The knotted rope dangling from the back of the Skymaster "Airlift" plane was greasy and black with coal-dust. A black-faced, sweating German, chewing gum, gave a final flirt with his broom and a shower of coal-dust settled over my face and clothes. My baggage had already been tossed aboard. An American crewman shouted down.

"Better hang on to the rope, Bud, and climb aboard. We're ready to start up."

The German grinned. "I was with our Luftwaffe. They're just the same as our fellows were. The very devils for efficiency." In my civilian clothes he had confided in me as one German to another.

The plane was second in a line of eight parked in front of Tempelhof airport, Berlin. As I started to clamber up the swaying ladder, the plane ahead lumbered off, its wings flapping slightly as it taxied towards the take-off runway.

It was mid-April, 1949, a cloudy, gusty day with patches of blue between the clouds. "Slim," the pilot, was a lanky, brown-faced, cheerful Texan, "Mac," the co-pilot, a Californian with smooth, fat cheeks just developing into jowls. He looked as if he had been reared on apple-pie and ice-cream and would melt away if left for too long in the sun. Both were in their early twenties.

"Three-minute take-offs to-day," roared Mac, above the noise of the engines now being warmed up. He shook his head ominously and pointed ahead at the cloud masses. As soon as we were up in the air, Mac turned round to me, wiping his forehead, the flex from his earphones hanging loose on his chest.

“Three minutes in front of us a god-damned Skymaster," he said, "three minutes behind is another one, all at our height. Down there somewheres," and he stabbed with his earphones towards the clouds beneath us, "there are 'Limey' Yorks flying the same corridor, down below them are Dakotas. We're piled up one atop the other like quoits on a peg and following one another like a string of freight cars. Whoever cooked up this airlift business should have a propeller stuck to his behind, a hunk of coal shoved in his mouth; and left to fly the corridors himself."

At 6,500 feet, the plane evened off, pilot and co-pilot lit cigars and relaxed. After half an hour's flying, through a hole in the clouds, we could see the Elbe, a silver band laid across strips of brown and green. Spring ploughing was already finished in the Soviet Zone and winter wheat was well above ground.

"America's new frontier," the pilot said, pointing to the river, "or at least that's what the 'brass' in Washington try to sell us. What's going on here, anyway? I came this way in the war and we didn't carry no coal or flour those days. When were we right? Then or now? It sure beats the hell out of us. What the hell is all this about? Seems to me like some son of a bitch in Washington just opened his big trap too loud and let us pilots carry the baby – or, in this case, the flour and coal. Why are we so tender about these Krauts in Berlin all of a sudden? They were trying to wipe us all out not so long ago. And do I find any of them saying 'Thank you'?' Hell, no. Most of them just ask for more. Some of them say we're even doing them a bad turn by making dollar debts for them. America's frontier on the Elbe! Horse shit! The 'brass' landed us in all this. Let them get us out of it and let's go home. What you say, Mac?"

And Mac, the co-pilot, who was now flying the plane and about to veer south-west as we passed over Brunswick, grunted a very hearty and definite assent.

The night before I had visited a cinema in the Soviet sector of Berlin to see a new Soviet film, "Meeting on the Elbe.'" It was a mixture of the true and the fantastic; of realism which was almost documentary and propaganda which was only a slight departure from reality. The types it mirrored were types which existed in American military government. It was the work of a skilled caricaturist. It was a film to make one weep for its implications; the chances lost, the hopes destroyed. It was the background to disillusionment, the explanation of the "air-lift." Running through the story, despite some exaggerations, there was a strong shaft of bitter truth.

To pass the time, there was still an hour to go before we put down at Frankfurt, I related some of the incidents from the film. The hilarious enthusiasm of the meeting between Russian and American soldiers at the Elbe. With a background of a shattered town, still burning German tanks, and swarming, bewildered refugees, American soldiers are shown: plunging into the Elbe to swim across to greet their Russian comrades. Soldiers are shown exchanging caps and decorations; Americans drinking Russian vodka, Russians drinking American whisky. The film showed throughout a high degree of friendliness between the ordinary soldiers and non-coms., and frequent visits, in the early days, across the Elbe to celebrate at each other's parties. One American officer is shown as having good and correct relations with his Soviet opposite number.

From the beginning of military government in this town through which the Elbe slices, the Russians are shown as giving preference for administrative jobs to German workers who had suffered in concentration camps, while on the American side the Nazis are retained in office.

When a "Wall-street General" arrives with his wife, as U.S. Military Commandant of the town, fraternisation between Americans and Russians soon comes to an end. The Americans are encouraged to form friends with former Nazis instead. Intrigues start against the Russians, a blonde spy is introduced to try and recruit a Russian lieutenant as an American agent. A realistic picture of American black-marketeering is given; the General is more interested in playing the American stock market and acquiring German loot than in the problems of military government. His wife divides her time between black-marketeering and having her portrait painted in a series of period costumes in the style of various German empresses.

An American-inspired attempt to steal formulae belonging to a German chemist, placing the blame on the Soviet lieutenant, is foiled by an alert German worker. The pro-Soviet American lieutenant is disgraced for his friendly relations with the Russians, the blonde is unmasked as a Colonel in the U.S. Army, relations between the two banks of the Elbe are finally broken.

The pilots thought the film must be amusing, but some parts made them angry. When I described the scene where a drunken U.S. captain marks with a piece of white chalk the precious paintings, furniture, and eventually, the girls he is requisitioning for his Colonel, they found it uproariously funny. Mac said, "Damned if they haven't hit the jack-pot with that one. A Colonel from my home-town was sent back for doing just that sort of thing, but I guess he was out of luck. Most of them got away with it."

Yes, the film had its funny moments, but its implications were tragic.

“Just where did everything go 'kaput' between us and the Russkies anyway?" asked Mac.

Fortunately for me we were just about to make the approach to the airfield at Frankfurt. I was embarrassed to even attempt a short answer to that question. For three years and three months, with a few breaks in the Balkans, I had been in Berlin as a correspondent, watching the workings of four-power government and the reactions of Germans, but to give the complete answer to Mac's question, I was not equipped nor is any other correspondent there during that period. The whole truth on critical questions was never available to the press. Public relations officers, whose duty it was to inform the press, acted more as agents of the "cold war" than as a press liaison body. Information to the press officers was often incomplete; there was a deliberate suppression of facts which should have been available to them. They in their turn were briefed as to how much they could pass on to the press.

The stock answer to Mac's question: "Where did everything go 'kaput' between us and the Russians?" is: "When Marshal Sokolovsky led his team out of the Control Council meeting on March 20, 1948." That is not the truth or even a half-truth. It would be as true to say that World War II came about because some German soldiers fired shots into Poland.

A correspondent cannot peer into the minds of Bevin, Marshall, Acheson and Co. nor does he have access to the secret written and unwritten agreements made among them. But in Germany it was possible to collect fragments of the results of their policies which, when put together, form a clear pattern of the betrayal of the post-war hopes of the ordinary citizens of all countries.

One thing is clear. If we ignore for a moment the much-publicised causes for the breakdown and the incidents which led, step by step, to the splitting of Germany – and the Allies – at least the results are clear. If one looks at the two Germanys, it is fair to assume they reflect the original aims of East and West. It is hard to decide which Germany conforms most nearly to that envisaged by Potsdam.

If one can ignore the anti-Soviet catch-cries of "von Paulus armies," "reparations from current production," "Volks-polizei," "concentration-camps," "forced labour in the Uranium mines" which were whipped up in the western press and used as a smoke-screen to cover developments in western Germany, one can see a development each side of the Elbe which represents a step by step building up of the sort of economic and political structure that the Russians and the West, respectively, wanted.

In Eastern Germany the big estates have been split up and most of them handed over to small farmers, landless peasants and agricultural laborers. A few were turned into State research and breeding farms. The Junkers were dispossessed. Most of them fled to the west, some were arrested by the Russians and concentrated on the Isle of Ruegen in the Baltic Sea, where they could no longer sabotage the land reform laws. Munitions plants were destroyed, many factories taken back to Russia as reparations, others, which the Russians legally had title to, were left in Germany to work, as Soviet-owned enterprises. Most of the rest of industry was nationalised and put under the control of Laender, district or municipal authorities. The greater part of the former owners or directors fled to the West, but in a number of cases they were given good jobs in the nationalised concerns. Chief executive jobs in the factories went to trusted trade union officials, the trade unions had a dominant voice in all factory and mine management problems.

The education system was radically revised, children of industrial workers had priority of entrance to the universities over children of the former upper class. Fusion of the Social Democrats and Communists into the S.E.D. (Socialist Unity Party) placed the latter in a leading political role, but middle-class parties, the Liberal Democrats representing free enterprise and the Christian Democrats representing Liberal Catholics, were also licensed and given an important role in government.

These measures were what the Russians understood as the demilitarisation, de-Nazification, democratisation and re-education of Germans as provided under the Potsdam agreement.

The Russians understood by "democratisation," giving the workers a dominant role in running the factories, deciding production methods, setting norms of work; giving land-hungry peasants a home over their heads, and earth to till; providing education for those who in the past had little chance to enter the universities. These measures were more important to them than the formalities of political democracy which ends with every citizen dropping a ballot paper in a box, voting for programmes which are never implemented, personalities who turn traitor tothe causes to which they are pledged.

In the West, in some areas, a limited land reform was carried out, but, in general, the princes, counts and barons still live on their estates in their family castles. Despite promises by the British Government, despite the will of the people expressed through the ballot box, no socialisation measures have been carried out. Heavy industry is still by and large in the hands of its former owners. Nazis are back in their old positions in industry and public life – especially in the judiciary. The pattern of life as it was before in Western Germany has been painfully rebuilt, brick by brick, on the same political, economic and social foundations on which it rested before the war.

Considering the differences in the plans, building methods, traditions and outlook of the builders, it was perhaps inevitable from the start that the Potsdam Agreement should have been scrapped by the West, and that everything should go "kaput" between the West and the Russians, as Mac had expressed it.

What exists in East and West Germany to-day corresponds roughly to what existed in the minds of Russian and western diplomats when they argued at conference tables in London, Moscow, Paris, Washington and Berlin. More specifically it represents in the West what the Americans had in mind, because both British and French abandoned their independent ideas and .surrendered completely to the Americans. The Americans tolerated independent ideas as long as it suited them and no longer. The French could object to a Central Government for all Germany, as long as that saved the Americans and British the trouble of going back on their agreement at Potsdam. As long as it helped the East-West split the Americans were glad to have the French say "No" to Soviet proposals for unity. Once the split occurred, however, the French had to swallow their objections and agree to a centralised government for Western Germany. In the same way, British ideas on socialisation of the Ruhr were tolerated as long as they did not interfere with American plans. Then they were quickly shelved.

If one had to name the most important single technical reason for the breakdown in Allied unity in Germany, I would choose the fact that France, who did not sign the Potsdam Agreement, was invited to join the other three Powers in putting it into operation. If there was a chance .of reconciling east and west ideas on Germany, and the Potsdam Agreement was the hard, legal expression of such a compromise, we scattered our cards to the four winds, when we brought in a non-signatory to the treaty as an equal member of the Control Council.

France was able to, and did, veto all the early proposals for the economic unity of Germany. French General Pierre Koenig, who refused even to live in Berlin, sat back in his chair at the Control Council meetings and refused to agree to any measure which hinted at economic unity. The first steps towards establishing this unity had been agreed on at Potsdam and provided for the setting up of five central economic secretariats to run Finance, Trade, Economics, Posts and Telegraphs and Communications. More than any other single measure the failure to set up these secretariats in the early days, signed the death warrant for a united Germany. British, American and Russian delegates spoke in favor of them. General Koenig could puff at his cigar and say, "Messieurs, we never agreed to the Potsdam Agreement. It's no use quoting any clauses of it to me. Why did you not invite us to Potsdam? We would never have agreed to any clauses which would lead to any centralised government of a united Germany."

Although the Russians as usual, were given the blame for the failure to establish the Central Secretariats which would have paved the way for economic unity, it was to the French and not the Soviet Government that the U.S. Secretary of State, James Byrne, sent a note in February, 1946, asking the French to withdraw their objections to a centralised administration in Germany. And General Clay admits in his book, "Decision in Germany," published early in 1950, that it was the French who originally blocked four-power unity. Referring to the Potsdam Agreement, Clay writes:

"Unfortunately it could not become the 'rule of law' for the Allied Control Council. The Council could only act by unanimous consent and one of its members, France, was not a party to and never accepted the Protocol in full. Time and again when it (Control Council) would attempt to implement the decisions to which France objected, the French member, in exercising his veto power, reminded us that his government was not represented at Potsdam. On several occasions my Soviet colleagues suggested to me that France was receiving too much financial assistance from the United States to maintain such strong opposition unless it was with our acquiescence... On the other hand, my French colleague said to us later that... fortunately the French veto had prevented us from creating agencies (the central administrations for example) which would have been vehicles for Communist expansion... Perhaps," continues Clay, steering quickly away from this crucial breakdown, "without the French veto we could have created central administrative agencies for Germany as a whole within the first six months and struggled within and through them for a common economic policy."

One could be pardoned for harboring a reasonable suspicion that it was precisely for providing an escape hatch for unpleasant clauses in the Potsdam Agreement that the Western powers were so anxious to have a non-signatory sitting with vetopowers in the Control Council. The Russians were also prepared to have the French present, but in an observing and advisory capacity only, as they were not bound by Potsdam.

In the first few months of Control Committee activities it seemed possible to salvage something of the wartime unity among the Allied Governments. The personalities of the Western Commanders, General Eisenhower and Field-Marshal Montgomery, and of Soviet Marshal Zhukov, were still warm with mutual respect for deeds during the wartime comradeship of arms. Military government at first looked like a smooth continuation of wartime co-operation. The aims were clear, to purge and punish Nazis, castrate Germany as a future military force, exact repayment in kind for some of the war damage. No word of setting up a complex organisation to control every phase of German economic life. No word that we should give Germany top priority in economic recovery. In those early days there was still an aura of the Roosevelt humanity in the American camp; there was a new Labor government elected in Britain sworn to friendship and understanding with Russia. "We of the left..." said Bevin, and the people understood the British Labor Party standing solid with the Soviet Union in a new era of friendship. Such illusions were soon shattered by those who understood British policy, when the personalities began to arrive in Germany to carry out this "new era of friendship."

Two key positions went to men associated with the greatest diplomatic failures in modern British history. Political adviser to the Military Governor was Sir William Strang, remembered as the insignificant Mr. William Strang of the British Foreign Office, sent by Mr. Chamberlain to Moscow in the summer of 1939, to calm British public opinion which was demanding a pact with the Soviet Union. The late Mr. Chamberlain took special planes and flew to see Hitler three times when it was a question of handing over Czechoslovakia to the Nazis. Mr. .William Strang, of the Foreign Office, was sent on a long Baltic cruise to Moscow when it was a question of negotiating a pact vital to Britain's security in the eleventh hour when it was still possible to save the peace of the world. When Mr. Strang arrived in Moscow it was obvious from the first that he had come "to discuss pacts and not to sign them." He had no powers, every proposal had to be referred to the Foreign Office, which took up to a week or ten days to send replies to his queries. Mr. Strang's role in Moscow was to play for time for a project much nearer to Mr. Chamberlain's heart to be worked out in Berlin. In the Soviet mind, Mr. Strang became a. symbol of hypocrisy and official British enmity towards the Soviet Union.

In Berlin, Sir Nevile Henderson and a bright young Embassy secretary, Mr. Christian Steel, were busy trying to persuade Hitler that as long as he kept moving east, he would meet no opposition from the British Foreign Office or Mr. Chamberlain. There would even be financial aid, perhaps a relaxation on the question of colonies. As a token of the financial aid, a Mr. Hudson arrived with offers of £400,000,000 credits for Hitler Germany.

Mr. Christian Steel turned up in Germany in 1945 as assistant to Sir William Strang, the political adviser, and later took over the latter's functions altogether. It was difficult to believe the British Government was sincere in its desire for friendship and accord with Russia when just these two men were appointed to key positions, where in day-to-day contact with the Russians they had to work out common policy. Mr. Steel's former chief, Sir Nevile Henderson, wrote a book before he died, "The Failure of a Mission," which made it clear that the mission failed not through any lack of trying on his part. The mission? To establish closest relations between Nazi Germany and England, even if it meant sacrificing friendships and pacts with Czechoslovakia, France, the Soviet Union, and any other countries which Hitler did not like. Mr. Steel has not changed his strong personal anti-Soviet, anti-Czech, anti-French and extreme pro-Nazi views since the pre-war days.

The Strangs and Steels were accompanied by leading industrialists as economic advisers, by Russian liaison officers with White Russian and army of intervention backgrounds. It was not compatible with good relations with the Russians that one of the chief liaison officers wore two rows of ribbons, only the last two of which were British decorations, the others won serving the Tsar and the "White" armies of Generals Denikin and Wrangel against the Bolsheviks. This particular officer wore the badge "Intelligence Corps" on his shoulder, and in the Control Council combined buffet made no effort to conceal his hatred and contempt of the Russia of the Soviets. The late chief of Liaison Protocol, Colonel Caird, also wore his Tsarist decorations at any functions where Russian officials were likely to be present.

How can one square these things with the public declarations that we wanted the friendliest relations with the Soviet Union, and were making every effort to collaborate over the Conference table?

The astounding thing is that the Foreign Office sent to key positions in Germany – and the same applies to Austria – officials who were not only extremely anti-Soviet, but who were quite out of touch and sympathy with developments in England. And who is to blame but the Labor Government if many of these officials deliberately sabotaged official government policy in Western Germany, especially in regard to support of the "socialist" parties and socialisation of the Ruhr?

Even the briefest resume of these things seemed incomprehensible to Mac and Slim and we touched down at Frankfurt airport without their being wiser than when we left Berlin as to why things had gone "kaput," and why they had to fly their Skymaster two or three round-trips a day between Frankfurt and Berlin.

For me, that plane ride was the end of an era. My assignment in Germany was finished. The next day I was to leave in my little Volkswagen and drive away from Germany back to the Balkans, leaving others to watch the wreckers of four power unity and the would-be wreckers of peace at their work.

This book is not meant to be an historical, chronological account of Military Government in Germany. At most it can partly answer the questions of the Slims and Macs as to how the parting at the Elbe came about. Correspondents have created much of the fog which has prevented the world public from seeing the pattern which was being laid down in Germany. For the most part it was not their fault. Newspapers are interested in the sensational and the dramatic, they are interested in news and not explanations. The emergence of two Germanys was a long and laborious process. Explanations followed long after the news and had to be extracted after days of tortuous questioning of reluctant officials. Official Secrets Acts were used as a means of muzzling officials. This book will help amend some of my own omissions in reporting and will expand on some stories which the public read in sketchy or one-sided versions.

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