Chapter Nine

Occupation Capital

Berlin itself – this city for which the Western world (behind the backs of the general public, of course) was being asked to fight another world war – was, in 1949, the most demoralised, corrupt and hopeless city in Europe. At least, the Western-occupied three-quarters was. Military government officials supposed to be running the city had their hands deep into the black market. The whole Western-occupied section was being run on a black-market basis – and this long before the blockade was imposed. The black market was fed primarily from American military stores. Black market deals involving high military government officials came to light – and were quickly covered up – every few weeks.

On one occasion a press officer on General Howley's staff telephoned his opposite number in the British sector. He wanted a telephone installed as soon as possible in the shop of a dressmaker friend of his in the fashionable Kurfurstendamm, in the British sector. Would the British arrange the necessary priorities and have it set up "right way"? The dressmaker's shop was one used extensively by American clientele, and it was very annoying for the American wives not to be able to arrange things by telephone.

The British officer, Mr. John Trout, replied somewhat testily that there was a great shortage of telephone equipment and it was available only for essential purposes. If the captain wanted a telephone installed he had better forward an application, giving full details, etc. The captain was very hurt at this unco-operative behaviour – especially in view of Marshall Aid, dollar loans and the rest – but sent in an application, giving full details of business turnover and other essential data.

The details were of such interest that the telephone branch turned them over to the Economic Department of British Military Government. Textiles were severely rationed in Berlin. Each dressmaker's shop or mode-salon got a very limited amount each month, which was supposed to be sold only to people with coupons issued by the City Council. The turnover figures for this particular shop were about one hundred times as much as normal business would justify.

Enquiries were' made on the spot, and as a result a couple of British military trucks arrived and were loaded up not only with black-market textiles, but also with a few thousand American cigarettes and a few hundred pounds of American coffee. At that time it was illegal for Germans to possess any goods originating from Allied military sources.

There were furious telephone calls from Colonel Howley's office to that of the British public relations officer. "Is that the way we're supposed to co-operate?” demanded the captain, his voice choking with anger. "You British swooping down like that and confiscating my property?"

"Your property?" demanded the urbane Mr. Trout.

"Of course, my property. I just had it stored at my friend's place for safe keeping."

"Well, there's a certain section... just a jiffy and I'll give you the address, where you can send in an application, and if you can prove the goods are yours, you can probably get them back again."

The last I heard of that particular case, the captain was still trying to get "his” goods back. They had, of course, been accumulated by his girl friend, charging "in kind" for the favours she rendered her American clients.

A typical story from the gangster section of Berlin was that of Prince Ferdinand, son of Princess Hermine, last Empress of Germany. She was the second wife of World War I figure, Kaiser Wilhelm. After Wilhelm died in exile at Doorn, in Holland, the Princess Hermine was allowed to return to Germany. She lived in retirement in Frankfurt-an-der-Oder. When the Soviet troops arrived, they quartered some officers in her house, but she was treated with respect and allowed to live a quiet life. Her daughter, Princess Caroline, a pale, pleasant-looking blonde woman, who lived in the British sector, was allowed to visit her frequently.

The Princess Hermine owned a considerable wealth of jewels. Part were the crown jewels of the Hohenzollern family, part were from her own family. Some of them the Princess kept with her at Frankfurt, others she had sent to Berlin, entrusted to the safe-keeping of Prince Ferdinand. He kept them locked up in a trunk, but told one of his bosom friends among the Americans, a White Russian, Prince Michel Scherbanin, who worked with the American Gestapo, the Counter Intelligence Corps, or C.L.C. as it is generally known. The Prince managed to persuade Ferdinand that "the Russians were on his track," and as Ferdinand was a weak young man, with a past sufficient to give him a guilty conscience where Russians were concerned, he believed the report, and was persuaded to move from his flat into Prince Scherbanin's apartments – together with the trunkful of jewels.

He was told never to move outside the door. After a week or two he was told the Russians had "caught up with him again." Soviet agents were patrolling the street. He must be moved again, at dead of night. An apartment had been arranged for him in another part of the American sector. Again, he must never move outside. After a short time there, he was moved again, then again. Eventually he got tired of moving from flat to flat and living behind locked doors and drawn curtains. He walked out of his hide-out apartment, late one night, and returned to his own flat. He telephoned Scherbanin to return the trunk-load of jewels immediately.

Incidentally, Prince Ferdinand, despite the jewels he had been more or less sitting on, had been having a tough time financially in Berlin. Unemployed princes rated the same as anybody else on the grim ration scale. He was more fortunate than some, however. A British officer who was enjoying the favours of Ferdinand's wife – a Wagnerian blonde who sang in night-clubs under the name of Rosa Rauch – found the prince a job driving a Volkswagen taxi for the British press. The officer in question found it piquant to have his breakfast sent over to Rosa Rauch's apartment in the taxi driven by the princely cuckold.

It was to this apartment that Ferdinand now returned, and it was 2 a.m. when the trunkload of jewels arrived. He was not sufficiently awake at that hour to inspect the trunk in the presence of the person who delivered it. When he opened it next morning, he found that fifteen of the most precious items were missing.

He immediately informed the American police, and his troubles really started. In the meantime Princess Hermine died at Frankfurt-an-der-Oder. The prince's girlfriend, a massive brunette, was arrested by the American police on alleged suspicion of having murdered the aged Empress. Some jewels found in her possession were confiscated. She had been visiting Frankfurt frequently, it appeared, and had brought back some more jewels to be added to the collection in the trunk. (It turned out that Princess Hermine was negotiating to buy a tourist hotel at Hitler's Berchtesgaden Eagle's Nest.)

The Princess Caroline arrived back from her mother's death-bed, with jewels given her by her mother, which she brought back to Berlin with Russian permission. Her flat in the British sector was searched, the Princess herself was searched, and all jewels confiscated by the Americans.

Where treasure was concerned the Americans acted like bloodhounds. Their only legal interest in the matter should have been to help Ferdinand get his lost jewels back. Princess Hermine had died in the Soviet Zone, of a throat-disease, as testified by Soviet doctors. She had every right to dispose of her private fortune as she chose. Her daughter and even the Prince's girl-friend had a perfect right to have jewellery in their possession. The Americans had no right to search premises in the British sector. But with treasure in the air, they were indefatigable.

The U.S. police chose not to believe Ferdinand's story, and were very indignant that one of their officers had been mentioned. The Prince and Rosa Rauch, who had returned to him in the meantime, were both arrested. After many hours of third-degree questioning, Ferdinand – against his will, he maintains – was injected with a "truth drug." The rest of the jewels in the trunk, needless to say, were confiscated.

Ferdinand told me, later, that he was given a massive injection from a huge hypodermic syringe, which knocked him out for a day and a half. He was probably as much stupefied by the rush of events as by the drug. He said he had no idea what questions were asked of him or what answers he gave, but that he was in a very "confused" state about the workings of American justice.

First forced to live a hermit life on absurd pretences, -then half his jewels disappear; arrested because he reports the fact; his girl friend arrested on a murder charge; his wife arrested because she was with him; his sister searched – and all the rest of the jewels confiscated. Enough to set even a princely mind in a whirl.

Eventually he was freed, his wife and girl-friend also. Ferdinand immediately "fled" to the British sector. Some of the details in this mystifying case began to leak out in the press, with the Russian announcement of the death of Princess Hermine and a statement by Ferdinand about the loss of his jewels.

The day following these announcements, the Americans started putting pressure on the British to arrest Ferdinand again, this time on a charge of falsifying his "fragebogen" (detailed questionnaire relating to one's political past). While this was going on, arrangements were made for the funeral of Princess Hermine.

Her body was brought back from Frankfurt-an-der-Oder for interment in the Hohenzollern family cemetery in the beautiful Sans Souci park of Frederick the Great at Potsdam. The Russians made the necessary arrangements and waived formalities so that the few press representatives interested could attend. There was something bizarre and incongruous about the whole affair. The journey through the crumpled buildings of once lovely Potsdam; the deadness and shabbiness of this destroyed garrison town of barracks, palaces and churches; the pompous black-coated official at the gates of Sans Souci who refused to let anyone enter the "private park of the Hohenzollern family" (even Russian officers were turned back at the gates until orders arrived from somebody very high up in the Soviet administration that the gates were to be opened). The crowd of musty Hohenzollern retainers who looked as if they had stepped out of last-century oil paintings and would step back into their frames again as soon as the ceremony was over; the beautifully kept park, modelled on Versailles, and the simple chapel and the black-gowned bishop and the plain black coffin and a few wreaths.

There were shocked expressions on the faces of the retainers and relatives as American photographers clambered along the top of the chapel doors, shooting flash bulbs every few seconds; again when American correspondents, demanding to know where were the missing jewels, buttonholed Princess Caroline as she emerged, pale and weeping, from the chapel.

It was a scene which could only have been enacted in the Berlin of that period. All were shocked at the crude behaviour of the Americans. In addition to private grief, it was an historic occasion. It was almost certainly the last time a member of the Hohenzollern family would be buried at Potsdam. The interment of Princess 'Hermine marked the end of an era.

Only one available member of the family was not present at the funeral. That was Prince Ferdinand. On the very night of the funeral, after further insistent calls from the Americans, British police officials arrested him – in his pyjamas, in his British sector flat – and charged him with falsifying his "fragebogen." Ferdinand had omitted to state, when he took the job as taxi-driver at the British press camp, that he had joined the S.S. in 1930.

The Americans had a monopoly of information on this subject, for they had complete files of Nazi party membership. They often made use of this when they wanted to arrest somebody for other reasons – and who knows how many times it has been used as a threat to purchase loyalty from their agents?

I visited Prince Ferdinand in his prison cell while he was awaiting trial. He is not a pleasant individual. War injuries have given him a heavy cast, in one eye and the most dreadful form of stutter I have ever encountered – a stutter which starts in his stomach and makes it flap in and out like a sheet on a windy clothesline.

He made sure I was not representing a Communist paper before he would talk to me. He was still numbed by his treatment at the hands of the Americans. "I turned to them as friends," he said, "expecting justice after my jewels were stolen. And they treated me as a criminal." He went on to relate the story as told above.

"But why did you fall for the story that you were being shadowed by Soviet ‘agents'? What have the Russians got on you, anyway?"

"You see, it's true that from their viewpoint I'm a 'bad hat.' Of course I'm a Junker and a militarist. I did serve in a 'Death's-head' unit in Russia during the war, where we .used to bump off Commissars and people like that. And when my American friends told me I was in danger, of course I believed them."

"What about the charge that you were a member of the S.S.? Is that true?"

"I don't think so. What is true is that in the 1930's, I used to knock about with friends who were in the S.S. That's when I lived in the Ruhr. You know how it was in those days. The 'Reds' were very active, and we used to go out and bump some of them off at night. That was in Cologne. But then, after Hitler came to power and the Nazis turned against the aristocracy, I had nothing more to do with them. My family moved up to the Baltic Coast. I did receive a card by post once, showing me to be a member of the S.S., but I mailed it back. I never paid a fee or attended a meeting, never wore a badge or uniform."

Ferdinand was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment by a British military government court, but was released on appeal shortly afterwards. And the jewels? They were removed to Frankfurt for "safe-keeping," and up till the last I heard they had never been returned. As for those missing from the trunk, nothing further was heard of them.

It must not be thought that the Americans had a monopoly of the rackets and bizarre goings-on in Berlin. The case of Father Soussberghe, Jesuit priest, is a good illustration of one other facet of occupation life. Father Soussberghe appeared in the wake of the British Army as a representative of the Vatican, concerned with the fate of Catholics among the displaced persons in general and Belgian Catholics in particular.

He was accredited as chief of the "Vatican Mission," and was set up in a comfortable villa, in Gruenewald, the wealthy and comparatively unbombed residential suburb in the British Sector of Berlin. Father Soussberghe ran one limousine car and two motor-trucks. He had a host of servants, and received his rations and petrol supplies from British Military Government.

Interested by the phenomenon of a Vatican: flag over the door, I made enquiries several times as to how a Vatican Mission came to be established in Berlin. The only official missions were supposed to be military missions accredited to the four-power Control Council. The replies were always vague. Father Soussberghe was doing valuable work for the Church, and he had been accredited to the British only, not to the Control Council. "The Russkis would only have made difficulties, you know, old boy."

In the course of some private investigations into the black market, I discovered that Father Soussberghe spent most of his time buying up large quantities of valuable antique books, which he was shipping out of Germany. His explanation was that he was attached to the University of Louvain in Belgium, and had been commissioned to restock the University Library, which had been destroyed by the Germans. For such a humanitarian and cultural work, and with Vatican Mission credentials, his trucks were whisked back and forth across the border into Belgium with never a question asked by the frontier guards.

A telephone call to the University of Louvain established that Father Soussberghe, who was indeed a Jesuit priest, had nothing to do with the University of Louvain, in fact, the authorities were furious with the father for having falsely used their name in transactions involving valuable books. True it was that there was a Father Soussberghe, who owned a small private bookshop in Louvain.

I decided to pay a visit on Father Soussberghe, but very scared servants told me on two consecutive days that the Father happened "not to be at home." On the third day, the flat was empty, the Vatican flag removed from the door. British housing and rationing authorities, when I telephoned, said: "Can't make it out at all. The fellow just left without even cancelling his rations. Didn't notify us at all."

The British police in Berlin knew all about the father, however. They had arrested a British Control Commission official on a charge of having smuggled several thousand pounds worth of various goods, including dollar bills and Swiss francs, back and forth into Belgium. Father Soussberghe was mentioned as having acted as his courier. One of the chief "rackets" of the British official was buying clinical thermometers on the black market in Berlin and selling them at a thousand per cent. profit in Belgium. Father Soussberghe smuggled thermometers out, stacked away at the bottom of his cases of books. "But," according to the evidence of the British official, "he only did it once or twice. He complained he was not getting enough out of it and that he had much more profitable deals in hand."

A warrant was issued for the arrest of Father Soussberghe, but he had fled the British Zone before it could be served.

An amusing sequel to the story was a telephone call I made to the senior Allied Catholic Authority in Germany, in Munich in the American Zone. I asked if there was a Vatican Mission in Germany.

"Yes, there are several," was the reply.

"Is there one at Berlin?"

A pause, then a careful enquiry: "Why exactly do you want to know?"

"There is a Vatican Mission here run by a Father Soussberghe."

A long drawn-out and enquiring "Y-e-e-e-s?"

"Is that an official Vatican Mission?"

Another long pause and some discussion at the other end of the phone.

"Several priests entered Germany with the occupation authorities to tend the spiritual welfare of Catholics among the displaced persons. As they were doing Christian and Catholic work, they were allowed to establish themselves as representatives of the Holy See. But before I give any more information, I must know the purpose of these enquiries."

"A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Father Soussberghe, and he will probably shortly appear before the Courts on charges of extensive black-marketeering."

"O-o-o-h." Another pause and some more whispered discussions. "Thank you for the information. I was about to tell you that Father Soussberghe was not one of those authorised to represent the Vatican. The Holy See only recently heard of his activities and a letter was sent ordering him to cease posing as a Vatican representative in Berlin." A statement which seems to have involved quick-thinking at the other end of the telephone.

Only the Berlin of the occupation period could have produced such situations. Corruption and demoralisation seemed to have set up a chain reaction, from Germans to occupiers and back again. Misery and despair on one side, luxury and greed on the other. Jewels, cameras, art treasures or actresses, were all to be had for a few cigarettes or a little coffee – and the Allies had a monopoly of these commodities. From the highest officials to the private soldiers, all were engaged in a wild scramble to turn their occupiers' privileges into concrete assets.

So many high British officials were engaged in racketeering that the Chief of the Civil Affairs Division (equivalent to Minister of the Interior), Mr. Julian Simpson, brought out a special team of detectives from Scotland Yard to investigate and prosecute racketeers in the British Control Commission. Within a few weeks, Tom Haywood, who headed the team, had a case-book involving chiefs and deputy-chiefs of divisions and high-ranking military officers. In one instance crate-loads of valuable German furniture and carpets had been flown back to England; more crates still stood on the Gatow airfield in the British sector, awaiting plane space.

Simpson and Haywood demanded prosecutions, and the files were sent to London. For reasons of "prestige" ("what would the Soviet-licensed press say?"), it was decided to hush matters up. Mr. Simpson resigned his position and went back home to Australia. Mr. Haywood was transferred away, from Berlin to the Zone, where he could busy himself with less important personalities. In some instances, however, there were checks made in homes in England, and crates of valuable carpets, oil-paintings and other valuables were flown back to Germany.

The British Public Safety official in the Zone, who objected to prosecuting the small fry while the big ones were left unscathed, told me: "Every time they came to me and asked me to investigate some soldier who'd been 'flogging' a few cigarettes, I'd open up my files and say, 'Let me get after these chaps and I'll take on the little fellows afterwards.' And in that file, I had some of the biggest names in the British Zone," he added.

One could dig into the affairs of almost any Allied organisation in Berlin and discover graft and black-marketeering. E.C.I.T.O., for instance, was a United Nations organisation (European Control Internal Transport Organisation) set up to organise some sort of order out of the chaos of Europe's rail, road and water communications after the war. One of the Berlin secretaries provided me with copies of correspondence to show that Berlin personnel were engaged in widespread illicit trading.

E.C.I.T.O. trucks were being used to smuggle goods through to Luxembourg, where they were distributed all over the world. Machine-needles by the hundred gross were offered, according to letters I have in my files, through E.C.I.T.O. agents in Paris and London to firms in the Middle East and India. Goods packed in E.C.I.T.O. boxes or trucks painted with E.C.I.T.O. letters were never searched at the frontiers. When I turned my file over to Haywood of Scotland Yard, he sighed and said:

"I can't touch it. With my forty men, we are so up to our necks with following up our own cases here, that I haven't a man to spare for this one. This would mean sending men to Paris, London, Brussels and Luxembourg. As American military officers are involved, I'd have to have American permission to follow it up too."

Nothing was ever done about it, and the officials concerned will probably live happily and untroubled for many years off their occupation investments.

Where one Allied official was involved, there were usually ten Germans – paid in U.S. or British cigarettes and coffee. Crime writers could find in Berlin of the Occupation period a field rich enough to keep their typewriters and publishers busy for years.

Physically the city of Berlin was an expression of the inner moral decadence. After the first seventeen months of the Soviet-established City Council's intense efforts at cleaning up the city and restoring the essential services, almost nothing was done towards rebuilding or even setting people to work, especially in the Western sectors.

A stranger who arrived in Berlin at night, at Bahnhof Zoo, the main station in .the British-occupied West-end, would think he had walked into some immense stage-set, for a Wellsian "War of the World's Aftermath" drama. If he could brave the dreadful, sour stench of the unwashed and looked in at the underground waiting hall at the Zoo station, he would see more criminal types in one place than he could find anywhere outside Europe's prisons. Long-haired youths with faces from which every tract of decent, human emotions had been stamped out. Vicious, furtive and bestial. They would be almost the only ones, apart from the occupationists and a few opulent high-level racketeers, that he would see chain-smoking. They would be standing in little groups, whispering, exchanging wads of notes for some trifles of jewellery or cartons of cigarettes.

Many of them were on the "wanted list" as Nazi or ordinary civilian criminals. They would be operating near the exits for a quick get-away in case of a police raid. Further inside, slumped over tables, stretched out on the concrete floor, huddled together in corners, would be ragged heaps of people, some of them chewing hunks of black bread smeared with an evil-smelling paste; most of them sleeping. Few of them would be bona-fide travellers. Most of them had arrived from, or were waiting to leave for, a "hamsterfahrt" (scrounging expedition) into the country, to exchange the results of their Berlin black-market activities for food from the peasants. Their grimy, bulging knapsacks would be filled with an amazing variety of goods, from razor-blades and cigarettes to hammers and nails, which could be traded for potatoes and butter.

There would be a few hopeless-looking former Wehrmacht men, with hollow cheeks and missing limbs, still dressed in field-grey. Tired, bitter-looking waiters, in filthy coats which had once been white, would step over sleeping forms to dispense a watery beer that looked and tasted like the rinsings of a beer barrel. To get speedy service, half a cigarette would work wonders.

If our visitor arrived at the moment a local train had pulled in, he would see people fighting like wild animals to get at the doors and pile into the train. Elbows, fists and boots would fly. German would roar at German in the way that only Germans can roar. Several would-be travellers would be carried right through the carriage entrance and be dumped on to the rails on the other side in that first wild rush. The screams and shouts and struggles would make him think that the city was on the verge of some catastrophe which sent its citizens fleeing for their lives. But if he stayed awhile, he would see the same scene enacted at every station and tram stop throughout the city. The cripples and women and children, he would see swept mercilessly aside, while .muscle and brawn took over.

Leaving the Bahnhof Zoo station, he would pass through a gauntlet of the vicious, long-haired young men who would whisper out of the sides of their evil mouths: "Amis, Gold, Silber, Schokolade, Brillanten" – which would mean they were in the market for American cigarettes, gold, silver, chocolates and diamonds. If he were reckless enough to try to conclude a deal, he would be recognised as a newcomer, his goods or money would disappear the moment he produced them, and he would search in vain for the snatcher. Deals had to be concluded by mutual snatching: the seller's hand on the notes, the buyer's hand on the cigarettes, with simultaneous release.

If it were a moonlight night, our visitor could pick his way down Berlin's main West-end thoroughfare. He would have to walk on the roadway because – still in 1950 – the footpath is blocked with rubble from collapsed buildings. There would not be enough street lighting to avoid falling over rubble. If it was a windy night, he would have to be careful of falling bricks, or pieces of galvanised iron swirling through the air which might easily snick off his head. At Kurfuerstendamm he could breathe more easily, because he could pick up his first landmark – the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.

Between Joachimsthalerstrasse and the Memorial Church the visitor will be accosted by many prostitutes. Business is not good, for them. Few German men have spare calories, let alone cigarettes, to spend a night with a girl. Sometimes they have luck, when an American truck comes along and picks up ten or twelve for some soldiers' or officers' party.

Taking his bearings from the church, our visitor can make his way to where, opposite the Eden Hotel, a light is burning. If he has been tipped off beforehand, he will knock in a previously disclosed pattern and be admitted into a cosy restaurant. He will be greeted by none other than Herr Martius, who used to run the same restaurant on the other side of the street in the pre-war days.

If he knows the newcomer, Herr Martius will probably burst out weeping. His eyes are red from weeping these days, and he becomes bitter with self-reproach, for the chicken and champagne he served while the rest of Berlin was starving. However, if our, guest has six orseven pounds to spend, Herr Martius will brighten up and suggest caviar and asparagus, chicken or a steak, some fine Rhein wine or French champagne – all "black," of course.

In Herr Martius's restaurant, reclining in the heavy plush chairs, will be one or two British or American officials with their blonde frauleins. No action was ever taken against Herr Martius, although his restaurant was well-known to officials, and dealing in black-market food was supposed to be the one really heinous offence in Berlin. The majority of the clientele would be fat Germans, with heavily be-ringed fingers, concluding hoarsely-whispered deals over crepes suzettes and cognac. The visitor would notice in their faces, the same absence of human qualities that he had seen in the black-marketeers at the station. Naked, brutish selfishness he would see. Faces which had lost the faculty to record compassion. The be-ringed fingers would shuffle packs of hundred-mark notes as a dealer handles cards. Through a haze of smoke, well-tailored waiters would pass, bearing trays with French cognac and American cigarettes;

Herr Martius would come and sit with the new guest and talk and weep about old times, probably producing an American cigar. Cigars and cigarettes would bear an imprint for the use of Armed Forces only, and anyone dealing in them would be prosecuted.

Next morning he will send for the papers, and will probably get "Tagesspiegel," the only morning paper licensed for several years in the American sector. He will notice that it resembles Goebbels' paper, "Das Reich," in form and lay-out. There are other similarities. On the front page, in the right-hand column, there will be a big advertisement from the editorial board, asking readers – in fact, everybody in Berlin – to buy no books published in the Soviet sector, to boycott theatres, operas and films produced there; to read no newspapers published in the Soviet sector. There will probably be a long editorial by the editor, Erich Reger, on page 2, telling the British and Americans that they are fools and knaves for attempting any understanding with the Russians. They will be told they are "selling Germany down the river" if any attempt is made at a four-power settlement on the German question.

Perhaps, however, the newcomer is given one of the two morning papers published in the British sector, "Telegraf" or "Sozial Demokrat." At first he will think it's a mistake again and they have brought him Julius Streicher's gutter-sheet, "Der Sturmer," of the Nazi days.

He will find, for instance, if he picks up that particular issue, where the former Soviet Foreign Minister M. Litvinov is referred to as Herr Litvinov-Finkelstein, in the best Streicher fashion. If he happens to pick up an issue a few days before the American presidential elections in 1948, when the editor of "Telegraf" was assured by his American chiefs that Mr. Dewey would win, he would find Truman described as a "hen who has laid a rotten egg" for having conceived the idea of sending Mr. Vinson on a peace mission to Moscow.

The newcomer would notice, among the advertisements which plaster the "Kudamm" walls, glaring notices calling his attention to numerous "Marriage Marts." Whole buildings are covered with notices advertising life-partners. Biggest space is reserved for those who can advertise a "foreigner" as a prospective match. The next best attractions are those who can boast of connections with the wholesale or retail food business. Personal details as to age, appearance etc., were scarcely mentioned if the prospect could advertise himself or herself as connected with food. A foreigner – any foreigner as long as he had a valid passport – could be assured of a selection of prospective wives from any walk of society or with any qualifications his imagination could conjure up.

The marriage marts did a thriving business. Those seeking partners paid an eighty pounds entrance-fee, which entitled them to as many introductions as they could fit into one year. If marriage resulted, they paid another fifty pounds. If they were interested only in meeting foreigners, the fee was almost trebled. For the unscrupulous there is always good fishing where misery thrives. Marriage to a foreign passport! Marriage into the food business! Marriage at all, when men were at a premium! The young, the middle-aged and the aged wealthy all dipped into the pool.

One of the marriage marts, "Der Ring," at 84 Uhlandstrasse, obligingly ran marriage "classes," where groups, carefully selected according to age and social status, met in the evenings for a "free-for-all" selection joust. There was something infinitely pathetic about one of the rooms, where the fifty-and sixty-year-olds were coquetting, ogling and making preliminary passes at each other, sounding out financial prospects. The proprietor of "Der Ring" assured me he was doing a fine trade supplying German wives to patrons all over the world.

"We feel we are doing a fine social work," he said. "Germany is overcrowded. There are far too many women. We are doing our bit to thin them out and give better opportunities for those that remain. German girls are such good housewives, they are in demand everywhere."

The borderline between the "Kudamm" marriage marts and the white slave traffic would be hard to define. Other kiosks along the same boulevard catered to those interested in less permanent arrangements by offering "photographic and artists' models" (addresses and photographs supplied).

Just back of the Memorial Church, our visitor could see, in that first morning's walk, all the ruins he would want. He could visit the Tiergarten area, where as far as one can see, in any direction, there are only ruins – fantastic ruins that look like cardboard cut-out illustrations to our Wellsian "War of the Worlds" drama. There is even a monstrous fascination about the Tiergarten ruins. They are a dead world in themselves. For scores of acres there is no whole house, no place where any person lives. Twisted, crumpled, sliced, truncated, roofless, wall-less, house after house, street after street, these monstrous ruins march across from Budapesterstrasse to the treeless Tiergarten itself. Because of their complete desolation, these Tiergarten ruins have acquired some sort of dignity.

The newcomer would have been warned, before he left the Hotel am Zoo, that he could not go into the Soviet sector without immediate risk of arrest. If he asked a Control Commission taxi to take him there, the driver would tell him he was forbidden to drive beyond the Brandenburger Tor, the boundary of the British and Soviet sectors. But he could take a tram along Potsdamerstrasse, where the British and American sectors come together and join the Russian sector at Potsdamerplatz.

On the extreme edge of the American sector, within a few paces of the Soviet boundary, he would see familiar faces – the same he had seen the previous night in the underground waiting room at Bahnhof Zoo. They would be lined up, thirty or forty of them along the curb, with bars of chocolate and packets of cigarettes in their hands. Strictly illegal on half-a-dozen grounds, dealing in Allied property, dealing in foodstuffs, dealing in rationed goods, trading without licence, etc. American sector police pass to and fro without pausing to give a glance, unless to buy or sell something. The same long-haired, vicious, brutalised types hoarsely whispering: "Gold, Silber, Dollaren, Divisen, Ami Zigaretten, Schokolade.”

These black-marketeers were allowed to flourish thus in the American sector, as a gesture of open defiance to the Russians. They used to operate in the open space at Potsdamerplatz, which is more than half in the Soviet sector. But the Soviet sector police carried out several raids and cleaned the place up. When the black-marketeers crossed on to the American side of the street, they were immediately protected by American police. To show the Russians, and the Germans too, that liberty existed under the American flag, the U.S. authorities allowed the cut-throat gang of criminals to operate openly under the eyes of the police from three sectors.

Once, when four-power government of the city was still functioning, the Soviet delegate at the Kommandatura managed to get agreement for a joint four-power police raid to clear up Berlin. There were thousands of criminals and escaped Nazis at large, and it was agreed to make a sudden swoop and check everybody's papers, especially in the black-market centres. Howley fought the proposal in the Kommandatura, but gave way when the British and French supported the Russians. Naturally, all details had to be kept a close secret to catch the criminals in their favourite haunts. The entire Allied police forces were to be thrown in, complete with armoured cars, radio-vans and scores of jeep-loads of police. The night before the raid was to start, however, the Americans broadcast news of it, with the comforting assurance that houses would not be searched.

"Stay at home, boys, and you'll be all right," was what Howley told the criminals and Nazis on Allied "wanted" lists. Of course they stayed at home, and the raid was a failure.

Many crimes of violence were being committed by criminals in Soviet uniforms. The uniform served the double purpose of gaining entry, behind doors otherwise locked, and of discrediting the Russians. Plenty of these criminals in Soviet uniform had been captured by the Russians, and had turned out to be Germans or Eastern European Fascists who had fought with the Germans and were on their home countries' lists of war criminals.         Howley doubtless had his own reasons for not wanting these types picked up.

One could enter the Soviet sector at all times, from the beginning of the occupation, as easily as one could enter any other sector of Berlin. And one could circulate inside the sector and leave it again without the slightest trouble. After the currency reform and the attempt to attach Berlin to the economy of the Western Zones, there was a check on cars and trucks leaving the Soviet sector in case they were illegally taking out goods for export to the West. But Allied cars were always waved on without a check as soon as they were recognised.

During my years in Berlin, I went on the average three times a week into the Soviet sector to buy books and newspapers or to go to the theatre and opera. Twice only did I have difficulties.

Once was due to my own mistake, when I tried to drive my car into the Soviet Zone to Potsdam without a permit. After a very short delay I was escorted with the greatest politeness to the road back to Berlin.

The second time was in the Soviet sector, on the day currency reform was introduced into Berlin. I had received a query from London about an American agency report that "Soviet officers were selling East marks for West marks at the Brandenburger Tor." Was it true? London wanted to know. It was not true, of course, but in order to satisfy my editor's curiosity I visited the Brandenburger Tor and two other formerly notoriously black-market centres in the Soviet sector, at Potsdamerplatz and Alexanderplatz. I was followed by a jeep with four Russians in it, on the quite justifiable suspicion that I had come from the Western sector to try to sell West marks. What other reason could I have for touring the black-market centres?

At Alexanderplatz, I thought they had given up the chase. I strolled around the big square, satisfied myself that there was no trade at all in marks, and returned to my car to find a Russian soldier sitting in it. He wanted to see my documents, and as they were all in English, we had to go to the Soviet Kommandatura. I could not explain to the soldier who I was or what I was doing. All control commission officials had four-language passes approved by the Control Council. Military, of course, were in uniform. Only the press had no four-power, four-language documents. For the Soviet soldier it was very simple. "No uniform and no pass" – a suspicious character.

At the Kommandatura, the matter was soon cleared up. The Russians, seeing me go from one black-market centre to another in a western-licensed car, thought I was just the type of person they had been told to look out for, a "devisenspekulant." After handsome apologies, I was, allowed to go.

The German driver of a British press car, however, had seen my car being escorted to the Soviet Kommandatura by "tommy-gun carrying Russians." He rushed back with a highly-coloured story of shots being fired, bullet holes in the back of my car, an "armoured car" escorting me. I was greeted with some dismay by my colleagues, who had to call London immediately and deny or water-down the hair-raising stories sent out already about my "ordeal." "Couldn't you have persuaded them to hold you at least .overnight?" wailed one colleague – "at least long enough to have made our stories all right?"

Despite the efforts of American and British officials to scare their nationals, especially newcomers, from going into the Soviet sector, there was always a good sprinkling of Allied uniforms at the first nights of theatre and opera in the Soviet sector. After the theatre there were always a few American and British officers enjoying an excellent dinner at the Soviet "Intourist" restaurant, opposite the State Opera House. Theatre and opera were acknowledged to be far superior in the Soviet sector to those in West Berlin. The Russians gave assistance from the first days of occupation to anything connected with cultural development. Musicians and actors were given Number 1 ration cards, theatres were given priority for building materials and for heating.

If the western sectors could boast the most and best night-clubs and cocktail-bars, they had – apart from the Schlossparktheater in Steglitz in the American sector and the second-rate Staedtische Opera in the British sector – nothing to offer in the cultural line. There were nine first-class state-subsidised theatres and operas in the Soviet sector.

In one day, a visitor who knew where to look could learn much about Berlin and clear up many of the misconceptions with which he arrived. After his surprise about the myth of the "iron curtain” around the Soviet sector, he would learn with something of a shock that many of the books banned by the Nazis were also banned by the Western powers and could not be sold in bookshops in the Western sectors. To be sure, the reasons given were different. The Nazis banned them openly because of their political content or because they had been written by Jews. The Western powers banned them because they were published in the Soviet sector of Berlin or in the Soviet Zone. Most of the contemporary authors banned by the Nazis had contracts with progressive publishing houses in the Soviet Zone. And a publisher who was licensed by the Russians would not be licensed by the Americans – although the Russians would, and did, license any reputable publishing house, no matter in what other zones they were headquartered or were publishing. The newcomer would learn also, to his surprise, that films made in the Soviet Zone – and they were without question the best made in Germany – could not be displayed in the West, and that the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, which had its headquarters in the American sector, was banned by the Americans from playing in the Soviet sector or Zone.

Dr. Furtwaengler, the famous conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, could tell him an interesting story about this and the "politics" of his own de-Nazification. The Americans at first were very pro-Furtwaengler until they learned that the Russians were also in favour of allowing the great musician to conduct again. The Russians gave him back his home at Babelsberg, near Potsdam, in the Soviet Zone, treated him correctly, gave him top rations, allowed him to use a car, and accorded him the privileges and homage due to an honoured artist.

The Americans then decided that Furtwaengler was a dangerous Nazi. After the leftist Kulturbund published an open letter asking for Furtwaengler to be reinstated as conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, the Americans began to raise objections, and blocked his de-Nazification, although he had been cleared in Vienna. Furtwaengler arrived back in Berlin by Soviet plane from Vienna, but the Americans insisted he must be cleared again in Berlin. A special German de-Nazification panel, which dealt with notables of the cultural world, cleared him in Berlin, but the Americans – at first supported by the British – insisted that this was not sufficient. They were determined that Furtwaengler should not join the rest of the cream of the German cultural world, writers, artists and musicians, who had made their spiritual home in the Soviet sector.

Eventually it became known that the Russians had invited Furtwaengler to take over the excellent State Opera orchestra, which had been built up again in the Soviet sector.

The British began to put pressure on the Americans. The de-Nazification Board was in the British sector, and the officer in charge eventually sent an ultimatum to the Americans that unless some striking new evidence could be produced against Furtwaengler, he would have to be cleared. The Americans gave way, and after a year's wrangling the famous artist was de-Nazified and the Philharmonic could have their old conductor back again. (The first conductor after the war, Dr. Borchert, was shot and killed by a trigger-happy American sentry.)

Furtwaengler left for a few weeks leave in Switzerland, but announced before he left the date of his first concert in the State Opera House in the Soviet Sector, followed by one in the Titania-Palast in the American sector. When he left Switzerland, however, his car was held up by American frontier guards at the Swiss-American Zone border. He was forced to return to Zurich and come by plane to Berlin – too late for the concert in the Soviet sector, but just in time for the Titania-Palast engagement.

From that moment on, the Americans wooed Furtwaengler and acclaimed him and the Philharmonic as their own. The ban on the orchestra touring the Soviet Zone – after engagements had been finalised – was the logical development of opposing anything the Russians favoured and favouring anything the Russians opposed.

As another example, our visitor would find that almost the last thread of four-power unity was snapped when the Americans withdrew from the Allied Musical Library, which had its headquarters in the Soviet sector, and from which Germans could borrow musical scores of contemporary composers whose works were not yet otherwise available in Germany. Perhaps the Americans were piqued because the most sought-after scores were Russian, with British in second place. It continued to function long after the Control Council and Kommandatura had broken down.

When the musical library closed, the only four-power functions which still existed were at the Air Safety centre, at the Spandau prison where Hess and the other Nuremberg criminals were kept, and in the supervision of the execution of criminals.

A glance at the food-shops would convince our visitor that the meal served in Herr Martius's restaurant, the previous night, was no criterion of German rations. He would notice the phenomenon of a new label which appeared on many of the tins and jars displayed in the shop-windows. "Es schmeckt nach..." ("It tastes like...") Ingenious German chemists had prepared all sorts of substances to smear on bread or cook with the potatoes which formed the staple diet of most German families. The various preparations had no calorific value but "tasted like..." herring, various types of sausage, cheese and dozens of other German favourites.

"Es schmeckt nach..." and "es riecht nach..." (it smells like) were the subject of favourite cabaret jokes of the period. Bread and potatoes, and little of each, was the chief diet of Berliners for four years after the war – and often enough the potatoes in the western sectors were the American de-hydrated brand.

Some enterprises – almost all in the Soviet sector and Zone – served coupon-free canteen meals for their employees, but usually the latter tried to smuggle part of the meal back to the wife and children at home. Very few workers ate enough to do a decent day's work. Soviet attempts to have the coupon-free canteen meal system adopted for the whole of Berlin were rejected by the Western powers at the Kommandatura, on the grounds that "it would be taking food away from normal consumers." To cover up, a press campaign was started to show that workers were "starving" in the Soviet Zone.

The workers who stuck it out and worked honestly had the worst of it for a long time in all sectors. They could have lived better by joining the black-marketing "hamsterers," but most of them had a sense of responsibility and obeyed the trade union leaders' pleas to stay on the job and help with the reconstruction. Until the British and Americans forced a split, most workers were enrolled in the single workers’ organisation in Berlin, the Free Trade Union Movement (F.D.G.B.). Later, when things got better, the Soviet administration repaid the workers for their loyalty by distributing vegetables and later textiles through the F.D.G.B. There was a great outcry in the West again, that these goods should be "made available to the whole population and not to trade union members."

Bitter experience had shown that "making goods available for the whole population" meant bogging them down in wholesalers' hands, from where they disappeared into the black market. The workers were unquestionably those who made the greatest sacrifices during the worst of the hunger years. "To each according to their deeds" was the axiom applied by the Soviet leaders.

To round off his first day in Berlin, our visitor could ask a German to take him into an ordinary non-black-market German restaurant, and could try a piece of sour, blackish bread smeared with a greasy "herring" paste, with perhaps a watery soup in which wallowed a few pieces of potatoes.

If he had any appetite, it would be taken away by the sight of the pallid, sallow, hollow-cheeked other inmates of the restaurant, watching with dull, hungry eyes the platters of bread and soup carried to other tables. Few except the racketeers ate their fill in Berlin in the first post-war years.

From the German restaurant to the American Press Club for a real meal of fresh lobster salad and fried chicken – just flown in on the air-lift. If it were Saturday night, our visitor would find a beetroot-faced and prematurely grey-haired Colonel Howley, U.S. Commandant of Berlin, with his tunic off, hilariously conducting the German jazz band. If it happened to be the night when the colonel was promoted to brigadier-general, he would have witnessed a fracas, in which glasses were thrown, and fists were used, with a resultant five stitches in the new brigadier-general's face.

With Howley would probably have been his deputy at the Kommandatura, Colonel William Babcock. Colonel Babcock had a heart attack in a Berlin cinema towards the end of January, 1950. He died a few hours later, and when the body was flown back to Washington, two Mrs. Babcocks were waiting at the airport to receive it. With one Mrs. Babcock the colonel had been married for 34 years; the second one he had married in Germany in 1945, without the formality of divorcing his first wife.

Yes, in twenty-four hours in Berlin, armed with a few introductions and a pair of observant eyes, it was possible to find out a great deal about life in the occupied city, and possible also to meet some extraordinary types intimately connected with the city's government.

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