plan which made a mockery of the Potsdam Agreement.

Capacity for making heavy tractors, supposed to be banned – for heavy tractor parts can be put together to look exactly like Tiger Tanks – were preserved, above pre-war levels; the chemical industry, including poison gas plants, have been retained; machine tools, which were to be reduced to 38.1 per cent. of 1936 production, were stepped up to twice that amount; heavy machine tools were exempted from their previous complete ban; steel capacity which was to be reduced to 7.5 million tons, has been left at what some estimates put as high as 21 million tons – exceeding British production. (An odd thing is that at the Moscow 1947 Foreign Ministers' Conference, when Mr. Molotov fought hard for the economic unity of Germany and thought to meet Anglo-American wishes by offering to raise the original agreed level of steel from 7.5 to between 10 and 12 million tons, Mr. Marshall for the United States turned it down on security grounds. America could not agree to Germany, who had launched three aggressive wars in 70 years, having a high steel production.)

British and American security requirements were arguments occasionally pulled out of the arsenal of tricks and waved about emotionally to win some debating point or other. Actually the whole of American and British policy on the "elimination of German war potential" has been directed against European security and world peace. It has been directed to preserving a vast war potential which can be thrown into full production at the shift of a gear lever.

Decisions like those to allow Germany to build oceangoing ships up to 7,000 tons in defiance of four-power agreements are just as grave a threat to international security as the secret Anglo-German naval treaty signed behind the backs of the French after the first World War. By the decision to allow Germany to build, cruiser-size ships again, Germany preserves her shipyards and develops her "know-how"; as she did after the last war, when she surprised the world with her "pocket-battleships," built with completely new techniques. Britain who suffered more than any other power from German pocket-battleships and submarines – which the secret Anglo-German Naval Treaty presented to the Nazis – during the last war, has been badly served by those who obeyed American dictates in these matters.

It is a poor consolation for the British public to have Mr. Bevin get up in the House of Commons and say: "It's awful, I know, but really it isn't my fault. The Americans made me do it."

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