Berlin

on the World Today

BERLIN has lately been a forgotten sentinel, on everlasting outpost duty deep in potential enemy territory. But Berlin retains one big advantage — it is a peephole into the Eastern world and a furtive meeting place for the people of both Germanies. East Berlin mirrors East Germany more nearly than West Berlin mirrors the Federal Republic. Here one can best assess Germany’s drift away from national unity, as the division of Germany becomes daily more absolute.

Personal stories best illustrate the starkness of the division of Germany. Here are three:

In West Germany there is rule of law. In East Germany asthmatic Ernst Wollweber recently had to give up his post of minister of state security. His successor was 52-year-old “Revolver Erich” Mielke, who distinguished himself twenty-six years ago by slaying two Berlin police officers, Captains Anlauf and Lenk. Anlauf was too tough with Communist rowdies; Lenk happened to be walking with him across the Billow Platz when Mielke shot them both in the back. Mielke took his orders on that occasion from Walter Ulbricht, now deputy prime minister of East Germany.

In West Germany there is freedom of speech. In East Germany an old-guard Communist and Spanish War veteran, Alfred Kantoriwitz, found himself a few months ago at odds with the system. He refused to sign a manifesto drawn up by fellow intellectuals (he is a poet and historian, and was head of the Germanistics Institute of East Berlin’s Humboldt University) and directed against the Hungarian patriots. He even dared to propose the disgraced Georg Lucacz, the Hungarian philosopher, for a Nobel Prize. For that he had to flee for his life to West Germany. Previously he had only sought refuge from the enemies of Communism.

In West Germany there is a right of political asylum. Rudolf Paul, until then prime minister of East German Thuringia, claimed this right on September 1, 1947. More than ten years later, on November 5, the High Court in West German Hesse granted him recognition as a genuine refugee. Could anything better illustrate how alien Germans are becoming to other Germans?

Keystone of the Soviet bloc?

It has sometimes been supposed that East Germany might, sooner or later, become too much of a burden to the Soviet Union. Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, for instance, believes this, and as late as last summer West German newspapers were publishing reports of approaching political revolution and economic catastrophe in East Germany.

But recent developments suggest that, far from becoming a burden, East Germany is to an increasing extent becoming the keystone of the satellite bloc and of Soviet policies in Central Europe. Last January an agreement was signed defining the status of Soviet troops in Germany and making them liable for trial in German courts for civil offenses. In June Polish Prime Minister Wladislaw Gomulka visited East Berlin at the insistence of Nikita Khrushchev. He signed a trade agreement with East German Prime Minister Otto Grotewohl, promised full coöperation between the two countries, and confirmed the permanence of the Oder-Neisse Line as Germany’s eastern frontier.

On August 7 Khrushchev himself came to Berlin and spoke in the East German Parliament. He gave his full support to the Grotewohl Plan for the creation of a German Confederation, in which both German states would retain their own administrations, laws, and economic setups. The Grotcwohl Plan laid down three conditions for the formation of the confederation: phased withdrawal of the armed forces of the great powers from Germany, a ban on the production and storing of nuclear weapons on German soil, and the withdrawal of West Germany from NATO. Khrushchev backed the plan and repeated the now standard Soviet demand for all-German talks as the necessary preliminary to German reunification.

The Kremlin puts on the heat

On September 20 the Soviet Union formally recognized the absolute sovereignty of the East German Republic. This step suggests that German reunification, on any terms, has been written off in Moscow. It was only natural that Khrushchev should then have put pressure to bear on Marshal Tito to recognize the East German Republic. Yugoslavia did this on October 14, and a few days later the Federal Republic reluctantly found itself forced to break off diplomatic relations with Yugoslavia.

Full of high hopes, East German trade missions have since gone to Egypt, India, and Syria, seeking recognition of the East German Republic by countries outside the Communist bloc.

It is always possible for the Soviet Union to organize events in the interests of a puppet state. It is less easy for the Soviet Union, thus far, to ensure that puppet’s material progress. East Germany has suffered more than any other satellite from Communist economic rule — from the drift of skilled labor to the more attractive West German market, from exploitation of its most valuable resources, from the contradictions of economic despotism and an enduring lack of real patriotism. East Germany’s population is actually declining. For instance, that of two of its few big cities, Dresden and Chemnitz, has fallen by 13,000 and 8000 respectively in the last four years. Would it not, therefore, be reasonable to expect its economy to decline too? That, at any rate, is one of Konrad Adenauer’s hopes.

To a great extent East Germany’s continued existence as a state will depend on its economic viability. The Soviet Union would not welcome, and might even have to discard, the dead weight of an economically bankrupt East Germany. But the economic value of a prosperous East Germany to the Communist bloc is considerable.

The East German is still conditioned to austerity. He can buy a liter of milk for each of his children at a cut rate of 25 pfennigs, or 6 cents. But the three liters a head which he must buy additionally cost 1.20 marks, or 28 cents, each. One pound of beef costs the equivalent of 40 cents on the ration, but $1.30 on the free market. The corresponding prices for butter arc 50 cents and $1.70, and for sugar, 13 cents and 36 cents. And the basic rations for meat, fat, and sugar are only 2.7, 1.8, and 2.4 pounds a month. Free market prices, like those of 60 cents for a half liter of Pilsener lager and $2.50 for a square meal at a restaurant, are out of line with industrial workers’ average wages of only $100 to $120 a month.

At the Munich October Festival, the traditional fare is chicken roasted on the spit, washed down by the best beer in Europe. At the Peoples’ Festivals in East Germany, it is waste-meat sausages and pea soup. The beer is thin, chemical stuff. The East German is equally conditioned to poor clothing, bad footwear, and a chronic housing shortage. A quarter of a million homes have been built in the last ten years; in West Germany half a million are built each year. The Federal Republic has forty-one automobiles to every thousand inhabitants; East Germany has five.

Plugging the holes

Stringencies have not prevented the steady stabilization of the East German economy. In October, 1956, paper currency was called in, and as a result the value of notes in circulation has been reduced from 5.8 billion to around 4.7 billion marks. Last spring a thousand utility shops were used to run off surplus stocks of cheap stuff, and the introduction of installment buying has brought sales worth another one billion marks. The gap caused by reduced deliveries of Polish coal was plugged with Russian imports from the Donetz basin.

Since the Hungarian Revolution, imports of Russian rolled-steel products have also been substantially increased. Walter Ulbricht has promised that East Germany will be almost soli - supporting in foodstuffs by the last year of the present Five Year Plan — 1960 — and he has said that he will try to abolish food rationing next year as well. Already the rationing system is due less to shortages than to the difficulty of abolishing a dual pricing system which gives some minimal protection to the lowest income groups.

There were adequate harvests this year, and there will be no food shortages. Limited industrial failures can always be made good by the Soviet Union, as happened during 1957. In return, East Germany will go on producing large quantities of uranium ore, chemicals, fertilizers, machinery, and precision instruments needed by the whole Communist bloc.

Political control

The twenty-two Red Army divisions are being kept in East Germany for political, even more than for strictly military, reasons. The Hungarian Revolution taught the Soviet leaders just how tenuous their hold was on the satellites. Their garrisons in East Germany discourage Poland from emulating Hungary’s example and help to keep Czechoslovakia in its place. A strong, united Germany could be a rival focus and threat to Soviet predominance in Central Europe.

That is why the GrotewohlUlbricht regime will be maintained in power, and why it is being helped in taking steps to ensure its survival. The communal elections in June resulted in the systematic packing of municipal offices with trusted Communists. Persistent attacks on the Christian churches prevent their unifying influence from growing. Above all, the campaign to secure intellectual conformity is being pushed ahead relentlessly. School children and university and technical college students have been forbidden to visit West Germany and Europe. A quiet purge of the teaching profession has been going on all this year. Teachers and students are potentially the most dangerous enemies of the regime. They will not be allowed to water down proletarian Kultur.

On the contrary, there are to be more socialist books in the shop windows and plays at the theaters. There will be more and happier holidays for the faithful, and no degrees or diplomas for education for the backsliders. The regime winks now at boogie-woogie, rockand-roll, James Dean shirts. But no real concession will be made to Western thought.