FOR the past year or so West Germany has been marking time in a political sense. After the controversy over Dr. Adenauer’s retirement from the chancellorship and the choice of a successor, the West Germans were relieved to settle down under the rule of the restrained and practical Professor Ludwig Erhard. Some of them may even have felt somehow a little deprived — by his lack of fuss, his common sense, and his quiet determination to get on with the tasks of government.
They felt deprived in other ways too. The detente in Europe between East and West had shifted world interest away from the German problem. With their country still divided and West Berlin still encircled by the Communist world, it seemed strange to Germans that problems like Indochina, Malaysia, Cuba, and the waters of the Jordan had become so much more important than their own affairs.
West Germans have felt deprived by the lack of concrete results from Dr. Adenauer’s “crowning glory,”the pact of friendship and cooperation with France. They had genuinely believed that the two countries would in the future consult on all matters of mutual interest and, most of all, on changes of policy. As it has turned out, General de Gaulle has gone his own way exactly as he did before. Bonn received no hint of his intention of opening diplomatic relations with the Chinese People’s Republic, but more than a few hints of his opposition to the Kennedy Round of tariff talks — which the West Germans themselves wanted to be a success.
In addition, Bonn and Paris found themselves locked in what seemed to be an interminable dispute over wheat prices within the Common Market. In this dispute it appeared that it was the West Germans who were the more intransigent. The operative factor was that the country was led by an economist who has the interests of the German farmers very much at heart. An early and substantial reduction of the wheat price on the German internal market would be highly damaging to them. Their votes, moreover, are vitally needed by Professor Erhard’s Christian Democratic Party in the next Federal election, which is due in the autumn of 1965.
Doubts about De Gaulle
West German doubts of De Gaulle’s intentions led to a spate of rumors in the spring and early summer about a possible change of French policy over Berlin and over the wider issues of German reunification and Germany’s eventual eastern frontiers. In his memoirs, De Gaulle had recommended acceptance of the Oder-Neisse line as the eastern frontier. The West Germans now feared that he might accept the Communist theory of the “three German states” (West Germany, East Germany, and West Berlin) and that he would even consider opening some kind of relations with the East German Republic.
Adenauer, in a brief sally out of virtual political retirement, said that the growing warmth of Franco-Soviet relations was disturbing. Coming from the arch-apostle of Franco-German friendship, this statement had added significance.
West Germans have been disturbed by the lack of progress in the field of foreign affairs. The Foreign Minister, Gerhard Schroeder, they were told, would have a much freer hand once Adenauer had retired from the chancellorship. He would be able to develop his own policy of “movement,”would improve relations with Eastern European satellite countries, and would thrust the issue of German reunification into the forefront of the world diplomatic scene. Schroeder was expected to work some kind of minor miracle without the German people themselves doing anything about it.
Here, too, there has been disappointment. With the shift of world interest away from Germany, Schroeder has been able to achieve little. He has, in addition, been attacked by Herr FranzJosef Strauss, the former Minister of Defense, and by influential members of the Bavarian section of the Christian Democratic Union, of which Strauss is chairman.
The Bavarians still retain a large measure of independence from their other Christian Democratic colleagues. They continue to call themselves the “Christian Social Union” and to regard their branch as a separate entity in the Bundestag. The Catholic Bavarians have not hesitated to attack Schroeder, the North German Protestant, on the grounds that he has deserted the straight and narrow path of Adenauer’s diplomacy. The essence of that diplomacy was to make the Federal Republic, and NATO, strong, in the belief that this, rather than mobile diplomatic tactics, would eventually induce the Russians to give Germany back its unity.
The German Gaullists
The Bavarian attacks on Schroeder have revealed the first real rift in the ranks of the Christian Democrats since the party came into power in 1949. The Bavarians have gone “Gaullist,”and they and their few North German allies are openly referred to in Bonn as a Gaullist faction. German reunification is becoming a little more improbable all the time, and it is questionable whether the Bavarians really want it at all. For, it would mean the return to the German fold of the remnants of that Prussia which they have always disliked.
The German Gaullists, with perhaps fifty members in the Bundestag, are now a coherent lobby, demanding Franco-German leadership in Europe, and European policies which are increasingly independent of the Anglo-Saxon powers. The German Gaullists reject the idea of a broader Atlantic union, which could be born out of partnership between America, Britain, and the Common Market Six. They dream of a “little Europe” which will yet be strong enough to obtain what it wants from a Soviet Union increasingly harassed on its eastern, Chinese flank.
While Strauss is the leader of the German Gaullists, their most vocal spokesman inside Parliament and outside it is a Bavarian aristocrat, Baron Guttenberg. At a political seminar in May, Guttenberg declared that two things were needed to make reunification possible. One was a united effort on the part of the Western alliance to secure reunification; the other was the final end of the cold war in Europe (as opposed to the present armed truce). Germany, he implied, could do nothing on its own. Schroeder’s efforts were doomed to failure, for they were more likely to cause strains inside the Western alliance than to bring concessions from the Soviet Union.
This sort of argumentation is depressing for the fifty-five million West Germans who have already waited for nearly twenty years for some concrete progress toward reunification. It is all the more depressing because a big majority of Germans sec no prospect of securing anything from the Russians while “little Europe” remains under French hegemony. Germans think that this hegemony lacks effective power and that forthright French leadership of Europe is an illusion. The Germans have not forgotten how easily they crushed France in 1940, and they also remember the French military defeats in Indochina and Algeria. They would prefer to bargain for the future of their country with the backing of the Atlantic community.
West Germans may understandably be depressed too by the lack of progress toward European political unity. Of the two principal partners in the Common Market, the Germans have always been essentially the more idealistic and the French the more materially minded. The Germans are uneasy because the issue of European political unity is increasingly bandied about by one or another of the principal partners in the Common Market as a pretext for capturing the political initiative. Erhard raised the issue at the beginning of the year; De Gaulle thrust it forward again in May. Each man seemed to hope that byposing as the champion of political unity, he gave himself a better chance of getting his way over the practical, economic issues which still divide the two countries.
It is questionable how much longer this game can be played without the inhabitants of both countries becoming frankly cynical over the whole matter. This, certainly, was not the spirit in which European political unity was originally created.
No luster in Bonn
The announcement of the visit of the Queen of England to Bonn in May, 1964, was a reminder of another source of the feeling of deprivation in Bonn. This source is the lack of what the Germans call Glanz, or “luster.” Bonn is a dull, inelegant little capital city, a so-called Provisorium, intended to house a government and a parliament only until Berlin once again becomes the capital of a unified Germany. Bonn is known as the Bundesdorf, or “federal village,” and is often the object of ridicule among the big-city dwellers of Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich.
Bonn’s special lack of Glanz has led to plans for the building of a new parliament building. It will include underground car parks, a new parliament chamber, and a twenty-five-story tower — nothing much, compared with New York’s skyscrapers, but totally alone in Bonn. The whole affair will cost around $30 million, and it is worth recalling that the original 1949 estimate of the total cost of making Bonn into a provisional capital was around $5 million. The only effects of the new building will be to give Bundestag members a little more elbowroom and to make Bonn seem more dwarfish even than before.
During the first half of 1964, there were frequent complaints against the Federal President, Heinrich Luebke. The Free Democrats, who are still coalition partners in the Erhard government, and some Christian Democrats considered banding together to prevent his reelection as President this summer for a second five-year term. What did they really have against Luebke? He is not a man of great intellectual attainments, but he has very considerable common sense and reveals an admirable bluntness when he thinks it necessary.
When General de Gaulle came to Bonn, after having barred the road to Britain’s entry into the Common Market, he was given an almost adulatory welcome by Dr. Adenauer. Luebke felt the need to correct this; he told De Gaulle that the Germans valued France’s friendship very highly, but that they wanted to be friends with Britain too. There is much virtue in such plain speaking. Luebke is the first leading German who has publicly drawn attention to the appalling manners of Germans at the driving wheel. He has spoken up fearlessly on the subject of the expiation of the Nazis’ war crimes. He has, generally speaking, been politically more explicit than his predecessor, Theodor Heuss, however much more intellectual stature Heuss possessed. Luebke has served his country well. The West German mood is such that he has been given all too little credit.
Echoes of the past
This mood owes something to the continuing difficulty in coming to terms with Germany’s past. There have been various echoes of the past which have been disturbing for the West Germans. There was the curious affair in May of the American historian, David L. Hoggan, who made complimentary references to Hitler in his book The Enforced War, and who was invited to West Germany to receive two awards for his historical “research.” Both Düsseldorf and Heidelberg decided to honor him, and only canceled their festive occasions in the face of mounting criticism.
Another awkward echo of the past was the demand of Hitler’s former aide Franz von Papen for an army pension. Still another was the complaint of Israel against the employment in Egypt of German scientists who have been helping Nasser to build long-range rockets to fire against Israel, and of ex-Nazi propagandists who have been playing a significant role in his antiIsrael propaganda campaign.
The Auschwitz trial in Frankfurt, where twenty-two chief defendants were arraigned for their part in the massacres of at least two million Jews and other camp inmates, aroused deep resentment among those Germans who want to bury the past. What good, they argued, could be done by bringing these men to book twenty years late? What good was there in the collecting of data by the Federal authorities which will lead to the trial of an estimated five hundred more German war criminals in the next five to six years? Even the judges at the Auschwitz trial were dubious about its ulterior purpose, feeling that the trial would produce nothing new and would only sicken the German public.
Actually, the Auschwitz trial has aroused considerable interest. The evidence has made it clear that this trial — and others which will follow — had to be held. For, the trials are part of the German people’s task of setting their consciences at rest, as well as an act of both justice and atonement.
The opposition party broods
It might be thought that the present mood of the West Germans — compounded from lack of progress toward unity, from divisions within the ruling party, and from the burdensome memories of the Nazi past — could have substantial impact on the domestic political scene. Such is not the case. This is probably because all political parties and all shades of political thought seem to be equally affected. The Social Democrats have been taken up with their own problems: the change in the leadership to Willy Brandt after the death of the able Erich Ollenhauer, and the controversy over the acceptance of passes from the East German authorities wanting to visit East Berlin.
Since they control the Berlin administration. the Social Democrats were particularly affected by this unresolved controversy, in which the humanitarian argument in favor of allowing the maximum number of Westerners to visit their East German cousins had to be balanced against the political expediency of recognizing East German officials. The Social Democrats became particularly involved in the question of an exchange of newspapers between East and West Germany. Once again, they had no clear-cut policy.
The Social Democrats are not gaining new supporters at the moment. Indeed, political observers believe that, as things are going, the Christian Democrats will emerge stronger than ever at the 1965 Federal election. The Free Democrats have found it harder to assert themselves and maintain their individuality in coalition with the Christian Democrats than they did when they were in parliamentary opposition to them. The Christian Democrats seem increasingly to represent the “system” to the German voter. The system is one of orderly government, economic prosperity, and distrust of political experimentation.
West German economic prosperity continues unabated. The export surplus was increasing again during the first half of 1964. Prices were being held a great deal steadier than in other Western European countries. The rise in industrial production has been slowed down but is proceeding normally and naturally. The Deutsche mark is as strong a currency as ever. A new drive is under way to overcome the chronic labor shortage. The German “economic miracle” is showing itself to be more solidly based than those of France and Italy. In the spring the electorate of the state of Baden-Wurttemberg registered this fact by increasing the Christian Democratic vote from 39 to 46 percent.
The West German community Seems quite stable on the whole, and one reason for this stability may be the declining concern over the lot of the seventeen million East Germans. There has been some slight, but definite, loosening up in East Germany. Food is a little more plentiful; the shops have rather more to offer; the universities are now admitting the sons of middleclass families who would have been excluded up to a year ago.
The loosening up in East Germany is certainly not the result of a conscious change of policy by the Ulbricht regime; rather, it is the incidental by-product of the detente in Europe between East and West. Perhaps, some Germans think, detente will bring a solution of their country’s vital problems a little nearer. This offers some hope, even if the West Germans have so far shown little desire or ability to exploit the thaw in the cold war.