Chapter Two

Allied Control Council

Marshal Sokolovsky put the official end to the Allied Control Council when he walked out of the meeting on March 20, 1948. Actually the Control Council had ceased to function as such since 1947, when the British and Americans fused their zones into Bizonia. After that date the Control Council could be used only to make decisions affecting the Russian and French Zones, as Generals Robertson and Clay were taking decisions for Bizonia without any reference to the Control Council.

At the meeting previous to the fateful one on March 20, I had the good fortune to be present half an hour before the discussions started. I managed to squeeze myself in as a photographer and have a look at the personalities in their proper setting, grouped around the conference table in the Allied Control Building, as they decided the fate of Germany, perhaps the issue of peace or war.

In appearance General Sir Brian Robertson of Great Britain and Marshal Vassili Sokolovsky of the Soviet Union dominated the room. The delegates of the four powers sat round four sides of a square of tables. Robertson opposite Sokolovsky, General Lucius Clay opposite General Pierre Koenig.

Robertson, tall, with a long head, severe intelligent face, military moustache and horn-rimmed glasses. Not a man on could expect pity from at a court-martial. Also not a man to be flurried easily. One who weighs his words. His favorite trick when he wanted to play for time, before answering a particularly sharp question, was to take off his glasses, fold them on the table beside him, and stroke his long chin, then throw his head up with an abrupt gesture to deliver his answer or opinion. When he has said something particularly cutting, he often flashes on a smile which comes from the lips only. He prides himself on bitter retorts intended to silence the timid.

General Robertson is a South African soldier-businessman – now soldier-diplomat. He was a director in South Africa of the Dunlop Rubber Corporation; he has the cold hardness one would expect from a soldier in two wars and a very successful businessman in one of the world's greatest capitalist concerns, in between the wars. It is said, and I find it easy to believe, that the Russians respected only Sir Brian's faculty for arguing coolly and politely the toughest problems. (Sir Brian later became the first British High Commissioner for Western Germany, and was eventually succeeded in that position by Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick, formerly First Secretary to Sir Nevile Henderson, Britain's Ambassador to Hitler. Sir Ivone and Sir Nevile did much to pave the way for the Munich Agreement.)

On Sir Brian's right sat Mr. Christian Steel, political adviser referred to earlier. Very tall, fresh-faced and good-looking, a trifle languid, Steel was always faultlessly dressed.

He always seemed more at home in a dinner jacket than a lounge suit-and he looked the perfect prototype of a British career diplomat. His hair and dark moustache always neatly and smoothly brushed, Steel has the professional diplomatic vagueness and evasiveness in serious discussion, but a great fluency in small chatter and good stories about personalities he dislikes. For all his pose and appearance, Steel is at bottom a petty, ungifted figure, for whom a Socialist government should have found no place.

The economic adviser, Sir Cecil Weir, sat on the left of General Sir Brian. A small man with white hair and moustache, Sir Cecil used to be President of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce and a director of the Schroeder, Weir and Co. Shipbuilding Yards. As hard as the flinty rocks of .Scotland whence he hails, Sir Cecil was best known to the press for his reluctance ever to give a straight answer to any question put to him.

These three men form the hard core of the team sent to interpret British "Socialist" policy in Germany – and in those days, to weld British policy into a common programme with Russians, French and Americans.

Across the table from Sir Brian's team was Sokolovsky, the youngest of the four military governors. He is a good looking, rather hawk-faced man, sharp and intelligent, with a charming smile which completely lights up his normally rather serious face. Sokolovsky was a successful general who took part in the Soviet offensive on the Central Front, and later became Chief of Staff to Marshal Zhukov. He had an advantage over both Clay and Robertson, in that he was an active, front-line general throughout World War II, while his British and American colleagues had desk or administrative jobs.

He has personal charm with a good sense of humour of which he made use several times to break up tense situations which developed in the Control Council.

His economic adviser, Koval, was a deputy-minister of Heavy Industry in the Soviet Union, a man of terrific energy and stamina – as his opposite numbers on the Economic Directorate knew to their cost. A thick-set dark man, with a massive head, Koval was reputed to stand head and shoulders over his Allied colleagues, for his detailed knowledge of capacities and locations of German industry and his encyclopaedic memory. It was said of him that he had a verbatim record of the minutes of all meetings he had attended in his head, could refer to dates and figures which were invariably right when the minutes were consulted.

The Soviet political adviser, Semyenov, a balding, blondish man, sat on Sokolovsky's left. As distinct from any of the other top-ranking Allied officials, Semyenov from the first day of his arrival took a great interest in cultural affairs and did much to promote the active cultural rebirth in Berlin and the Soviet Zone in the early days of the occupation.

Between the British and Russian teams on the left sat the American delegation, headed by General Clay. Clay is short and slight, with a bony face dominated by large ears and large nose. He has a wryish sort of smile which never seems to break right out into the open. His smiles in fact would best be described as wolfish.

Extremely clever, Clay had one personal weakness which put him at a disadvantage with both General Robertson and Marshal Sokolovsky. He lost his temper. While the British and Russian military governors debated the hottest, most controversial question in glacial calm, Clay would explode in a burst of fury. He sometimes used this way out when he had no further arguments in his arsenal. A notable case was in September, 1948, at a critical meeting in Berlin to work out details of an agreement already reached in Moscow to settle the Berlin currency question and lift the transport restrictions. It was the first meeting of the four military governors since March 20. When it seemed that nothing could prevent agreement being reached, Clay had an outburst of the "tantrums," exploded in a fit of rage and stalked out of the meeting. Of course, the press were briefed that the Russians had caused the breakdown.

In some respects Clay was the most formidable figure in the Control Councils, he was certainly the most dangerous. He had far wider powers than his colleagues. Clay could and did initiate and make policy without reference to Washington. This was done, of course, with the connivance of the War Department, headed by the late Dillon Read banker, Mr. James Forrestal. Clay's economic adviser, Brig.-General Draper, also a director of Dillon Read, later became Forrestal's assistant.

The State Department seemed reluctant to take the responsibility for running Germany. They could give no orders to General Clay direct, but had to ask the War Department to forward any "requests" they had for Clay. The War Department at times did not even bother to inform the State Department of orders they had sent Clay, or of policies which Clay had initiated on his own account. Clay could take actions on his own and inform the War Department afterwards. The War Department informed the State Department or not, as it thought fit.

Army Secretary Kenneth Royall at his first press conference in Berlin, let slip the fact that the War Department acted at times without informing the State Department and that the latter sent instructions to its representative in Berlin without informing the War Department. Be that as it may, General Clay certainly had greater powers in his hands in Berlin than any American abroad in peace time, with the possible exception of General MacArthur in Japan.

Although he could not formally commit his country to peace or war, he could involve it in a shooting incident, or in situations which must lead to shooting incidents, without reference to Washington. The war set, in Washington, which backed Clay, counted on him doing just that, to avoid the difficulties of having Congress pass an Act of War, before the shooting started. There was the specific incident of Clay asking British and French support for an armed task force with bridging equipment, to force a passage through to Berlin during the blockade, which must have involved shooting.

The other three military governors had clear briefs in front of them at Control Council meetings beyond which they could not go without consulting their governments. Marshal Sokolovsky had the Potsdam Agreement as his blue-print and would certainly not go beyond that on important questions without receiving fresh instructions. But not so General Clay. He could take decisions involving peace or war and expect his government to back him afterwards. The American people without knowing it had been robbed of vital democratic rights when such powers were given to one man – the American Pro-Consul in Europe, as Clay liked to hear himself described.

General Clay's political adviser, the representative of the State Department, was Robert Murphy, a pet of the Vatican, former Ambassador to Vichy France, responsible for appointment of pro-Vichy and Fascist Admiral Darlan as Military Governor in North Africa, after the Allied invasion. Murphy is a diplomat of the Christian Steel type, slick, good-looking, full of the vague chatter and gossip which masks deceit in a diplomat; full of forced "bonhomie" and an apparent frankness which deceived the naive only. Ambassador Murphy was removed from Berlin in mid-1949 and appointed ambassador to Belgium. Brigadier-General Draper, Clay's first economic adviser, as mentioned earlier, was a leading executive of the firm of Dillon Read & Co., allied to the Morgan banking house, a firm which helped finance the Ruhr heavy industry after World War I. Draper, after serving as Assistant Secretary of Defence, has since returned to his old job with Dillon Read.

Opposite General Clay's team sat General Pierre Koenig, nominee and personal friend of General de Gaulle. Koenig was the only one left of the original four military governors, a large man with greying hair and moustache. Bluff and jovial, he resembles an English squire. He had adopted as his own personal dislikes the main French disagreements with the Potsdam Agreement. He detests Berlin, which at one time it seemed the other three military governors were prepared to accept as the capital of Germany. He never stayed in the city but flew back and forth from his headquarters in Baden-Baden – named by wits Vichy-Vichy – to attend Control Council meetings. He was much happier when he could desert Berlin altogether and meet his American and British colleagues in Frankfurt. In the early days, he forbade his staff to use the words "Central Government" in his presence. Later the word "Trizonia" was also banned until Marshall Plan pressure forced his government to accept the fusion with Bizonia, which was resisted for so long. From the first days Koenig's role was to prevent any moves towards a central government for Germany, to prevent or delay the revival of German industry. The idea of a new German Reich with a capital at Berlin was anathema to him. He ordered that the word "Reich" be abolished in every administration in his zone. Signs and stamps had to be altered. Reichsbahn became Deutschebahn, Reichspost, Deutschepost, signposts and letterheads were all changed at General Koenig's whim. In his younger days he had served as captain in the French Foreign Legion in North Africa and he was a fighting general in World War II.

Koenig, in the days of the March crisis, was assisted as political adviser by Deputy Foreign Minister Sedoux and by M. Rene Sergeant, Inspector of Finance, as economic adviser. In qualifications and intelligence, these two most closely measured up to the Soviet counterparts.

It has been said incidentally, by officials close to General Robertson and General Clay, that despite their Siamese-twin like public pronouncements, each of them got along better personally with Marshal Sokolovsky than with each other. Robertson is said to have appreciated Sokolovsky as a man of charm and culture; Clay is said to have praised him as a "straight-shooter." These personal feelings did not; however, prevent the western military governors intriguing against the Soviet colleague.

It was Marshal Sokolovsky who called the fateful meeting of the Control Council on March 20, 1948. The military governors took it in turn, month by month to preside over the meetings and March was the Russian month. The Council normally met every ten days, on the 10th, 20th and 30th of each month. An agenda was usually arranged before by the Co-ordinating Committee consisting of the military governors or the deputies. Oh this occasion no agenda had been fixed beforehand. Marshal Sokolovsky wished to discuss with his colleagues, three-power talks in London, attended by Generals Clay and Robertson, which had taken important decisions on Western Germany without any reference to the Control Council.

Generals Robertson and Clay refused coldly to discuss the matter. "No decisions were taken at all in London" said General Robertson, "we had a discussion of German problems and made certain recommendations to our governments. Nothing at all for the Control Council to discuss. We have received no fresh directives from London."

Marshall Sokolovsky's insistence that very grave decisions had been taken on matters affecting the whole of Germany, decisions which wrecked every paragraph of the Potsdam Agreement, did not change the attitude of the Western military governors. They refused even to consider a discussion.

The western representatives refused to discuss this item and General Clay expressed his annoyance at having been called to a special meeting to "waste time" on such matters.

Marshal Sokolovsky once again asked for a discussion on a matter which he insisted again was of vital interest to the German people and fell within the scope of the Allied Control Council. This time there was no response from Generals Robertson and Clay.

The Soviet Marshal then got up and walked out of the conference room, stating as he got up "The session is closed," and that was the formal end of four-power government in Germany, two years and nine months after the signing of the Potsdam Agreement. One must use the term "formal end" because the actual death-blow to four-power control was dealt over a year earlier when the United States and Britain joined their zones together and set up the Bizonal administration, putting into effect economic and political policies in their half of Germany, over which the Russians – and even the French – had absolutely no control.

"The intention," it was stated at the time, "is not to divide Germany, but to bring about the economic unity called for by Potsdam as rapidly as possible." This made about as much sense as a doctor trying to cure a patient of heart disease by chopping off his legs.

The Soviet walk-out on March 20 need not have meant even the formal end of the Allied Control Council. In April the French were in the chair; in May the Americans, and in Junethe British. Had the Western Allies been interested in continuing four-power control, General Koenig could have called a meeting in April, the others when their turn came. But they were only too relieved that the breakdown had been provoked when the Russians were in the chair. Marshal Sokolovsky's statement that the "session is closed" was presented to the world public as a statement that the Control Council ceased to exist.

The events of the days following Marshal Sokolovsky's walk-out had a vital bearing on the future of Germany and they deserve a chapter to themselves. Concrete, practical measures were taken in those days by the Western Allies to ensure that Germany should be finally split.

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