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Let us liberate the Germans by Sefton Delmer

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If those peaceful, comfortable looking burghers sipping their beer at the next table to mine could see what I have just written on my typewriter here under my favourite Lindenbaum by the side of the Rhine, there is just one thing they would do.

"Hey, Herr Ober" they would cry, "that man is mad. Call the police before he does anyone any harm. That's him the fat man there with the bald head and the big black rims around his glasses! Yes, the chap with the typewriter at the table under the Lindenbaum. Just take a look at what he has written!"

And what have I written that is so explosive?

I have written: "It is high time (höchste Zeit) that we liberate the Germans."

Mind you, I have a bit of a mania for liberating people. I would like to liberate myself and my British fellow countrymen from the terrorist despotism of the British Trade Unions who, by their constant strikes, by their boycott of workers who want to give value for money, by their restrictionist practises, are slowly but surely ruining a once prosperous nation. I would like to liberate our British and American Statesmen too. I want to set them free from the false doctrine of nineteenth century liberalism which laid down that self-government, however inefficient, corrupt and unjust, is preferable to a foreign administration, however progressive, impartial, and efficient.

In the name of that doctrine we are today betraying the Africans to witchdoctor demagogues. We are handing them over to nepotism, anarchy and, in the long run, to Bolshevik authorit­arianism - which will end by providing the foreign outside rule the Africans still need.

But from what do my beer sipping German neighbours at the next table (how can anyone want to drink beer here by the side of the Rhine) from what do they require liberation? The Bundesrepublik does not suffer from the guild-like dead hand of the closed shop. In Germany Trade unions like anyone else can be made to pay for the damage they do if they break a contract. They are not above the law as in Britain. As the German Metal workers have learned to their cost. They are still paying off £10,000,000 to which they were condemned for launching a strike in violation of a tariff agreement.

Nor do German statesmen - at least not those of Chancellor Adenauer's cabinet - suffer from any old-fashioned liberal obsessions. All the same my German friends do need liberating, as the conversation of my neighbours - which alas I could not help overhearing - would have shown me had I not known it for many years before.

"Schlesien wird wieder einmal unser warden" the nice looking man with the enviably dolichocephalic head announced.

"Der Adenauer hat's selbst gesagt."

And no-one had disagreed with him, although it is dangerous illusion.

I want to see the Germans liberated from their new illusionists and their new illusions. For twice in my life have I had to see and suffer the disasters brought upon themselves and the rest of us by the tragic readiness of the otherwise kindly, intelligent and law-abiding Germans to subject themselves to ambitious illusionists lacking political realism and moral scruple. I have wanted to believe that the Germans were cured.

Alas, on my repeated trips to Germany since the war including this last one which took me to Bonn, Hamburg, Essen and Berlin I see signs that illusionists are once more riding high in Germany, eager to try their luck a third time, in the belief that this time, with us and the Americans behind them, they will be on the winning side.

In speech after speech I find the aged Chancellor Adenauer and his ministers appealing to the old German chauvinism, loudly proclaiming their government's refusal to accept the new Eastern frontiers of Germany, demanding the restoration of the lost provinces and, worse still, promising the German people that they are going to achieve all this with Western assistance. Adenauer makes this promise, although it must be clear to him as to everyone else that it can only be redeemed by war. This year addressing Silesians he promised that Silesia would be returned to Germany one day.

Last year - on July 10th 1960, at a rally of 180,000 former inhabitants of East Prussia he announced that "if the German people stands firm with the West, the day will come when East Prussia is united once more with Germany." At this same rally - during which an Army band played martial music and uniformed 'Jungmannen' of the East Prussian youth brigades paraded with the black and white banners of the old expansionist Prussia - Chancellor Adenauer complained that since 1945 the German people had not 'developed a sufficiently strong national feeling'. For me an ominous echo of the reproach I had so often heard Hitler make in his speeches before 1933.

Along with the clamour for the return of the lost provinces goes a state subsidised propaganda operation to keep alive in the nine million former inhabitants of the lost territories now living in West Germany a desire to return to them and recover their lost homesteads from the 'Bolshevik usurpers' - the Poles, the Czechs and the Russians. The campaign has no kind of economic justification. As anyone can see for himself the Heimatuertriebenen, as they are called, are not destitute and unemployed. On the contrary, the vast majority of them are settled in good jobs and doing well, a feat of organisation of which the West German administration has every right to be proud.

Nevertheless, territorial associations of Heimatuertrieb have been formed with financial assistance from both the federal and the various state governments as well as from the Industrialists - the so-called 'Landsmannschaften'. The purpose of these 'Landsmannschaften' is to organise the expellees according to the districts from which they originate and to prevent them from being absorbed into their new West German communities and losing their consciousness of being expellees with a mission to return to their lost homelands. Even the children born to expellee families in West Germany continue to be registered by the federal authorities as expellees.

Any doubts as to the purpose behind all this were dispelled by Dr. Hans Christoph Seebohm, who is both the elected spokesman of the Sudeten German Landsmannschaft and the Minister of Transport in Chancellor Adenauer's Cabinet. "The Sudeten Germans cannot allow themselves to be swallowed up in the great German people," cried Seebohm at a meeting of Sudeten Germans in Bad Godesberg on March the 27th last year. "They have a task to fulfil...We stand in the foremost front, we are the vanguard in the fight to shake off the yoke of Bolshevik colonialism from Eastern Europe..."

To keep alive in the German public as a whole the urge to recover the lost provinces, and the illusion that this will be achieved with allied (NATO) help, Soviet Germany is never allowed to be referred to in West German publications as East Germany, but always a Middle Germany. In many of the big cities of West Germany you see signposts 'To Koenigsberg', 'to Breslau', 'To Danzig' - all of them former German towns now occupied by the Russians or the Poles. Politicians who dare advocate the acceptance of the new frontier are dubbed as 'Verzichtspolitiker', 'renunciation men', and that epithet in Bonn has come to mean the equivalent of traitor.

I find it disturbingly significant that the men chosen to lead the Landsmannschaften and the various militant leagues within them include many professional agitators who as National Socialists conducted Hitler's 'Home into the Reich' nerve war in the Sudetenland and Danzig and then became the commissars of his terror rule in subjugated Czechoslovakia and Poland.

For me, this German irredentist movement is a tragic disappointment. I had hoped that Konrad Adenauer, a Rhineland Catholic and a long-time opponent of Hitler, would want to demonstrate his country's desire to atone for the enormities it committed against its eastern neighbours, just as it has done its best to atone for those committed against the Jews.

I had expected him to accept with statesmanly realism and moderation, the losses of territory - much of it land which Prussia had won by conquest during the last 200 years - which the defeat of Hitler's aggression inevitably imposed. Instead Adenauer, in the complacency of his American backing has proclaimed himself the champion of a 'no compromise' policy towards the Soviet East.

He believes that Krushchev's occasional gestures in favour of relaxation of East West tension are motivated both by a Soviet sense of weakness and by Soviet guile. As he said in a letter to The Daily Express on July 30th 1960 "these gestures are partly due to the pressure of the forces of freedom," partly to Krushchev's "hope to achieve relaxation on the basis of the present world situation and to hold fast to the booty of so many broken agreements and measures of force." And he concluded avidly that "We have no reason to fall in with these Soviet plans."

It is of course only too possible that these claims of Adenauer's that the Soviets are on the retreat, that the West must not compromise on the basis of the present frontiers are not put forward seriously. It is possible that they are just part of a charade with which the old man hopes to win the votes of the nine million expellees in the next elections. And also to keep the cold war going which has been so profitable for him and his regime. But charade or no charade it is a desperately dangerous illusion to feed to the easily deluded Germans.

In my view we should take immediate steps to kill it, and liberate the Germans from this illusion. How? By following the example of General de Gaulle and stating even more unambiguously than he did, that we have no intention of challenging or revising the existing Western frontiers of Eastern Europe. That we accept them as they are.

Some Western politicians and diplomats, with whom I have discussed this suggestion, argue that we should not make this 'concession' to the Communists without extracting a concession in return. They say that we must make no move 'weakening', as they see it, the Western position at an eventual peace settlement with the Russians over Germany. I disagree. For this is not a concession we are making to the Kremlin, but an assurance we are giving to our former allies, the peoples of Poland and Czechoslovakia, that we have no intention of supporting a new German attack against them. We need no reciprocal concession from Moscow. For such a Western declaration will bring its own reward. The removal from the Poles and Czechs of the German threat will free these subject nations from the one emotional tie that still links them to their Soviet overlords - the fear that a German army supported by the vast power of the West will one day return to carry out the conquest in which Hitler failed.

For the Germans too, I am convinced, such a declaration will bring relief. For with this declaration - which their government will be forced to accept, if it does not wish to be isolated - they will at last be freed of the dead hand of Hitler which today still guides their Eastern policy, Germany will at last become what I have always longed for it to be. It will become a true member of the Western alliance, like the rest of us without ambitions of territorial expansion and without a vested interest in a continuance of East-West tension.

Then at last we shall have the certainty, that in standing up to Soviet or Soviet satellite pressure in the area of Germany - over West Berlin for example - we shall be doing so for the defence of a peaceful non-aggressive and non-expansionist West and that we are not inadvertently becoming the tools of a new German Drang nach Osten.

Believe me, I do not advocate this course from any under­estimation of the duplicity and ruthlessness of the Communists. I have seen the Communists in action all through my adult life. I have seen their treacherous seizure of Eastern Europe in the upheavals that followed Hitler's defeat. I have watched them at work in China and Malaya, in Korea and the Middle East.

I am well aware that the Russians have been conditioned to be the Prussians of today.

I have seen the savagery with which they suppress rebellions of the peoples they have subjugated. For I was in Poland on the day of the desperately courageous rising of the Poles in Posnan. And I was the only West European reporter in Budapest to march with the demonstrators at the beginning of the even more incredible and glorious revolt of the Hungarians. I saw them both put down in bloody massacres.

Let me tell my German neighbours who so credulously expect the return of Silesia because Adenauer has promised it: much of this Russo-Communist horror is a legacy of the folly and treachery of the power-drunk German illusionists of the past and the docility with which the gifted and kindly German people allows itself to be stampeded into aggression and injustice.

And I say with all urgency that we must act now before it is too late. We must make sure that we do not let German illusionists contribute to the launching of a third catastrophe. So that if war does come, we can go into it with consciences clear of complicity in motives of conquest and re-conquest.

Let us liberate Germany from its dangerous illusions.



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