I – THE HIGH COST OF VENGEANCE by Freda Utley FredaUtley.com
Introduction —–The Road to War
Following World War I France and Britain refused to listen to the statesmen who said that you can have peace or vengeance, not both. They broke their armistice pledge to Germany that peace would be made on the basis of President Wilson’s Fourteen Points and “the principles of settlement enunciated” by the American President.* They continued the starvation blockade of Germany for six months after the Armistice, in order to force the German democrats who had taken over the government to sign a dictated peace. Having promised a peace without annexations or indemnities, they deprived Germany of territory and imposed a crushing reparations burden on the newly established Weimar Republic. Having promised general disarmament they disarmed Germany without disarming themselves. The victors refused even to discuss the terms of peace with the vanquished who had surrendered on stated conditions which were not fulfilled, and in general discredited democracy in German eyes by associating it with broken pledges, national humiliation, and economic distress.
- Referring to the Armistice, Maynard Keynes in 1919 wrote in his prophetic book The Economic Consequences of the Peace: “The nature of the contract between Germany and the allies . . . is plain and unequivocal. The terms of the peace are to be in accordance with the addresses of the President, and the purpose of the peace conference is “to discuss the details of their applications.’ The circumstances of the contract were of an unusually solemn and binding character; for one of the conditions of it was that Germany should agree to Armistice Terms which were to be such as would leave her helpless. The honor of the allies was (thus) peculiarly involved in fulfilling their part, and if there were ambiguities, in not using their position to take advantage of them.”
The Nazi movement, born from the dragon seeds planted at Versailles, and brought to monstrous growth by the world depression which raised the total number of unemployed in Germany to six million, took power at the moment of Europe’s and America’s greatest economic crisis. Inevitably, the Second World War followed the first after an interval of only twenty years.
Instead of learning that you cannot build confidence and security, democracy and prosperity, on a foundation of hatred and vengeance, the victorious allies this time have torn Germany apart, deprived her of all possibility of existence without exterior aid, and while unable to agree among themselves on a peace treaty, have jointly reduced the defeated enemy country to the status of an African colony.
History is repeating itself with results likely to be even more tragic for Europe than the events which led up to World War II. Once again the victorious allies are making it impossible for the Germans to place their faith in democracy and justice, since they find justice denied and democracy mocked by the occupying powers. Once again the German democrats are in danger of yielding right of way to the totalitarians because legal methods and appeals to justice are again failing to obtain a fair deal for the German people. Last time we produced Hitler; this time we may succeed in giving Stalin hegemony over all Europe.
If France, following World War I, had been prepared to treat Germany as generously and intelligently as England had treated France after Napoleon’s defeat, Europe might have known another century of peace, as the Anglo-French collaboration which succeeded centuries of rivalry and war between England and France. Instead, France sought a fictitious security by disarming the Teutonic giant while giving him every reason to plot for revenge.
The crushing burden of reparations the Germans were required to pay, and the denial to Germany of a secure and honorable status among the nations of Europe, so enfeebled German democracy that the Nazis won power and France was overwhelmed by the forces she herself had created.
It may be true that the lesson to be learned from history is that mankind learns nothing from it. But the explanation for the failure of the Western democracies to read the less on of the immediate past seems mainly due to the effect of war propaganda and the ignorance or lack of integrity of the molders of public opinion.
The pen is still mightier than the sword and responsible for more human misery when unscrupulously employed in “psychological warfare.” As Samuel Johnson wrote in the eighteenth century: “I know not whether more is to be feared from streets filled with soldiers accustomed to plunder, or from garrets filled with scribblers accustomed to lie.”
War propaganda, and the falsification of history indulged in by a multitude of journalists, authors, professors, and politicians has convinced the American public that the Germans have a peculiar aversion to democracy and are an innately aggressive people who will always attempt to rule the world unless kept down and taught to love democracy by a long period of instruction in a reformatory.
Only those who have studied the history of Europe know that Germany did not become a militarist nation until centuries of French aggression, from the days of Richelieu to Napoleon’s conquests, had caused a reaction which enabled Prussia to forge the modern German state out of the disunited and powerless congeries of kingdoms, principalities, and free cities, which constituted “the Germanies” before the French Revolution.
Americans who have had it dinned into their ears for years that Germany has attacked France three times within living memory will be astonished at reading what was said at the time in Britain and the United States about the France-Prussian War.
The London Times on July 16, 1870, wrote as follows:
The greatest national crime that we have had the pain of recording in these columns since the days of the First French Empire has been consummated. War is declared – an unjust, but premeditated war. The dire calamity, which overwhelms Europe with dismay, is, it is now too clear, the act of France, of one man in France. It is the ultimate result of personal rule.
There can be no doubt as to the side on which the world’s sympathies will be enlisted, and, whatever may on former occasions have been the offenses of Prussia, she will in this instance have on her side all that moral support which is seldom denied to those who take up arms in self-defense.*
- Cited in Gustav Stolper, German Realities (New York, Reynal & Hitchcock, 1948), p. 218.
George Bancroft, the U.S. Minister in Berlin, reported as follows:
The leading statesmen as well as public opinion in America regard the present war essentially as an act of self-defense on Germany’s part, and the outstanding task is to insure Germany permanently, by a better system of frontiers, against new wars of aggression on the part of her western neighbors, of which the past three centuries have brought so large a number.
The tragedy of modern history is that the Germans have always been kicked around when they were pacifically minded, with the natural result that the apostles of violence have again and again won the leadership of the nation, following the failure of the democrats and antimilitarists to win a fair deal for the German people, or protect them from attack.
Having finally girded their loins to resist French aggression and force France to abandon her centuries-old ambition to establish her hegemony over the Continent, the Germans proceeded, once Bismarck’s influence was withdrawn, to follow in France’s footsteps. Nevertheless the popular conception on the Germans as the cause of all recent wars is erroneous. In the half century which elapsed between the Franco-Prussian War and World War I, Germany was at peace, whereas Britain and France conquered most of Africa and extended their Asiatic colonial empires; Russia fought Turkey and Japan; and the United States acquired new territory by wars with Spain and Mexico.
Having both studied and taught history at London university in the twenties, when war passions had cooled, and having had the privilege of knowing the eminent British historian, Dr. G.P. Gooch, who with other scholars was establishing the facts concerning the causes of World War I, I am also aware that Germany cannot be regarded as solely responsible for the first act in the Tragedy of Western Civilization. Diplomatic documents made public by the Bolsheviks, together with those from the Vienna archives, proved that Tsarist Russia and the Hapsburgs were more responsible for the outbreak of the war than Germany.
As Gustav Stolper has written:
Not one historian of international repute of any nationality during the twenties and early thirties maintained that Germany alone was responsible, while several outstanding historians, particularly British and American, went far in establishing Germany’s comparative innocence.*
- Ibid., p. 221
The facts of history were overlaid by propaganda during World War II and are today forgotten. But no one can deny that after their defeat in World War I, the Germans for a time swung back and embraced pacifism and democracy with the same fervor as they had formerly followed their militarists. The Constitution of the Weimar Republic guaranteed so many freedoms that it allowed license to both Communists and Nazis, first to undermine and finally to destroy the German Republic.
The Weimar Republic might have survived its own inner weaknesses, if France had been willing to bury the hatchet and pursue as enlightened a policy toward Germany as the British, who soon after the war’s end realized the stupidity of stifling the democratic forces in Germany by the full implementation of the Versailles Treaty.
In 1923 the French, against British advice, occupied the Ruhr in their efforts to squeeze blood out of a stone and obtain the huge reparations the German Republic could not possibly pay. The Germans countered this high-handed action by a general strike in the Ruhr which, although it eventually forced the French to retreat, toppled Germany over into bankruptcy. The runaway inflation which resulted ruined the middle classes and laid the basis for the Nazi movement. At the same time the misery of the working classes drove many to abandon Social-Democratic leadership and follow the Communists.
The intervention of America postponed the crisis for a decade. American loans and credits rescued the Weimar Republic and enabled Germany to pay a scaled-down annual indemnity, while also presenting an appearance of prosperity. There remained a hard core of unemployment amounting to about two million, but German industry was re-equipped and rationalized with the help of American loans.
Germany’s hope of meeting her obligations depended on expanding world trade and continuing American credits. The world economic crisis drastically reduced German exports, brought an end to American credits, and destroyed any possibility of Germany’s being able to pay either reparations or interest on her loans.
The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act in the United States and the 1931 Ottawa Conference which raised a tariff wall around the British Empire, completed the ruin of German democracy. Germany’s export trade was reduced by half, and unemployment, bank failures, and bankruptcies produced such desperation on all sides that the extremists on the right and the left were able to destroy the democratic parties which had strained so hard, and under such tremendous handicaps, to make the German people reject militarism and place their trust in a rational and peaceful world order.
President Hoover endeavored to prevent the crisis in Germany and all Europe by his moratorium on international debts. President Roosevelt, by torpedoing the London Economic Conference and devaluating the dollar, gave a further mighty impetus to the economic warfare which was the curtain-raiser to the tragedy of World War II.
In desperate economic distress, disarmed and denied equal rights with other nations, with half its industrial population unemployed, and possessing no such imperial revenues as Britain, France, Holland, and Belgium to support its workless millions, Germany succumbed to Hitler. The false Messiah who promised “work and bread,” and a free strong Germany in place of the impotent Weimar Republic, extinguished German democracy.
The Nazis not only took advantage of economic distress. They played upon national resentments and fears. As H.A.L. Fisher, the eminent British historian, wrote in his History of Europe:
The disarmament imposed on Germany by the Treaty of Versailles had never willingly been accepted by a nation of soldiers, and the Germans were entitled to claim, either that they should be allowed to rearm, or that a reduction of armaments should be seriously undertaken by their neighbors. With a rare unanimity of passionate emotion, the youth of Germany claimed equality of treatment, and protested against the continuance of a system which left them helpless before the airplanes, the tanks and the heavy artillery of Poles, Czechs, and Frenchmen. . . . The long delays of the League militated against the authority of the Social democrats who stood for fulfillment of the treaties, and had been prepared to make sacrifices for European peace. For seven years Germany had wooed Geneva, and wooed in vain.
To the Germans, for a few years, it seemed that Hitler was eminently right and the German democrats profoundly wrong. For everything that had been denied to the latter was given to Hitler without a struggle. From 1933 to 1939 the truth of the maxim that “might makes right” and that justice is always denied to the weak, was proved over and over again. The union with Austria, denied to the German democrats when it could have alleviated the economic crisis which was rendering their positions untenable, was permitted to Hitler. The right to self-defense, denied to the Weimar Republic, was not questioned till long after the Nazis had extended it to mean the right to attack others. After Hitler came to power the Germans found themselves able to win every right denied to them when they were democratic.
The German “common man” who had stood idle at street corners or looked vainly for work, and felt himself an outcast in a society which had no use for his labor, now had permanent employment, and a sense of security so long as he obeyed orders.
Whereas the world’s markets had been shut to German exports under the Weimar Republic, Dr. Schacht opened the gates to German trade by his barter treaties concluded outside the international monetary system controlled by London and New York. The Germans, who had suffered great privations when they followed the lead of the Social Democrats, had good jobs and comfortable homes under the Nazis. The price was the loss of freedom but a starving man will always sell his birthright for a mess of pottage.
Hitler is dead and the Nazi bid for world empire has ended in overwhelming defeat and universal hatred of the German people who followed after their false star, and are still held responsible for their crimes. Equally disillusioned by the Nazis and by democracy, the German people today are adrift and hopeless. If democracy could inspire them with hope as strong as that once inspired by the false Nazi prophets, all Europe might be saved. But we, the victors, treat them as a pariah people, and by giving little or no support to the German democrats, demonstrate that the latter are as incapable today as two decades ago, of winning for the Germans the right to work for their own support and be accorded an equal status with other European nations.
Only a little knowledge of history is required to refute the popular belief that the Germans are naturally more aggressive than the French or the English or any other people. Each of these peoples has, in turn, been the aggressor, according to its power, its opportunities, and the ambitions of its rulers.
It serves no purpose to apportion blame, since almost all nations at one time or another, have been aggressors in Europe, Africa, or Asia, and even Americans have waged wars of conquest on their continent. The survival of Western civilization now depends on our ability to forget old injuries, rise above national prejudices, and heal the scars of war. Unless the internecine feuds of Europe are ended and we start acting according to the principles we profess to believe in, the Communists will conquer. The first bad peace produced Hitler; the second is giving us Stalin.
Only a revived faith in the principles we profess to believe in and our determination to put them into practice can preserve Western civilization.
The insidious influence of totalitarian doctrine, and the decay of democratic principles is reflected in the changing attitude of the United States between the two world wars.
During World War I, President Wilson endeavored to make America’s allies listen to the voice of reason and humanity, and appealed for a peace without “annexations and indemnities” to “make the world safe for democracy.” But during and after World War II, the President of the United States became the foremost exponent of the policy of “all spoils to the victors,” and took no account of the Atlantic Charter he had himself drawn up.
It was President Roosevelt who wold out Poland and China at Yalta and delivered Eastern Europe to the Communist terror. It was President Roosevelt who agreed with Stalin that “reparations in kind” should be exacted by the use of Germans as slave laborers. It was also the Democratic President of the United States who sponsored the Morgenthau Plan for the death by starvation of millions of Germans, and agreed to the expropriation and expulsion of millions of Germans from Silesia, East Prussia, the Sudetenland, and the Balkans for the sole crime of belonging to the German “race.”
It was Churchill, the Tory imperialist, not Roosevelt, the American democrat, who stood up to Stalin at Yalta when the dictator of all the Russias proposed the massacre of thousands of German officers after victory.* It was Churchill, not Roosevelt or his “liberal” aides, who tried to save Europe from Communist domination and terror by advocating a strategy which would have kept the Russians out of Eastern Europe, and could have prevented the sacrifices of the war from resulting in nothing but the substitution of one totalitarian tyranny for another.**
- This is not intended as a defense of Winston Churchill who was too shortsighted, or too exhilarated by his own eloquence, to realize the disastrous consequences of all-out aid to Stalin’s Russia. As compared with Franklin D. Roosevelt, however, Churchill can claim to have been a statesman.
** According to the account given by Elliott Roosevelt in As He Saw It (New York, Duell, Sloan & Pearce, 1946).
President Wilson was broken, and died, after his failure either to persuade America’s allies to agree to a just peace, or to get the support of Congress for The League of Nations, which he thought would compensate for the concessions he had been forced to make at Versailles to the greed, fears, and ambitions of the victors.
President Roosevelt died before the consequences of his repudiation of moral values in the treatment of the defeated enemy peoples and his readiness to sacrifice principles and interests in furtherance of his ‘Great Design” had become fully apparent. But before his death he must have known that Stalin would not honor the commitments won from him at the cost of betraying Poland and China, delivering Eastern Europe to Communist rule, and putting the Soviet dictator in a position to menace all Europe while taking over China.
Both Democratic Presidents failed; but Wilson had fought for justice, whereas Roosevelt had sacrificed it to expediency and staked the future of the world on what he himself admitted was a gamble and on his faith in his ability to charm the Soviet dictator.
The consequences of Roosevelt’s “successes” were more disastrous than Wilson’s failures. The United Nations proved from its inception to be a greater failure than Wilson’s League of Nations and has already in effect been discarded in favor of the Atlantic Pact with the enemies of Soviet Russia.
The contract between the attitude and aims of Wilson and Roosevelt was a reflection of the changed philosophy of the liberals. During and after World War I the liberals pleaded for a just peace, eschewed national and racial prejudices, and endeavored to combat the influence of nationalism and war-fostered hatred among peoples. But during and after World War II, so-called liberals and progressives took the lead in demanding the crucifixion of the whole German people.
If the forces of Western democracy have been weakened by the influence of totalitarians masquerading as liberals, or corrupted by Communist influence, the Communists have lost part of their strength by having divested communism of its original humanitarian content and international appeal.
None but the ignorant, the blind, and a few self-seeking men of large ambition and little talent now believe, that communism offers mankind a more just social order or greater equality between men, nations and races.
The difference in the attitude and policies of the Communists today and twenty years ago is best illustrated by their behavior toward Germany. Here the contract between past and present attitudes, and professed ideals and present practices, is most clearly displayed.
In 1917 Lenin proclaimed the unity of the “workers of the world,” denounced the war as an imperialist struggle, and offered the hand of friendship to the German people while repudiating the nationalist war aims of both the Tsarist and Kerensky governments. Under his leadership the Communists were internationalists in both theory and practice. They had no more enmity toward the German people than toward any other because they regarded “the masses” in every country as the victims of “capitalist tyranny” and “imperialist ambition.”
A quarter of a century later, Stalin, having built on the foundations laid by Lenin, but with a totally different conception of the structure which was to be erected, had transformed Russia into a national-socialist state, and was wreaking a terrible vengeance on the whole German people for having followed its own National Socialist leaders instead of Russia’s. And whereas Lenin had renounced all the territorial ambitions of the Tsars, Stalin was demanding all and more than they had ever dreamed of acquiring in Europe and Asia.
The degeneration of Communism and of democracy having proceeded on parallel lines, it was natural that the Western Powers and Soviet Russia could agree only upon one thing: vengence upon their defeated enemies. Communism having become a synonym for the interests of the rulers of Russia and democracy having succumbed to the insidious poison of national hatred, the victors of World War II combined to despoil and enslave the Germans.
Whereas hatred is a powerful weapon in the hands of the Communists, it debilitates the enemies of tyranny. Our hands have been tied by our intimate association with the tyrants whose only quarrel with Hitler was his refusal to make common cause with Russia’s national socialists.
Communism has lost the liberal savor which once gave it moral force. But its appeal has not yet been nullified by its inhuman acts and its prostitution in the interests of Stalin’s dictatorship. Stalin was wiser than Hitler, who ignored Machiavelli’s precept that to succeed a tyrant must either kill off all opposition or conciliate his enemies. Whereas the number of victims consigned to Soviet concentration camps who have escaped is infinitesimal, many Jews and democrats who had either suffered in Hitler’s prisons or had friends or relatives in them, were allowed to go abroad and tell the world about Nazi atrocities. Hence the widespread knowledge of Nazi crimes and the little information in democratic countries concerning the torture and death of the millions of victims of Communist tyranny.
Because Hitler was a little less ruthless, or efficient, than Stalin in exterminating his enemies, the atrocities committed by the Soviet Government are far less widely known than the record of Nazi crime. This is the one reason why the echo or communism’s original humanitarian and international appeal still evokes a response among idealists who know nothing, and refuse to learn anything, about Stalin’s Russia. But the main appeal of communism today is to the most irrational and destructive impulses to which human nature is heir. By playing upon our hatreds and passions the Communists foster and inflame class, racial and national antagonisms, and cause us to act against our own interests and the cause of freedom. Since the war’s end they have been successful in propagating the idea that mercy, justice, charity, and goodwill are signs of “fascist” sympathies.
Years ago, when I went to live in the Soviet Union, the Communist attitude toward Menschlichkeit (humane behavior) was first revealed to me by the notice I read in Sevastopol under the portrait of a certain Russian general who commanded the Tsar’s troops in the Crimean War: “General X was a most dangerous enemy of the working class; by treating his soldiers kindly he sought to dull their class consciousness.”
Since the Communist aim is to perpetuate or create the conditions of chaos and misery which alone can give them the opportunity to seize power, it is natural that they should not only oppose the Marshall Plan but also exert their influence to exacerbate the old hatreds and resentments which keep their enemies divided.
The best and wisest of the Jewish people cannot be seduced by the Communist appeal to the natural but irrational desire to exact retribution from all Germans for the murder and torture of their race by the Nazis. Intelligent and liberal Jews have been among the leading opponents of the Communists and have rejected the Communist conception of collective guilt and punishment of innocent and guilty alike. But, being human, many Jews are as putty in the hands of the Communists, who appeal to their desire for revenge in order to soften up Europe for Soviet conquest.
The Communists have likewise successfully appealed to the hatred of the Poles, the Czechs, and others who suffered at German hands, using this passion as a means to deliver the “liberated” peoples into Stalin’s hands. Thus the Czechs, who expropriated and expelled the three million people of the Sudetenland, are today themselves being converted into Stalin’s serfs in their own country.
If the influence of the Communists today were confined to those who still believe that the Soviet Union is a “peace loving democracy”, it would be negligible. It is the cleverness of the Communists and their sympathizers and dupes in appealing to our irrational and destructive impulses which is weakening the democratic world.
Stalin is in the enviable position of having two hands to use for the destruction of the free world. As head of the Russian State he is offering the German people the opportunity to revenge themselves on the West by allying themselves with Soviet Russia. Hoping to harness German nationalism to his chariot, he gives former Nazis honorable and well-paid positions in the German Communist “police” forces which are in fact an army, and in the Communist universities and administrative offices of the Soviet zone. Soviet Russia’s appeal today in Germany is mainly addressed to former Nazis who are welcomed into the ranks of their ideological brothers in the Communist party.
At the same time, as “pope” of the Communist “church,” which is supposed to transcend national barriers, Stalin instructs the faithful in other lands to demand the implementation of policies calculated to drive the Germans to side with Soviet Russia because they despair of ever being allowed to earn a living under Western military occupation.
This double game would be too obvious to be successful, were it not for the influential writers, radio commentators, professors, and other molders of public opinion who have allowed themselves to be influenced by the Communists, either because they are ignorant, or because they are ambitious, or because of the skill of the Communists in playing upon national and racial hatreds and keeping alive the passions engendered by the recent war. The American people would by now have learned the self-defeating nature of United States policy toward Germany, were it not for the influence of Communist sympathizers, spread in manifold and subtle ways in newspapers, periodicals, and books; by popular lectures and the teachings of university professors; among Senators, Congressmen, and businessmen fearful of the stigma of red-baiting attached to those who question the Communist definition of “liberalism” and “progress.”
The Communists and their hangers-on have succeeded in convincing a large number of Americans that justice and mercy are “reactionary,” and sympathy for the underdog a sign of “fascist sympathies.” They almost succeeded in convincing a majority of Americans that vengeance on the defeated, even at the cost of imposing a crushing burden on the American taxpayer, is the way to secure peace.
Communist influence, so strong in the Roosevelt era, has been largely responsible for our treatment of Germany, and our repetition in exaggerated form of the mistakes made by France and England after World War I. Nor is this influence now dead, in spite of the growing awareness of the American people of the danger it constitutes.
French influence has reinforced that of the Communists to convince the American people that Germany should be kept disarmed and deprived of liberty and sufficient industrial capacity to exist without American subsidies – a policy which must eventually succeed in forcing the Germans to side with Soviet Russia.
We have not only, once again, imposed a crushing reparations burden on the German people. This time we have also deprived an already overpopulated Germany of the territory without which her people cannot be fed, and of the industries which could produce the exports with which to buy the food otherwise unobtainable. Not satisfied with having put Russia in direct control of Eastern Germany which formerly supplied Western Germany with food, we agreed to the expulsion of more than twelve million Germans from Silesia, which we gave to Poland; from the Sudetenland inhabited by Germans for centuries past; and from Yugoslavia and other East European countries with minorities of German “racial” origin.
If ever the history of our times comes to be written by scholars free of national prejudices, the “crimes against humanity” committed by the victors of the second World War of the twentieth century A.D., will appear as equal to those committed by the Nazis. For an objective observer of the “crimes, follies, and cruelties of mankind” cannot deny that the expropriations and expulsion from their homes of millions of people for the sole crime of belonging to the German “race” was an atrocity comparable with the extermination of the Jews and the massacres of the Poles and Russians by the Nazis. The women and children who died of hunger and cold on the long trek from Silesia and the Sudetenland to what remained of the German Reich, may have thought that a quick death in a gas chamber would have been comparatively merciful.
Nor will that mythical person, the historian of the future, when he comes to draw up the balance sheet between Nazi crimes and those of their conquerors, fail to register against the democracies our decision to halt our armies on the Elbe in order to allow the Red Army to sack and ravish Berlin.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery no one ever paid a higher compliment to the Nazis than their conquerors.
Instead of acting according to the democratic principles we had gone to war to preserve, we tore up the Atlantic Charter and copied the Nazis in our repudiation of international law.
Instead of demonstrating our belief in the Christian and liberal principles which had made America the strongest power in the world, we reaffirmed the Nazi doctrine that “might makes right.” Instead of showing the Germans that Hitler’s racial theories were both wrong and ridiculous, we ourselves assumed the role of a master race. Instead of establishing a rule of law according to which individuals are punished only for the crimes they themselves have committed, and only after proof of their guilt has been established, we have indicted the whole German nation for Hitler’s crimes.
We told the cold and hungry Germans in the cities shattered by our “obliteration” bombing that they could expect neither justice nor mercy, but that although we had disenfranchised them as punishment for Nazi crimes, we would teach them to love democracy.
Instead of recognizing that their “unconditional surrender” put us under a moral and legal obligation to ensure a fair deal for the German people, we did exactly the opposite. We proclaimed at Nuremberg that we no longer considered ourselves bound by the Hague or Geneva conventions because Germany had surrendered unconditionally, but that we would punish all Germans for having similarly disregarded international law when they were the victors.
The original directives given to the United States occupation forces ordered them to do nothing to revive the German economy, and disclaimed all responsibility for the feeding of the conquered, although we had ourselves insisted during the war that Germany must provide enough food for the people of the countries she had occupied, however impossible this was, owing to our blockade. And it was agreed at Potsdam that the victors were entitled to exact reparations in kind in the form of forced labor – a provision taken full advantage of by the Russians who have held millions of prisoners of war as slave laborers and conscripted men and women in their zone to work in chain gangs or concentration camps.
The soldiers of the United States were told that they were entering Germany not as liberators but as conquerors. The task of the occupation forces was conceived of as entirely negative. It was to demilitarize, denazify, decentralize, and deindustrialize the defeated enemy country. Nothing wa to be done to make the Germans believe that the victory of the democracies offered freedom, hope, or justice. Instead, we proceeded to teach the Germans that their dead Fuhrer had been right in saying that if Germany failed to conquer she would be destroyed. “Woe to the vanquished” was our motto as it had been Hitler’s.
For three years after their unconditional surrender we kept the Germans on rations little or no larger than those in Nazi concentration camps. All Germans, even those who emerged from Hitler’s prisons, were starved and humiliated.
Germans were forbidden on pain of imprisonment to criticize the Soviet Union or complain of its inhuman treatment of those we had delivered over to the Communist terror. American and German Communists and fellow travelers were installed in influential positions in the Military Government, in the German state and town administrations, on denazification boards, and as newspaper editors and managers of radio stations. We did our best to convince the Germans that we had no objection to totalitarian doctrines and practices so long as they served the interests of Soviet Russia instead of those of German nationalism.
We not only made a mockery of our democratic professions by the power and influence we accorded to both American and German Communists, we also taught American youth to abjure the principles the American people had been told they were fighting to preserve.
American soldiers on entering Germany were given indoctrination courses in hatred, and taught to have no mercy or pity in dealing with the wicked German “race,” just as young Nazis had been taught to hate and abhor the Jews. “The Morgenthau Plan,” approved of by President Roosevelt at Quebec, was the basis of the Army’s notorious order JCS 1067 which laid down the pattern of our original occupation policy. The Morgenthau Plan for the pastoralization of Germany, had it been carried out, would have constituted the greatest act of genocide perpetrated in modern times. The Germans would have been deprived of almost all their industries, and, since their soil is incapable of supporting more than the present agricultural population, at least thirty million people would have died of starvation.
The humanitarian scruples of the American people prevented the execution of this infamous plan. Unfortunately, however, JSC 1067 remained as the textbook of our occupation forces until 1947. According to this Army order issued to General Eisenhower in April 1945, “no steps looking toward the economic rehabilitation of Germany or designed to maintain or strengthen the German economy” were to be taken. Military Government was explicitly instructed to “prohibit and prevent” production in a long and comprehensive list of industries.
The food consumption of the German people was to be held down to a minimum with “surpluses” made available to the occupying forces and displaced persons. With a total disregard of the fact that a Germany deprived of her eastern bread basket by the Russian occupation and by the Polish seizure of Silesia had no possibility of feeding herself even at a near-starvation level, it was decreed that ration scales should be set low enough to permit the use of “net surpluses” for the sustenance of the occupation forces and displaced persons and for export.
Army order J CS 1067 explicitly states that “Germany will not be occupied for the purpose of liberation, but as a defeated enemy nation.” It went on to say that reparations and restitutions were to be exacted, and no political activity permitted. “Fraternization” with the enemy was strictly forbidden. We were determined to out-Nazi the Nazis in our own treatment of the conquered.
American soldiers were threatened with punishment should they behave like Americans and aid the destitute and helpless. Kindness, even to German children, was held to be a misdemeanor. GI’s were forbidden to take a morsel of food off their plates to give to the starving, and mess sergeants were instructed to throw away food left over, not to let any Germans have it. Even the gift of coffee grounds to the Germans was forbidden.
Not only was charity forbidden and pity regarded as un-American, GI’s and officers, if not positively encouraged to loot, were in no way discouraged from committing the same excesses as the Russians and French. Today the verb “liberate” has become an army colloquialism for stealing.
Since every army contains a percentage of gangsters and criminal elements, there is always some looting in an occupied enemy country and a certain amount of brutal mishandling of the civilian population. The instructions given by Washington to the United States Army positively encouraged the licentious and brutal minority and penalized the decent, law abiding, and humane majority.
It is to the credit of the American people that in spite of the Roosevelt-Morgenthau directives, put into operation by General Eisenhower without protest, large numbers of American soldiers insisted on behaving like Christian gentlemen. Many succored the hungry and defenseless Germans in spite of the regulations against it. Others were impelled by the impulse which in all ages has broken the barriers between conquerors and conquered.
Americans in the occupation forces might enjoy the status of “sons of heaven,” but like the angels they looked upon the daughters of earth and saw that they were fair. It was impossible to prevent GI’s who were far from home and sick of war to carry the demands of vengeance to the extent of rejecting association with ill-fed but neat German women or refusing candy to starving German children. Neither army regulations nor the propaganda of hatred in the American press could prevent American soldiers from liking and associating with German women, who although they were driven by hunger to become prostitutes, preserved a certain innate decency, and by responding to kindness with affection and loyalty, often won the love of American boys who had started out only to enjoy the pleasures which war affords to the victors.
Because of the natural kindness of the Americans, the call of human nature, and the qualities of German women, the inhuman and unrealistic directives given by Washington to the United States occupation forces were from the beginning more honored in the breach than in observance.
The futility of telling Americans to act like Nazis, Communists, or robots led at an early stage to the cancellation of the nonfraternization decrees.
Meanwhile, the utter absurdity of the Morgenthau Plan and the high cost of vengeance was becoming obvious in America.
Far from realizing “surpluses,” Western Germany had to be supplied with American food to prevent “disease and unrest” dangerous to the occupation forces.
Americans had not been sufficiently indoctrinated with totalitarian concepts of collective punishment to be inflicted on innocent and guilty alike to enable them to condemn millions of people to death by starvation, even if this policy had not involved risks to the occupation forces. Humanitarian sentiment was reinforced by the dangers to which American soldiers were exposed. Germs disregard racial barriers or those dividing “good” and “bad” nations, and it was also realized that starving people might prefer a quick death by attacking their conquerors to a slow lingering one. So the American taxpayer was called upon to provide just enough food to keep the Germans alive and submissive and to prevent epidemics. Gradually also, the influence of so-called liberals and “New Deal” advocates of the theory that we should love Communists and hate all Germans, declined.
The original pattern of the United States occupation had been set at a time when propaganda had convinced a large number of Americans that Soviet Russia is a “peace-loving” power and an example of a “new and better” democratic way of life, and had induced the majority of Americans to believe that Stalin could be trusted to honor his commitments.
After the Soviet Government made it increasingly obvious that it was irrevocably hostile to the Western democracies and had no more intention of observing its treaties with us than those it had formerly signed with its European neighbors, the most loving “friends of the Soviet Union” were compelled to think again. Those who were not Communists were forced to admit that the assumptions on which United States policy had been based since 1941 might conceivably be false. As the menace of Soviet aggression grew, the assumption that the Germans were the root of all evil crumbled. As it became more and more apparent that the Soviet Union menaced the whole world, it became clear that what was left of Europe must be defended against Russia even at the cost of forgiving the German people for their error in following Nazi leadership, and admitting them into the community of free Western nations.
Understanding of the terrible present danger which Communism constitutes to freedom everywhere in the world, combined with the American taxpayers’ realization of the cost of vengeance, combined to modify our German policy. The Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of Europe, which included Germany as the recipient of American ECA assistance, took the place of the Morgenthau Plan for “keeping Germany in chains and Europe in rags.”
The need for a complete repudiation of the totalitarian concepts which originally inspired our occupation policy is not, however, recognized even today.
As soon as I arrived in Germany in August 1948 I realized that the assumption at home that the Marshall Plan has completely superseded the Morgenthau Plan is a delusion. United States policy had changed, and compared to the first years of the occupation it had become humane and intelligent. But the basic pattern remained the same.
The adherents of the Morgenthau Plan, although they no longer directed United States occupation policies, still influenced it and could be found occupying important positions in Military Government. The Communists and their sympathizers were no longer permitted to hold leading positions in Germany; but they were still able to work through so-called liberals who have been persuaded that advocacy of a humane and constructive policy in Germany is a sign of reactionary sympathies.
Waning Communist influence has been reinforced by French intransigeance and the British desire to eliminate German competition in the markets of the world. Thus dismantlement and other measures which debilitate Germany, weaken Europe, place ever increasing burdens on America, and pave the way for a Communist conquest of the world, are still being implemented.
This book does not attempt to deal with all aspects of the German problem. It aims only to show the American people the cost of vengeance, now and in the future. That cost cannot be appraised only in economic terms. The moral, political, and military consequences of denying to the Germans, not only liberty, but also the right to earn a living and the right of self-defense, may lead to the destruction of Western civilization, unless America is made aware in time of the need to implement in Europe the principles which have made her great.