June 21, 2017

1949. United States Backs Right-Wing Coalition in West Germany

Conservative Coalition Gains Majority in the Bundestag
1949 campaign poster for the West German federal election in 1949 reads: "mit Adenauer für den Frieden, die Freiheit und die Einheit Deutschlands darum CDU" ("With Adenauer for the peace, freedom and unity of Germany") (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Frankfurt

August 15, 1949 (first recording)

If the German people had been voting to please the United States State Department on Sunday, they could have done no more than they did in giving their mandate to the right-wing conservative element which is now charged with forming the new Federal Republic.

High Commissioner John McCloy today expressed gratification that the election was so orderly and that more than 75 percent of the people turned out. But the real gratification lies in the fact that, when the new West German state goes into operation early in September, it will be a government paralleling American economic and political policies—a fact that should make liaison between the two nations easier than, say, if the Socialists had won.

Political affairs experts told me today that America intends to back this German government to the hilt. When I asked one official if it were not possible that the problems facing the new republic might not be too great for the right-wing government to stand and that serious crises might force another election, my informant replied: "I do not think these crises will be allowed to arise."

However, as pleased as we are with the outcome—for Germany will play an increasingly large part in the European Recovery Plan—no one is rushing into headlong embrace with the new government.

The predominately Catholic Christian Democratic party is regarded as a moderate organization but, lacking a clear majority, the CDU is going to have to form a coalition with other right-wing parties. Among these parties—which polled about one quarter of the vote—there are extreme nationalists whose odor, if not their insignia, is suspiciously Nazi.

Official policy is to adopt a wait-and-see attitude until the government gets into action, and in a number of places one finds downright nervousness that the Germans, given this new power, may find ways to misuse it.

However, another great experiment in democracy is underway in Germany today. We can only hope that it will come out better than the one that began thirty years ago in Weimar and ended in a second world war.

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

Bill Downs

CBS Frankfurt

August 15, 1949 (second recording)

American officials today are watching the launching of the new Federal Republic of Germany with all the approval and pride of a father sending his young daughter on her first date, but there also is some apprehension that perhaps this German political debutante doesn't know all the facts of democratic life.

The victory of the right-wing parties is tailor-made for American economic and foreign policy, and probably will be accepted by the rest of Europe as the most moderate government possible for Germany.

But the intensive campaign of all the parties—right, left, and center—has left a bad taste in Allied mouths. The unconcealed nationalism and attacks on the occupation powers has created some nervousness in official quarters.

However, a high diplomatic official told me today that the task in front of the three Western nations continues to guide the new government along democratic paths, although we have relinquished our right to order the Germans to act except on matters directly affecting the security of Europe.

Dr. Konrad Adenauer, the leader of the victorious Christian Democrats, can be sure of one thing. His middle-of-the-road government has full United States backing. Our authorities here do not conceal their pleasure that the swing was to the right instead of the left.

But the Christian Democrats must form a coalition with the other right-wing parties to gain their majority, and some of these rightist parties are just this side of Nazism in their nationalism. About six or seven million Germans voted for these extremist parties.

One of the major developments of Sunday's election is that now the real danger to a true democracy under the new Federal Republic appears to be greater from the right than from the left. The miserable showing of the Communists certainly has reduced their threat.

However, the problem of German democracy is no longer the responsibility of the occupation powers. It is now up to the Germans themselves. America's role in the new government will only be that of an adviser and, fortunately, the man who holds the purse strings.

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

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

August 17, 1949

In Bonn today some five hundred construction workers are laboring around the clock to complete the parliament wing of the modernistic capital building that will house the new German government when it meets for the first time on September 7.

Also in West Germany, the victorious politicians of the right-wing parties are working day and night in an attempt to get the horse-trading done ahead of time so that a solid cabinet and government plan can be submitted to the legislature.

Dr. Konrad Adenauer, who is expected to become chancellor of the new republic, has called a meeting of the leaders of his victorious Christian Democratic party at his Rhineland home for next Sunday. They will discuss formation of a new cabinet and of a coalition which they need to get the necessary votes to control the government.

Rumors continue to circulate that it may be possible for two major parties, the CDU and the Socialists, to get together, but American authorities predict that the difference in the right and left-wing parties' objectives is too great to be overcome, and that a conservative coalition will result.

The task of setting up the Federal Republic of Germany hands the Christian Democrats the biggest opportunity for political patronage in recent European history. There are thousands of jobs to be filled and a bureaucracy to be built up. By careful cutting of this political pie, Dr. Adenauer and company should be able to form a coalition that will stick.

Here in Berlin, meanwhile, the Communist propaganda machine continues to attack Sunday's election as a victory for Wall Street. The East German Communists have yet to comment on the defeat of their West German comrades, except today they charge that in Bavaria they were counted out of the voting by fraudulent methods.

In his first statement since the election, Dr. Adenauer said the main task facing the new government is reconstruction. He added that future world peace depends upon the West and Russia extending their modus vivendi agreement in Berlin to include the entire world. But, Adenauer added, this is not the responsibility of the Federal Republic of Germany.

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