November 30, 2015

1943. Boosting Morale on the Eastern Front

Letters of Encouragement to Red Army Soldiers
Red Army soldiers in January 1943 celebrate victory in Stalingrad (source)
(For more, see the complete 1943 Moscow reports)
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

January 6, 1943 (Cable to New York)

One method by which every government in the world keeps check on the morale of its army is by careful examination of letters the front line soldier exchanges with folks back home. It's just as true in the Soviet Union as it is in America, Britain, or the Axis countries.

Here is a sample of what folks at home in Moscow, Vladivostok, and Baku are writing to their men fighting the Germans. In many ways these letters are like letters home in any army—the Russian soldier learns cousin Alexis got married; daughter Anna has mumps; wife expects to finish knitting that sweater in a couple of weeks.

But here the Russian soldier also gets something else. The Red Army is something of a family affair. That's why these letters give insight into just why the buck private in Joseph Stalin's army fights the Germans as they have never been fought before.

For example, whole regiments will get letters addressed to the "Liberators of Boguchar" from people they have never heard of before.

Russian girls will write individual soldiers asking Private Ivanovich to "kill just one German more today."

Then of course some letters bring bad news. One soldier received a letter from his aunt:
Dear Petia,

It saddens me to tell you our village has been taken by Germans who burned it to the ground, including your home. The town hall is also gone, our dear streets nothing but wreckage.

But there is even worse news. Your wife and daughter have been sent by German commanders to somewhere I do not know. Father also has been sent away.

I call upon you, Petia. Avenge your family.


Tanya, your aunt
When news of this letter got around the soldier's unit, they sent a petition to their officers requesting immediate attack.

Just how much of a family affair the Red Army really is is illustrated by letters exchanged between one assistant commander for political work and one Russian housewife. The political commander, whose chief job is army morale, wrote to the housewife saying her husband has been slipping up on his soldiering. He wasn't serious, you understand, but this particular husband—who has been one of the best men in the unit—was now just plain goldbricking.

Here's the reply the housewife wrote back to the political commander:

"I and my family are disturbed by the conduct of my husband. I cannot explain how it happened. In the past, he has always been a good tractor driver and honestly fulfilled his work. I am working very hard and have not had a day off in three months. Our eleven-year-old daughter is working in the fields and vegetable garden. My husband's sister is working on a collective farm. We all hate Hitler. I ask you to talk with my husband and explain how serious his fault is. Let him make up his fault in the next fighting."

The political commander didn't have that talk with the husband. Instead he read the wife's letter aloud to the husband's entire unit.

1941. Adolf Hitler on the United States

An Interview with Hitler
"The Great Hall of the Berghof was the scene of Mr. Cudahy's interview with Adolf Hitler"
Article by John Cudahy for LIFE Magazine, June 9, 1941, pp. 34-36:


LIFE Correspondent Interviews Führer on War and the Future

(This spring LIFE commissioned John Cudahy, former U.S. Ambassador to Belgium, to go to Berlin and write a series of articles about Nazi Germany and its war aims. Two weeks ago he was accorded an interview with Adolf Hitler—the first the German dictator has given an American press correspondent in a year. Herewith LIFE publishes what the Führer told Mr. Cudahy about a German invasion of America, the future of German trade, German treatment of occupied countries, etc.

LIFE is well aware of its grave responsibility in printing this article at such a critical time. It does so because it is confident its readers can intelligently recognize this interview for what it really is—an essential part of Hitler's political strategy of "softening up" the U.S. with large denials of aggressive intentions.

LIFE suspects that Hitler chose this particular time for his interview because he hoped it would undercut the President's speech. In LIFE's opinion the President's speech contained an annihilating answer to Adolf Hitler's "honeyed words." This answer is printed immediately following the interview.—ED.)

"Convoys mean war," Adolf Hitler told me quietly on the afternoon of May 23 as we sat in the famous living room of his Berghof at Berchtesgaden. International legal precedents were well established, he said, that escorting munitions, war materials and deadly weapons to an enemy with armed naval forces was a warlike act. These precedents had been determined by Anglo-Saxon maritime powers for a long time, were thoroughly well known and understood by all legal authorities.

At my side was the celebrated interpreter Herr Schmidt and, across the big round table, Walter Hewel, liaison officer of the German Foreign Office. Through the largest bay window I have ever seen, the snow-sheeted Alps seemed startlingly close and white as antimony in the spring sunshine. Far down, the green valley was polka-dotted with spring flowers. The distant silhouette of Salzburg looked vague and fluttering against a cumulus cloud embankment, like a phantom city.

I told the Führer that the primary cause of opposition to Germany in the U.S. was based upon the sentiment that the security of the Western Hemisphere was threatened by German aggression. People argued that German conquest might go on and on and the next logical field for German military adventure was the two American continents. He laughed and refused to take me seriously. He said the idea of a Western Hemisphere invasion was about as fantastic as an invasion of the moon.

I replied that, fantastic or not, an eventual attack by Germany on the Americas was feared by a large number of thoughtful American people. He could not believe it, he persisted, because he had too high an opinion on the intelligence and good sense of Americans. He said he was convinced this invasion story was put out by warmongers against their better knowledge, men who wanted war in the belief it would be profitable for business—an erroneous conception since the last great war had demonstrated that war was ruinous to business.

He said that the German High Command considered an invasion of either American continent to be as wildly imaginary as an invasion of the moon and he was confident that Army and Navy chiefs in the U.S. shared the same views as the German military authorities.

"Why," he asked, "do not the British send more troops to Greece and North Africa?" He answered his own question by saying it was because sufficient transports were not available although the distances were comparatively short. The combined shipping tonnage of Britain, the U.S. and Germany would be hopelessly inadequate, he insisted, to transport an army of millions which would be required for a successful conquest of the Western Hemisphere.

The German Army, he went on, was not concerned with military expeditions for the sake of showing off or in order to demonstrate that nothing was impossible for German arms. At present these armed forces are concerned with an attack of 100 kilometers over open water, in the case of Crete. And England is separated from the continent by only 40 kilometers of open water. If the Crete enterprise has seemed difficult, he said, an attack over 4,000 kilometers of open water, as would be the case with the U.S., is simply unthinkable.

He said he had never heard anybody in Germany say that the Mississippi River was a German frontier in the same spirit that the Prime Minister of Australia had referred to the Rhine as a frontier of that country. But, since the Rhine was their frontier, he had decided to send some Australian prisoners to that famous German river so that they might acquaint themselves with frontier atmosphere.

He assured me that Germany had too many serious problems in Europe to ever give any thought to an American invasion. I told Herr Hitler that many people shared his view that the Atlantic offered too formidable a military obstacle to be surmounted at present, but the same people who expressed this opinion believed that a German triumph would mean economic disaster to the U.S. The reason for this belief, I said, was because of a lower standard of living for workers in Germany and disciplinary methods imposed upon German labor which would never be accepted in the U.S. Therefore American industrial output could not compete with that of Germany.

He replied that he did not think the living standard of German workers was so low. The controlling purpose of National Socialism, he said, was to improve living conditions for working people. This effort the war had interrupted, but it would be renewed with redoubled force when peace came, and he had great ambitions for the common man in Germany. Among other things he hoped to see him own an automobile.

He reminded me that Germany with a population density of 140 persons to the square kilometer had risen out of depression and provided jobs for all so that there were no longer any unemployed while the U.S. with only eleven per square kilometer was unable to cope with a very serious unemployment problem. He asked me why the German nation was singled out as an economic menace to America when Germany had an area of only 600,000 to 700,000 square kilometers and a population of only 85,000,000 while the British Empire had a population of 400,000,000, Japan 100,000,000, Russia 170,000,000 and other nations of the world 500,000,000. He inquired why, if German competition was so greatly feared, her colonies had been taken away from Germany, and said that development of the colonies would have presented a great outlet for German industrial output.

He asked further why the U.S. was opposed to the organization of Europe so as to provide markets in Europe for German goods, thereby lessening the probability of competition with the U.S. Southeastern Europe was, he said, a natural complement to German economy for the Balkan countries had a surplus of agricultural produce which they could exchange for Germany's industrial products. That was, he insisted, the "iron rule of trade." No country could buy from another unless it could also sell, and how, he asked, could the U.S. with its great agricultural surpluses offer to take farm produce from Southeastern Europe in payment for American manufactured articles?

I inquired whether or not he envisaged a trade union for Europe with suppression of quotas, tariffs, currency restrictions etc., etc. He replied that he thought all commercial relations between countries could be assured by long-term trade treaties guaranteeing to both partners a profitable arrangement and suppressing the element of speculation which has always been cursed business. He saw no future in trade relations based on loans because, he told me, loans have to be paid back and the end of borrowing is often bankruptcy.

The future trade of Germany, he declared, would not be based upon paper but upon exchange of commodity for commodity with an absolute exclusion of speculation. Professors had scorned his economic theories but in 20 or 30 years, he predicted, they would be teaching them in universities.

I asked about gold and its function in the future international trade of Germany. He said that Germany had been deprived of all its gold by the necessity of paying reparations and had been forced to devise a system of international trade without gold. Yet he recognized the usefulness of gold in providing a more elastic method of mercantile dealing between nations and as a basis of credit.

I then turned to countries occupied by German military forces and asked the Führer if he could indicate in broadest outline his disposition with reference to such nations. I told him frankly my question was inspired by a belief among many Americans that German domination of Europe meant suppression of native national languages, customs and institutions.

His reply was that Germany had not commenced this war. War had been declared against Germany be France and England. It was strange, he said, to hear the British discourse on world domination when they held in oppression millions of subject Indians, Egyptians and Arabs.

"We shall settle relations with our neighbors in such a way that all will enjoy peace and prosperity," he summarized.

I returned to the case of Belgium, explaining that my interest had a personal angle because I had lived in that country. His answer was that his formula for the future of Europe was "peace, prosperity and happiness." Germany, he said, was not interested in slaves or the enslavement of any people.

At the conclusion of our discussion, Herr Hitler, stating that he had tried to answer all my inquiries with clarity and candor, expressed scepticism of any beneficial results from this interview. He said that time after time he had tried to emphasize that the position of Germany and his plans were not inimical to the U.S. but that his efforts had always proved futile.
What started as a European war has developed, as the Nazis always intended it should develop, into a war for world domination.

Adolf Hitler never considered the domination of Europe as an end in itself. European conquest was but a step toward ultimate goals in all the other continents. It is unmistakably apparent to all of us that unless the advance of Hitlerism is forcibly checked now, the Western Hemisphere will be within range of the Nazi weapons of destruction.

Your government knows what terms Hitler, if victorious, would impose. Under those terms Germany would literally parcel out the world—hoisting the swastika itself over vast territories and populations, and setting up puppet governments of its own choosing, wholly subject to the will and the policy of a conqueror.

To the people of the Americas, a triumphant Hitler would say, as he said after the seizure of Austria, and after Munich, and after the seizure of Czecho-Slovakia: "I am now completely satisfied. This is the last territorial readjustment I will seek." And he will of course add: "All we want is peace, friendship, and profitable trade relations with you in the new world."

Were any of us in the Americas so incredibly simple and forgetful as to accept those honeyed words, what would then happen?

The dictatorships would be forcing the enslaved peoples of their Old World conquests into a system they are even now organizing—to build a naval and air force intended to gain and hold and be master of the Atlantic and the Pacific as well.

They would fasten an economic stranglehold upon our several nations. Quislings would be found to subvert the governments in our republics; and the Nazis would back their fifth columns with invasion, if necessary.

Now, I am not speculating about all this. I merely repeat what is already in the Nazi book of world conquest. They plan to treat the Latin American nations as they are now treating the Balkans. They plan then to strangle the United States of America and the Dominion of Canada.

The American laborer would have to compete with slave labor in the rest of the world. Minimum wages, maximum hours? Nonsense! Wages and hours fixed by Hitler. The American farmer would get for his products exactly what Hitler wanted to give. The whole fabric of working life as we know it would be mangled and crippled under such a system.

Even our right of worship would be threatened. The Nazi world does not recognize any God except Hitler; for the Nazis are as ruthless as the Communists in the denial of God. What place has religion which preaches the dignity of the human being, of the majesty of the human soul, in a world where moral standards are measured by treachery and bribery and fifth columnists? Will our children, too, wander off, goose-stepping in search of new gods?

The war is approaching the brink of the Western Hemisphere itself. It is coming very close to home.

November 19, 2015

1949. Joseph Stalin's Conditions for Lifting the Berlin Blockade

The Soviet Peace Offensive
Winston Churchill, Harry Truman, and Joseph Stalin at the Potsdam Conference in Germany, July 23, 1945 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

January 31, 1949

The split Berlin press this morning greets the new peace proposals by Josef Stalin with faithful hysteria in the Russian-licensed publications—but with a kind of cynical hope in the newspapers publishing from inside the Soviet blockade.

The Russian-controlled newspapers shout, "STALIN READY FOR COOPERATION WITH THE UNITED STATES." The blockaded press asks, "A NEW SOVIET MOVE: STALIN READY TO LIFT BLOCKADE?" The difference is that the Western headlines all end with question marks.

General Clay and Ambassador Robert Murphy both have declined to comment on this latest diplomatic move from the Kremlin. They are in Frankfurt today for the regular meeting of Anglo-American zone officials.

What has intrigued observers here over the Stalin statement is that the Russian premier lists only two conditions for the lifting of the blockade: postponement of the formation of the West German government, and a simultaneous lifting of the Western Powers' counter-blockade.

If you remember back when the Russians slapped on their restrictions last June, the immediate cause given was currency reform—the introduction by America and Britain of new banknotes to stop the inflation and "cigarette economy" that was ruining the country.

As late as last October, Marshal Sokolovsky, Russian military governor for Germany, listed currency reform as the main cause of the Berlin blockade.

Marshal Stalin makes no mention of currency in his latest statements. It is conjectural as to whether the Russian position on this important point has changed.

Some authorities here see the Stalin statement as admitting the success of currency reform in West Germany and confirming the success of the airlift.

But they also point out that the Western Powers' position has been no negotiation under duress. Whether Stalin's latest proposals overcome this qualification is for Washington to decide.

Coinciding with the interview from the Kremlin, the weather here in Germany has improved. Fog has restricted the airlift for the past few days, but today the planes are flying full schedules from all airfields. Maybe the air really is being cleared.

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

February 2, 1949

The news of Stalin's offer to meet President Truman coincides with this development in Berlin:

Today the Russian Army newspaper Tägliche Rundschau proposes that the United States and Soviet Russia sign a pact of peace as a means of ending the tensions between East and West.

The outright proposal of a peace pact has caused a stir among Western Power officials in Berlin because the Rundschau has long been a bellwether of Russian foreign policy.

The proposal is contained in a lengthy front page editorial signed by A. Nesterov, the paper's foreign analyst. Commenting on the recent Stalin interview, the Rundschau denies that the Russian premier's statements are only propaganda.

"The Stalin statement was made at a time of high political tension. It does not aim at propaganda but was inspired by honest concern about the fate of the man in the street in all the world," the editorial declares.

The conditions of this peace pact, according to Tägliche Rundschau, would be the postponement of the creation of a West German state, a meeting of the Foreign Ministers Council, and a meeting between President Truman and Premier Stalin to discuss the German problem on the basis of German unity.

The Soviet Union is also willing to talk about other worldwide problems, the Rundschau reports. It demands the withdrawal of occupation troops from Korea; the United States must stop using the United Nations as a branch of the State Department. The newspaper also proposes that armaments in the five major world powers be reduced by one-third.

The editorial declares: "Soviet foreign policy is consistent and unchanged. It is a policy of peace for all nations...Therefore the world expects readiness for peaceful settlement from the government of the United States."

"The American government," it concludes, "has the alternative to accept or reject the Soviet proposals. If it rejects them, then the world will know who must be blamed for the present unrest and troubles in the world, and who opposes peaceful general settlement."

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

February 5, 1949

The brief flurry of hope for settlement of the Berlin crisis has now subsided, and this morning the city is settling down again to the humdrum of blockade life.

The situation might be described as a kind of international merry-go-round. Berlin is the center on which the whole thing pivots, but all the excitement takes place on the revolving outer edge of the diplomatic carousel.

As has been expected, the communist press is making propaganda hay out of America's refusal to accept Stalin's offer to renew negotiations. Russian-licensed newspapers now charge that the United States does not want settlement; that imperialist groups and monopolies are trying to capture Germany and prepare a capitalist war against the Soviet Union.

The Western Powers are taking new steps to crack down on the counter-blockade of the Russian zone of Germany. These moves have been in preparation for many weeks and are not a direct result of the rejection of the Stalin offer.

But additional police have been inspecting traffic into East Berlin confiscating chemicals, electrical equipment, and fine steel products now in critical demand by East German industry.

The new Anglo-American order banning foreign trucking from Western Europe into the Soviet zone further tightens the counter-blockade and puts additional pressure on the economy of Eastern Germany.

So today we are back where we started, diplomatically speaking.

The best indication of how the average Berliner reacts to the events is in the black market.

During the peace rumors early this week, the black market price of American cigarettes dropped to five marks a pack. That's a dollar and a half by the legal rate.

Today cigarette prices have risen about sixty percent. Black marketeers are now getting eight marks a pack.

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

February 13, 1949

The communist-dominated government of Eastern Germany this morning is launching a so-called "peace offensive" of its own.

The Russian-licensed press and radio are issuing calls for a series of "peace demonstrations." One is set for tomorrow at Potsdamer Platz here in Berlin.

The purpose of the meetings, according to the initial propaganda, is to "challenge the warmongers with determination and join the peace movement which already has seized most of the workers of the world...The German people do not want to hunger in the frame of the Marshall Plan...they do not want to die for Western Union and the Atlantic Pact..."

In other words, the communists in Germany are starting a new and intensified sales campaign to discredit the Western Powers.

Why it is coming at this particular time is conjectural.

Authorities here say that it is possible that the German communists are trying to counter the unfavorable reaction caused by the trial of Cardinal Mindszenty in Hungary and the arrest of fifteen Protestant clergymen in Bulgaria.

But more likely, it said, the failure of Stalin's latest diplomatic move to stop the Atlantic Pact and halt formation of the West German state is the reason for the new communist propaganda drive in East Germany.

The German communists want to be ready to set up their own government in the East when the formation of a West German government is ready.

Today is the fourth anniversary of the great RAF air raid on the city of Dresden. This was one of the most disastrous of the aerial attacks on Germany; an estimated 32,000 people died in one night.

It is reported that the first of these so-called peace meetings is now going on in Dresden. The theme used is that the American and British air forces attacked the German people; and that the Russians, who incidentally didn't have much of a bombing force, only attacked military objectives.

But the most cynical of the communist propaganda statements is that these German "peace meetings" will only be held on days of special commemoration "of the worst horrors of the Second Imperialist War."

It is notable that last week's anniversary of the Stalingrad victory was ignored.

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.

November 18, 2015

Edward R. Murrow Responds to Senator McCarthy's Accusations

Murrow Reacts to McCarthy's Rebuke

Thanks to Noah C. Cline for helping to locate this broadcast. The text is adapted from the transcript available on American Rhetoric.
April 13, 1954

EDWARD R. MURROW: Last week, Senator McCarthy appeared on this program to correct any errors he might have thought we made in our report of March 9th. Since he made no reference to any statements of fact that we made, we must conclude that he found no errors of fact. He proved again that anyone who exposes him, anyone who does not share his hysterical disregard for decency and human dignity and the rights guaranteed by the Constitution, must be either a communist or a fellow traveler.

I fully expected this treatment. The Senator added this reporter's name to a long list of individuals and institutions he has accused of serving the communist cause. His proposition is very simple: anyone who criticizes or opposes McCarthy's methods must be a communist. And if that be true, there are an awful lot of communists in this country.

For the record, let's consider briefly some of the Senator's charges. He claimed, but offered no proof, that I had been a member of the Industrial Workers of the World. That is false. I was never a member of the IWW, never applied for membership. Men that I worked with in the Pacific Northwest in western Washington in logging camps will attest that I never had any affiliation or affinity with that organization.

The Senator charged that Professor Harold Laski, a British scholar and politician, dedicated a book to me. That's true. He is dead. He was a socialist, I am not. He was one of those civilized individuals who did not insist upon agreement with his political principles as a precondition for conversation or friendship. I do not agree with his political ideas. Laski, as he makes clear in the introduction, dedicated the book to me not because of political agreement, but because he held my wartime broadcasts from London in high regard—and the dedication so reads.

Senator McCarthy's principal attack on me was an attack on the Institute of International Education, of which I was Assistant Director and am now a trustee, together with such people as John Foster Dulles, Milton Eisenhower, Ralph J. Bunche, Virginia Gildersleeve, Philip Reed; to name just a few. That institute sponsored, acted as the registering agent for summer schools in foreign countries including England, France, and Germany, and one in the Soviet Union in 1934. It has arranged in all some 30,000 exchanges of students and professors between the United States and over fifty foreign countries.

The man primarily responsible for starting this institute was Nicholas Murray Butler in 1919. Its work has been praised as recently as 1948 by President Eisenhower. It has been denounced by the Soviet press and radio as a center of international propaganda for American reaction, and I have been labeled by them as a "reactionary radio commentator."

The Senator alleged that we were doing the work of the Russian secret police, training spies. We were in fact conducting normal cultural and educational relations with foreign nations. The Moscow summer session was cancelled in 1935 by the Russian authorities.

I believed twenty years ago and I believe today that mature Americans can engage in conversation and controversy, the clash of ideas, with communists anywhere in the world without becoming contaminated or converted. I believe that our faith, our conviction, our determination are stronger than theirs, and that we can compete and successfully, not only in the area of bombs but in the area of ideas.

Senator McCarthy couldn't even get my relationship with CBS straight. He repeatedly referred to me as the Educational Director, a position I have not held for seventeen years.

The Senator waved a copy of the Daily Worker, saying an article in it has praised me. Here is an example for what Senator McCarthy calls "praise" by William Z. Foster in the March 17 issue of The Daily Worker. Quote:

"During the past ten days, Senator McCarthy has received a number of resounding belts in the jaw. These came from Adlai Stevenson, E.R. Murrow, Senator Flanders, the Army leadership, broadcasting companies; even Eisenhower himself had to give McCarthy a slap on the wrist."

That was the sole reference to me in Mr. Foster's article.

Another charge by Senator McCarthy was that Owen Lattimore mentioned me in a book. What Lattimore said in substance was that he had never met me, but that I had done a fair job of reporting his testimony; in short, that I had not presumed his guilt. Everything I said on that case is a matter of record and can be examined by anyone who is interested.

I hope to continue to present evidence developed before Congressional committees as impartially as I am able. And that specifically includes the hearings before which Senator McCarthy is shortly scheduled to appear.

I have worked for CBS for more than nineteen years. The company has subscribed fully to my integrity and responsibility as a broadcaster and as a loyal American. I require no lectures from the Junior Senator from Wisconsin as to the dangers or terrors of communism. Having watched the aggressive forces at work in Western Europe; having had friends in Eastern Europe butchered and driven into exile; having broadcast from London in 1943 that the Russians were responsible for the Katyn massacre; having told the story of the Russian refusal to allow Allied aircraft to land on Russian fields after dropping supplies to those who rose in Warsaw and then were betrayed by the Russians; and having been denounced by the Russian radio for these reports, I cannot feel that I require instruction from the Senator on the evils of communism.

Having searched my conscience and my files, I cannot contend that I have always been right or wise. But I have attempted to pursue the truth with some diligence and to report it, even though, as in this case, I had been warned in advance that I would be subjected to the attentions of Senator McCarthy.

We shall hope to deal with matters of more vital interest for the country next week.

Good night, and good luck.

November 6, 2015

1949. The Communist-Socialist Divide in Berlin

The Lord Mayors of East and West Berlin
Mayor of West Berlin Ernst Reuter walks along a railway platform in May 1949 (photo by Charles E. Steinheimer)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin - "Newsmakers"

January 14, 1949

This is a tale of two cities: East Berlin and West Berlin, as represented in the lives of the men chosen to lead on its schizophrenic way.

The split personality of this city, a result of the Russian blockade, is amply demonstrated by the characters of the two men who are today's newsmakers. Representing the Soviet Union's stand in the Berlin crisis is Fritz Ebert, oberbürgermeister of the self-proclaimed Opera House government of East Berlin.

Heading West Berlin is Professor Ernst Reuter, socialist, former communist and oberbürgermeister of the blockaded sectors by virtue of the elections held last December 5.

When the communist-dominated Socialist Unity Party proclaimed itself a government a month and a half ago, and when it was announced that the name of the new bürgermeister was Friedrich Ebert, perhaps the most surprised man in all Berlin was Ebert himself. Announcing the appointment in such a way made it impossible for him to refuse. The communists had the use of a name famous in German history, one allied with democracy and freedom in the minds of most Berliners.

After the city got over the initial shock toward the "little Czechoslovakia" coup in the Eastern part of Berlin, their next reaction to the hoisting of Ebert as head of this rump government was one of amusement. Newspapers, looking through their files for biographical material, found themselves short of it. "He simply is not that important," librarians explain.

Western Berlin cartoonists refer to him as "Fritzchen," the diminutive and derisive child's nickname.

His former colleagues in the Socialist Party shook their hands and opined that Ebert had finally trapped himself in his own opportunism.

There is still argument whether Ebert is a villain or a victim of his own ambition. Most Berliners look on him as a collaborator—a risk every German politician must take in attempting to work with any of the occupation powers.

Perhaps Ebert's greatest achievement is in having been born the son of his father, also named Friedrich Ebert, the first President of the Weimar Republic established in Germany after World War I.

The father was a leading Social Democrat who built up a reputation for middle-of-the-road political leadership. Young Friedrich, who served as a soldier for three years under the Kaiser, didn't absorb much of his father's liberal philosophy. But his acquaintances explain that "Fritz always was a problem to his parents."

The boy was born in Bremen on September 12, 1894. He took up the printing trade, where he joined the trade unions. When these unions were organized into the Social Democratic Party, Ebert went along. When the first war came along, it was an easy shift from printing to journalism, and he interested himself in socialism. After the war he rose in socialist politics and finally was elected deputy to the Reichstag, where he served from 1928 to 1933.

It must be mentioned that Ebert built his political career at the height of his father's popularity in Germany. When Hitler came to power, the Nazis immediately arrested Ebert, and he spent eight months as a political prisoner in a number of concentration camps. He was under constant supervision after his release and was forced to join the Wehrmacht in the Polish campaign.

The defeat of Germany in 1945 found Ebert back in socialist politics, this time as district chairman of the party for the province of Hamburg.  The Russian occupation troops moved in. Ebert was impressed, and he made his split with the socialists of the West.

The German Communist Party proposed that the Socialists merge with them to create what they called a strong "worker's bloc" in the Soviet zone. Old time Socialists, who hoped to build an independent political movement, objected. Ebert, however, played along with the Communists and advocated forming the Socialist Unity Party, or the SED. The SED now is the party which runs the Soviet zone of Germany, or rather it is the instrument of the Soviet military government that runs East Berlin and Eastern Germany.

Having made this concession to his political principles, other concessions followed naturally. Ebert's former Socialist colleagues report that when they needed help in dealing with the Russian occupation authorities, Ebert would refuse. These men also report that he began drinking heavily.

His adherence to the communist party line and subservience to the Soviet occupation authorities made him a great favorite among the Russians, to whom the name Ebert meant built-in political prestige for the German people.

In 1946, Ebert moved from Brandenburg with his family and part of his staff to take residence in the Potsdam headquarters of the Russian occupation authority.

He was given an automobile, a comfortable home, extra food rations, and most importantly, according to those who know him, he was also given large supplies of wine and liquor.

There are those who say that Ebert thought he really could work with the communists in rebuilding Germany, and that his original purposes were honorable. But the Potsdam bribe stopped even these stories.

Ebert looks all of his fifty-four years. Dumpy and moderate height, the combination of his bald head, his round face, and his thick glasses gives him something of the appearance of a frightened bullfrog.

But more descriptive of the Oberbürgermeister Fritz Ebert and the things for which he pretends to stand is his New Year's message to the people of East Berlin. "Germany is torn into two pieces," he declared. "Her unity is sacrificed in honor of American imperialists and monopolists..."

Such pronouncements brought protests from his brother Karl. During the recent Berlin elections, Karl Ebert warned Berliners that "the name of Ebert has been misused to deceive you...The first bearer of this name stood for freedom," the brother continued. "Do not let it be betrayed."

It is hard not to feel sorry for Fritz Ebert, for he appears to be the loneliest man in Berlin. Disowned by the men who knew and worked with his father, discredited for discarding his political beliefs, disavowed by his family, and finally, distrusted by the men for whom he works.

It is common talk even in communist circles that Ebert must soon be replaced and a more dynamic and influential man take his place. If and when this happens, the puppet strings will be cut from his legs and arms and brain, and he will join a large heap of Europeans who have had similar experiences over the past dozen years—men who tried to make a deal with their consciences.

If Western Berliners suspect the principles and motives of Fritz Ebert, it is only fair to say that the communists, for their part, suspect the principles of the Oberbürgermeister of blockaded Western Berlin. They have good reason for doing so.

Professor Ernst Reuter has had a fantastic political career that has taken him to the Russian Volga, made him an exile in Britain and Turkey, and now has earned him the most important job in this former German capital.

He is a big man; fifty-nine years old, six feet tall, and weighs about 180 pounds. If Ebert looked like a frightened bullfrog, it can be said that Reuter reminds one of a disappointed St. Bernard dog with his heavy features, sad eyes, and immobile expression.

West Berlin, which elected Reuter to office, comprises the American, British, and French sectors. He governs about two-thirds of the city, a total of two and one-quarter million people. The Social Democratic Party is developing into the most virile of all in Germany. It has a socialistic program spelled out for the country that has wide appeal. The Socialists also have overwhelming self-confidence, and it is this quality that Oberbürgermeister Reuter most expresses.

As a political phenomenon, Reuter is unique in any country. He was born into a middle class family, fairly well-to-do in Schleswig-Holstein. His father rain a marine navigation school. Young Ernst was one of five sons, but he was an intellectual black sheep. In school and college he concentrated on history, economics, and languages. Today, Reuter speaks English, French, Turkish, and Russian, as well as German. When he has time for relaxation, he might also read Plato or the Roman poets in Greek or Latin.

Before World War I, he did not fit the standard German military pattern. As a youth he was a leader of the pacifist movement called "New Fatherland." He had joined the Socialist Party; the pacifist movement was an outlet of his idealism. However, the Kaiser banned the movement, and young Ernst found himself in the army.

He was captured on the Russian front in 1917. It was an interesting situation. A 28-year-old idealist, victim of a war in which he did not believe. He found himself in the middle of the Russian Revolution, a revolution  protesting war, oppression, and monarchy. Reuter joined the revolution and became a communist.

It was in those days, from 1917 to the 1920s, that Reuter became acquainted with Lenin and a man named Josef Stalin. He doesn't talk volubly about his Communist Party experiences. "Those were the times when Communism was a people's movement," Reuter explains. "Nothing like it is now."

Such was his status among the new victorious communists that Lenin once described him as one of the only "true revolutionaries in Germany."

The peak of Reuter's communist career in Russia came when he was made commissar in charge of organizing the Volga German Republic. The assignment was to set up the "German Volga Labor Commune," an area comprising more than ten thousand square miles and which eventually achieved a population of more than a half-million persons.

But Ernst Reuter was considered too valuable a man to be stuck on the banks of the Volga. The Party reassigned him to return to defeated Germany to help duplicate the glorious communist revolution in his Fatherland. Reuter agreed to return. The wisdom of this decision is best testified in the current history books, which remark: "The Volga German Republic was dissolved on September 24, 1941. Its inhabitants were resettled in Siberia."

Reuter was almost thirty years old then. He returned in 1919 to be the General Secretary of the Berlin Communist Party. Germany after the First World War was ripe for rebellion. Allied occupation policy was vague. It would appear that the communists would have an easy time of it in the postwar chaos, but they failed. For all the armed rioting in Hamburg and Berlin, in Saxony and Thuringia and the Ruhr, they were beaten down.

There was a crisis and a purge in the Communist Party. Reuter renounced his communist affiliation. "I could not take dictatorship from Moscow and remain a good German," he says. "When the Kremlin came in the door, freedom went out the window."

This turning point in 1921 resulted in Reuter rejoining the Independent Socialist Party and again plunging into German politics. Reuter's ability and experience rapidly carried him to leadership. He became editor of two socialist newspapers. He was elected to the city council where he organized the municipally-owned Berlin Transport Company, which still struggles with the transportation problem. In 1930 he was elected a deputy to the Reichstag, and then three years later Hitler came to power.

Like Fritz Ebert, Reuter soon found himself a political prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp. His first sentence there lasted seven months. He was released and rearrested, this time spending several months in solitary confinement. British Quakers obtained his release again, and this time he fled the country. He took up brief residence in Berlin until invited to become a municipal and economic adviser to the Turkish government. In this capacity he spent eleven years in exile, also teaching at the University of Ankara.

But the dream was always to return to Germany. He says he wanted one of two jobs when he returned: either the job of socializing the Ruhr, or to be oberbürgermeister of Berlin. The fact that he got the latter job appears almost inevitable.

Viewed from the East, the West, or from the German point of view, the job of being Lord Mayor of Berlin is not a comfortable one, whether it is East Berlin or West Berlin.

As I said before, die-hard German nationalists—and there are plenty of them—regard the men who attempt to work with the occupying powers as collaborationists.

Ebert of East Berlin has perhaps the easiest administrative job. He has only one occupation power to worry about. His one big decision which he must make every day is to be polite. All other policy is made for him.

On the other hand, Reuter has to work with Americans, British, and French. He has to consider the position of two other political parties opposing him. And he has to keep one eye, sometimes both of them, on the East.

What manner of governments do these two men offer? Oberbürgermeister Ebert, in being proclaimed into office, demonstrated his brand of democracy, a government calling itself a people's movement; of police control, of single party domination, of enforced labor and fear.

The Oberbürgermeister Reuter of West Berlin says that the Socialists "foresee a free, democratic Germany following the same pattern as the Labour government in Britain, but with its own constitution and parliamentary procedures."

The Oberbürgermeister Ebert of East Berlin declares: "The fight for Berlin is a fight for peace, for Germany, for the reestablishment of her unity, and for her democratic future."

The difference in these two propositions facing bisected Berlin today lies in the definition of that one word: democracy.

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.

November 5, 2015

1943. Moscow Addresses Relations with the Polish Government-in-Exile

Considering Future Diplomatic Developments in Eastern Europe
"Delegation heads at the 1949 Council of Foreign Ministers meeting (left to right) Dean Acheson for the United States, Andrei Vyshinsky for the Soviet Union, Robert Schuman for France, and Ernst Bevin representing Great Britain" (source)
The parentheses indicate portions that did not pass Soviet censors for military or propaganda reasons.

(For more, see the complete 1943 Moscow reports.)
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

May 7, 1943
The Soviet government has laid all of its cards on the table for the world to see to show the Russian interpretation of events that led to the suspension of relations with Poland.

Andrey Vyshinsky, Assistant Commissar for Foreign Affairs, discussed the Russian case history of the Polish-Russian disagreements with American and British reporters until 2:30 this morning. Vyshinsky is a white-haired, neat-looking lawyer, and he read his two thousand word summary of Soviet-Polish relations like a person adding up a column of figures. And that is the tone of the whole long list of Russian accusations against the Polish government.

(Vyshinsky said the statement was issued in response to inquiries by the American and British correspondents as well as to answer "the present Polish government which, under the influence of Hitlerian elements of the Polish press and radio, continues to spread increasing false statements worsening Polish-Soviet relations.")

This statement is worth close consideration. It's going to have a big part to play in future diplomatic developments in Eastern Europe.

But most cheering of all was the note on which Vyshinsky's statement ended. It said the "false anti-Soviet statements are unable to prevent the really friendly and close Soviet-Polish relations in which both the peoples of the Soviet Union and Poland are interested."

Later Vyshinsky was asked if the Soviet government would resume relations with the Sikorski government. He replied that "the relations are now suspended, and it would be premature to discuss this question. This will depend upon concrete conditions." But he didn't close the door on such possibilities. He added that the Polish government should "think about the steps it should take."

All in all, this statement should serve to clear a lot of diplomatic ground fog that has been muddling this situation.

November 2, 2015

1947. Food Scarcity in Countries Devastated by the War

A Hungry World
"Bikini islanders arrive on Rongerik Atoll and unload pandanus for thatching the roofs of their new buildings," March 7, 1946 (source)

From the "Special Issue: A Report to America Two Years After V-Day," This Week magazine, August 10, 1947, pp. 4-5.


It is the first concern of a hungry world. Trouble looms for the nations which cannot provide it
CORRESPONDENTS Bill Downs and Dave Seymour were standing in front of a red-brick schoolhouse in Reims, France. It is now a trade school for 1,500 boys. On the seventh of May, 1945, it was the scene of the final surrender of the German forces to the Allied troops.

Downs was viciously interrupted by the shrill scream of a siren. Downs jumped. He hadn't heard that sound in two years. The teacher smiled.

"Don't worry," she said. "It's all right. You see, food is very scarce and meat is very scarce. And when we can have fish we're very glad to announce to the people that fish is coming. So, the siren that used to announce bombers is used to announce food."

In Paris, the woman who is wearing an American medal because she was a resistance leader said: "People are unhappy about the government. After two years the war is over and we're still starving. We have no bread, we have no meat, we have very few vegetables—and at extravagant prices. I have to buy some things at the black market. As little as possible, because I am absolutely, deadly against black markets—but I can't starve either."

AND this is strange: the French capital is only a four-and-a-half hour drive from Normandy where the countryside is rolling in meat and butter and vegetables. The food isn't getting through because of snarled distribution, valueless currency, lack of consumer goods.

The city dwellers in France are mad about that. So are the residents of Tokyo because the same thing is happening to them. The Japanese are more polite about it but, in the end, the government gets the blame.

Jack Jackson, the BBC engineer with the European crew, ate more meat and butter a day in Normandy than he could get in a week in Britain. The significant result was an upset stomach.

In England, the food is the same as in wartime. Adequate but dull. You still see the queues of housewives standing before the shops marked "Horsemeat—fit for human consumption." If a GI returned to a British home today, he would find that same powdered eggs, the same oatmeal-filled sausages, the same dark bread. The meat ration would last only two days of the week, as it did before. But the prices, the housewives say, "are a hundred per cent more than they were. Everything is going up. You try to cut down one week but what you cut down one week, you spend the next.

"What's our biggest problem in food? Well, it's getting something for dinner each day."

In Germany, where people don't quite connect the fact that they're hungry with the fact that they started and lost a war, "dinner" is almost out of the vocabulary. The town of Essen, in the Ruhr mining district, is half-alive. A family of five was still in bed in its tiny, rubble shack at 10 one morning. "We call this calorie sleeping, explained Frau Albert Schulze. "By sleeping in the morning you don't have to eat breakfast. It saves food."

She awakened her 30-year-old daughter, who has a child. The father was a French soldier passing through. The family doesn't know where he is now. The head of the family is a plumber with plenty of work. So far, Schulze has been able to feed them all because he works, not for money, but only for rations which he brings home. For lunch, the Schulzes were having ersatz coffee and a slice of bread apiece.

The German bakers have been receiving corn meal with which to bake bread. But for some reason, they don't know how to do it. The bread they have been making comes out as wet, soggy, flat cakes which have caused widespread sickness among people already suffering from malnutrition. The Germans seem to have no solution for the problem. As is the custom these days, they complain but do nothing about it. It is one of those questions which all the military governments in the world could not solve. But the Germans manage to give the impression that the fact that their bakers don't know and won't learn to bake corn bread is, somehow, the fault of the occupying forces.

The main meal for the Schulzes is corn-meal soup, that soggy bread and more ersatz coffee. They are bitter about the whole thing. And this work of rebuilding and mining isn't going as it should: hunger cuts down production.

Because coal is so important, miners like Johann Esser get extra rations. But the Essers, too, are caught in the conflict between city and country. Fats are the biggest shortage. Frau Esser and her husband make laborious trips to the farmers in their area to get bacon, butter or anything else. Frau Esser is just as bitter as everybody else:

"The farmers have everything. They have several fur coats apiece which they will never wear. They have three or four coffee services, silver plates and china. The city came to them and they took everything for food. They'll have our carpet for the cow in the stable. Then maybe this will end."

IN BERLIN, the once beautiful Tiergarten is cut up into jealously guarded little gardens in which each gardener suspects his neighbor of stealing his potatoes or onions.

Hate is riding along with hunger. So is bewilderment. Thousands of miles away, Chief Judah, hallup of the people of Bikini, understands even less than the Germans the connection between him and the war. He knows the Navy took them all away to Rongerik Atoll so that Bikini could become an atom-bomb guinea pig. But the people of Bikini want to go home.

"On Rongerik," said the Chief, "everything all right, except the trees are sickly. All trees. Breadfruit trees, coconut trees and pandanus trees are sickly. On account of the sickness, not enough food. The Navy brings rice, flour, sugar. But I think if we move to some other place, we can work hard and make new plantation, and it will be better for us in the future."

Money doesn't count for much on the Pacific atoll islands like Judah's or Kwajalein, in the Marshalls, or Okinawa. Bombs and shells destroyed the coconut and breadfruit trees. Until new groves can be planted, the military authorities—meaning you—must feed the natives.

Breadfruit in the atolls. Fats in Essen. Meat in England. They have the same result. Jean Lefevre, of the St. Lô City Council, said it: "We are not satisfied with the government. The main objection is lack of food. That is the objection—the objection."

Food is just as important now as bombs ever were. And everywhere on earth the testimony piles up: if food doesn't come, bombs—in one form or another—will.