May 22, 2017

1923. "The Swashbuckling Mussolini"

Arrogance and Authoritarianism in Italy
"Italians love his swashbuckling and blaguer" (from The New York Times, July 22, 1923)
This article is part of a series of posts on how newspapers covered the rise of fascism in the years leading up to World War II.

In the 1920s and 1930s American correspondents in Italy wrote frequently about Mussolini and his fascist ideology, publishing interviews, profiles, and analyses. Several, particularly contributors to The New York Times, have since been criticized for romanticizing the Italian regime. In the 1975 book "Mussolini and Fascism: The View From America" (pp. 24-25), historian John Patrick Diggins writes:
In the United States Mussolini's popularity was to a great extent a product of the press. Most newspapers outside New York City relied on wire services or foreign correspondents for information, and in the early years these sources were generally friendly to Mussolini and his new regime . . .

The most thorough coverage of Italian events could, of course, be found in the New York Times. The Times' correspondents writing on Italy included Arnaldo Cortesi, Edwin L. James, Arthur Livingston, Walter Littlefield, and Anne O'Hare McCormick. With the exception of Livingston, these journalists wrote approvingly of Fascism and its leader . . . yet editorially the Times showed less inclination than its writers to support Fascism. Although the Times, like most papers, condoned Mussolini's seizure of power, by the mid-twenties the editors became disenchanted, seeing "one more parallel" after another between Fascist and Soviet totalitarianism. Nevertheless, the New York Times' treatment of Italy brought denunciations by anti-Fascists in the United States were convinced that Cortesi, McCormick (and in the thirties Herbert L. Matthews and C. L. Sulzberger) and associates were championing the cause of Fascism.
As a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, Anne O'Hare McCormick covered Benito Mussolini's early years in power and interviewed him on several occasions. Eight months into Mussolini's reign, McCormick wrote about his grandiose public persona and his impact on Italy. She noted his central role in the fascist movement:
I had not been in the country a week before discovering that what Americans find most difficult to swallow in Mussolini and his movement is what the Italians gulp down with the greatest gusto. They love his swashbuckling and blaguer. They delight in his impudence to a Parliament which they all despise. They are enraptured when he reminds the recalcitrant that it is only by his forbearance that they exist; when he threatens his enemies with an army held in leash only by his good pleasure. Boasts of force feed their love of power and their disdain of weakness.
From The New York Times, July 22, 1923, pp. 1, 19:

Latest Heir of the Caesars Has Conquered Because His Countrymen Understand Arrogance


At the moment when dyspeptic Europe ceases to struggle with the digestion of more unbaked democracy than any continent was ever called upon to swallow before, when England recalls the Tories and France remobilizes the chauvinists, when Prime Ministers of a German republic begin to invoke the empire, when Turkey stands pat, when Albania clamors for a Scottish King, when all the new republics are dying of liberty and professional politicians resume everywhere a business of which amateurs are sick and tired, Mussolini the Autocrat mounts the tribune of the Caesars and creates one of those exciting diversions which sometimes change the course of history.

He shouts aloud all the dark and stabbing doubts of democracy that secretly assail those who have tried it. He plays up a hearty and unsanctified nationalism against the pale virtue of co-operation which the enlightened have been trying to cultivate as a super-national grace. He dares to call a Legislature in public what all men call it in private. He arrives at the hour of the sharpest decline in the stock of the liberals and uses language about popular government that relieves the pent feeling of its best friends. He finds Italy self-governed to a deadlock, in a literal paralysis of democracy, and sets the machinery going by turning out the tinkerers and running the whole works himself.

His presence at the head of an enlightened State is therefore in itself a challenge. Is he a symptom of the disease of politics that infects civilization, or is he a remedy? Is he autocrat, liberator or merely demagogue? How far is he going, and where? After eight months of practically unlimited authority what has his Government accomplished? Enough to prove one-man power to be less dangerous than the powerlessness of many men, to show that a general-manager form of control may be applied to a nation as well as to a town? Is he, in a word, as right as he is popular in proceeding on the assumption that people really desire government more than they desire a voice in government?

These are questions that are drawing to Rome reporters and observers from the ends of the earth. Political reviewers, journalists, politicians, bankers, business prospectors, reformers, flock here to make their varying deductions from what they see of Italy under the Fascista regime. They gave it six months last October when the Black Shirt army made its sensational raid on Rome and seized the Government from a panicky Parliament and an eagerly acquiescent King. Now that it has stood that test they begin to suspect that there is something more in it than a scene in Italian grand opera, and inquirers arrive to satisfy what is apparently a universal curiosity in regard to its achievements and its intentions. They gather in the official and unofficial ante-rooms where one waits, sometimes vainly and always long, for different brands of ill-prepared information. They study the budget figures as presented in the recent statement of Minister of Finance de Stefani, perhaps the ablest member of Mussolini's rather too-personal Cabinet. They interview the President of the Council if they can catch him between his almost daily dashes to various points of the political battlefront. They talk to the officials who are primed for such inquiries, an industrial magnate or two, the handy head waiter, who speaks all languages. If their week's tour of inspection allows them to see anything they are not shown, or are not looking for, they take a glance around the country. Seldom by any chance have they the time of the words or the curiosity to talk to the people.

Yet in Italy even more than in most countries there is no use trying to study Fascismo and its chances of success without some understanding of the Italians. I had not been in the country a week before discovering that what Americans find most difficult to swallow in Mussolini and his movement is what the Italians gulp down with the greatest gusto. They love his swashbuckling and blaguer. They delight in his impudence to a Parliament which they all despise. They are enraptured when he reminds the recalcitrant that it is only by his forbearance that they exist; when he threatens his enemies with an army held in leash only by his good pleasure. Boasts of force feed their love of power and their disdain of weakness.

Like Barrie's "Tommy," with whom they have no sentiments and many tastes in common, they adore a masterful man. They have always flourished under a strong hand, whether Caesar's or Hildebrand's, Cavour's or Crispi's. That is because they are not a people like ourselves or the English or the Germans, loving order and regulation and government for their own sake, however weak their Ministers. Experience has taught them to distrust all government and instinct makes them resent the intrusions of authority. They have never been united except by force or by disaster, and they follow a leader as long as he leads, and no longer.

Mussolini is secure while he shows no fear. When his critics accuse him of unconstitutionality they only recommend him the more to a highly civilized but naturally lawless people. The youth, the bravura, the political intrepidity which the old politicians call inexperience, are the strength of the Fascisti. Look at the great portraits that strut among the meek Madonnas and suffering saints of all Italian galleries—Caesars, condottieri, courtiers, Cardinals—and learn how these people understand arrogance.

Only last week a friend bitterly disillusioned with a Government that had promised the millennium and only increased his taxes came to me after a speech of Mussolini's in the Senate completely reestablished enthusiasm. "Magnificent!" he exclaimed. "He said that he made explanations but that he owed none. He declared that with sacrifice and solidarity in two years he would make over Italy. He snapped his fingers at all the barking canaille. He says he may be shot, but it does not matter if he is hit going forward instead of going back. At least a man can respect himself in following such a leader!"

Whatever Mussolini does not know, and there are said to be many things not dreamed of in his philosophy, he knows his own people. He knew when to turn on the drama, and I believe he will also know when to shut it off. No citizen of a strictly limited democracy like ours can imagine the relief of being ruled by a good, strong, forthright autocrat after the absolute, unbridled, impossibly logical form of self-government suffered in Italy. The people were already yearning for a dictatorship when Mussolini appointed himself a dictator. So far from a usurpation of authority against the popular will, his march on Rome was like an answer to prayer. The professional politicians had had their chance. They had all failed. Even the Fascisti could do nothing in the Chamber. They were a small group in a helplessly divided body—thirty-two members out of 535. Mussolini only made himself receiver for a Government in bankruptcy.

It must be remembered that in that crisis, when the Government acknowledged its incapacity to function, when anarchy was held down only by Mussolini's army, the Fascisti could have done anything they chose with the country. Everybody admits that the Government was to be had for the taking. Mussolini could as easily have led to power the Socialists or the Communists as his battalions of fighting nationalists and patriots. He had under absolute control the best young manhood of Italy, an armed force of half a million unpaid volunteers, mobilized by his magnetism, dedicated and disciplined to his will.

Wherever he led they would have followed. There are many who think that he could have overthrown the monarchy as easily as he reestablished it. Two-thirds of the army was already Fascist. There might have been a republic, even without civil war. Anything might have happened; all that did happen was that Victor Emmanuel hastened to make the Fascisti constitutional by inviting them to form a Government. The bankrupt Parliament conferred all its powers upon the Fascista leader for a year, and both King and Prime Minister were heartily cheered by the people for their resourcefulness in making the realities so different while leaving all the names the same.

That very night the Fascista forces were out of Rome. They marched to the Capitol and dispersed as soberly and exaltedly as they came. Many were country youths on their first visit to the metropolis; they were tired, dusty and dry after long marches over hard roads. Yet with all the cafes open there was not a case of drunkenness; there was not the slightest disorder and not a murmur against the unwelcome order to return at once to their homes. They showed themselves and departed, but they got what they came for and thus saved their country as thoroughly, and more neatly, than if any one of them had the poor judgement to oppose them.

The leaders of Italian constitutional liberalism, who are more anxious than the best American journalist scenting a story to find out just how far Mussolini is going, declare now that the Government was about to assort itself and the Parliamentary confusion was on the eve of clearing when he made his parade of revolution. They complain because he embarked and proceeded upon his unknown course without any guidance from political experts. They forget that he had watched the experts being expert for two years from his seat on the Right of the Chamber of Deputies; and the restraint he exhibited once he had precipitated the crisis they could not avert was hardly more remarkable than their instant docility to his demands.

They submitted to the most contemptuous lambasting any Parliament has ever received from the responsible head of a Government. Certainly nothing but the lack of any alternative could have induced them to endow their castigator with absolute powers. He continues to abuse the Parliament, but so far he has not abused the mandate he forced from them. He talks about upholding the traditional "jus murmurandi," a right as old as Roman law, but all criticism angers him and he will not have a word of contradiction in his own ranks. He does not suffer any opposition patiently, and though he cannot expel his political opponents, he does not placate or reassure the worried constitutionalists when he reminds them that except for his intervention there would be no Constitution to save. He is secure in the fact that, by whatever coercion of circumstances he arrived where he is, he is there by appointment of the King and consent of the Parliament, so that if he is a dictator he is so by all the constitutional authority there is.

Two-thirds of his grant of power has now expired and many of the observers who come to find out what he has done with it, to estimate how one-man rule works in a modern State, are inclined to be disappointed that he has not created the safe heaven the Conservatives hoped for or the despotic hell the Radicals predicted. I have heard more than one trained interpreter of events assert that the Fascista Government has been advertised for a great deal more than it is worth. It has done few of the things that look impressive in a report. But it has performed one miracle. And because miracles are rare in a world without magic, that wonder, I think, should be celebrated above all its failures and achievements.

The miracle is a miracle of conversion. Here at last is a Government that has transformed a people. If that sounds too strong, I can only say that it is the first and only term that does justice to the first impression made on one who left Italy two years ago and comes back today. Then it was a land visibly running down, with a kind of hand-to-mouth administration, so that one never knew today where tomorrow's Government was coming from. There was no assurance that anything was going to work—railroads, telegraphs, trams, posts, power plants, bakeries, any kind of public or private service. One tried a water faucet skeptically; one bet on the chances of getting a train. Life was a daily gamble, sporting enough for the traveler but pretty desperate for the native. The people were all either idle and rebellious or idle and dispirited. The war had left them bitter and poor; subsequent events had made them lose pride in their country and respect for their Government. Everywhere was slackness, despondency, recklessness.

One left confusion and fear, and under confusion and fear, apathy and discouragement. One returned to a country cheerful, industrious, interested and orderly. All the railroads were running and running on time. There was not even the threat or shadow of a strike. There has not been a single strike in any part of Italy since the Fascisti came into power. The streets were clean, the roads were being mended, the enlivening sounds of construction were heard everywhere. Workers were singing at their work. It was like a land recovered from a blight.

Was this Mussolini's revolution? I asked myself, contrasting the friendly dispatch of the customs inspection at Naples with my last hideous experience at the same port. "We have a Government now!" boasted a Neapolitan, and when I remarked on the transformation to the first Roman I met, he assured me that I would be more amazed the more I saw. "It is hard for a stranger to understand," he said, "but Mussolini has actually changed the minds and spirit of the people. He has dramatized work and sacrifice and national pride and made them popular. Go out to the San Lorenzo quarter, where a few months ago a man was shot for flying the Italian flag. Now they are all patriots there, all working, contented, shouting for Mussolini. I don't know what happened to all the revolutionists."

I sought out one of the still-existent Socialist headquarters for an explanation of the mystery. It was the quietest retreat I found in Rome, deserted except for the voluble and agreeable executive. He admitted that his comrades were dispersed, for the moment shorn of their thunder, infected by nationalism, and that some had basely surrendered to the bourgeoisie.

"Are you as free as ever to organize, to hold meetings, to make propaganda?" I asked, and when he answered with a qualified affirmative, I inquired if it was true, then, as I had heard in America, that the government had instituted a virtual censorship of the press and public opinion.

"Hardly that," he replied. "We publish our papers just the same as ever. The Government has a strong press, which specializes in daily advertisement and adulation of Mussolini and keeps the people stuffed with all his promises, like the reform of the budget and the proposed electoral iniquity. Mussolini punishes all his own people who open their mouths against him. There have been local examples of suppression of newspapers for criticizing the Fascisti, the most notable example being the powerful Corriere della Sera, which was suspended for a day in Milan. But there has been no general censorship. The Italians would never stand for it. And Mussolini won't go so far now as when he was making war on us. He is too anxious to stay in power. As for us," he shrugged, "well, we are out; we have been outraged and persecuted and weakened. But of course we will come back. Mussolini has the people hypnotized, but he has been given so much rope that he is sure to hang himself in the end."

The Fascisti have done things which the political reviewer finds more interesting than these trifles. They have ferreted out the tax dodgers and forced 400,000 citizens to pay income taxes who never paid before. They have simplified and reclassified taxation. They have made a valiant attempt to deal with the bureaucracy that stifles all European States. Several Government departments have been closed, the personnel of others reduced and various administrative economies have been effected. The number of State employees actually discharged, however, is much less than was promised. There is a limit to the number of enemies the most fearless leader can indulge in!

The new budget proposes to reduce the national deficit to one and a quarter milliards of lire, about four milliards less than it is today. Committees are working on educational reforms, on a reform of the electoral system, on new provisions for constant emigration which the few natural resources of the country and the rapidly growing population make necessary. But these are mostly in the future—great schemes which all Governments dream about in their youth and few ever grow old enough to realize. The project for electoral reform is interesting enough to be considered in another article. It will bring an issue to the fight Mussolini must have with the constitutionalists and measure the strength of the growing opposition to his policies. As outlined, it is a novelty, never tried before in any country, and it will probably never be tried again even in this if it succeeds in its purpose of putting the Fascisti in power for the next four years.

Not even if all the proposed budgets balance, and if Mussolini works out a formula of economic salvation for his country, a problem he has not even tackled, his greatest reform will still be the one he has already accomplished. He may in time find experts to create industries and outlets for trade; the creation of a national spirit and the restoration of order and confidence in Government will remain his personal triumph. Always remembering that Italy is full of Italians and not Americans or French or Germans, it is nothing less than amazing to watch the whole country trying to be like him. By working fourteen hours a day, by living hard and taking hard exercise, by talking always of courage, strength, law, discipline, he has inspired among Italians a cult of the strenuous life such as Roosevelt once popularized in America.

He calls himself "the trustee of the youth of Italy," and he makes the young men, the ex-soldiers, university students, schoolboys, farmers' sons, feel for the first time that the country is theirs, and that it is their job to work for it and their responsibility to see that it is well ruled. Discipline, the least favored of all virtues among his countrymen, is the favorite word of their leader. Not even a Church supposed to specialize in discipline has been very successful in imposing it on its Italian adherents. In other countries Catholics are orderly and well organized; in the center of Christendom, if a foreigner can judge by observation, they seem to take the liberty of worshiping God in the manner they please. The discipline of the Fascisti, now the national militia, is therefore no mean achievement. It is true that in this army Mussolini wields a despotic power. He is called and is the "Duce"—leader whose word is law, who brooks no insubordination and expels his best friends for a whisper of contradiction or a gesture of disloyalty.

He includes the Church in his policy of restoring what he calls the "hierarchies," of bolstering up authority wherever he finds it. The first and not the least astonishing thing he did as Prime Minister was to take the King and all his Ministers to mass at the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, the basilica carved out of the Baths of Diocletian by Michelangelo.

"Mussolini was the first to make a Christian out of the Unknown Soldier," smiled a great Roman Cardinal, whom I asked how the ex-editor of Avanti was doing as an apostle of religion. "Until he ordered his Ministers to their knees to pray for the soul of the dead warrior, it has been in Italy a pagan cult, like the ancient worship of the god of war. I don't know how much is religion and how much is statesmanship," the Cardinal added, "but it is a popular novelty here to have a government which refers with respect to the Vatican, raises the image of Christ in the schools, and acknowledges what is, after all, 'the religion of Italy.'"

The new Government cultivates the spectator. One of the reasons for its popularity among a people smarting under a sense of being undervalued in the world is that it gives them at last a leader who is a headliner, so to speak, able to command public attention and keep Italy on the front page. And Mussolini concentrates most of his efforts on healing the wounded amour propre and building up the morale of the nation. He makes politics a kind of noble show and keeps enlivened and interested the audience, so bored by his predecessors. During the last few weeks, scenting that he is at the beginning of the second and most perilous phase of his regnancy, the phase of criticism, disappointment, reaction from the high mood, he has made triumphal excursions to all parts of the country.

He is far less arrogant in addressing the people than he is to the politicians and to the various financial, journalistic and Masonic rings that used to rule the country. He is wise enough to know that the chiefs of the old order will always be his enemies, and that it is among the people that he must find his friends. And nothing is more surprising in a skeptical race than the popular belief in this peasant who preaches aristocracy and this ex-Socialist who defends hierarchies. He started out with a following of the adventurous young of the middle class.

Now the middle class does not shout for him so unanimously as in the beginning. They find that Fascismo is not a property defense league; it makes property pay. The workers are reassured by the same discovery. I suspect that a good many of the lost Socialists may be found among the Fascisti. On the other hand, there have been desertions as well as expulsions from the ranks of the Fascisti. The material out of which revolutions are made is not so good for making reforms. Mussolini is said to have confided to a friend that he will have to disgust 30 per cent of his followers in order to go on with what he has to do now.

In the United States we have a democracy, which means that the majority of people, acting on motives which often have nothing to do with government, freely elect officers who do not give them what they want. And in Italy a strong minority has elected itself and is giving the country the kind of government the majority want but did not know how to get. In other words, the will of the majority seems to be better satisfied in Italy at this moment than in the United States. The Italians certainly enjoy a personal liberty and freedom from regulation beyond even our conception of liberty.

I suppose peoples as well as Presidents and Prime Ministers can't be opportunists, and that the dictatorship of Mussolini, prevailing by the will of his people, may be classified as a democratic expedient. He is a reaction against nothing but inaction, and proves no more than that when a leader appears the people will follow. They will chafe after a while under his heavy pose of inflexibility; they will tire of the fascinating spectacle of watching him do everything himself. Perhaps, having performed one miracle, in that day he will have other incantations to work other wonders. It is not easy to say where he is going, but it takes no prophet to predict that two elemental and powerful popular appetites, the hunger for leadership and curiosity as to what happens next, will carry him at least beyond his year of trial.

May 21, 2017

1949. Soviets Mark the Fourth Anniversary of Victory Day

Soviet War Memorial Inaugurated in Treptower Park
The Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park in East Berlin on July 19, 1961 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

May 8, 1949

Today is V-E Day plus four years in Germany. Here in Berlin it has meant only that the bloodiest military struggle in history with the Germans has been replaced by history's most exasperating political struggle over the Germans.

The Soviet military government today is dedicating its giant memorial to the Russian soldiers who died in the capture of Berlin. Located in Treptow, it is an impressive affair containing the mass graves of thousands of Soviet soldiers. Atop the main mausoleum is a large statue of a Russian soldier, a child on one arm and with a sword in the other.

The Russian-licensed German press today marks the fourth anniversary of victory in Europe with the usual attacks on Western democracy charging that another war is in the making. They also demand the withdrawal of occupation troops. The Communist press makes no mention of the historic lesson in the presence of the legions of Russian troops in Treptow who will never leave Germany.

The newspapers in blockaded Berlin also comment on this anniversary with a history of disagreements during the past four years that has brought about the present East-West crisis. The interesting thing is that not a single German publication even hints that Germany might have had a part in making this V-E Day an anniversary—an anniversary of the second defeat of German totalitarian expansionism.

In Bonn today the West German parliamentary council is expected to pass the final draft of the Basic Law which will form the foundation of the West German republic. The three Western military governors will approve it on Thursday.

The Communist-led People's Congress has sent a memorandum to the Big Four foreign ministers in Paris asking for the unification of Germany and for a peace treaty.

Britain's foreign minister, Ernest Bevin, has been having a look at the airlift this morning. He is now speaking to the city council of blockaded Berlin, and in a few hours from now will make a statement to correspondents here.

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.

May 20, 2017

1949. The West Prepares for Indefinite Blockade

Decisive Steps in Berlin
Map of the West Berlin air corridors from the American, British, and French sectors of Germany (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

March 13, 1949

The interlocutory period in Berlin's international separation case, wherein there might have been a reconciliation between East and West in this blockaded city, now appears to be over.

The final divorce decree bisecting the city for an indeterminate time is about to be handed down.

This will be done in two ways. It is reliably reported that the Western Powers will decree that the West mark is the sole legal currency in the American, British, and French sectors of Berlin. At present, factory and city administration workers are paid in both the East and the West mark, a practice that works hardship on West sector residents since the Soviet-sponsored mark is worth about one quarter of the West mark. This is a decisive step. It was over the introduction of the West mark that the Russians slapped on their Berlin blockade last June.

The incompatibility of the East and West, and the determination of the United States and Russia to pursue their present policies, is further demonstrated by the Air Force announcement that present airlift pilots will be assigned to the Berlin supply runs for a period of three years. An airlift village is planned near the base at Wiesbaden to house the families of the men flying over the blockade.

Another decisive step is contemplated. At present, the Soviet-licensed Radio Berlin originates its anti-Western broadcasts from a big modern building in the British sector. It is unlikely that this will be allowed to continue, a move which will undoubtedly be met with long and anguished howls from the Communists when it comes.

In other words, the on-the-spot situation in Berlin as of now is likely to become worse before it becomes better.

The blockade diet has provoked another story among Berliners who are getting a little tired of dehydrated potatoes. A little boy is asked that, if the stork brought another baby to his house, would he prefer a brother or a sister?

The little boy replies, "I prefer the stork. That we can roast and eat."

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.

May 19, 2017

1930. German Leaders Divided on How to Deal with Rising Nazi Party

Moderates Divided on Opposition to Hitler
Campaigners outside of a polling place in Berlin on the day of the 1932 German federal election, July 31, 1932 (source)
This article is part of a series of posts on how newspapers covered the rise of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler in Italy and Germany prior to World War II.

From The New York Times, December 28, 1930:

Middle Party Leaders Favor Forcing Fascists Into Cabinet as Means of Curbing Them
He Prefers to Play Electorate Till Assured of a Strong Majority In Parliament


Berlin, Dec. 26 — Whether German Fascism will be actively represented in the government during the coming year now depends largely on the course of Parliamentary developments after the Reichstag resumes its sessions on Feb. 2 and such an eventuality as a new election.

Adolf Hitler is known to be definitely opposed to having his party enter the government so long as it is only second in rank. He prefers to wait until the movement may have so completely captured the electorate as to assure him a strong majority in Parliament. With 107 Deputies, the party is now the second largest group in the Reichstag, but, aside from a consistent record as noisy obstructionists, the Nazis' only outstanding achievement since their whirlwind election success of Sept. 9 appears to have been an ability to browbeat the government into placing a ban on the Remarque film, "All Quiet on the Western Front."

However, an accumulating volume of sentiment among leaders of the middle parties appears to have prompted a desire to take the poison out of the movement by forcing it to assume active responsibility, while other motives may have accounted for the desire to use the Fascists as an antidote to the Socialists.

Views of Von Seeckt and Schacht

General Hans von Seeckt, who is rapidly acquiring an influential role in German politics, believes the Nazis' participation in the government to be both desirable and indispensable. Dr. Hjalmar Schacht, the former head of the Reichsbank, is also not opposed to having them take a hand. He argues that it is just as impossible to govern against the Socialists as against the equally powerful groups of the extreme Right, who, he adds, did not vote for Hitler's economic policies, but primarily desired to let the world know that the German people were determined not to become a perishing nation.

Nazi sympathizers, however, are convinced that the time has not yet come when the party's leaders can safely accept Cabinet posts, and that their participation in the government in the present Parliamentary situation would measurably weaken the movement. Their contention is that this would force it into a political line-up which would rob it of popularity and definitely prevent the party carrying out its program for revision of the reparations and other treaties.

Increase at Elections Predicted

The movement's momentum, it is argued also in such political and industrial quarters as are not averse to the growth of Fascism, will be greatly enhanced at the next election and any premature attempts to accept portfolios in Chancellor Bruening's Cabinet would decisively paralyze the party's freedom of action.

The Fascists, therefore, are apparently in no immediate hurry and the drift of political and economic events in Germany may be said to be working overtime in their favor.

To General von Seeckt, the militant Nationalist and social spirit which is the propelling force behind the Hitler movement suggests a nucleus for a rallying point of all true Germans. He demands participation of the Nazis in the government in order that it may have the benefit of their youthful reform energies plus the support of those patriotic elements who are actuated by national sentiment, loyal participation in present-day social needs and the will for national defense.

Such a government, says General von Seeckt, would take on the shape of a huge wedge whose point of steel—representing reason—would be driven against the walls of the economic barriers of foreign hostility. The propelling force behind this wedge, the General observes, would recruit itself from all ranks of the German people, and not least from the working masses, who he believes are patriotically German and immune to the "Russian poison."

Continuing, the General says:

"Once this wedge is set in motion it is inevitable that chips will fly in all directions, but they will represent the lukewarm and cowardly formalists and bureaucrats and 'ungermans' and we shall not miss them."

Chancellor Bruening's Attitude

Chancellor Bruening's attitude on the question of official affiliation with the Nazis continues one of several riddles the silent Chancellor has projected into the puzzling currents of German politics. But the situation confronting him when the Reichstag reassembles early in February may bring a swift solution, as the present government's perfunctory relations with the Socialists are gradually reaching the breaking point.

Once they are dissolved it may be safely assumed that the government or that succeeding him is destined to become the active reflection of the recrudescence of Nationalism which set in at the last election.

May 18, 2017

1949. Unexpected Opposition in the East German Election

Communists Blame "Foreign Imperialism" for Election Results
Socialist Unity Party march in East Berlin, July 1952 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

May 15, 1949

Today we have the spectacle of what the Communists mean by what they call a "free democratic election."

Today and tomorrow the German puppet organization, the Socialist Unity Party, is staging an election throughout Soviet-occupied Germany to elect some 1,500 delegates to the People's Congress. The People's Congress will be the basis of an East German government if and when it is needed to counter the German republic we are sponsoring in the West.

This election underlines the basic difference between the East and the West when the word "democracy" arises. For here is how these elections are being conducted. The ballot leads off with this statement: "I am for the unity of Germany and a just peace treaty. Therefore I vote for the following candidates." Then follows the list of names. At the bottom of the ballot there are two circles, one for voting ja and the other for voting nein.

In the eyes of the Communists this is a perfectly fair and free election, and you can bet your boots that Mr. Vyshinsky will so argue at the council of foreign ministers in Paris next week if the question comes up.

However, how much the politically sophisticated German will be fooled by this election is another question. Hitler used the same method in extorting mandates from the people for his government. What is happening today is that the Communists have selected only candidates who support their policy—who can be bought—or who are tame Germans.

Although the candidates claim membership in other parties—Socialists, Christian Democratic, and the rest—the dictatorship of the Socialist Unity front organization makes this a one-party election as complete as the one-party dictatorial system used by the Nazis and now employed by the Soviets.

The other trick is in the wording of the ballot—every German is for the unity of his country and for a just peace treaty. As a matter of fact, so are all the occupation powers.

I can give you the result of this election right now. It will be an overwhelming ja. The figures, when released, won't matter. There will be no way of checking them anyway.

But what I wonder is just who the Communists think they're fooling.

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

May 17, 1949

Something appears to have gone wrong with the great elections in Soviet-occupied Germany, and reports and rumors are circulating throughout Berlin today that the great Communist plebiscite laid an egg.

As the Germans of the Soviet zone and of East Berlin went to the polls, all the stops were out on the Communist-propaganda machine. The purpose of the election was to select some 1,500 delegates to a People's Congress. But the voters also were told they were voting for peace and unity of Germany. They had no chance to vote for candidates—only ja or nein for the Communist slate.

And the story circulating today is that an embarrassing number of Germans—embarrassing to the Communists, that is—voted nein.

That is the reason, it is said, that no results have been announced, although it has been eighteen hours since the polls closed last night.

The only figures thus far released by the Communist press are that between seventy and eighty percent of the eligible voters cast their ballots. Investigators for the British and American licensed press in Berlin confirm the big turnout, but they give these results:

In four polling places in northeast Berlin, one thousand persons voted yes. 1,167 voted no. In Potsdam, where the Soviet military governor has his residence, one precinct had 317 votes following the Communist party line, but 332 voted no.

If these stories are true, then the Communist policy has taken a severe licking in what was supposed to be a setup of an election.

Tägliche Rundschau, the Red Army newspaper, hinted at the unexpected opposition at the polls in its leading editorial this morning.

"There is no doubt," the newspaper says, "that there are not a few people of undemocratic mind who are under the influence of the false propaganda of the enemies of unity. They voted against the People's Congress because the idea of the formation of a national front is so new."

The Rundschau labels all those who voted nein as agents of "foreign imperialism."

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.

May 17, 2017

1943. Skyrockets Fly Over Moscow

Red Army Triumphs Continue
Victory celebrations in Red Square in Moscow to mark V-E Day in the Soviet Union, May 9, 1945 (source)
(For more, see the complete 1943 Moscow reports)

From Newsweek, September 20, 1943, pp. 34-35:
Moscow Celebrates

To hail the victories Moscow artillery roared out salute after salute, with a record twenty salvos from 224 guns for Stalino. Bill Downs, Newsweek and CBS correspondent, cabled this vivid picture of how the victorious capital celebrated the summer triumphs.

"Stalin's orders specifying that Moscow celebrate the Red Army's summer victories has been a popular signal to take a lot of the grimness from ordinary living which for the past two years has characterized Russia's life-and-death struggle. No one can order people to laugh—but rocket displays and booming siege guns are like a shot in the arm to Muscovites, who are usually undemonstrative.

"The first celebration on Aug. 6, signalizing the Orel-Belgorod break-through, was the most colorful. Light anti-aircraft gunners, who had been sitting with nothing to do atop the city's buildings for more than a year and a half, contributed to the demonstration with great bursts of tracer bullets. Added to the ordinary skyrockets and Very lights popping up all over the city, this celebration was a notable night in Moscow.

"All celebrations occur after the daylight factory shifts and when the office workers are home. The Moscow radio—an elaborate public-address system, since the Russians have had no private radios since the war began—announces through the streets and apartment loudspeakers that an important announcement will be made in a half hour. There is great amount of telephoning between friends and some betting on what town will be announced as captured.

"Then the entire city quiets down and crowds gather at the corner speakers to hear the news. There is no cheering but lots of grins and hand-shaking.

"Then there is another brief wait for the fireworks. At the zero hour, the artillery battery at Moscow's western outskirts lights up the sky, and a few seconds later there is a low rumble like distant thunder. The skyrockets, carefully prepared before the announcement, are scattered through every section of the city and are shot off as fast as possible by the members of the security police squads. Red, green, and white, they shoot a couple of hundred feet in the air, filling the sky with colorful designs before burning out.

"The Muscovites, however, have had so many celebrations in a row that they are getting used to them. The first couple of Orders of the Day brought out hidden bottles of wine and vodka from many cupboards for private toasts. But now the string of Red Army victories has got the good citizens of Moscow victory-conditioned. They bring out toasting bottles only for the larger towns these days, and already they are saving up for Smolensk and Kiev."

May 16, 2017

1930. Hitler's Outburst at Leipzig Draws Strong Reactions and Ridicule

A "Feather-Headed Demagogue"
Adolf Hitler testifies as a witness before the Reichsgericht in Leipzig on September 25, 1930 (source)
This article is part of a series of posts on how newspapers covered the rise of fascism in Italy and Germany prior to World War II. In September 1930 Hitler testified as a witness before the German Supreme Court, the Reichsgericht, in Leipzig during the trial of three Reichswehr officers accused of treason. He used the opportunity to bring attention to his movement and promised a violent, authoritarian future for the country under Nazi leadership.

The trial occurred a week after the 1930 German federal election in which the Nazis received a surprising six million votes, coming in second to the Social Democratic Party and raising international alarm eighteen months ahead of the German presidential election of 1932.

Reactions in the United States and Britain were largely negative, but the general consensus remained that, while the Nazis posed a significant threat, they were unlikely to maintain enough popular support to take power. The six million votes were attributed to "economic and social grievances."

The Times said:
"Granted that [Hitler's] party represents a multitude of discontents rather than a single constructive aim and that its sudden access to strength is a product of temporary economic distress and juvenile impatience, the fact remains that it has just polled over 6,000,000 votes and is the second strongest party in the Reichstag."
The New York Times weighed in:
"There is an innocence almost childish about the detailed fashion in which [Hitler] set out to be blood-curdling. Almost one expected him to state the precise number of heads that would roll from the guillotine when the Fascists have taken over control of the German nation and inaugurated the day of reckoning."
Below are four contemporary articles about the incident and the reactions it generated.

From The New York Times, September 26, 1930, pp. 1, 11:
German Fascists' Chief Says at Leipzig Trial That He Will Set Up "Third Reich"
If These Fail, He Testifies, "We Shall Ignore or Circumvent" Pacts "Forced" on Nation
He Tells Judge He Will See Heads of Leaders of 1918 Revolution Rolling in the Sand

LEIPZIG, Sept. 25 — A guillotine functioning after approved historic precedent awaits the men who made the German revolution of 1918 if the National Socialist party (Fascists) ever gets hold of the government. This was solemnly predicted by Adolf Hitler today at the outset of his testimony before the criminal bench of the German Supreme Court, which is trying three Reichswehr officers for high treason in connection with alleged Fascist plotting in the German Army.

"If our movement succeeds," Herr Hitler said to the judge, "we shall erect a people's tribunal before which the November criminals of 1918 shall expiate their crime and I frankly predict you shall then see their heads rolling in the sand."

Will Combat Treaties

Responding to questions from the judge, Herr Hitler said:

"We the National Socialists refuse to recognize the treaties concluded over the heads of the German people as of permanent duration and also propose to fight the war guilt lie. We shall seek to abrogate or revise these by diplomatic negotiations, and I solemnly assert if these fail we shall proceed to ignore or circumvent them, with legal means if possible; failing that, with illegal means. The world may call that illegal, but I am solely answerable to the German people for my actions."

The judge then asked whether the National Socialists proposed to stage a physical revolution in Germany. Herr Hitler said he believed that was impossible because the party was not an outlet for a revolutionary movement, but merely aspired to bring about a gigantic moral uprising along peaceful lines.

Herr Hitler made use of the opportunity to unburden himself of a patriotic oration which ranged between a savage indictment of conditions under the republic and defense of the Fascists, the plans of whom, he stoutly asserted, would be executed only within legal channels.

Sees Bigger Election Gains

The Fascists contemplate a gigantic intellectual awakening of the German people, and the 107 Reichstag seats captured in the last election would be expanded to 250 at the next election, he declared.

He vehemently denied having encouraged attempts to promote disintegration of Reichswehr discipline. He said he was opposed to such procedure as he also was to any other violence in furthering the party's aims.

Fascists who crowded the courtroom cheered their idol and met a stern rebuke from the judge, who reminded the spectators the session was neither a theatrical performance nor a political meeting.

A crowd of several thousand had besieged the venerable Supreme Court Building since 7 A.M., and there were frequent clashes between the police and jubilant Fascists, who either sought entry to the building or an opportunity to cheer their leader. Inside, further police precautions were required to maintain the staid dignity of the court.

Fifteen minutes before the session opened a police official stepped before the barrier which separated the spectators from the bench and admonished the former to observe a becoming decorum, especially when Herr Hitler entered the chamber, because the court otherwise would be compelled to resort to measures "which might be uncomfortable for the spectators." It was observed that this was the first time such precautions had been taken in sessions of the German Supreme Court.

Hitler Cheered on Arrival

Herr Hitler arrived shortly before 9 o'clock and was vociferously cheered as he gave the Fascist salute while walking up the steps into the building. He slipped almost unobserved into one of the seats reserved for witnesses. He was soon called to the witness stand, where the judge explained the nature of his subpoena and informed him he was present only as a witness, that he was expected to make truthful assertions regarding the aims of his party and tell whether it aspired to attain them through legal, constitutional methods. The court incidentally admonished him not to indulge in a lengthy political speech or to seek to defend himself.

After announcing that he had been born at Branau am Inn in Tyrol in 1889, Hitler said he had lost his Austrian citizenship because he had fought in the German Army from 1914 to 1918, when he was gassed and forced to remain in a hospital.

"At the close of the war I clearly recognized that Germany was doomed to internal disintegration as a result of Marxism and internationalism and that even during the war democracy and pacifism had begun their work of destroying the vitality of the German people. I was convinced in 1918 that only a new national movement which would inflame a fanatic national zeal among the German people could effectively combat the Red terror of the Left parties. It was for the purpose of carrying on this work of illumination that the so-called storm divisions of the National Socialist Labor party were organized."

Herr Hitler began a length account which dealt with the expansion of his party and its subsequent part in German political activities. It carried him down to the Munich revolt in 1923 which was staged by him and in which General Ludendorff had an ignominious part.

That outbreak, he contended, was the result of events beyond his control, and the revolt, as such, was contrary to his wishes. He emphasized that the relations between the Federal Government and Bavaria had reached a state of latent war and it was only a question of whether a march on Berlin was to be undertaken under the blue and white colors of Bavaria or by other forces.

Party "Peaceful" Since 1925

Since 1925, he said, his organization had been directed into peaceful channels and sought to conduct itself as a strictly non-military political unit.

At this point in his testimony the judge intervened with an examination which resulted in more emphatic and picturesque declarations by the Fascist leader. He denied responsibility for any illegal currents in the Fascist ranks and said they had no secret aims. Replying to the court's question as to his attitude on the Reichswehr, Herr Hitler said:

"I consider the Reichswehr the most important instrument for the restoration of the German State to the people. I have never undertaken any action inimical to the Reichswehr or tending to disrupt its discipline and morale. As a former soldier, I know only too well the folly and futility of such a policy. We are not foes of the Reichswehr and consider as its enemies and as enemies of the German people all who would seek to undermine it. Such elements in my party who toy with the thought of revolution have been summarily expelled or have voluntarily left it when informed of my attitude."

The judge then reminded Herr Hitler of a statement contained in one of his publications to the effect that "heads would roll in the sand" when his party came into power. It was here that the Fascist leader made his dramatic prediction of the guillotine.

Cries of "Bravo!" echoed through the chamber but they were quickly suppressed with a warning from the bench that the chamber would be cleared if the plaudits were repeated.

Herr Hitler became more informative as he proceeded to answer the questions of the judge with respect to some of the more immediate political aims of the Fascists.

Predicts Majority in Three Years

"With ten years our movement has won a place as the second strongest political party in Germany," Herr Hitler replied. "In three years it will be the strongest party and in the future 35,000,000 of the 40,000,000 voters will support us. That Germany which today hails us into court will some day be glad that our movement was begun. National socialism will convert this defeatist and pacifist State into a nation of iron strength and will.

"To us the old imperial Germany was a State for which we were proud to fight—a State with glorious traditions. The second Reich in which we now are living is predicated on democracy and pacifism. We propose to make the third Reich one of healthy and vigorous nationalism—a State for the people, and shall put an end to the process of national disintegration. We shall accomplish this with legal and constitutional means, and shall mold our state into that form which we deem necessary for it."

Herr Hitler charged that the Reichswehr as it was now constituted did not represent the German people, that it no longer was an expression of the national spirit. The old imperial army, he said, was an exponent of the monarchical idea and urged that the Reichswehr in the new State should also feel itself responsible for the fate of the nation. He denied having sought political ingress into the ranks of the Reichswehr. He said he had prohibited the spread of his publications in the soldiers' barracks.

The judge reminded him that the Italian army made common cause with the Fascisti in October, 1922, and asked whether that would serve as a precedent for the National Socialists.

"The Italian Fascisti," replied Herr Hitler, "did not make a revolution in the sense the German Socialists did in 1918, for Mussolini proceeded in a strictly legal manner; otherwise he could not be the royal Premier today. Any force he applied was not directed against the state, but was aimed at the terror of the street mob."

Denies Violence Since 1923

Herr Hitler then was requested by the court to deny categorically that he at any time since the Munich revolt in 1923 had sought to change the German Constitution by violent means or that he had instructed his subordinates to do so. His denial was emphatic, and that ended his testimony.

Numerous official representatives of the German States attended today's session of the trial because their governments are concerned with the further progress of the National Socialists throughout Germany.

Under-Secretary Zweigert of the Reich's Ministry of the Interior submitted an exhaustive memorial at the conclusion of Herr Hitler's examination which purports to prove that the National Socialist party since its inception has been pursuing revolutionary tactics. Dr. Zweigert testified he possessed evidence proving that Herr Hitler gave the Bavarian Government his word of honor he would not undertake any putsch (revolt) there, despite which he staged his insurrection in 1923. Dr. Zweigert demanded that the government's memorial be made part of the official evidence to offset Herr Hitler's personal testimony, which he declared was insufficient and not binding on the party as a whole.

Counsel for the three accused Reichswehr officers, Lieutenants Scheringer, Ludin and Wendt, objected on the ground that the charges were not supported by documentary evidence. Dr. Zweigert was dismissed as a witness despite the motion of the prosecuting attorney that the memorial be received as evidence. The hearing was adjourned to Friday.
The New York Times reported on reactions in the British press, particularly the view of the fascist-sympathizing owner of the Daily Mail, Lord Rothermere.

From The New York Times, September 25, 1930, p. 24:

The three young officers on trial at Leipzig for conducting treasonable Fascist propaganda in the Reichswehr have been so outspoken in court that it is hard to say where they will stop. They may yet be moved to leap to their feet and point the contrast between the feeble and timid manner in which the interests of the German Fatherland are being served by President Hindenburg and the magnificent vision and courage brought to the same task by Lord Rothermere. The head of the German Republic, who used to be Commander-in-Chief of the German armies, has just let it be known that the Hitlerite "menace" should not be taken too seriously. In no part of the Reich does he consider the danger of a Fascist coup d'état to exist, and he regards the Bruening Government as fully capable of dealing with the present situation or any situation that may arise. Von Hindenburg thus passes judgment on the merits and importance of the Fascist agitation.

Far otherwise is it with the owner of The London Daily Mail. In the Fascist movement he discerns the promise of the rebirth of the German nation. Herr Hitler will begin by organizing Germany against the corruption of communism. With the nation cleansed and reinvigorated, the Fascist dictatorship will turn its attention to the map of Europe. Austria and Hungary will be brought under the aegis of a Hitlerite federation, Czechoslovakia may find herself "elbowed out of existence overnight," and other drastic revisions will be read into the peace treaties of 1919. This will achieve the double purpose of righting the wrongs of Versailles and setting up a really effective barrier against bolshevism in the heart of Europe. The scheme, of course, is not a perfect one. If the treaty-makers at Versailles, working at leisure, perpetrated so many grave errors, it is not to be expected that Lord Rothermere, writing under great pressure, possibly to catch an edition, should go scot-free. He may thus have overlooked what Hungarian fascism will have to say about being submerged in German fascism. It is only two years since Lord Rothermere took up Hungary's wrongs in a serious way and won so much favor at Budapest as to be mentioned for the vacant throne of St. Stephen. The Magyars now ask what Lord Rothermere means by giving them back their former boundaries only to bring them again under ancient Teuton subjection. And in the original home of fascism, brows may be knit against a triumphant German-Austro-Hungarian fascism that might seek to revive the questions of Tyrol and Fiume.

Yet these are minor considerations by the side of the great Rothermere objective of a new Germany under a military dictator, to save Europe from Bolshevism. What The London Daily Mail scheme overlooks is that such a new Germany cannot set up business without another European war, unavoidably necessary in order to dispose of France's veto on the new Hitlerite Reich. And that the one thing which Europe needs to avert the triumph of bolshevism is another general war must be plain to every competent thinker. Lenin's plans were so badly hurt by the events of 1914-1917 that his successor, Stalin, must be trembling at the thought of another conflagration in capitalist Europe!
Other British newspapers ridiculed the speech.

From The New York Times, September 26, 1930:
German Fascist Chief is Called 'Feather-Headed Demagogue'—Hope Put in Hindenburg
Daily News Predicts the Use of Emergency Powers if Plan for Coalition Fails

LONDON, Sept. 25 — Viscount Rothermere's enthusiasm for Adolf Hitler and his general softening of heart toward the "young builders of new Germany," which on Wednesday made the British newspaper publisher question the wisdom of insisting upon the last letter of the law as regards war debt payments, has not caught the fancy of the British public.

Far from being regarded now as the savior of Europe, Herr Hitler—after his wild oration in the Leipzig court today—is somewhat unceremoniously called a "feather-headed demagogue" by a section of the British press, and the discovery is made that he still stands where he did, dreaming of executions, revolutions and repudiations.

Concerning Herr Hitler's declaration that there must be two or three more Reichstag elections before his "uprising," The Daily Herald, the organ of the Labor party, suggests that Herr Hitler's ardent followers who are "panting to wade through blood and fire to the establishment of a third Reich" must be disappointed.

"It all sounds, despite the threat that then heads will roll in the sand," says The Daily Herald, "rather like Mr. Balfour pushing off tariff reform or Mr. Baldwin dodging Empire free trade. But what are the heads of the storm battalions, thirsting for the blood of the Jews, profiteers and pacifists going to think of Herr 'Don't Hityetler'?"

The London Times, editorially referring to "Hitler's indiscretion," says his references to peace treaties can hardly be disregarded abroad, and adds: "Granted that his party represents a multitude of discontents rather than a single constructive aim and that its sudden access to strength is a product of temporary economic distress and juvenile impatience, the fact remains that it has just polled over 6,000,000 votes and is the second strongest party in the Reichstag."

The newspaper has no doubt that the Hitler party would gain strength in subsequent elections if they were held soon and is not encouraged by the Leipzig trial in the hope that it will by then be fit to share the responsibility of government.

"Fortunately for Germany and Europe," the paper adds, "the last word still lies with President Hindenburg and his civil and military advisers. They know far better than Hitler and the militants that the economic prosperity and international relations of the Reich depend first and foremost on the confidence of the other nations." The Liberal Daily News and Chronicle regards the situation created by Herr Hitler's outburst as a very difficult one. If a working coalition cannot be framed it considers President Hindenburg may be forced to exercise again the emergency powers put into force last July. "But by this time the situation, if these powers are invoked, will be far graver than it was last July," says the paper.
Days after the testimony, The New York Times published its own editorial entitled "Hitler's Rhetoric."

From The New York Times, September 27, 1930:

If it be true that a watched pot never boils, the menace of Adolf Hitler has been grossly exaggerated. His speech before the Supreme Court at Leipzig was in substance an invitation to the whole world to watch him boil over. There is an innocence almost childish about the detailed fashion in which he set out to be blood-curdling. Almost one expected him to state the precise number of heads that would roll from the guillotine when the Fascists have taken over control of the German nation and inaugurated the day of reckoning. There is something which may be innocence or mere confusion of ideas about his coupling the overthrow of the German Republic, the repudiation of the peace treaties and the mobilization of the guillotine with the legal two-thirds majority required by the Weimar Constitution. People will find it another mark of the ingrained German respect for law and order that even revolution and massacre must pause to make sure that they are not Verboten. These are not the deprecatory half-measures employed by the original practitioners of fascism in Italy or of the Communist variety of fascism in Russia. Mussolini's or Lenin's manifestos were concerned with the programs and principles and not with the dreadful things they would do to their enemies as soon as they got ready.

To dismiss the Hitlerite rhetoric, for all its naïveté, as of no consequence would be wrong. Since 1914 no one will venture to say what dire mischief may not be let loose by infantile irresponsibility. It requires no great talent to get on the nerves of the nations in the new European order and particularly in the present economic discontent. Yet, humanly speaking, the net result of the 6,000,000 votes cast for the Hitlerite platform of dictatorship and war, the net result of that flamboyant speech at Leipzig, should be to bring together the parties and elements in Germany standing for sobriety and the existing political order. These were a majority in the Reichstag election and may be expected to show a more decisive majority if it ever comes to a show-down. Many Germans who registered their economic and social grievances by voting Fascist a fortnight ago will think twice before actually inviting civil war and the return of French troops to German soil.

Wherever in Western Europe fascism has asserted itself successfully it has come as the retort to an experiment in communism, or from fear of a foreign enemy. It is still the doctrine in Italy that Mussolini's march on Rome saved the country from Red domination and from the dark designs of certain foreign powers. In Bavaria and Hungary an actual taste of communism preceded and prepared the way for the rule of the strong hand. These seemingly necessary conditions for flinging one's self into the arms of dictatorship Germany today obviously does not fulfill. She is in no danger from her domestic proletarians. And, despite the talk of Germany's enslavement by the peace treaties the signs of her servitude are fast disappearing.

May 15, 2017

1952. Campaign Reporters Predict Adlai Stevenson Will Win Election

Correspondents Doubtful Eisenhower Has the Votes
The CBS newsroom in New York on election night, November 1952 (source)
From The Salt Lake Tribune, October 16, 1952, p. 10:
Press Entourage Favors Gov. Stevenson by 6 to 1



Newsmen traveling with Adlai Stevenson to cover his presidential campaign are nearly 6-1 in favor of the Democratic candidate, a poll of correspondents indicated Wednesday.

However, despite their strong personal likes and dislikes, the newsmen accompanying the Illinois governor are not nearly so confident that he will lick Dwight D. Eisenhower in November.

Only two newsmen would admit to placing or taking friendly bets with their fellows. Pulitzer Prize-winning Bert Andrews of the New York Herald-Tribune has wagered on Ike.

"It's a sweep-in; it's all over," Andrews, considered one of the nation's top Washington experts told his fellows. Bill Downs, ace CBS newscaster, who covered part of Mr. Andrew's wager, demurred volubly.

Sees Stevenson Win

"Mr. Stevenson took the initiative last week and this. He is passing Eisenhower and will win the election," Mr. Downs held. According to the newscaster, the Republican candidate reached his peak vote-drawing capacity early in the campaign, began slipping more than a month ago, then climbed somewhat on the initial impact of the Richard Nixon speech concerning the vice-presidential aspirant's finances.

"Now the Eisenhower 'pull' is declining again, while Gov. Stevenson is on the upgrade," he explained.

Most members of the Stevenson press party, while declaring "at least 75 per cent of the group" now is pro-Stevenson, expressed belief "it's not our role to be quoted as individuals."

However, Barnett Nover, syndicated Washington correspondent for The Denver Post, noted "the feelings of the men in the press party are directly related to the kind of news the candidate is making."

He explained that members of the press contingent traveling with either candidate, especially those who have toured with both, "go for the fellow who makes the most news."

According to Mr. Nover "the endless fertility of ideas and news phrases expressed by Gov. Stevenson puts many of us on his side." Several reporters who have traveled with both groups have pointed out, on the other hand, that "Eisenhower speeches have a way of being stilted, and even 'produce stuff' that seem to come from a word-factory."

One curious split in the reportorial party was evidenced when correspondents Harold Lavine and Leonard Slater, both representing Newsweek, indicated sharp division on their personal preferences as to the candidates—but would not state who each favored.

Ike Pull in South Cited

Several correspondents warned campaign observers not to be "deceived" about the situation in the south as regards Gen. Eisenhower's chances. "He will get the largest vote ever given a Republican down there, larger even than the anti-Al Smith vote," said one, "but he cannot come close to the 50 per cent he needs to capture southern electoral votes."

Newsmen accompanying Gov. Stevenson were of one mind on one issue, however—being nearly 100 per cent in favor of train travel for presidential candidates.

"You can leave town while you're sleeping," said one.

"You have time to think through your stories on a train," another reported.

"You fly 600 miles to ride in a bus," was another's bitter phrase.

"This is the roughest campaign newsmen ever went through," was the general consensus.

May 14, 2017

1949. Soviets Said to Be Conducting Defensive Exercises Along the Elbe

Defensive Preparations in Germany
Red Army soldiers march at the Tiergarten Soviet War Memorial in the British sector of Berlin, 1949 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

March 11, 1949

More than a quarter of a million Russian troops are now being concentrated in northeastern Germany for the Red Army's biggest postwar maneuvers this spring.

Soviet units are being brought from Austria and Poland, intelligence reports say, to participate in the spring exercises in which an estimated 270 to 300 thousand troops will be involved. Yesterday the arrival of some four thousand troops and three hundred tanks was reported in the town of Bernau, just east of Berlin. Today Russian military authorities ordered that all persons in the northern province of Mecklenburg possessing maps of the area turn them over.

An innovation of the Russian spring maneuvers is the employment of their Communist-controlled German police. An estimated twenty thousand armed "people's police" will be given the job of protecting the security of the maneuvers. The Germans will not be used in a combat capacity.

Six army groups of some fifty thousand men each will form the order of battle.

Authorities here say the troop concentrations are similar to the recent winter maneuvers held by American occupation forces in which the troops defended the Rhine against an "unnamed aggressor." Only fifteen thousand troops participated in this practice. The Russians are employing twenty times that number.

However, the Russian maneuvers are of a defensive nature. The objective of their maneuvers is to defend the Elbe River line that cuts southeastward from Hamburg in the British zone through the center of the Soviet zone south of Berlin. The spring exercises are being watched here with interest.

Blockaded Berliners have not lost their sense of humor despite the heat-less winter now ending. A new story concerns a little boy who brought his snowman into the house. His mother told him to take it outside. The child objected, saying: "If I take it outside, mother, it will melt."

Another story is making the rounds concerning a geography class here. The teacher asks: "What is the name of an island in the Red Sea?" A bright young boy replies immediately: "Berlin?"

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.

May 13, 2017

1949. Criminal Trials Held in Munich

A Visit to Munich
Fritz Kuhn, former leader of the German American Bund, appeals a ten-year sentence in Munich, February 14, 1949 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Munich

February 19, 1949

This is Bill Downs recording from Munich.

The Bavarian military government announces today what is probably the only case in history of hijacking by locomotive.

Russian soldiers and East German border police yesterday ran a locomotive one hundred yards across the Bavarian border and hitched it onto a string of damaged railroad cars standing nearby.

They backed across the border into the Soviet zone with thirty-one of the freight cars. Two others were derailed. The proper protests are being prepared. The incident is an example of the desperate shortage of rolling stock on the Russian zone.

The proceedings of the secret spy trial held here the other day will be released after the minutes have been censored by security officials.

A military court sentenced one František Klečka to twenty years of hard labor as part of the Czech espionage ring operating against the United States. However, no details of his crime were released, causing widespread protests from reporters here. Spy charges against twenty other persons will be heard in public hearings Monday.

Another trial of interest here in Munich today concerns the notorious Fritz Kuhn, former head of the German American Bund and once America's leading Nazi. Kuhn is appealing a ten year labor camp sentence imposed by a German denazification court.

Yesterday the prosecution brought in a surprise witness, John Roy Carlson, the author of Under Cover and The Plotters.

Carlson, who is in Europe to collect material for another book, reiterated his documented proofs of Kuhn's Nazism. Kuhn, incidentally, is a much-changed man from the days when he was heiling and goosestepping over the United States. He appears healthy, humbled but now is given to mumbling to himself.

Reporting from Munich is much different from Berlin. The blockade and the airlift are very far away. The fact that the one-millionth ton of supplies has been delivered by the airlift—that East Berlin police have killed one man and shot two other persons in a sector border incident seems very, very far away—in another country.

This is Bill Downs in Munich. Now back to CBS in New York.

May 12, 2017

1949. The Price to Pay for Lifting the Berlin Blockade

West Berlin's Uncertain Future
Konrad Adenauer announces the Basic Law in Bonn. From left to right: Helene Weber, Hermann Schäfer, Adenauer, Adolf Schönfelder, Jean Stock. May 23, 1949 (Photo by Georg Munker - source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

May 5, 1949

Berlin is greeting the news of the Four Power agreement to lift the blockade with unanimous relief. The Berlin crisis will not mean war as once was feared, but the West Berliners who have been opposing the Communists for the past eleven months still ask, "What is the price to be?"

As the newspaper Tagesspiegel put it: "For us the blockade will not be lifted until we are able to proceed to Frankfurt, Hamburg, and Munich without an interzonal pass; when no 'people's policeman' and no Russian soldier can order us out of a train and make us disappear; and when neither the carrying of ten pounds of potatoes nor the possession of West marks will put us in danger of winding up in the uranium mines of Saxony."

West Berlin's Mayor Ernst Reuter hails the agreement as a "first-class defeat of the Eastern politicians." Reuter says the next step for a unified Berlin is free elections for all of the city. But, he added, "This is just the beginning of a new tug of war between the East and the West."

The Russian-licensed press on the other side of the town print the news of the agreement but offer no definitive comment. The Communist-dominated Socialist Unity Party of the East issues a communiqué this morning welcoming the decision to lift the blockade, saying that this is what the Soviet Union wanted all the time. The SED adds that this means an end to the plans of the Western German political leaders to set up a separate West German state. Now it remains, the German communiqué says, for the economic councils of the Soviet zone and the Western zones to restore normal trade relations.

Tipping their hand on the future party line, the Russian-sponsored party made this appeal: "We ask that the Berlin population restore its democratic unity and fight for a just peace treaty in order to achieve a unified Germany and the resultant withdrawal of the occupation troops." The SED also is preparing a call for a Germany-wide plebiscite on a unified nation.

From this it would appear that foreign ministers are going to hear a lot about a peace treaty and mutual withdrawal of troops when they sit down to discuss the problem of Germany later this month.

Dr. Konrad Adenauer, president of the West German constitutional convention, said lifting of the blockade would not affect work on the formation of a West German state.

The blockade isn't lifted yet. Two American and one British correspondent are being held by the Russians after they attempted to jump the gun and come through Berlin last night. They were picked up at the Helmstadt border crossing point. American authorities are taking the usual measures to secure their release.

General Clay said today that the airlift will continue on full operation until Berlin has a stockpile of 200,000 tons of food and fuel, just in case the blockade is stepped up again.

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

May 5, 1949

Berlin welcomes the blockade lifting with "grateful suspicion." Grateful because this major international irritation has been removed and thus lessened the possibility of war. Suspicious because Germans most of all have learned the lesson of Marxist realism.

In other words, the consensus is that the sudden Soviet turnabout and the new era of good feeling and sentiment is not a solution, but a tactic.

From here it looks like the foreign ministers are going to rewrite or at least add to the Potsdam Agreement. There are two schools of thought: First, that the conference will fail for the same reasons it has always failed. Basically this is because we have two definitions of democracy and freedom.

Another school of thought is that the Russians are prepared to go all the way—that they will accept a West German state as long as they can sponsor their own East German government, and that they want neutral Germany as a buffer and are willing to do almost anything to bring about an agreement to achieve this.

One thing appears certain. According to the official Communist line now being promulgated, Vyshinsky is going to propose a peace treaty for all of Germany and the withdrawal of troops. The big dispute will come over "German unity."

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

May 5, 1949

Perhaps the best reaction I have picked up from a Berliner came tonight from my housekeeper. When I said that the four powers had agreed to lift the blockade, she replied, "And how much did the Americans give in to the Russians?"

The big question in blockaded Berlin tonight is what becomes of two and a half million people, one hundred miles deep in the Russian zone, who have been defying the Communist assault against the democratic political position here.

West Berlin Mayor Ernst Reuter says "it is good," but that the issues are not settled. Free elections must be held in Eastern Germany. General Clay is not available for comment. The German Communists are happily claiming victory. The British Commandant, General Robertson, declares that "West Berliners will have their interests safeguarded." And America's volatile commander for Berlin, General Frank Howley, remarks, "This agreement will not bring back the lives lost in the airlift."

In other words, agreement to lift the blockade by the Russians does not banish the basic problems between East and West.

To the people in Berlin, it means that the lights will not go off at nine or ten o'clock, instead staying on all night; that the wholesome but tasteless "Pom" dehydrated potatoes potatoes will disappear from the diet; that factories will reopen and trade resume. But as I said before, the cynical blockaded Berliner still wonders what the price will be.

As I speak to you, the airlift continues to roll tonight. Today British and American planes completed the past twenty-four hours with a delivery of 8,900 tons of food and fuel to this city. The airlift will continue to operate until we have more than a preliminary agreement. So far the Russian blockade has cost twenty-three British and twenty-eight American lives—that's fifty-one altogether.

The man who invented the airlift, General Lucius Clay, today gave a farewell review to his occupation troops. He said "the United States Army is in Germany, and will remain in Germany, as long as necessary to assure the peace."

If we had achieved a Cold War victory in Berlin tonight—and that depends upon what the diplomats achieve—the major credit can be awarded first to the ordinary citizen of blockaded Berlin who chose the risky course of resistance while surrounded by totalitarian opposition.

And second, for the physical achievement of this greatest of peacetime air operations. The United States Air Force and friends, from the highest flying captain to the lowliest Polish DP who unloaded the thousands of tons of coal, deserve the thanks of the democratic world.

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.