Sir Freddie






Q: What was the attitude of the (--) Hesse ...

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ROLL 10061


Q: We're talking about General Clay, by 1948 who among the Western allies of obviously who General Clay was an important member, did the German politicians sort of look to as providing the lead?

A: Well, it didn't take till '48. They decided much earlier. And was it difficult to decide where lay the economic power in the world, that it was the US. So that was a very early and not exactly particularly brilliant discovery on the German part, that. And in fact it went so far that on certain occasions the German Minister Presidents, they had a meeting with the three military governors several times during the parliamentary council which was an association of the Minister Presidents and other leading - who drew up the German constitution. And on several occasions some from the other zone of the occupation, particularly the French zone, asked for a private talk with General Clay and complained about General Koenig, the French military governor. I never heard them complain about General Robertson, but it was all in all obvious that they thought Clay was the key man.

Q: Where the divergences of policy between the British and the French and the American attitude and policy towards recreating German political life and the new German state?

A: That did not come to my attention, because when I interpreted for General Clay he met the Germans and he would never divulge any differences on the allied side, so I was always confronted with whatever behind the scenes the British, French and Americans had quarreled about, so I'm not a good source for that. I don't recall a single meeting where General Clay would permit the Germans to try to exploit real or alleged differences among the allies.

Q: What was Clay's relationship with Adenauer like, for example?

A: He didn't of course have much to do yet with Adenauer, because Adenauer came into the picture only when the so-called parliamentary council was drawn up, which was charged by the three Western allied governors with working out the German constitution. And during there were not terribly many meetings of the three military governors with the Parliamentary Council. They were at first given, if my memory is right, many months where among themselves they started drawing up the German constitution, and only really when they had a draft did they meet with the three military governors. One of the reasons I regret not having taken notes is that in my recollection we stopped the Germans from putting a few foolish things into the constitution and I have the firm conviction, I can't prove it, that the excellence of the German so-called basic law is in part because we prevented them from putting in some things that wouldn't have been so good, and by common German acknowledgement this is the best constitution they've ever had in German history. I remember one very important point where we put our foot down. The SPD of course was pushing for putting the right to work into the constitution, and I remember distinctly how General Clay said to them, 'you cannot have a free market economy if the constitution guarantees the right to work, because who can guarantee it? Only the government. That's the end of a free market economy.' And so we sort of, I couldn't say whether without our objection the SPD might have persuaded the CDU to put it in, but when it came up at the Parliamentary Council meeting with the three allied governors, General Clay made no bones about it that we wouldn't tolerate it. So here's one case where I remember distinctly that we prevented them from committing certain mistakes and that therefore I think some credit should go to the Western allies for the excellence of the German constitution.

Q: How did Clay see the future German state as shaping up in relation to its powers?

A: strangely enough, he never talked about that. I spent a lot of time with him, in the car and plane going back and forth, and he would sometimes open up on how he felt about certain people, but I can't say that I've ever came across any vision he had. I would say he was a man who was dealing very much with the problems of the day. And his function as military governor was to put Germany back on its feet. Not to worry what might happen 20 years later. Though when we come to the currency reform I would say that he distinctly had a vision of the future German economy.

Q: We'll come to currency reform now. You actually had to broadcast it. Could you tell me about that?

A: Yes. In one of the last meeting that he had with Professor Erhardt and a future State Secretary of Finance in the first German government, by the name of Hartmann, who were the two outstanding Germans in this bi-zonal and later tri-zonal, because the French joined us near the end, Economic Council. And they were the two with whom he discussed currency reform. And in one of the last meetings, if I'm right it was five days before the famous June 18th (cough) Professor Erhardt asked him in what form will you make this complicated currency reform, three highly technical laws available to the German public? And apparently General Clay hadn't given it any thought yet, and he reflected for a moment, then he pointed at me and said, 'Lochner's studied economics too, and since he's one of the few who knows about the fact and the date, which was a very closely and effectively guarded secret, I'll ask him right now to prepare a simple version for announcement (cough) on the radio.' So under great security precautions I couldn't call Berlin for instance from my Radio Frankfurt office, I had to go out to the headquarters building and talk on the secure line, I was given the documents, MPs bringing them to me, and I could work on it only in the headquarters building, and I prepared a kind of simple 14-minute version to be announced on the radio. But near the end of it, it became obvious to me that on a very crucial point, namely whether on Monday morning the Germans would start being paid in the new currency or not, these documents weren't very clear. The currency reform was late Friday night, so that Saturday, Sunday the banks were closed (cough) and on the secure line I called the actual author of the (....) reform, the currency reform, an economic, American economics expert by the name of Tannenbaum, he died about two years ago, and the man was obviously overworked, at the end of his nerves, and he screamed at me on the phone, 'I don't understand that part myself.' So what could I do? I left that passage rather vague. On that Friday night, 20.00, all day long all West German radio stations had urged listeners to tune in on a very important announcement of the three military governors. BBC German Service was tuned in, the Austrian radio was tuned in, so that friends of mine said later I probably had the largest ausince Goebbels last appealfor total war. So of course I was not named by name, I was simply announced as the spokesman of the three military governments. But since I worked in Frankfurt of course a lot of people, among others at one of the big Frankfurt papers, the Frankfurter Neue Presse, recognised my voice and so that next day the Neue Presse came out, all the page was the currency reform, in the middle was my picture and name as having announced the currency reform. So thereupon a flood of hundreds of angry letters poured in, people acting as if I'd made the currency reform and bitterly asking me how I - could I keep that all-important point unclear, whether - of course they all, on Saturday they got 40 marks, but it was not clear whether Monday they'd be paid in the new currency. And I'm sure these letters would be interesting to historians, except they're irretrievably lost. When we changed over from military government to High Commission, meant the change from War Department to State Department, and our War Department people took all their marbles home with them, meaning all documents. Among them these letters. And years later I heard that out of a huge truck they were dumped into a warehouse in the state of Kansas. No further identification. So I'm sure they're irretrievably lost. The result was that later on, in the '60s, when I was part of the US mission in Berlin, when we needed documents on the early period, '45-49, we had to go to our British colleagues, because they had their documents, but our War Department documents were all gone from Berlin, as they were from West Germany.

Q: Moving on, just by a week or so, to the announcement of the Soviet blockade of Berlin, did -

A: may I interrupt? I -