February 16, 2016

1953. West Germany's Ambassador Talks the Future of Europe

An Interview with West German Ambassador Heinz Krekeler

On September 28, 1953, West German Ambassador Heinz Krekeler sat down for a televised interview with Bill Downs and Edward P. Morgan. He discusses his country's recent election results and the proposed European Defence Community.
September 28, 1953

FRANK KNIGHT: Good evening, this is Frank Knight. May I introduce our co-editors for this edition of the Longines Chronoscope: Edward P. Morgan and Bill Downs, both of the CBS television news staff. Our distinguished guest for this evening is Dr. Heinz Krekeler, chief of the German Diplomatic Mission to the United States.

: Mr. Ambassador, we can get into the high-blown diplomatic questions soon enough. Let's try to start on a little bit more of a human level. What is the one thing, in your opinion, that is worrying the West German citizen most? Is it taxes? Is it food? Is it shelter? Is it the threat of the Russians? Or what is it, sir?

HEINZ KREKELER: Well, it's very difficult to describe this in one word. I think it's several things that they are longing for: desire for peace—that peace is preserved; desire that their unhappy brothers and sisters on the other side of the Iron Curtain are getting their human dignity and their freedom back again; and then of course to have a greater stability in Europe through European integration. I think that's what is foremost in their minds.

: Well, Mr. Ambassador, we are proposing that twelve German divisions be formed. Now, in the event that this plan goes through, do you think there's any chance that West Germany would do a South Korea—a Syngman Rhee—and oppose us in major policy decisions?

KREKELER: I wouldn't like to compare to conditions in other countries, but I can say this. First of all, it's not the question of putting twelve German divisions into the field, but we will guard what we are asked to do as our contribution to the sharing the burden of common defense. That is what we are really ready to do—what the German people is prepared to do—though what we are asked to do and what we want to do is to have twelve divisions in a European army. Not twelve German divisions, but twelve European divisions in which Germans serve. And that's quite a difference.

MORGAN: Mr. Ambassador, perhaps we can focus on that a little bit more tightly.

KREKELER: Yes, gladly.

MORGAN: If we ask you to give your own assessment as to the significance of the recent elections in which Mr. Adenauer was reelected and the so-called "splinter groups" from the right and the left—both extremes—were routed. There's been a great deal of speculation on that from the so-called experts. It would probably be valuable to get your own.

: Gladly, Mr. Morgan. In my opinion, the greatest common denominator of the election results is this. It's an acceptance of partnership by the overwhelming majority of the German people. And by this I don't mean the advantages of partnership only, but also the burdens and the duties of partnership.

Being partners of the free world—and that I think is in what you can say in the boldest terms—then one issue that we are most happy about is the crushing defeat that the neo-Nazis suffered. They didn't get a single seat in our parliament, and they got not, I think, not more than half the votes even the Communists got. And the Communists didn't get a single seat either.

MORGAN: You feel that there's no real danger, then, of a rise again of Nazi elements in West Germany?

KREKELER: Well, I think, Mr. Morgan, after this election, all observers agree that this danger is not existent anymore.  But you know that eternal vigilance is a price of liberty, and we know this.

MORGAN: Bill Downs has just come back from a trip to Germany, where he's been several times, and he's been back just a few days actually—

KREKELER: Yes, I know he's very well-informed, yes.

MORGAN: —and he's probably got some pointed questions to ask you on that respect.

DOWNS: Well, I didn't want to get into that yet, Ed, but the—I would like to know, and I didn't have the chance to find out, but you say that the German people are willing to put up twelve divisions into this European army?

: We are willing to share the burden of defense.

DOWNS: Yeah.

KREKELER: That is exactly what they mean because the (?) really didn't want to put up troops again, as you knew—only in the form of sharing the burden. Everybody shares.

DOWNS: How do the young men who are going to form these divisions feel about it?

KREKELER: I think we can answer this question also by the election's results. We think that the young people—not very cheerfully—but accept this; to share the burden as a duty and accept it as also by their participation in the elections.

MORGAN: Well, Mr. Ambassador, we must be very realistic about these things...

KREKELER: Oh, no doubt.

MORGAN: ...And we know that the French very understandably have been frightened—more than frightened—by some German policies before, and that probably conditions their reflexes as to the European Defence Community now. They seem to be in most recent weeks a little bit more encouraged toward getting into the European Defence Community with Germany. How do you think the situation looks at this moment?

KREKELER: Well, I agree with you. I think the French reaction towards our election results was pretty much similar to that in other countries; that they were also greatly encouraged by the crushing defeat of the neo-Nazis. And then, by the way, you know the European Defence Community was—is a French proposal. And we, I think, have every reason to believe that it will come into existence.

DOWNS: Well, it's been said, Mr. Ambassador, that the dilemma of Germany is that it must have an army strong enough to deter the Communists, but at the same time weak enough not to frighten the French. What do you think of that?

KREKELER: All I would say—I wouldn't put it in these words. I would say that when we are contributing to the European Defence Community, our contribution is fixed not by ourselves but by consent of the partners. And the other members of the NATO who are not members of the European Defence Community have a say in this respect in the planning also. So what—the size of the German contingent is not fixed by Germany, but is fixed by all the partners.

MORGAN: Dr. Krekeler, obviously one of the main questions as to Germany is to whether it can be unified, and that brings up the question of Soviet policy. They seem to have relaxed a tiny bit since the June 17th uprising one way or another. What do you really think are the realistic possibilities of such a union of West and East under the circumstances?

KREKELER: Well, I think we will have one day this reunification...

MORGAN: How can it come about?

: ...I've been always asked why I believe this is so. And one of the main reasons I am giving for this is the effect of world opinion.

I think the public opinion throughout the world plays a greater role in developments in the world as we all estimate or think, and after the events which you mentioned following the 17th of June when the population of the Soviet-occupied zone rose against their oppressors with bare hands against tanks, everybody in the world knows how these people feel. They made this uprising under the slogan of free elections.

And I at the very day, the 18th of June, happened to be in Honolulu. That's pretty far away from Berlin. It's nearly half around the world—well actually is—and I can tell you I was very deeply moved by the reaction people even there at this great distance had to this.

DOWNS: But Mr. Ambassador, does this not also mean that the Soviet government realizes the feeling against the Communist regimes or the Iron Curtain, and does that not also mean that their grasp will tighten rather than loosen?

KREKELER: No, in the long run I don't think so. I don't think so.

DOWNS: Well, supposing that in, from now til spring for example, there is no hope offered to those people behind the Iron Curtain, the East Germans; that there is no Four Power conference; there is no progress towards unification. Do you think there's any possibility of an uprising again?

KREKELER: Well, of course you can say this. But what I should like to point out is that we are constantly giving them proof how we are (?) that we are standing at their side.

First, there was this program of giving food passes. And now as you have learned, President Eisenhower, answering a letter by Chancellor Adenauer, said that the American people would be, by the private organizations, prepared to give clothing to those also.

And by these people know that we are at their side; that we haven't forgotten them. And this is much more a human problem than a political one. Much more. I think this has a great effect.

DOWNS: Well, the French also—and the Americans and the British—have embarked on a new policy it appears. That one of saying that we will offer security guarantees to the Russians. Do you think that's—

MORGAN: Do you think that's realistic?

: Oh yes, very much so. There is quite a story behind this. The first time such a plan was mentioned—when I remember correctly by President Eisenhower in his address before American newspaper editors. And then a second proposal along these lines was made by Sir Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister. And then Chancellor Adenauer made a proposal to use the European Defence Community as a starting point—if the other partners agreed to it—as the starting point for a security offer including also the Soviets. And now this has been taken also up by a French spokesman, and so I think we are quite agreed on the Western side that we should work along these lines.

MORGAN: Mr. Ambassador, as the last question, and I want you to answer in just a couple of words. You've been around the country a great deal. What do you think the people of America are most preoccupied with at this moment? Very briefly.

KREKELER: Well, as we all are with the question how can we preserve peace, I think that is the first political problem we have to solve in our time, and I think the American people realize very well that if we all work together, especially if Europe cooperates better than in the past, we will solve this crucial problem of mankind.

MORGAN: Thank you very much sir indeed.

KNIGHT: The opinions that you've heard our speakers express tonight have been entirely their own. The editorial board for this edition of the Longines Chronoscope was Edward P. Morgan and Bill Downs, both of the CBS television news staff. Our distinguished guest was Dr. Heinz Krekeler, chief of the German diplomatic mission to the United States.