Sir Freddie






Q: You moved into the information control division of OMGUS, the US military government in Germany. what exactly was its brief? What did it do?

A: We of course took over four of the major German radio stations in our occupied area, that was Radio Frankfurt, Radio Stuttgart, Radio Munich and Radio Bremen. And the first summof '45 we,unlike the British, who immediately in their zone of occupation created a German news service, we simply piped in from Luxembourg the station ABSE, American Broadcasting Station in Europe. We piped in the German news. And in August of '45 Clay ordered that a German service for the four US zone stations should be created and I was named the Chief Editor of that. And this was in a small place north of Frankfurt called Bad Nauheim, where the nazis had evacuated the Frankfurt station because of the air attacks. And by August '45 of course the few anti-nazi qualified Germans in a small town like that had all been gobbled up by other units of the occupation forces and so when we went on the air in late September for days, if not weeks, I had to do all the shows from the six am news to the 11 pm news myself. And then I yelled for relief and four of the German service people from ABSE were assigned to me, including Golo Mann, the son of Thomas Mann, who was a sergeant in the American army.

Q: What sort of things were you trying to tell the German people? Was it apart from the news, were you trying to inculcate sort of democratic values?

A: Later, not in the beginning. We had a hell of a time just filling the broadcasting time. We had nobody yet who was qualified to give political commentaries but (cough) several months later of course we started more or less what German stations have as a full programme, including school on the air, literary shows, women's shows and so on, so we followed the programme pattern of what the Germans had had during the Weimar regime. But overall there was not any particular emphasis on the education, because General Clay ordered us to set up a free radio station and demonstrate to the Germans how such a service should operate. And though on paper there were rules that Germans were not to criticise the four occupation powers, in practice we ignored it. I'll give you a practical example. In the Fall of '45 there were the first local elections in the land Hesse. And as head of the news service one day I got an item that the SPD, the Socialist Party in Hesse, complained in factual fashion about the treatment of German POWs by the Soviets, and this to me was news and I carried it. And I was given a reprimand by the head of the radio section of OMGUS in Berlin, pointing out, as if I hadn't read it, that Germans were not to criticise the occupation powers, all four occupation powers at that time. The Cold War hadn't really set in yet. So I defended myself that on the other hand General Clay had said we should demonstrate a independent factual radio service, and that included major news whether we liked it or not, and I was vindicated. So to me the important factor was General Clay himself. There were a lot of bureaucrats in between who would have loved to follow such orders as don't criticise any of the four occupation powers. But General Clay had this vision of setting up a democratic media, and the same applied to the newspapers.

Q: I'll come to General Clay in a minute. when did policy regarding criticisms or information coming out of the Soviet zone or the Soviet Union change? When was it fair to point out drawbacks within the Soviet Union or Soviet policy in Germany?

A: There was no one change in directive. It just became so obvious that for instance, this no criticism of the occupation powers assumed some kind of solidarity among the four, but when the Soviets became clearly, as early as the Fall of '45 the adversary, then these instructions kind of vanished in thin air. So there was no point that I'm quite certain of where there was a formal change in and this non-criticism was so obviously incompatible with the first democratic elections, because the German parties then, and rightly so, also had a lot of things to complain about as far as the Western occupation powers were concerned. And General Clay never interfered because he wanted to build up a new democracy in Germany.

Q: Tell me about General Clay. What sort of man was he?

A: A very extraordinary man, whom I confess I got to admire tremendously. During his whole period as military governor I was, as a sideline to my major job as control officer of Radio Frankfurt, I was his interpreter. It might be worth mentioning that very few people remember that between our first military governor, Eisenhower, and Clay there was another one by the name of, a four star General also, McNarnie. But he only lasted about a year. And I got my sideline interpreter's job through McNarnie, because at Christmas '46 McNarnie for the first time addressed the Germans in the US zone of occupation on the radio from Frankfurt, from the famous (name) they had a large crowd there, and on the day before we went there to look at the facilities, and near the end one of the other Generals said to McNarnie 'General, I don't suppose all the Germans understand english. Wouldn't it be desirable to have your speech translated?' Apparently nobody had thought of that before. As control officer of Radio Frankfurt, I was along and the military governor of the state of Hesse, Colonel Newman, who was my immediate boss, said, 'well, Lochner speaks German, so let him do it.' So that's how my interpreting career started. And then when shortly after, General Clay took over he apparently simply took me over too. So for the whole period of General Clay I was his interpreter and that meant two and a half years of no vacation, because General Clay never took a vacation. Once only in those two and a half years I managed - there seemed to be a whole week free of any assignments to take my wife and her mother to Brussels. And hardly arrived - I had to always leave word where I was - and I was taken back by helicopter because big shot from Washington, I forget who it was, came to Berlin and I had to interpret. Well (cough) General Clay was the hardest working man I've ever encountered. No vacation. He skipped lunch because he considered that a waste of time. (cough) Instead he had 20 cups of coffee and two packs of cigarettes a day. And in his days he didn't meet with many Germans, therefore I could combine this job with my main job. In Berlin I never had to interpret except when it was no because he talked only to top Germans and in Berlin he had mayor Reuter who spoke fluent english. Of course I interpreted on special occasions but not regularly. Whereas in West Germany he met once a month with the four Minister Presidents of his found lander or states, and a little later once a month with the British General with the so-called bizonal economic council. But other than that he had no social contacts whatsoever with Germans. This was not because of his alleged anti-German feeling, but because he was working day and night and social chitchat was just of no interest to him. what impressed me particularly was his fantastic ability to absorb difficult questions that were quite outside of the framework of his experience. After all, he was a professional soldier. And during these meetings of the Bizonal Economic Council with the top Germans, as the name indicates, they were all economic problems that were discussed, and some of them very intricate, and never once did I find him unprepared, and he and General Robertson, his British counterpart, were surrounded by oh, more than a dozen experts, and on the rare occasions when General Clay would turn to them because something was so esoteric, they would just shrug their shoulders. They didn't know either. So I always felt that Ambassador Robert Murphy, who ws sitting to his right and I, his interpreter, he could have left all the others home. There were cases like chimney sweep districts, where I thought by myself, well surely he can't have boned up on that one. But he did. So it was brilliant to see how he mastered these intricate economic problems.

Q: Well, moving on in terms of time to around sort of '47-48, what conception did Clay have by that time of the revival of German political life?

A: He was quite satisfied with the way it was going. He was furious at the Soviets, because he had pushed, for instance, for a currency reform very early on, becausit was obvious thwith the totally discredited Reichsmark no revival of German economic life was possible. And so he was very impatient that of course it was impossible to get the Soviets to agree on a currency reform for all of Germany. And therefore only in final impatient disgust did we do the currency reform on our own in June of '48, and of course then economic life revived. So he was very impatient to push along the reconstruction of Germany, and he was in the whole I think very satisfied with the calibre of the postwar German leadership. He had no, how should I put it, no patience with Germans who would forever thank him for American aid and so on. He liked people like Professor Ehrhardt, the outstanding man in the Bizonal Economic Council faced him as an equal. These people of course all had a non-nazi past, so they had no personal guilt to hide, so to speak. And he didn't like people who would kowtow and so on, so he got along with - he had a very real feeling for who were the top Germans. he could very quickly find out there were some windbags among them too. And so particularly Erhardt stuck out from the start and he had a very good relationship with him. I might tell you later about the currency reform where Erhardt played such a major role.