on the World Today
AS KHRUSHCHEV well knows, conditions within his East German satellite have been steadily worsening and are now at an all-time low in its checkered twelve-year history. There is a growing shortage of food and consumer goods in East Germany, an increasing and alarming drain on its slender resources of manpower, and an atmosphere of vocal discontent.
For obvious reasons, the shortage of food is much more serious than that of other consumer goods. East German citizens can get along, the regime reckons, with badly cut suits and clumsy footwear, with everlasting shortages of pots and pans, thimbles and tin tacks, the so-called “thousand small things” which Walter Ulbricht, East Germany’s Communist Party head, is always prophesying will soon become available in profusion. They can get along without automobiles — only 300,000 have been produced in East Germany during the last fifteen years —and they can manage for the time being in their homes without washing machines, refrigerators, or decent furniture. But a food shortage is a very different matter. It hurts.
In the summer of 1960 there were temporary shortages in East Germany of vegetables, fruit, and milk. But this year, the shortages involved almost every vital foodstutf. Reports poured in from East Germany of the makeshift methods which the authorities were using in order to deal with the situation. Thus, in all areas fats were rationed by “availability.” This meant that customers were told by shopkeepers what they would get: in the Frankfort-on-Oder district in July, for instance, it was ten ounces of butter a week per head, but in Leipzig, only seven and a half ounces, and in Potsdam, only five ounces. Customers had to register with a single shop and could not buy elsewhere; an army of 70,000 state inspectors saw to it that they kept the rules.
Meat was rationed, with supply failures becoming chronic. In the Potsdam district, 4000 diseased bullocks and 7000 pigs were condemned and dispatched to the knackers’ yards. Huge consignments of imported canned meats were found to be contaminated. During the first quarter of 1961, 13,000 fewer tons of meat were slaughtered than in the corresponding period of 1960. Yet the minimum weight of pigs for slaughtering had already been lowered from 240 to 175 pounds. In all East Germany 30,000 fewer tons of milk than usual were being sold each month. Grain, bread, and potatoes began to run short.
An inept bureaucracy is always slow to take action. The East German authorities failed to step up food imports. All sorts of imported foodstuffs began to run short, too — oranges and bananas, red and black pepper, nuts, tea, and cocoa. In midsummer, West German visitors were amazed to find a pineapple selling for 20 marks (the West German price was 4 marks), and a pound of coffee for 35 marks (West German price, 8 marks). They were equally surprised to find two meatless days in some towns, and to sec potatoes being distributed on the streets.
Most surprising of all to these West Germans was the uninhibited grumbling of the normally tongue-tied East Germans. Workers at the Hennigsdorf steel plant near Berlin sent a letter to Ulbricht demanding the end of food rationing. Another such protest came from the students of Leipzig University. Even a Communist Party official, Willy Kuphal, secretary of the Socialist Unity Party in the Saxon town of Grimma, announced, “We cannot put the blame onto Adenauer because there is no bread left in Grimma on a Saturday, because there are queues at the butchers’ shops in Nerchau, because half the chimneys in Naunhof need repairing and nobody can get a license to do the job.”
The flight of the able
The Kennedy-Khrushchev meeting in Vienna in May showed that the Soviet Union will no longer pay even lip service to the ideal of German reunification. In Vienna Khrushchev preached the virtue of “accepting the consequences of Hitler’s war,” chief among them the division of Germany into two separate states.
Ulbricht has been insistent in underlining and emphasizing the desirability of division. He generalized, but he was also specific. He forecast the closing down of Tempelhof airfield, in the American sector of Berlin, as soon as control over Berlin’s communications passed from Soviet to East German hands. Tempelhof is West Berlin’s only operating airport. Air traffic would be rerouted to Schoenefeld airfield in East Germany. Passengers by air would then be checked by the East German People’s Police. This would close the escape route to West Germany, used by three out of every four East German refugees.
Ten years ago, 84,000 East Berliners worked in West Berlin, and 103,000 West Berliners worked in East Berlin. In July only 15,000 West Berliners crossed each day into East Berlin to work, but there were still 53,000 East Berliners coming in the opposite direction. Ulbricht decided that they could not be spared, and closed the border. Shortage of manpower was becoming a real danger to the economy. In five years, the number of East Germans working in agriculture, for instance, dropped by 330,000, and the enforced collectivism of the land accelerated the drift to the towns.
East year nearly 700 doctors fled to West Germany, leaving one doctor to 6000 or 7000 people in many districts; the teaching profession lost 142 university and college professors and lecturers, and over 2000 other schoolteachers. Members of the East German armed forces and police deserted to the West at a rate of over a hundred a month. The departure of technicians to more profitable jobs in the Federal Republic has been a major hindrance to fulfillment of Ulbricht’s Seven Year Plan.
The East German manpower problem goes even deeper than the flight of people. This year, only about 1 50,000 East Germans left school at the end of July and became available for regular work. But more than 250,000 East Germans reached pension age. This difference of well over 100,000 is due to the low birth rate at the end of the war. The East German government has itself estimated that the total labor force will be reduced by about 700,000 during the next five years. The flow of refugees had to be checked.
There are no reserves of labor left. The number of women in full employment can hardly be increased; it already is 3.6 million, or 47 per cent of the labor force. Recently, the district of Chemnitz was complimented on having 76 per cent of its women in full employment, a record for East Germany. Efforts to enroll women in “housewives’ brigades,” mainly for direction into parttime jobs, have not been very successful. By midsummer 3800 of these brigades had been organized, with about 28,000 “Comrade housewives.” Even less productive have been appeals to old-age pensioners to take part-time jobs. This untapped source of labor is extremely difficult to direct or integrate into the economy.
The signs of trouble
Pack of manpower has probably been the most important single reason for increased Communist pressure on Berlin. The flow of refugees out of East Germany can fairly be compared to a bloodletting operation which is robbing the East German Republic of its very life force. Ulbricht has had to lower his economic sights. He has retracted his promise to overtake West German living standards by the end of 1961. He has scrapped the budding East German aircraft industry; the aeronautical research station in Dresden has been closed down.
Since the war, 25,000 people have died in East German political prisons. Even in 1961, there are still 10.000 prisoners in East German jails who were sentenced for political crimes. Among them are known to be 106 who have been in jail since the East German rising of 1953. Since the war, an estimated 8000 East Germans have been deported to the Soviet Union; 69 per cent of them have never been traced. During the last ten years, 232 West German citizens have been kidnaped from West Berlin by the East German security services, which have undertaken another 85 frustrated kidnapings.
In June of this year a number of employees of the East German railways and post office were sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging up to two years. Their crimes were that they had allowed parcels of clothes and personal belongings to be sent to former East German citizens who had fled to West Germany. The grounds given for these jail sentences, passed in Eisenach and Erfurt, were “Aiding and abetting citizens fleeing from the Republic.”Vet the citizens had already fled.
In 1951 the East German regime allowed an Evangelical Church congress to be held in both parts of Berlin. This year the East German regime banned the holding of any meeting, during the congress, in East Berlin and instructed East German citizens not to attend meetings and services held in West Berlin. Yet several thousand risked the wrath of their Communist government and went.
The East German regime, labeling decent West German clergy “atom bishops" and “NA 1 O clericals, said that the congress was a “tactical move in the Gold W ar, by the “new’ Church militant of the aggressor Strauss and the Hitler generals of the Bundeswchr.”
East German militarism
For a long time, the Russians and East Germans have been maintaining thirty divisions in an area ol East Germany the size ol the state ol Tennessee. The East Germans have paramilitary forces which number at least 150,000 men. They have stationed 8200 well-armed and trained men of paramilitary formations in East Berlin, equipped with mortars, artillery, and light tanks. They have established a “political college" for young oflicers there, as well as a quartermaster department, the headquarters of their military counterespionage service, and a central recruiting office for their armed forces, with eight local branches.
They have also built up an arms industry in East Berlin; the Koepenick shipyards, for instance, have constructed for the East German naval forces twelve large mine sweepers, ten medium and small mine sweepers, and six motor torpedo boats. To the East German regime, the demilitarization ol Berlin is a dead letter; yet it proclaims the “remilitarization” of the Federal Republic as a crime.