Chapter Sixteen

East-West Occupation Aims

When history passes its verdict on the first four years of occupation in Germany it will be found that one of the occupying powers loyally applied an agreed policy signed by the chiefs of the three states which bore the brunt of the war. The other three, gradually swung away from these aims until they had reached a position, a full 180 degrees from that originally pledged. The abuse hurled at Russia for her policy in Germany is based only on the fact that she carried out to the letter the principles and objectives outlined in the Potsdam Agreement.

Russian policy in Germany has been 100 per cent. in line with the declared policy of the Allied Joint Chiefs of Staff, before the war with Germany came to an end.

It is worth quoting from the J.C.S. directive No. 1067, sent to the Supreme Allied Commander, General Eisenhower, shortly before Germany capitulated. This directive was meant to be the guiding star for all Allied activities in Germany. Its principles were embodied in the Potsdam Agreement. It is unpopular to mention this directive to-day to western administrators in Germany.

"It should be brought home to the Germans, that Germany's ruthless warfare and the fanatical Nazi resistance have destroyed the German economy and made chaos and suffering inevitable and that the Germans cannot escape responsibility.

"Germany will not be occupied for the purpose of liberation but as a defeated enemy nation. Your aim is not oppression but to occupy Germany for the purpose of realising certain important Allied objectives. In the conduct of your occupation and administration you should be just but aloof. You will strongly discourage fraternisation with German officials and population.

"The principal Allied objective is to prevent Germany from ever again becoming a threat to the peace of the world. Essential steps in the accomplishment of this objective are the elimination of Nazism and militarism in all their forms, the immediate apprehension of war criminals for punishment, the deindustrialisation and demilitarisation of Germany, with continuing control over Germany's capacity to make war and the preparation for an eventual reconstruction of German political life on a democratic basis.

"Other Allied objectives are to enforce the programme of reparations and restitution, to provide relief for the benefit of countries devastated by Nazi aggression and to ensure that prisoners of war and displaced persons of the United Nations are cared for and repatriated."

There it is in black and white. The principal Allied objective is to prevent Germany from ever again becoming a threat to the peace of the world. Find one line there that states Germany is to be raised up in the quickest time possible to be the greatest industrial power in Europe again; find one line that suggests the Allies were to move in and control every facet of German economic life; to run her imports and exports and to pave the way for penetration of American capital; find one line that orders the Allies to foster German nationalism, by turning them against Russians, Poles and Czechs, encouraging them to look eastwards to recover the lands taken from them by Allied agreement.

The severest critics of the Russians cannot but admit that these basic objectives as outlined in the J.C.S; Directive No. 1067, have been fulfilled to the letter in the Soviet Zone, and have been disregarded in the West. The Western Allies pretended they were setting up a separate administration in the West, because it was impossible to work with Russia in carrying out the Potsdam Agreement, which they claimed they wanted to honour. From the moment the Bizonal administration was set up Potsdam was a dead letter in the western zones. It was not mentioned again.

When one analyses the slanderous attacks made against the Russians in the first years of occupation, they boiled down to the fact that the Soviet administration in Germany, was literally carrying out the provisions of .the Potsdam Agreement. They acted quickly and wisely so in the matter of dismantlings. They did what had to be done in the heat of the first post-war days, when the German people were too relieved at having escaped with their lives, to worry unduly about the factories being shipped back to Russia. The workers indeed were only too happy to see the war plants destroyed and their leaders explained to them the justice of paying reparations to the country which had been devastated by Hitler's armies.

The Russians ignored the crocodile tears shed in the West that they were "stripping bare" their zone of occupation. They worked quickly and had finished their demolitions and removals, before they had been really started in the American and British Zones. Two years after January, 1946, by which time all dismantlings were supposed to be finished in the West, the western allies and the Germans were still wrangling as to which plants should be saved, which destroyed. If the western powers had acted in their zones as the Russians did in theirs, the Soviet leaders would have had no misgivings in leaving Germany to work out its own salvation.

If the Junkers had been dispossessed of their land and their economic power broken; if the great trusts had been abolished; if heavy industry in the Ruhr and the American zone had been turned over to public ownership; if the big industrialists had really been rounded up and rendered powerless; if the military installations had really been destroyed; if the factories marked down forreparations had really been dismantled and distributed; if the Nazis had really been removed from their posts; if some steps had been taken to curb the German nationalists screaming anti-Soviet slogans and demanding the return of their lost territories; if the teeth had really been drawn from those forceswhich for generations have plagued Europe – then the Russians would have accepted this as a yardstick of Allied sincerity not only in Germany but in the wider fields of international politics.

The pattern was too clear, however, to leave any room for doubt. Whatever the demagogic, emotional reasons thrown to the gallery watchers by the Bevins, McNeils, Marshalls and Achesons, Western .Germany began to emerge from the smoke-screens of the Marshall Plan and European Union, as a strongly reactionary, nationalistic and aggressive force. The unholy union of Junkers, industrialists, militarists and the Catholic Church persisted. The occupiers had become the saviours and publicity agents. British and American officials who should have mainly been concerned with preventing the rise of a militant state again, were instead engaged in "selling" her to the doubtful neighbouring countries of Europe.

They were playing the same role as that played by British Ambassadors in Berlin and Prague, Henderson and Newton, and Runciman in Czechoslovakia at the time of Munich. On the orders of the British Foreign Office these men were fighting Hitler Germany's battles forher in every country where Hitler wanted to extend his influence. And to-day they are doing the same again. An exaggeration?

The last time I spent a few days in the Ruhr was in October, 1948. I called on a representative of Commerce Division in Dusseldorf to get some information on a recent visit of Dutch businessmen to the Ruhr. The official was not at all backward in telling me about it – even showed me a report he had just drawn up forthe Military Governor of the Zone, General Bishop.

"It was no easy job arranging all this," he said. "The Dutch are full of prejudices about the Germans, very suspicious about German nationalism and so on. But I managed to get hold of some of the Chamber of Commerce people in Amsterdam and sold them on the idea of a trip. We fixed up a very nice 'do' forthem here, arranged forthem to be received by the Ruhr Chamber of Commerce Group. Everything was very icy at first, but they thawed out afterwards, after a good lunch and some drinks. The Dutch went home very satisfied and convinced that this talk of nationalism is very exaggerated. They see now there are good possibilities for business here and I was able to persuade them that the Germans aren't such bad types after all.”

"But," I asked, "is that part of ourjob, to be doing press relations and publicity work forthe Germans? Are we here to soothe the suspicions of Germany's neighbours about rising nationalism?"

"My job, old boy, is to get German industry on its feet, get trade going, get the jolly old wheels turning over again. As long as Germany is a charge on the British taxpayer, my job is to get every ounce of production out of German industry and put it where it will earn most money."

"Doesn't that bring you in conflict with other senior officials here whose job it is to see that Germany is no longer a menace to European security, and who are themselves worried about the revival of nationalism?"

"You mean some of the military fellows? Well, we have our conflicts with them, of course. But they do their job the best way they see it and we do ours. And ours is to put German economy on its feet in the biggest way and shortest time possible."

I travelled back across Western Germany and Belgium with another British official whose job it was to escort some Belgian editors to the Ruhr.

"Bit tricky these Belgians," he said, "I've just been across to the Ruhr to spy out the land a bit. The Belgian papers are full of stuff about rising German nationalism and the revival of German aggressiveness, etc. We have to try and quieten them down a bit, so we fixed up this trip for some of the most important editors. I slipped over beforehand to have a quick eyeful for myself before the tour starts. We don't want them to talk to the wrong types of Germans, or to some of our own people who have a bee in their bonnet about such matters. Of course, we don't want to pull the wool too much over their eyes, but the whole success of European Union is to get these border countries working with the Germans. Some of our officials are very loose in their talk about the industrialists coming out of their holes and that sort of nonsense."

Harmless enough? To drug Belgians, Dutch and who knows how many more with soothing injections to quieten their fears about the restoration of German heavy industry to its old owners. German nationalism after all is only the expression of German strength and it was rising proportionately to the concessions German heavy industry was able to extract from the Western Allies. One can search through every paragraph of Allied agreements for paragraphs suggesting that Britain and America were to act as publicity agents for a renascent, aggressive Germany – or for any sort of Germany for that matter. A thoroughly democratic Germany with its feet planted along peaceful paths would have no need of British and American help in arranging its affairs with its neighbours. These activities, of course, are not known to the American or British public. The man in the street would think only a certified lunatic or a "Quisling" would betray Europe by putting the revival of German heavy industry above the interests of his own people.

There were some British officials in high position in the Ruhr who, at least as late as the end of 1949, were gravely concerned about trends there. They had evidence that the old industrialists had come out of their holes and were conspiring to cheat the Allies as they did last time. On several occasions they were on the point of making arrests but were thwarted by orders from, "higher-up."

The British Government, however, can have no excuse this time that it did not know what was going on in Germany. It is kept well informed as to the exact situation in the Ruhr by experienced officials, many of them very worried men as they see declared British policy brushed aside with Allied help. Nor can the British Government have any illusions about the attitude of German industrialists and right wing politicians towards Great Britain, despite Mr. Bevin's obliging acquiescence in the "Germany first" plans.

The weapons of hate and propaganda, the use of which, we allowed and encouraged as long as they were turned against the Russians, are now being turned against the British with equal vehemence, to the delight of the Americans. The Ruhr industrialists detest the mild British brand of socialism as much as do the Americans. Under the benevolent patronage of the Americans, Adenauer, the Christian Democrat Prime Minister of the Bonn Government, makes vicious attacks on British policy for even the slight obstruction the British offered at times to the plans to preserve the Ruhr industries intact for their old owners.

Mr. Bevin's policy for Germany from the earliest days of occupation was directed at (1) keeping Russia out of the Ruhr, and (2) preventing the fusion of the Social Democrats and Communists in Western Germany. He succeeded in both policies, but never were successes such bitter failures. He kept Russia out of the Ruhr – and lost it to American-backed German industrialists. He prevented, forbade in fact, any fusion moves between Social Democrats and Communists. He taught the Social Democrats to look for the enemies on the left, while the rightist parties consolidated and eventually took over complete powers and gave the industrialists, political power in Western Germany. On the over-all picture, Bevin aroused the suspicions not only of Russia, but of every country in Europe which had been occupied by the Germans.

Faint stirrings of a guilty conscience forced Bevin to state in a House of Commons debate on June 30 1948: "There is a claim by Russia that they should share in the administration of the Ruhr and some people thought this had been agreed upon at Potsdam. There is no agreement of this kind. We have declined to put the Ruhr under four-power control while the rest of Germany is left to single-power control." (Within six months Bevin had agreed to place the Ruhr under a nominal six-power control.)

Mr. Bevin had apparently not studied the Potsdam Agreement very carefully when he made that statement because Article 14 of the Economic Principles of the Potsdam Agreement states:

"During the period of occupation Germany shall be treated as a single economic unit. To this end common policies shall be established in regard to:

"(a) Mining and industrial production and allocation;

"(b) Agriculture, forestry and fishing;

"(c) Wages, prices and rationing;

"(d) Import and export programmes for Germany as a whole;

"(e) Currency and banking, central taxation and customs;

"(f) Reparation and removal of industrial war potential;

"(g) Transportation and communications.

First on the list is the provision for common policies in regard to mining and industrial production and allocation, which means common policies for the Ruhr, above everything else.

Mr. Bevin should be perfectly well aware that as early as 1946, the Russians put forward a specific proposal to set up a joint board to supervise mining production and allocation throughout the four zones. They offered to throw the important brown coal deposits in their zone into the scheme in exact accordance with Article 14, paragraph (a). The British made a counter-suggestion that only distribution of coal should be on a four-power basis, but the Russians naturally fought for the entire application of the paragraph. The British then turned the proposal down, and that is how and when the Russians were excluded from the Ruhr.

The West indeed had more to gain than lose by the Russians participating in the Ruhr administration. The Russians would be in a minority of one against three in the Ruhr administration, the Western powers in a majority of three against one in the Soviet Zone. They would have officials permanently stationed in the Soviet Zone and could no longer complain about the "Iron Curtain."

The Soviet proposal could have been seized on as one of the most concrete steps towards Allied unity and the unity of Germany. It was the logical first step – even if the Allies rejected the original provisions for central German secretariats. The Russian proposal met with the approval of the French who had no objections to centralised Allied Boards running German industry. If this first step had been taken, the others from (b) to (g) would have logically followed. But Russia had to be kept out of the Ruhr, and anyone who had any dealings with the economic or political sections of the British Control Commission at that time, knows how determined the British were that the Russians should be excluded from any voice in the Ruhr administration.

"Russians in the Ruhr, old man? Why, you'll have Communism on the Rhine to-morrow. We have enough trouble as it is with the Ruhr Communists."

That was the line of talk in the clubs and bars, and the line of propaganda fed to the press when the Russian proposal for joint control of mining production was turned down.

The background to these Russian proposals was a joint report on coal-mining methods in all four zones. Teams of coal-mining experts toured the four zones and investigated the methods of mining. In the Soviet Zone, production was about seventy-five per cent. of peacetime, in the Ruhr about thirty per cent. It's only fair to add that the Russians were mining open-cut brown coal, and in the Ruhr, of course, are deep underground hard coal mines. There were differences of opinions about the effectiveness of Western and Russian methods, and in the end a joint report was prepared, with riders added by all parties.

The British claimed the Russians were driving their machines too hard, were working the miners too hard, but were otherwise impressed with what was being done.

The Russians were extremely critical and said that in the Ruhr, the British were only "playing" with mining. They recommended that extra rations be given the miners; that Nazis be dismissed from key positions; that the trade unions be given much more say in settling mine problems; that immediate attention be given to improving housing for the miners and so stepping up their morale.

The British were shocked by this report, which gave an inkling of the sort of methods the Russians would insist on introducing if they had a voice in the Ruhr. It was probably the final argument which decided Mr. Bevin to "keep the Russians out of the Ruhr," even if it kept the British out of Saxony as well.

It was the British that spearheaded the attack on the Soviet proposals, although they continued of course still to pay lip service to the idea of economic unity; and although British declared plans for the Ruhr were much more in keeping with Russian policies than with American.

If the British had sought Russian support for their proposals to socialise the Ruhr, they would have had powerful support. The Russians indeed would have shown them how to meet the American objections that only the German people could decide for or against socialisation. The Soviets would have supported in the Ruhr a similar test of public opinion as they carried in Saxony – the most industrialised Land in the Soviet Zone.

In Saxony, the Russians, with the assistance of the political parties and trade unions, drew up a list of the most important industrial undertakings, and those which had been owned by Nazis and war criminals. Most of these latter had fled to the West. The list comprised 4,500 plants, about half of all enterprises in Saxony. They were split up into various categories.

Those which were war plants or which foreign capital was invested, were set aside on a reserve list to be administered by trustees on behalf of Soviet Military Government. Others were listed to be taken over by Land, district or municipal authorities; others to be returned to their former owners, and still a fourth category, to be sold to private individuals, proceeds to be used to settle war widows, orphans, refugees, bombed-out people and others deserving of help.

The trade union delegates had an overwhelming voice in deciding in what category a plant should be placed. Factory committees met and discussed the attitude of the various owners towards the workers during the war and their relations with the Nazis. I visited Saxony at the time this was going on, together with William Forrest of the News-Chronicle, and we saw how earnestly these matters were discussed and how correctly the plebiscite was conducted. Shop stewards who had been in concentration camps came back to accuse their employers of denouncing workers to the Gestapo. Jews spoke up for an employer who had done his best to protect Jewish workers from Hitler's anti-Semitic laws. Workers gave evidence of an employer's attitude towards slave labour during the war.       

Good points were weighed up against the bad ones to decide whether an owner should have his plant back again; whether it should be taken over and if so with or without compensation. In many cases, factories were turned back to their original owners.

After the shop stewards had forwarded their recommendations to the trade unions, the latter with the approval of the political party delegates, sent the lists to the Soviet authorities. In some cases the Soviet representatives revised the lists. Appeal boards were set up to hear appeals from owners who wanted their plants shifted from one category to another.

When the lists were completed, about 2,100 of the 4,500 factories were slated to be handed over to public ownership without compensation. A plebiscite was held throughout Saxony at which 94.1 per cent. of the people voted, 77.7 per cent. of them for the measures proposed, 16.5 per cent. voted against, 5.8 per cent. of the votes were invalid. This was a thoroughly democratic method, an accurate spot check of public opinion as to what should be done with German industry, decided by the people. The vote approving the socialisation laws in the Soviet Zone was roughly the same as that over the border in the American Zone, where the voters of Hesse approved similar laws by over 70 per cent. The only difference being that in the Soviet Zone the law was put into immediate effect, in the U.S. Zone it was vetoed by General Clay.

The heavier industries were put under Land ownership, public utilities were left to the municipalities. A number of industries which at the time (June 30, 1946) were put on the reserved list, under Soviet administration, have since been handed over to the new German Republic. Eventually all of them will be transferred to German hands.

Such a democratic procedure could have secured British official policy of socialisation of the Ruhr and at the same time have met American and German objections. The people in the Ruhr would have decided in the same way as in Hesse and Saxony. But the idea of British administrators working together with the trade unions was one viewed with horror, by officials like Sir Percy Mills, Sir Cecil Weir and Mr. Christian Steel.

From whatever angle the subject is viewed it is clear that British administrators in Germany split and weakened the natural allies of socialism in Germany by driving a wedge between Social Democrats and Communists; and split with our actual Allies by their determination not to allow the Russians to have a voice in the Ruhr.

By winning tactical successes, the wreckers with Mr. Bevin as their leader, involved Britain in a miserable strategic failure from which it will take a miracle to avoid a catastrophic defeat.

Click here to go to Chapter XVII

Click here to return to the index of archival material.