July 31, 2017

1947. "America As An Island" by Edward R. Murrow

Edward R. Murrow's Commencement Address to Muhlenberg College
"Edward R. Murrow receiving an honorary degree from President Levering Tyson of Muhlenberg College" (source)
Edward R. Murrow delivered the commencement address at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania on June 2, 1947. The text is transcribed from the college's alumni magazine published that same year:


By EDWARD R. MURROW, Vice-president, Columbia Broadcasting System
It would be easy enough to tell you the traditional stories, or how I remember nothing of the Commencement address to which I listened seventeen years ago—and that would be true enough, I remember nothing at all about it, except that the speaker—like so many Commencement speakers I have heard since—informed us that the making of the future of the world was in our hands. Well, it wasn't. I remember, too, that we were addressed as a sort of collective corpse. No one talked to us. We were just there as a sounding board for oratory. Maybe there was some rhetoric in it too. But rhetoric, after all, is merely a means of conveying convictions without being impeded by logic.

Therefore, I trust you will permit me to speak directly to you, the young men who are leaving this institution with memories—memories in order that you may have roses in January. I wish that I might inflate myself in order to have merit in your eyes, and to do you credit. I wish that I might speak with the eloquence of the ancients; but that is denied me. So let me just talk to those of you who are leaving, those who are going out into what has traditionally been called the adventure of life. Permit me to tell you that the rules for that undertaking were set before you were out of the cradle. The old folks, your betters—and that almost includes me, do not give up easily. We are a stubborn lot. If you have read your history you will know that after every war the old men return and attempt to remake in the image that they knew. And in the last two years history has taken its revenge and retribution has not limped.

When I left college—that was shortly after the beginning of the depression, or if you prefer, the great recession—we were all imbued with the idea that society owed us a high standard of living. After all, we were college graduates. We were entitled to expect a higher standard of living at the expense of the society which had made possible our education. You are leaving one of the most democratic educational institutions in the world; but I beg you not to forget that no one of you paid your freight. If you propose to make personal profit at the expense of the society which made possible your education, then good luck to you. If you do that, the society of which you are a part of may soon be finished.

This nation is more than an economic plot. It is a place where personal liberty and state control are at war. Even though your elders have made the rules, you, in the end of the day, will have much to say about the outcome of that war. So, I beg you, also, not to be misled by slogans; not to reach conclusions simply because ready-made slogans fall easily from men's lips. Please understand that you are betting your lives, and those of your children, on your ability to remain sane. Try as best you can to divorce yourself from the prejudice and the slogans which make up so much of our daily life. Either you are thinking persons capable of making decisions; or you are mere human animals due to be pushed around by events.

And now—enough of these generalities. Let's talk about the world as you will meet it. In the first place it is not a world governed by ethics or by men who know history. It is a world run by old men, and they are accustomed to look over their shoulders. Most of their future is behind them. They are ill equipped by training or temperament to deal with the world in which they find themselves. Most of them fail to understand the world that is emerging from this war; but—make no mistake about it—they are running this show. Right now, they are trying to remake things in the image that they knew. And you can't do much about it, unless you are prepared to start in a small way. The best way to start is to realize and recognize what you can do and what you can't do.

This is not easy. Most of the answers elude me. Most of my friends who saw and met the problem ten years ago are now dead. They knew only that there was something in this world that was worth getting shot for. That happened in Spain, Austria, and Germany to the people of your age who decided to oppose the development of Totalitarianism. I suggest in all seriousness that it is time you began to give consideration to the same problem. This is not an idle suggestion. Many of my friends in Germany and in other countries of Middle Europe were dead before this war began. They had made their decision. And I tell you that you, too, may have to make that decision. We are now living in a time when it is fashionable—and indeed accurate—to discourse upon the possible destruction of this minor planet.

But there is still time for salvation. Through all this troubled history of mankind there has never been an invention which could not have been misused or abused. That was true of electricity, of steam, of the internal combustion engine. All of these might have been let loose without control, and civilization as we know it would have survived. But now we are confronted with a condition where humans, having discovered a method of destroying humanity, may use that power. What can you do about it? Die with dignity? Certainly, that's easy. Physical courage is a cheap commodity. But first of all you must decide what can be done short of dying. You must determine the ground upon which you stand. That is why I chose the altogether serious title, "America As An Island," for today's discourse. I desire desperately that you should understand the world into which you are going. It is not a pretty place. It demands men and women who are both earnest and anxious.

There was a time before the war when many of us suspected that the youth of this country was living on the reputation for hard work, industry, and honesty created by our grandfathers. The events and deeds of those who dared and died during the last few years have dispelled any such illusions. After all, the men and women who built this country were made of stern stuff; and those who went from here to the wars were worthy of their heritage. But those who went out to the far corners of the world to fight that it might continue to exist, undertook a task that was simple when it is compared to the one that confronts you.

You are entitled to ask for the credentials of anyone with the temerity to take up thirty minutes of your time discussing "America As An Island". I am—or at least I was—a reporter. Most of the last ten years have been spent in Europe. This is sufficient time to develop a full appreciation of one's native land—and not, I hope, long enough to become denationalized. I can claim a certain acquaintance with statesmen whose names make headlines, and I have not forgotten altogether the history learned from learned professors at American Institutions. Study and observation combine to persuade me that we are entering an era wherein America will be tested as never before—and it will be a new kind of test. I suggest that it will cause us to dig deep into our history, and to re-examine familiar premises.

For whether we like it or not, we have finally come into our full inheritance. We have had leadership thrust upon us. We created a continent. We wasted our natural resources. We were a people who turned our back upon Europe and its quarrels. Nearly thirty years ago we fought a war in Europe. It was primarily an effort to secure a Europe that wouldn't bother us. We failed. Now another bitter war had ended. Europe is exhausted. Its social, economic, and political fabric is in tatters. The old guide posts are gone. This country has become the world's banker, and the principle source of food in a world that is hungry. In Europe today, as in the dark days of 'forty and 'forty-one, the question is being asked: "What will America do?" Europeans are asking, "Can we expect leadership as well as largesse?" We can not lead with dollars alone; and we can not lead with bulldozers or supersonic guided missiles. Our technological advance is demanding new answers. Let us first state the problem and then search for a few answers.

America is fat; and the rest of the world is lean. You and other classes like you are the best-fed, best-clothed graduates of any university in the world. Most of you do not doubt the fundamentals of American democracy. But many of the youth of other lands doubt it—profoundly. There is real danger that we in America are moving in one direction and the rest of the world is moving in another. There is a real and urgent danger that we shall be isolated. That is something which we cannot afford.

There is in Europe and in Asia a demand that all shall have bread before any has cake. There is a demand that the land shall be used to produce for the people. There is a demand for economic equality and for economic security. And the price is merely the sacrifice of personal liberty. Believe me, the phrase "personal liberty" is a hollow one to people with hollow bellies. There is a demand in Europe and Asia for racial equality and for a system which offers the individual something which is out, above, and beyond personal gain and comfort. There was a time when religion was a stronger force than nationalism. Then came the time when nationalism overshadowed all else. Now, the world has reached the state where loyalties cross national boundaries; there change is welcomed—any kind of change; where most of the world is in fact "four f"—suffering from fear, famine, fatigue, and frustration. And in this chaos that follows conflict the United States is regarded with a mixture of fear and admiration. In many nations the fear outweighs the admiration. We are regarded as a giant test tube. The world knows that we can produce the weapons of war and the men to use them. But it is less certain of our ability to create here in this continent a society which men of all races and creeds can admire and imitate. Can we save our traditional liberties, and still meet the challenge of those who, now as in the past, are prepared to live dangerously? Or is our brand of democracy merely a luxury to be afforded by a country that is fat, with its industries intact, its population untired, its strength increased—a country where war did not walk down our streets. Believe me, the rest of the world—which interprets democracy differently—doubts us.

In the year since the war ended, our leadership has been erratic. We have veered from firmness to complacent indifference in international affairs. There is an armament race in progress and we have allowed our army to disintegrate. We are unrationed, while the world starves. When the war ended, we shouted, "Off with all controls." "We must go back to pre-war practices." We failed to realize that there can be no going back. The nations that were near the fire just don't want to go back, for the heat opened up too many cracks in the old order. We continue to give advice and seek to escape responsibility for implementing our advice. We are concerned about the hundreds of thousands of Jews still living in concentration camps in Germany, and we say, "Send them to Palestine", while this generous and capacious land is unwilling to welcome them. Are we really trying to bury our conscience in the sands of Palestine? It is true that we are a young nation, unaccustomed to dealing with foreign affairs. This reputation for youthfulness is one of the oldest things about us.

If we are to live, we must grow up in a hurry. We must recognize that there is no reason in history for that bit of mythology which holds that we are always out-smarted at the conference table. Other nations with less power have made greater mistakes. The importance of our position now is that if we make a mistake it may be our last. I know full well that this is not a bright picture I am painting, but believe me, the colors are sombre. We are in some considerable danger of becoming the best-hated nation on earth. We don't deserve to be. But remember that grievances are no less real because they are imagined. We are in danger of becoming a great straggling island off the coast of Kamchatka with most of the world united against us.

If that analysis is correct, what can we do about it? Or to put it more bluntly, what can you do about it—for I am verging upon the generation that will do all it can to prevent your doing anything about it. Above forty the familiar is the most attractive, even though the familiar may lead to a repetition of the last few terrible tragic years. I can offer—with all humility—only a few suggestions. And remember that I am of a generation which did little or nothing to prevent what has so recently happened. I hope that no one of you will stand here seventeen years from now and confess that your contemporaries have failed so miserably. If you fail there may be no ground on which to stand. Yours is the last chance. And that is why I propose to say a few things which our elders will hardly like. After all, this is no time to use phrases that have lost their cutting edge.

Firstly, do not respect those elders too much. They have made a pretty thorough going mess of things. Learn from them if you can, but remember always that they may be wrong—and that you may be, too.

Secondly, place not your faith in dollars. They are useful and pleasant to spend, but they will not buy friends either at home or abroad. Money will not buy greatness for a nation or for a man. American loans will not alter the course of the political tides that are running all over the world. We can not buy our way out of responsibility, and if the world judges us to be bankrupt, it will be because we lack the essentials of leadership and have failed to understand that the nature of power has changed. The currency that counts today is courage. There is a form of indifference, or mental and moral stagnation, that is worse than war. I suspect that the end will have come for us when we flinch and fail to be willing to resort to arms, no matter how new or terrible they may be.

Thirdly, have an opinion and don't be afraid of expressing it. I am no advocate of government by public opinion polls, but to me the most unworthy members of a democracy are those who, when queried regarding matters of great moment to the health and well being of the state, reply, "No opinion". But you may ask, "How am I to form an opinion upon matters that baffle statesmen and scholars?" "Why not leave it to the experts?" That is what the Germans did. I was there and saw it happen. It is so terribly easy. You, if you are to succeed, and indeed survive, are going to have to work harder than did men and women who built this great nation. You are going to have to make decisions that never confronted them. You require to know more than they did. If you stop learning and questioning, if your curiosity curdles, if you mistake slogans for logic, if you believe nothing and reverence nothing, then surely the pigs will inherit the earth—if there be any pigs left.

I remember standing in the ruins of my third office in London. The air was still heavy with cordite fumes. While attempting to salvage a few papers I came across the charred page of a pamphlet. It was written by an old professor of mine. The final sentence read, "The most urgent problem in the world today is education." The sirens sounded for another raid. That sentence seems to me utter nonsense, but it remained in my mind. And today I am convinced as never before that the professor was right.

You must examine anew such phrases as free enterprise. How free is it, and how enterprising? Socialism; what does the individual give up and what does he gain? Educational equality; what kind are the students in your community receiving, and what can you do about it? Racial and religious tolerance; how much do we have in fact and practice? State medical aid or private practice; which is best for the nation's health? On all of these matters you may change your minds. You probably will, but before the end of the day you must make up your minds. You are now like a bomber over enemy territory. You can weave and jink and take evasive action; but the time comes when you are in the bomb run and must fly level and straight. That is the time when your mind is made up and the objective is clear.

Fourthly, in the field of international affairs do not look to the United Nations for salvation. Ultimate failure, in the form of the veto power, is written into the charter. If we want a world organization that will work we have to pay a bigger price in terms of national sovereignty and other nations will have to likewise. There was a time in our nation's history when men who ran for office were questioned about their stand on slavery, states rights, and prohibition. Surely it would be fitting for graduates of this institution to insist that candidates who offer themselves for election should state where they stand on the matter of world government. You have the right and the duty to inquire whether they propose to pursue policies which will make America an Island.

Fifthly, be always conscious of your good fortune. Much of the world is wandering in the ashes of a civilization that was great. Many of their colleges and universities have been destroyed. There has been no education for seven long years. Professors and students of promise have been slaughtered or starved. The red-hot rake of battle has left behind it an intellectual desert. Please understand me. I am not trying to make phrases. For these things I have seen—in places like Belsen and Buchenwald—those institutions of infamy. I met men whom I had known in happier times in Prague and Warsaw and Vienna. Their minds had been better than mine—or yours. They had been custodians of the culture of centuries and when they came out of those concentration camps they were shuffling, stumbling wrecks, men who had fought each other for rotting potatoes. Most of those who survived—and they were not many—look to the west, to you and your elders. You have the strength. You are full of vitamins.

Sixthly, and finally, I would urge that you be not dismayed by the problems that press in upon us; that you "greet the unseen with a cheer"; that if you desire to reform the community of the country, you set about it with high resolve and vigor tempered with courtesy and humor. I remind you that your opportunity to serve your country in peace was purchased at a great price. You are citizens of a great nation. You are the fortunate few who have received superior intellectual training. You are about to leave Muhlenberg College. I hope that you will return often, and that you will think to thank your professors for their efforts on your behalf. And to you of the class of nineteen hundred and forty-seven, I offer congratulations, and an expression of confidence—confidence that the society which has made possible your education—up to this point will as the years unfold, receive from you steadiness, service, and if need be, sacrifice.

July 30, 2017

1949. The "Moral Reconstruction" of Germany

Downs Speech on the Future of Germany
German, American, British, and French military police officers stand in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin in 1949 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

January 1949

For the past six months I have been living in Germany, observing German people in their struggle for survival. In the previous two years I had been in the United States with one refresher trip to Europe. On both sides of the Atlantic I find that people do not know and understand enough, and that the gap caused by years of war has not been bridged.

In New York, writers, artists, and reporters ask, "What has happened to German intellectuals? What in God's name happened to them under Hitler?"

In industrial Detroit, union leaders ask what is happening to the German labor movement. And what part did it play in the Nazi war machine?

My mother in Kansas, who is of German descent, still is trying to figure out what happened and what is happening.

As reporters, trying to tell this story is a big job, and I'm not too sure how successful we have been.

In talking with the German people during the past six months, I find too that there is a great lack of understanding. Principally, the major lack is the realization of what a great store of hatred still exists among common people the world over for what Hitler brought on the world.

When I was a correspondent in Moscow in 1943, I saw the first wartime atrocities on a large scale—families shot in their homes, children murdered in their beds.

When I walked out of Belsen concentration camp shortly after the British took it in 1945, I remember a phrase in my reporting of that horror: "The name of Germany is going to stink in history for a long time."

This is simply a fact. The job of freedom-loving Germans is to clean up that name. And believe me, peace-loving and freedom-loving Americans want to help you clean it up. That is a major goal of the occupation.

The average American has very little conception of what happened to Germany over the past twenty-five years. Think yourself how difficult it has been to explain what it is like to live under the air raids in Berlin. I had a similar job trying to describe life in the air raids of London. I don't think I ever succeeded.

Even the question of this blockade—in writing to friends back home, they want to know if the letters came over the airlift. And it is true that a new pilot coming to Germany went to the Air Force transportation desk and asked for a rail ticket to Berlin, where he wanted to spend his furlough.

Germans I have talked with have been surprised and hurt when an artist like Gieseking is not allowed to perform in New York, or when a Furtwängler is banned in Chicago. I do not know the details nor the merits of these cases. But it is the result of about fifteen years of fear, distaste, and finally fighting what Germany under the National Socialists stood for. As you found out and as others are now finding out, dictatorship has a smell that soils everything it touches, even art. It is a long time wearing off.

So in this respect, the problem of the reconstruction of Germany is a moral one. What the ordinary people of the world want from Germany is assurance that never again will she bring war to an already battered civilization.

In America particularly, we live under the assumption that, if you tell enough people the truth in a free and democratic society, the truth will prevail. This kind of society, we feel, should be directed by the people operating their own government through free elections. That is the kind of government we hope that the reconstituted Germany will have. We figure it is the safest and the best for all concerned.

It has been the policy of the American military government that democracy cannot operate in a vacuum. Thus we have been promoting the establishment of a free German government so that Germans can get experience in running themselves.

The governments of the Länder have been operating smoothly and successfully in most cases. But the kind of experience and practice that we talk about is demonstrated in situations like this:
(1) Military government attempts to establish a hunting law to make it a popular sport for everyone met opposition in Bavaria. Baron Wolfgang von Beck, head of the state hunting department, resigned because "the law would make a cheap business of what used to be a sport of recreation."

(2) In Württemberg-Baden, a recent study of police procedures in making house searches found that out of 10,651 recently conducted, only 81 were supported by warrants. This despite the fact that the Land constitution says that private homes are inviolable and searches only can be conducted by court order under code of criminal procedure.
I do not contend that military government policy is always right. But right or wrong, the main job of the moral reconstruction of Germany must lie with the Germans. We say that the best and fastest road to this reconstruction lies down the free highway of democracy. Already great progress is being made by you.

Democracy, here and in the United States, needs a lot of improving before it becomes perfect. It is a full time job that all men must work at in order to remain free.

July 29, 2017

1957. U.S. Considers Propaganda Options for the Soviet Union

Ambassador William Lacy's Propaganda Proposal
A 1950s advertisement promoting the American Crusade for Freedom propaganda campaign (source)
Columbia Broadcasting System

To: Ted Koop

From: Bill Downs

August 5, 1957

Regarding the Washington Week story on the proposed radio and TV exchanges with the Russians:

I had lunch with Ambassador William Lacy, Secretary Dulles' special assistant on the program, during which he discussed the Soviet qualified rejection—or acceptance, if you want to put it that way—of the proposal to trade broadcasts. You remember the Russian note said they were willing if the exchange program was expanded to include economic and scientific matters.

Lacy said for background that he intends to recommend that, despite the Kremlin turn-down, the US tell the Soviet government that if they want to provide English-language radio and TV material we are willing to give it a hearing anyway without the quid pro quo.

Lacy said it would be a daring and effective propaganda gesture and would expose the Communists' fear of competitive ideas. He admitted, however, that he still has to sell the idea to Dulles, who must then sell it to the White House, the CIA, the National Security Council, et al. My personal guess is that, with the present mood of "playing it safe" and the timidity in the face of most certain criticism from some sections of Congress and outside pressure groups such as the DAR, Lacy's proposition will be allowed to die.

The ambassador also mentioned that CBS would be involved since, for some reason he himself seemed unclear about, our network is the only one on which such Russian broadcasts would be used. But we did not get into much detailed and technical conversation about this.

Lacy said he would make his proposal to the Secretary of State this week.

However, whether Lacy's proposition is accepted or not, it may come up again. Dulles is once again hot on the idea of as many "people to people" exchanges with the Communist countries as possible. Lacy says the State Department has gotten such conservatives as Senator Dirksen and Representative Walter to introduce such measures as modifying the present fingerprint law. Confidentially, J. Edgar Hoover has told the State Department that the law is meaningless anyway since no foreign intelligence service would send in an agent whose fingerprints are on record. Also, the FBI can get the fingerprints of anyone if it is interested without much trouble.

Lacy has been able to "stretch" the present law with FBI approval to include small groups of doctors, scientists, artists, and technicians by classifying them as "officials" of their respective Iron Curtain governments.

During the luncheon I asked Lacy why the government did not take advantage of the International Youth Congress in Moscow and really move in on it. He said such proposals had been carefully considered at the top. Then, off the record, Lacy said that of the hundred or so students now in Moscow, "about forty of them are ours." This explains some of the strange antics of the American "youths" now making speeches on Moscow street corners, etc. Also it's interesting to note that, of all the students attending the Congress, only 46 US citizens registered with our embassy there.

Hope this background is sufficient. I'll keep an eye on the development of international exchanges and keep you informed in the future.

July 28, 2017

1944. French Troops Reach Rhine; British Breach Siegfried Line

"Quaking Under the Terrifying Blast of Modern War"
The dragon's teeth of the Siegfried Line, the German defensive fortification also known as the Westwall, 1945 (source)
From the Derby Evening Telegraph, November 20, 1944:
French Troops Reach the Rhine; British Inside Siegfried Line

French troops, after their spectacular drive near the Swiss frontier, have reached the Rhine and entered the famous fortress city of Belfort, Paris radio announced today.

British troops east of Geilenkirchen have broken into the heart of the Siegfried Line, and American troops, moving forward under a thunderous barrage, are advancing east of Aachen and are fighting in the streets of Metz.

Grit and Guns Smash New German Defences

British Second Army, fighting alongside the U.S. Ninth, have won a clear-cut victory in their hard battle to pierce the Siegfried defences.

Terrific Allied fire-power has crocked the buttressed line, report correspondents, and wide gaps are being torn in the Ruhr defences.

Guts and grit of Allied troops, and an unequaled avalanche of shells and mortar bombs crushed German opposition near Geilenkirchen.

Germany is quaking under the terrifying blast of modern war waged with all the force and violence the Allied armies can muster, Reuters' correspondent said to-day.

New pillboxes and road blocks built to support the old Siegfried defences have been smashed.

All Sectors Advance

More towns and villages ahead of Geilenkirchen have already fallen and, in the words of a Second Army spokesman, "We are pushing on in all sectors."

The Germans have collected all the odds and ends they can muster in a bid to stop the Allied advance. After reinforcements had been thrown into the line, they succeeded in slowing down the progress in determined battles. There is nothing, however, to indicate that the offensive is losing momentum.

Although British troops have penetrated the first formidable Siegfried Line barrier, they must filter through the depth of these defences which probably run all the way to the Ruhr.

"An entry into the Siegfried Line does not by any means push us beyond it," a British Army spokesman said.

This morning Allied troops were pushing forward in heavy rain.

At several points there was almost a complete absence of active enemy resistance, and signs of a slackening of the terrific fight waged by the Germans at the start of the present offensive.

For example, not a shot was fired when General Hodges's troops sent patrols into one small town and other troops likewise reported little resistance.

Bill Downs, Columbia commentator, broadcasting from Holland to-day, said: "Our commanders all up and down this part of the line are still talking about the perfection of the tough battle for Geilenkirchen which ended by the capture of the town yesterday by combined American and British troops working together in team never surpassed before in this war."

Maas Retreat

In the Maas pocket, the front west of Venlo, seems to be "loosening-up" with the Germans fighting rearguard actions.

Advances up to three miles were made yesterday.

British troops drove across the Deurne Canal without opposition yesterday. There has been no heavy fighting for the last 48 hours, and the advances that have been made have been virtually unopposed.

One spokesman said, "The troops just walked forward."

Columns driving from Helden are now only five miles from Venlo and the German frontiers.

All-Out Reich Defensive

A German radio commentator declared this afternoon, "The entire population of Western Germany is to-day locked in a hard and exacting defensive battle against the renewed onslaught of the enemy armies.

"The whole German population is taking the deepest concern in these battles. The whole German transport system has been put at the disposal of this, the most heavily attacked front."

July 27, 2017

1949. The Kremlin Calls for a Big Four Conference

Moscow Shows New Willingness to Lift the Berlin Blockade
Delegates greet each ahead of proceedings at the Big Four conference of foreign ministers in Paris on May 1, 1949. Maurice Coue de Murville is seated on the right; in the center John Foster Dulles and Dean Acheson are moving to be seated. Andrey Vyshinsky is seen nearby shaking hands with Robert Murphy (Photo by Gjon Mili for Life magazine - source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

April 26, 1949

Well, we finally have gotten the word from Moscow, but it comes as an anticlimax.

The Tass statement this morning that the Kremlin is willing to lift the blockade in exchange for a time and place for a foreign ministers' conference on Germany is being read with interest here. It represents a major compromise on the part of the Russians. When they clamped on the blockade ten months ago they did so because the Western powers introduced new currency here.

Until today the Kremlin has been saying that the prerequisite for lifting the blockade, particularly in Berlin, would be the withdrawal of the West mark. Now, according to Tass, the Soviet Union is willing to lift the blockade and discuss the currency question later.

However, the successful meeting yesterday in Frankfurt overshadows this conciliatory statement from Moscow, and it can be expected that the Western powers will be too busy aiding the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany to consider immediately the Russian proposal for a foreign ministers' conference. After a working West German state is created, then perhaps a diplomatic move will be made for four-power discussions of the German question.

General Clay says that the new West German constitution should be in shape for ratification by the middle of next month. It still is not certain how the German people will be given a chance to vote on it, whether by plebiscite or through their eleven state parliaments.

The people must then select their representatives to the new parliament, civil servants must be hired, a capital chosen, and official buildings obtained. Then the new government will be able to function. Whether all this can be done by June 15, as predicted by General Clay, remains to be seen.

The new Federal Republic of Germany will occupy a two hundred mile, crescent-shaped strip of land that stretches from Denmark and the North Sea southward to the border of Switzerland and Italy. It has some forty-five million people and contains the rich coal fields and industrial complex of the Ruhr valley. It has two excellent ports in Bremen and Hamburg.

But, most important of all, it will have a free, democratic government.

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

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

April 27, 1949

The Berlin Blockade is ten months and one day old today, and the atmosphere of hopelessness and fear of war that has plagued this city during its economic siege is gradually being replaced by what is called "cautious optimism."

The rapid series of developments in Moscow and Washington pointing to a lifting of the blockade has left everyone here a little breathless, and a little skeptical. This skepticism is the byproduct of the on-again, off-again tactics of the Communists and is a natural reaction.

What people question here is the sincerity of the Russian offer to lift the blockade in exchange for a foreign ministers' conference. The most hopeful sign in Berlin is that the Communist press and radio is being extremely coy about the whole thing.

The Russian-licensed newspapers are looking the other way until they receive their directives. They print the bare facts of the Tass statement and our State Department's counter-proposals without comment. Only the headlines proclaim: "Agreements Still Possible"—"Will there be new talks on Germany?"

However, the blockaded Berlin press is again climbing on the rapprochement bandwagon.

Claiming to have special sources in the Soviet zone, these newspapers say that the Soviet military administration has ordered all technical preparations for the lifting of the blockade to be carried out immediately.

The German press service says that railroad officials in the Russian zone have been instructed to prepare the Berlin-Marienborn rail line into the British zone for resumption of traffic. The autobahn highway from Berlin to Helmstedt also is ready for use. The controversial bridge at Magdeburg, which was one of the technical difficulties referred to by the Russians when they slapped on the blockade, now is ready for use. The Berlin canals also are in order.

This latest Soviet approach is believed to be a counter-move to frustrate our sponsorship of the new West German state. General Clay and the State Department's chief adviser on Germany, Robert Murphy, both maintain that the Western powers will go ahead with their plans for the new government no matter what happens. They hope it will be set up by July 15.

However, the question now is whether the West German politicians will be at all anxious to proceed with the political division of Germany if the economic barrier is removed by a lifting of the blockade.

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

July 26, 2017

1945. Nazi Germany on the Verge of Collapse

Goebbels Says the Reich is "Tumbling into Ruins"
Sergeant J.D. Eilbeck posts a sign of Adolf Hitler reading "No Way Out" outside the 156th Brigade headquarters, April 4, 1945 (source)
Fifteen days after this article was published, Bill Downs gave a firsthand account of the Nazi surrender to Field Marshal Montgomery at Lüneburg Heath on May 4, 1945.

From the Lancashire Daily Post, April 19, 1945:

Montgomery's troops have reached the Elbe at several points east of Lüneburg.

Lüneburg itself has been captured and the Germans trounced before the Elbe, are racing pell-mell over the Lüneburg Bridge under our shell fire and air attack.

The way is now believed open for our armour to close up to the Elbe on vast stretches.

American troops met in the center of Leipzig, yesterday, after clearing all German resistance except for a pocket around the City Hall, where the commander refused a call to surrender.

General Bradley announces that the American armies must pause temporarily before going on to the next phase of the thrust into the Reich.


According to Bill Downs (C.B.S.) Montgomery's armoured columns have reached a point less than 10 miles from Hamburg.

British troops have reached the outskirts of Emden, says Brussels radio.

The Canadians have captured the port of Harderwijk on the Zuiderzee, 15 miles north-east of Amersfoort, where the Germans were recently reported to be doing a "Dunkirk" towards western Holland.

The Germans are heavily counter-attacking the Canadian line on the Küsten Canal, south of Papenburg in the Ems sector.

The wholesale flooding of the Hook of Holland started yesterday when the Germans blew a 300-yard gap in the sea wall, sending the waters of the Zuiderzee pouring into the rich farmlands below sea level.

The floodwaters are sweeping southwards towards Amsterdam, but unless more dykes are blown they should stop about 10 miles north of the city.

Only a narrow strip of land along the western coast of the Hook will remain above water.


The Third Army had by this morning advanced further in one continuous offensive than any other army in the history of war (says a correspondent).

By reaching the Czechoslovak frontier, armour has covered 500 miles by road in the 46 days since the Third Army launched its offensive from Trier.

Another two-day advance would bring Patton so close to Konev, that it will become dangerous for either side to use long-range artillery.

The junction of the armies and the demarcation of the limits of their advance is therefore imminent.

Patton's men are less than 100 miles from Prague.

First Army troops at Leipzig are now apparently little more than 40 miles from the Russians.

Another Son of the Ex-Kaiser Captured

Another son of the late Kaiser Wilhelm has been rounded up at Frankfurt, it was stated at Shaef, to-day. Which son it is was not disclosed.

He is one of more than 400 suspects now held in gaol as political prisoners, following a two-week drive carried out under the orders of Military Government in Frankfurt to round up fanatical Nazi "werewolves" and other anti-Allied agents.


Never before have the matters been on the razor's edge as they are to-day, said the advanced text issued by the German News Agency, of a broadcast which Goebbels will deliver to-night, on the eve of Hitler's 56th birthday.

Never before has the German people had to defend its bare life under such enormous dangers and by a last all-out effort make sure that the Reich does not break apart.

This is not the time to celebrate the Führer's birthday with the usual words, or to express our traditional good wishes to the Führer. To-day it is necessary to say more and this will be said by a man who has earned this privilege before the Führer and the nation.


Flourishing towns and villages throughout Europe have been transformed into fields of craters. The most outstanding civilisation the world has ever seen is tumbling into ruins.

To-day we are living through the last act of a gigantic tragic drama, which began in August, 1914, and which we Germans interrupted on November 9th, 1918—the outbreak of the German revolution—at a moment when the decision was just about to come.

This is why it had to be done all again and why it had to begin again on September 1st, 1939 (German invasion of Poland). What we thought to spare ourselves in November, 1918, we have to do now two and threefold.

There is no getting away from it—unless the German people turn their backs on a life worthy of human beings and live an existence of which most primitive tribes in Africa would be ashamed.

Let us act like men and like Germans, follow our leader without reserve, and stake our hopes on our lucky star, even if that star is clouded over for the time being.

Let us not be cowards in misfortune, but stay defiant, not offer the world the spectacle of miserable servility but hoist the old Swastika flag instead of the white flag of surrender.


Our enemies may wound us, but they can never kill us. They can knock us about, but never force us to our knees. They can torture but not humiliate us.

Now that we have entered the final and decisive round of the war, shall we abandon all our ideals and all our hopes of a better future in the confusion of the misfortunes that have befallen us?

The war is approaching its end. The madness which the enemy has unleashed upon mankind has already gone beyond its climax.

The leader of the enemy coalition has been struck down by that very fate which kept our Führer alive on July 20th, amid dead, wounded and ruins, that he might complete his work.

A few years after the war Germany will blossom as never before. Her ravaged countryside will be studded with new and more beautiful towns and villages inhabited by happy people.

We shall once again be friends with all nations of good will and with them will heal the scars of our heavy wounds.

If we prevail the work begun in Germany in 1933 and so rudely interrupted in 1939 will be continued. Other nations will join in, not under coercion, but freely.

We shall never leave him (Hitler) in the lurch whatever the danger. May God give him health and strength, and preserve him from all dangers. The rest can be left to us.

In the midst of peril Germany celebrates her greatest triumph. If history tells that this country's people never abandoned their leader and their leader never abandoned its people, that will be victory.

Another Swindle

It can be assumed that Goebbels has already made the speech, if only for a gramophone record. These records will be played tonight from the German radio stations, including the Berlin radio, if it is still on the air.

Neutral reports say that there is not the slightest likelihood that Goebbels is in Berlin. It is most likely that with other Nazis—he had taken to the Bavarian "redoubt."

July 25, 2017

1948. Threats of Violence Overshadow West Berlin Elections

Heavy Police Presence in West Berlin as Voters Go to Polls
"The Resurrection," an East German propaganda cartoon depicting West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer as the successor to Adolf Hitler (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

December 5, 1948

Western Berlin streamed to the polls today in the city's first free elections in two years, and indications are that an extremely heavy vote is being cast despite threats of reprisal from the Communist-dominated government of East Berlin.

The polls have been open for seven hours now. Officially more than 40 percent of the vote is in the ballot boxes, while the American-licensed radio in Berlin said that as of a half hour ago 75 percent of the vote is in. On the basis of the early voting, some German officials are predicting that between 80 and 90 percent of the Western Berliners will cast their ballots—something more than a million voters.

Since the Communists for the past month have been pleading, demanding, cajoling, and even physically trying to keep the people away from the polls, a large vote will be interpreted as a protest against Soviet occupation policy and an endorsement of the stand of the Western powers in this Berlin crisis.

So far the elections have been quiet. Paradoxically the heaviest and earliest vote came in the districts which border on the Soviet sector. French patrols were called out once in the heavily industrialized Reinickendorf district when three Soviet soldiers, carrying Tommy guns and accompanied by three German civilians, walked across the French-Soviet border toward one of the polling sites. The Russian soldiers withdrew when the French patrol arrived.

So far twenty-two persons have been arrested for interfering with the elections. In the Kreuzberg district in the American sector, fourteen persons were arrested after one man tried to use false documents and entered the polls as an election official. He revealed the names of others under German police questioning. In Spandau, in the British sector, eight men were arrested demonstrating before a voting place.

Some ten thousand German police are alerted and guarding the voting places. American, British, and French troops have been confined to barracks and are under standby orders.

The threat of violence is still here. There are increasing rumors that attacks against the polls will be made tonight. During the night, many election posters and official election placards were torn down, and some polling places were smeared with red paint. Anti-election pamphlets are being thrown from windows of the elevated railway.

The airlift is having fog trouble again today, and only a few planes are getting in or out of the city. Early this morning, an American Air Force C-54 leaving the Faßberg airport crashed and burned shortly after taking off. The three crew members were killed. The plane was carrying a load of coal to Berlin.

This makes a total of sixteen Americans who have died flying over the Russian blockade. Six others killed were British.

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

July 24, 2017

1934. Nazi Germany's Propaganda Campaign in the United States

Nazis Aim to Manipulate American Opinion
"German American Bund parade in New York City on East 86th St. on October 30, 1939" (source)
These articles are part of a series of posts on how The New York Times covered the rise and fall of fascism. Soon after taking power, the Nazis fueled propaganda campaigns across Europe and the Americas in an effort to improve Germany's image abroad. Times correspondent Frederick T. Birchall wrote about the new regime's audacious plans to win over American public opinion.

From The New York Times, January 8, 1934, p. 9:
American With Great Success in Manipulating Opinion is Seen as Directing Genius
Publication Issued in Suburbs of the Big Cities to Convert Us to Hitlerism

BERLIN, Jan. 7 — The confidence with which the German Government expects American opinion to swing American officialdom to the German viewpoint in the matter of German debt manipulation and indeed all matters of controversy between the two countries is somewhat puzzling to an outsider.

It is in line with the confident assertion of Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda, not long ago that it was not Germany that would change her attitude toward the Jewish question but Germany's foreign critics who would change theirs, and his further prediction that the tide of Nazi-ism which he saw rising beyond Germany's borders would soon sweep over other countries, not excepting the United States.

Such an attitude leads foreign observers to wonder on what the Nazi confidence is based.

The answer is likelier to be found in developments in the United States and other countries, news of which is to be seen from time to time in the foreign press but which is naturally lacking in the rigidly controlled organs of Nazi opinion, rather than here.

Silent on Spanknöbel

The American uprising against Heinz Spanknöbel, for instance, and his swift eclipse under the indictment that was not served because of his disappearance are quite unknown to the German masses, as is the appearance in New York with official credentials "from the Stahlhelm" of Captain Georg Schmitt of the Rhineland as Spanknöbel's successor.

Spanknöbel is understood to be safely back in Germany. That statement can be made on good American authority.

What the German public does read frequently is news of what is represented to be the spontaneous tendency toward Nazi-ism in America. Thus it sees portrayed in story and picture what appear to be huge Nazi meetings in New York and elsewhere, where "Heil Hitler!" is represented to be the watchword and anti-Semitism the keynote.

Nobody who really knows America is seriously taken in by this sort of thing, but it does raise the question, as do occasional copies that reach here of Nazified German-American publications issued in obscure suburbs of great cities such as New York and Chicago, as to what organization is behind such propaganda, who is financing it and who is guiding its efforts.

Propaganda Outlay Denied

Inquiries at official propaganda headquarters in Berlin and Munich invariably produce the official response, in line with the public declarations of Chancellor Hitler and other leaders, that Germany is not interested in any efforts to spread the Nazi gospel in other countries—except perhaps Austria—and is spending no money on it.

Nevertheless, this hardly gibes with missions like Spanknöbel's—although he was officially disowned when detected—and that of Schmitt following him. It also scarcely accounts for the steady stream of minor American publicists and college professors of German antecedents and sympathies to Berlin last Summer, their enthusiastic welcome in Nazi circles and their speedy and wholehearted acceptance of Nazi pretentions. Nor does it harmonize with the equally steady stream of Nazi propagandists to the United States. Such movements do not occur unorganized and unaided.

But whose is the guiding hand and whose brain is directing the movement is quite another matter and is not so easy to determine. The best opinion is that these must be sought in the United States rather than in Germany, no matter whence come the financial sinews of this propaganda war.

The movement also has the earmarks of more skillful direction than can be expected from the old-time newspaper warriors whom imperial Germany enlisted, although many of these are still stoutly doing their bit.

Two Visit Hitler

A former consul who swung a valiant pen for Germany in wartime and an expatriated Irishman, who together are now running a propaganda sheet on the outskirts of New York, were both here this Summer looking for funds for it. They descended upon Chancellor Hitler at Berchtesgaden amid a phalanx of Nazi propagandists and were well received. But whether they went back empty handed or not is a Nazi secret.

The movement to convert the United States to allegiance to the swastika, however, is a bigger and more skillfully directed one than the older war horses can be suspected of engineering. Expert opinion is inclined to attribute it to an American of wide experience and immense success in manipulating opinion, who paid a flying visit to Germany in the late Spring and departed leaving behind a trusted associate who is still here taking tea and mixing readily without an ostensible occupation. Naturally however, there is no public evidence of his activities.

Such professional aid is commonly rated as the most expensive that could be enlisted, but money is the smallest factor in Nazi calculations when there is a real object to be achieved. However poor Germany may be when it is a matter of paying commercial debts, German resources for propaganda and political purposes are apparently unlimited.

That is one of the paradoxes of the German situation which first puzzles and then enrages foreign creditors who believe their claims to be good and are now finding themselves mistaken.
"A crowd of approximately 20,000 attends a German American Bund Rally at New York's Madison Square Garden on February 20, 1939. At center is a large portrait of George Washington, claimed as an icon by the Bund, who called him 'the first Fascist,' claiming Washington 'knew democracy could not work.'" (source)
From The New York Times, March 12, 1934, p. 4:
Heed Experts' Advice to Placate American Big Business by Dropping Propaganda Here
Goebbels's Department Will Concentrate on Reconciling World Opinion to Regime

BERLIN, March 11 — On Tuesday the German Ministry for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda will be one year old. It was created on March 13, 1933, by a decree of President von Hindenburg, who, on the recommendation of Chancellor Hitler made Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels its head. He was then the Nazi leader for the Berlin district, the party's most popular spellbinder and one of Herr Hitler's closest friends and collaborators.

Next to the Chancellor, Dr. Goebbels is now the strongest force in Germany. More than on any other single factor does the success of the Nazi regime depend upon his efforts. His ministry might truly be termed "the power house of the Third Reich."

The development of this ministry, a novelty in official government departments, until its influence is now almost boundless is highly important to the outside world and to the United States in particular for a special reason.

Were Ignorant of Outside World

It is now fairly well known that when the National Socialist regime assumed power it was manned almost wholly by men who knew nothing of the world outside Germany. There were Ministers—not Nazis—like Baron Constantin von Neurath and Dr. Alfred Hugenberg and officials like Dr. Hjalmar Schacht who did not labor under this handicap, but their influence in emergencies was not great against the sweep of triumphant Nazi theory and unlimited Nazi power.

So naturally mistakes were made. The effect of their sum was to array the outside world solidly against the new Germany. To all intents the rest of the world is still so arrayed.

But if there is one notable characteristic of this regime it is its efficiency, which naturally implies some willingness to learn. The Nazis, and particularly the Department of Propaganda and Popular Enlightenment, are learning. As proof there is the recent decision to devote a very large share of the Ministry's activities to reconciling world opinion to Nazi dominance.

In that effort the United States looms as the most important nation. As a preliminary to action there the Ministry has obtained the best expert advice, and then, having obtained it, action is being taken to put into practice. The Berlin correspondents have seen evidence of this in the past few weeks in many quite notable instances.

The Advice That Was Given

The burden of the good advice, there is reason to believe, was that the first step in reconciling American opinion to the established fact of Nazi dominance would be to drop all attempts to Nazize the American people. As long as the Spanknöbels and their minor adherents were encouraged or even permitted to operate there, Germany, it was indicated, might be sure of continuing hostility. The real task before the German Nazi regime as far as the United States was concerned was to reconcile big business to that regime, and nothing would be more deterrent to that job than an implied intention to extend the Nazi doctrines to America.

German economic success is actually bound up with American interests here. To say nothing of the German private debt to America, there are operating in Germany on a large scale some of the largest American business corporations, ranging from the Standard Oil Company, the United States Shipping Lines and the Woolworth Stores to innumerable specialty manufacturers and some of the great American banks.

The hostility of these institutions would be a highly important factor in the absolutely necessary revival of German industrial welfare, compared with which the chance of converting the United States to Hitlerism pales into significance.

The advice has been heeded and the new regime starts its second year upon a fresh and more wholesome line of endeavor. Henceforth it seems probable that less will be heard about Nazi propaganda in the United States.

Publications Here Likely to Go

Such childish efforts as the publication of little clipsheets glorifying Hitlerism and abusing its critics are likely to disappear for lack of German nourishment, and while that will have a certain effect upon the earnings of several worthy young Americans who maintain a precarious existence on the edge of journalism, it will help bring about a better understanding of the new Germany where the most good can be achieved.

The power of Dr. Goebbels's Ministry may be realized from the fact that it controls all political propaganda, both at home and abroad; the German radio, in which it has a complete monopoly of national broadcasting and exploits it to the limit; the entire German press, which has been regimented and brought into complete harmony, both as to personnel and material, with the requirements of the government; the entire film industry, which is under complete censorial supervision, directed always with an eye to propaganda; and the theatre, music and art, which are ruled by thirteen subministries, all coordinated under its direction.

It has a special section devoted to combating the "campaign of lies" abroad, especially the "monstrous Jewish agitation" alleged to be inspired by émigrés. And recently it has taken upon itself the direction of the new campaign to reconcile world opinion to the new Nazi Germany.

Remarkable Efficiency

Its efficiency in all these matters thus far has been something at which even a trained newspaper man might well marvel. For example, it can reach the entire German press within two hours with an order commanding the publication of a certain piece of information or, conversely, for the suppression of a certain piece of news.

It dominates the stage and the movies absolutely regardless of any agreements to which the producers may be committed and gets its wishes fulfilled regardless of public opinion but with a minimum of disturbances and friction. In organizing its power displays it has proved itself the world's superlative showman.

The personality of Dr. Goebbels, who some two years ago was virtually unknown outside Germany, dominates the Ministry's every activity, and his possession of what amounts to genius in mass appeal is the chief factor in its success. Incidentally, his oratory, next to Chancellor Hitler's, is still the National Socialist party's most valuable asset, and he is never chary about contributing it to give a little additional savor to a notable celebration.

July 23, 2017

1969. President Nixon's Vietnamization Program

"Vietnamizing the War"
President Nixon meets with soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division at Dĩ An in South Vietnam, July 30, 1969 (source)
From The Christian Science Monitor, December 17, 1969, p. 1:
New Nixon Formula
Expectation of military success by South Vietnam replaces the old-time optimism for U.S. victory

The United States Government has exchanged one kind of optimism for another in conducting its policy on Vietnam. It used to be very hopeful about its military prospects. But these proved delusive last year, for anything more than keeping the enemy at bay.

Now it is showing fresh optimism about the military prospects for the Army of South Vietnam, which the United States is training and equipping for self-defense. The Nixon policy for withdrawal chiefly depends on the success of that program. Success is taken for granted in the highest official circles.

Optimism seen

In the past few days, these statements have been made:

By President Nixon:

"I have a much more favorable report to give you . . . with regard to the training of South Vietnamese forces.

"Mr. Thompson's report, [made to the President by the British expert on Southeast Asia, Sir Robert Thompson], which I would describe as cautiously optimistic, is in line with the reports I have received from other observers and from our own civilian and military leaders in Vietnam."

By a White House source who cannot be quoted directly:

The President himself can be described as "cautiously optimistic."

By Defense Secretary Melvin R. Laird:

"We have had great success this year in Vietnamizing the war.

"We are very pleased . . . that this program . . . is ahead of schedule.

"We are moving forward with our program to train pilots and helicopter crews; we are turning over artillery at an ever-increasing rate . . . We have a program to turn the logistic [operations] over to the South Vietnamese, and these programs are moving forward."

Question, by Bill Downs of ABC: "What happens if this Vietnamization program of yours falls apart?"

Mr. Laird: "I can assure you that this will not happen. Our program is a reasoned program. It is based on what our military leadership feels can be done, and what the South Vietnamese [forces] can do.

"I am confident on the basis of the best military advice that I can receive, from General Abrams, from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and from the Vietnamization task force, which I meet with every day, that this program can succeed."

Rebuttal indicated

These White House and Pentagon statements were obviously made to rebut recent statements of doubt about the prospective success of the Vietnamization program. These were made by various spokesmen for the political Left, but especially by the senators who have opposed both the Johnson and Nixon policies. The division of opinion generally falls along ideological lines.

Since the White House has had a considerable success in the past two months, according to supporters and adversaries alike, in rallying support for the President's Vietnam policy, the President and his advisers have felt free to press their advantage and to argue their confidence in the Vietnamization program on which it depends.

The White House source, who may not be quoted directly, was the most restrained of the various administration spokesmen. After saying the President himself was "cautiously optimistic," the source continued: We are eager to avoid overoptimism. Any insider knows that events can upset plans.

In particular he said that if the present rate of infiltration—which is several times greater than a few months ago but still substantially short of a year ago—should continue for several months more at the present rate, it would be clear that the enemy was building his forces up and not merely replacing losses. In that event the United States would take a fresh look at the intentions of Hanoi.

But this source made it clear that Hanoi had not, as of now, taken any steps which would cause the president to interrupt the withdrawal of 50,000 more troops that he has scheduled between now and April 15. When the President warned Hanoi not to carry either the infiltration or the fighting too far, the White House source said that we are talking about a very great effort by the other side, far beyond what now exists.

This source rejected all efforts to pin the President down to a particular timetable for withdrawal, beyond April 15. We have a group constantly analyzing the situation, he said, and we will keep modifying our judgments as events develop.

Then he came as close as anyone in the administration has to moderating the prevailing optimism with a dash of realism. The problem does not depend on a hypothetical timetable, he said, but on how the policy works.

July 22, 2017

1949. Debate Over Cardinal Mindszenty's Sentencing in Budapest

Basic Political Debate in Berlin
Cardinal József Mindszenty, Archbishop of Esztergom, is freed at the end of October 1956 after eight years in prison (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

February 9, 1949

The sentencing of Cardinal Mindszenty in Budapest has provoked this morning a basic political debate in Berlin.

The German Communist press asks: "Why is everyone so excited . . . it is not because thousands of innocent fighters for freedom were shot in Greece without proper trials . . . but because one man, who confessed his guilt, now has to serve a prison term."

Cardinal Preysing, the Bishop of Berlin, charges that the Mindszenty case is an attack against the fundamental rights of humanity, against the rights of conscience and against Christianity.

In Frankfurt yesterday someone painted a sign on a Catholic church there saying: "Free Max Reimann." Reimann is a leader of the Ruhr communists who last week was sentenced to three months imprisonment for threatening Western sector politicians working with the occupation powers.

Last night someone added a note on the church wall: "What about freeing Mindszenty?" the sign said.

The main committee of the constitutional convention in Bonn has agreed to propose that Berlin become a separate province in the new West German state now in the making.

West Germany already is divided up into eleven Länder, or provinces. A proposal, if adopted by the constitutional convention, to jump over one hundred miles of Soviet zone and designate Berlin as the twelfth province presents a delicate diplomatic problem to the Western powers.

German politicians reason that since blockaded Berlin is under the control of America, Britain, and France—just as the three zones of Western Germany—that it is logical Berlin be incorporated into their new government, subject to the same constitution and sending delegates just as do the other provinces.

And some German politicians see the move as another way to further commit the Western powers in their anti-Communist stand in Berlin, a stand upon which the survival here of democratic politics depends.

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

July 21, 2017

1939. State-Sponsored Press Controls Public Opinion in Nazi Germany

The Nazi Press Mobilized in the Service of a Totalitarian Regime
"'Gleichgestaltet'—The Nazi Press, like all other avenues of information in Germany, has been mobilized in the service of the totalitarian regime."
This article is part of a series of posts on how newspapers covered the rise of fascism.

From The New York Times, January 15, 1939, pp. 4, 23:
How the Government, Through the Press, Influences Thought in a Common Direction

Germans are avid newspaper readers, and their "newsboys" are many. On city street corners one sees men and women, each in uniform and cap supplied by some newspaper selling the latest editions. Day and night and in any kind of weather other "newsboys" make their rounds, trudging on foot or cycling from one cafe to another and finding customers.

But Germans, eager as they are for news, have difficulty in satisfying their curiosity about what is going on in the world outside. For their government, through its controlled press and radio, tells them only what it wants them to know and in a way to influence their thoughts in a common direction.

A set formula is consistently followed. Every day the newspapers are informed on government policy. They receive and follow instructions on what to print about it. In addition, they get the report of the official news agency, the Deutsche Nachrichten Bureau, whose version must be used—in part, if the editor chooses—for decrees, speeches and many other things. A speech by Adolf Hitler, for example, cannot be reported freely; it must be transcribed, approved by the speaker, and then released by the official agency.

•     •     •

As that agency recently put it, in a time of international crisis the German press, radio and all avenues of information should be mobilized, like the army and industry. It should not, by any indiscretion, embarrass the home officials responsible for negotiations. In brief, the Fuehrer must at all times be depended upon to decide what is to be printed, and how, and when.

In the Third Reich, therefore, when a citizen is unsatisfied with his morning paper account of an important political happening he does not—as he might in a democracy—rush out to find what a rival paper is saying. He can be certain that all German papers are printing the same thing.

He may wait until noon, when foreign newspapers arrive from London, Paris, Switzerland, Holland or the Scandinavian countries, to get a less stereotyped version and form his own estimate of happenings. But this method has limitations. The citizen may find that street sales of the foreign paper he wants to buy have been banned, either temporarily or permanently.

At least two papers from New York, four from Switzerland, two from England, three from Paris, one from Sweden and possibly others are under the permanent ban. If the citizen asks for one not on this list, a whispered "verboten" from the newsboy may inform him that it has been suppressed because of an article in that day's issue.

•     •     •

The usual method, then, of satisfying one's curiosity is to talk with neighbors or, in a more cautious way, with strangers in a restaurant or street car. "What have you heard?" has become a substitute for the "I saw in the paper" of most other countries. The amount of news that circulates by word of mouth is amazing and, as might be supposed, so well embroidered in the repeating that it is nearly impossible to distinguish between fact and fiction.

"What does the Strasbourg radio say?" may be safely asked if one knows one's informant fairly well. That station across the border broadcasts its news report in German as well as French.

Or, "Did you hear the Moscow radio?" may even be asked among close friends. The Moscow sender talks to the world in many languages, its messages varying accordingly. Science has not found a away to keep it out of the air over Germany, nor has it been possible to enforce completely the law punishing anyone who listens to it. How it gets its information is a mystery, but it often is up to the minute with names, addresses and timing on incidents that have happened in Germany only a few hours past.

There is one other method of getting uncensored accounts of political happenings. It is to accept the clandestine newspapers which uncaptured Socialists and Communists run off in secret printing plants.

Germans who depend entirely on the regular press for their news get a great deal of staid and serious information. Some dailies specialize in finance and trade. Nearly all devote much space to editorials and to a wide variety of subjects including such as books, architecture, the theatre and the latest fashions.

A Berlin newspaper will have about eight department editors, who also do the reporting. It may have several times as many correspondents abroad or in cities. The sports editor covers the best sports event of the day and the official news agency covers the others. Other editors will cover courts, city affairs, police and other "runs" in much the same manner.

•     •     •

No single subject, however, gets as much space as in a large American newspaper, and details are often lacking. A report of an airplane accident, for instance, says six were killed but gives no names. And some of the news appears to come from odd places. On a recent day a "cable" giving Argentina's reaction to the Pan-American Conference at Lima came from Milan, in Italy. On the same day the funeral of Kemal Atatürk in Turkey was described in a telegram from Paris. A dispatch from London told of a fire in California. A dispatch ostensibly from New York told of a lynching in Mississippi under the caption "Humanity"—a suggestion of the official agency which was carried by all newspapers.

One might get the impression from the papers that German Government and party officials devoted all their time to dedicating new buildings, receiving tributes from the populace or their colleagues, or issuing decrees and making speeches.

The Völkischer Beobachter, the Hitler and party organ published by Alfred Rosenberg, and Der Angriff, the Goebbels publication, may be taken as the most official of Berlin newspapers. (The Beobachter is published also in Munich, Vienna and Cologne.) On a recent morning more than one-fifth of what was classed as news in the Beobachter consisted of speeches by party leaders, and more than a quarter of all the reading matter was about Jews, the principal topic at the time. In the Angriff, on the afternoon of the same day, two-fifths of the news was a speech by Propaganda Minister Goebbels, and there were reports of other speeches.

•     •     •

Two methods frequently used, in the interest of Nazi policy, are the suppression, delay or distortion of important news and the directing of a bitter press campaign against some foreign nation.

The editors often direct their wrath at the newspapers of republics, referring to them as the "Hetze-Presse" (baiting press). Thus, in the issue of the Angriff just referred to, the headline across the front page over a cable from New York was "Murder Baiting in the U. S. A. Against the Third Reich." Yet the German press itself almost always seems to have a "Hetze" on about happenings in one foreign land or another.

Russia, with its communism, is standing material for a German "Hetze." Czecho-Slovakia, at the time of the Sudeten issue, felt the "Hetze" in extreme measure. So did Great Britain a little later. After a group of Rumanian Nazis, called the Iron Guardists, were killed by their Rumanian guards, the direct "Hetze" was withheld for political reasons; instead the press reprinted only foreign comment attacking the shootings—a sort of reflected "Hetze" for which Germany was not primarily responsible. At the present time the "Hetze" is turned against the United States.

•     •     •

For an understanding of how the German press works let us trace some events beginning with the Czech-Slovakian crisis.

The first of two messages from President Roosevelt during that crisis, containing a general admonition for peace, was delayed from twenty-four to forty-eight hours in Germany. Before it appeared, "in part," Chancellor Hitler at a Berlin mass meeting declared his hopes for peace. The delay deprived Mr. Roosevelt of any "scoop" in Germany on the peace idea—as Minister Goebbels later explained was intended.

The second message, in which Mr. Roosevelt laid on the Fuehrer the responsibility for peace or war, was not published in German papers, although it was in the foreign papers that entered Germany.

Moreover, the mobilization of the British fleet toward the end of the crisis, which might have dampened the German ardor for forcible measures, missed press mention.

After the Czecho-Slovak crisis came the concerted outbreak through Germany of window-smashing, store-wrecking and synagogue-burning on Nov. 10, following the shooting of a German diplomat in Paris by a young Jew named Grynszpan. Newspapers in other countries gave great space to the details, but the Berlin papers printed only vague accounts.

The next morning a ninety-word statement from Minister Goebbels appeared, together with a 175-word official news agency explanation of the reasons for the "spontaneous national uprising." These statements were unaccompanied by any details or summary of what had happened in the country. Outside of Berlin a few newspapers carried local stories, and the official agency sent out a report for use abroad—but not inside Germany. In the official New Year's summary which every newspaper printed of history-making events in Germany in 1938 there was no mention of the outburst; the event recorded for German history on Nov. 10 was the death of the President of Turkey.

Every one in Berlin had seen some part of the property destruction, and in the absence of adequate newspaper accounts the news traveled swiftly by word of mouth. Within twenty-four hours after Field Marshal Hermann Göring had decreed a 1,000,000,000-reichsmark penalty against the Jews for the Grynszpan crime every one who had ventured out of doors had heard the latest.

"Who is the greatest alchemist the world?" was the question.

"Göring," was the answer, "because he made a billion in gold out of Gruenspan." (Gruenspan, the German spelling for Grynszpan, as a common noun means verdigris.)

•     •     •

Some German newspapers attempted to connect Winston Churchill and others with the Paris assassination. The British Minister to Berlin made a formal protest. The papers did not report it. Instead, they turned their guns toward America, and the "Hetze" against the United States was on in a mild way. The reaction of American newspapers toward the Nov. 10 "uprising," expressing sorrow or horror at what they regarded as a German lapse from civilized law and order, was attributed to Jewish influence and, it was said, justified further repression.

The departure of the American commercial attaché from Berlin, following the return home of the American Ambassador, went unreported. Several American Congressmen who had criticized the "uprising" came in for a baiting, however, although the German readers were not told what they had said.

Then Secretary of Interior Ickes made his Cleveland speech in criticism of the affair and the "Hetze" reached its boiling point. A large scrapbook could be filled with attacks on Mr. Ickes made by the press in recent weeks. These may have puzzled German readers, for the reason that Mr. Ickes's sharpest digs were not printed.

•     •     •

The facts that the German Embassy in Washington made a protest against the Ickes remarks, and that this protest was promptly rejected by the State Department, were not printed here until ten days later, and then without the most pointed comments in the rejection. The newspapers contended that if Mr. Ickes had stayed in his office at Washington instead of making speeches the recent drug company and smuggling scandals in New York could not have occurred. Just how the Secretary of the Interior could have stopped these activities which did not fall in the jurisdiction of his department was not explained.

Both scandals got a big play in the German papers. The fact that several Jews were named in the smuggling case was always kept in the headlines, while the fact that the principals in the drug-company swindle were of Italian ancestry was ignored—for news must harmonize with politics.
Press sermonizing, it seemed, was sometimes more important than the facts. One could read in a German newspaper that Mr. Ickes is a United States Senator, or that Benjamin Franklin was a former President. Senator Pittman, who recently said that the American public did not like the German or Japanese Governments, was advised in the German press to go West to get the sentiment of real Americans—although he could not move many miles in that direction from his State of Nevada without reaching the Pacific.

•     •     •

Along with the "Hetze" on the Jewish issue has gone a campaign against American efforts to build Pan-American solidarity against totalitarian encroachment. Before the Lima conference the German newspapers devoted space to the reputed sinister intentions of the United States in the western continent. The outcome of the conference was described in the German press as a fiasco for Washington.

Unlimited theorizing is possible on the effect of all this on the German people. In a country where newspapers express different views the people think and argue and are free to form their own conclusions. In Germany the older generation—among trusted friends—expresses and argues its opinions quietly. The younger generation is being trained to follow the party line and never to question. Nazis believe that this is the only method to create a united nation which will fulfill the slogan: "One leader! One people! One Germany!"