Sir Freddie






Q: Yeah.

A: There's an important point on the currency reform. Shall I just go on now? One of the most impressive meetings that General Clay had with Professor Erhardt and Mr Hartmann was when Erhardt, in a pleading tone, asked General Clay to remove the excessive hardship of the conversion of 100 reichsmarks to only six marks fifty of the new D-mark for the main victims of the war. The cripples, the widows, the children, and how Clay gently explained to him, 'I fully understand that you as a democratic German politician could not enforce this kind of rigid cut on the Germans, so be glad that we, as military government, with our broad backs will shoulder the responsibility for that. But if we start making exceptions the whole thing will be watered down and then the new currency will not be effective.' And of course he was borne out right by the post currency reform developments. And another interesting point is that (cough) when Professor Erhardt then proceeded to radically abolish all the aspects of the controlled economy, the ration system and so on, I remember that a lot of Clay's top economic experts were highly alarmed that Erhardt was proceeding too fast, and asked Clay to intervene. And Clay to me had such a superb feeling for the division of labour that he said, 'we've created the conditions for them now,' because of course the Marshall Plan was setting in at the same time, 'but now they've got to sink or swim on their own.' And though he had personal misgivings about the speed he just had this clean sense of division of responsibility that he never interfered once. And of course the famous German economic miracle bore out his confidence in Erhardt, and that economic miracle is Erhardt's achievement.

Q: Did you have any discussions with General Clay and Erhardt concerning the Marshall Plan's implementation in Germany at all?

A: No, that didn't come up strangely enough. Now that you put the question, it surprises me myself. But after currency reform the meetings kind of dropped out, because to Clay that was clearly a dividing line, that now - and I think he probably evaded talking to the Germans too much. He had this strong feeling that now they must sink or swim on their own.

Q: We'll take you forward to the Berlin blockade and period leading up to the airlift. What conversations did you have with Clay about what he wants to do when the Soviets imposed their blockade around Berlin?

A: Not then, but a very interesting one years later. When Clay came back in, I think it was, '50 or '51, I'm not sure, of course he left right after the end of the blockade, which was '49, and then came back after he had appealed to the American public for donations to create a replica of our Freedom Bell, and he came back for the ceremony installing the Freedom Bell in the city hall in West Berlin. And after the ceremonies we rode back to West Germany in then High Commissioner McClory's special train, and during the dinner there were only McClory, Clay, ambassador Murphy who'd accompanied him to the ceremony, and myself. (cough) And Clay was in a reminiscent mood, he was out of the government of course, working for Continental Can company at the time, and he said that when the idea of an airlift came up, and of course it's known that General Clay at first suggested taking American pioneer units up to the bridge and saying to the Soviets we understand that three years after the war you can't fix that bridge, but we'll do it for you, and that that was turned down by Truman and Marshall as possibly leading to war, and that the airlift was only the second suggestion. And to me new was that Clay then reminisced and said, 'when I discussed the concept with mayor Reuter, I pointed out that this would mean extreme hardship. I had no illusions about how slow the airlift would be working and how little we could bring in at first.' And he asked Reuter point blank, 'do you think that Berliners will be able to take it?' '48, three years after the end of the war. And, said Clay, 'Reuter quietly replied, "you take care of the airlift, I'll take care of the Berliners".' And Clay said, 'that was good enough.' And he would not have recommended the airlift if he hadn't received this reassurance from mayor Reuter. And to me, in retrospect, I can only say the Western world was lucky that we had two people of that format and that with a few words like that, and it shows also the relationship of trust between General Clay and mayor Reuter.

Q: Did General Clay ever express to you his admiration of Mayor Reuter, apart from this instance?

A: No. the only time I heard him express, but not admiration but criticism, was on that same train ride. I (cough) asked in all innocence that at the big lunch, Adenauer of course had come for the ceremony of the Freedom Bell, and I said in all innocence I was a little surprised that Adenauer thanked only the Americans and the British for the airlift. Didn't mention the French. And General Clay exploded and burst out and said, 'I would have walked out if he had thanked the French.' And he said, 'they, during the whole blockade they only brought in cavaiare and champagne for their troops, and they didn't do a goddam thing to help us with the airlift.' Now, he never in public, to my knowledge made such criticism, but in this - maybe I shouldn't have mentioned, but I think for historical purpose it's interesting that he apparently felt very strongly about the lack of support from the French. He was also, to come back to the currency reform, he was very angry with the French because up to the last day they tried to (cough) get a better deal for the exchange of money for their own occupation troops, and Clay rightly said if we set such a bad example that we exchange at a better rate for our own occupation troops, then we undermine the whole thing.

Q: You were still busy in charge of the radio in Frankfurt at this time. But how important was radio in '48-49 as part of the sort of West's war, Cold War with the Soviet Union? Were you conscious that the radio itself had to serve a new function at all?

A: Of course, since there was no television yet in Germany (cough) radio, apart from the newspapers, was the principal source of information. And the newspapers were still appearing in rather limited fashion, I don't think they'd all gone daily by that time because there were problems before the currency reform of lack of newsprint aso on. So I would say radio was probabat the time the principal source of information for the Germans, and of course the Cold War did spill over into the radio. at my particular station, Radio Frankfurt, we had a very interesting case. (cough) We had hired a brilliant intellectual, still alive, I think he's 90, Hans Meyer, as chief editor, who was known to be a Communist, but in '45 we only asked that people not have a nazi past, and since he was Jewish and had been in Switzerland in exile, of course there was no question about his political cleanliness from that point of view. And he was a brilliant man and everything worked out fine, I had a good personal relationship with him, till in, if I'm not mistaken, March '47, Tito shot down an American plane. (cough) And Meyer came to me with the evening commentary and took only the side of the Yugoslavs. So I said, 'look, Dr Meyer, we're still a US-controlled station.' Now I gave him an out, I said, what so many commentators do, they say the Americans say so and the Yugoslavs say so, and that I would have accepted. But as it turned out, he was setting the stage for a violent departure from my station, because he then went to East Germany, became a Professor at the University of Leipzig. So he wanted in effect to be fired. I didn't do him that favour, he had to resign. But that's the only act of censorship I ever did. I mean, I wouldn't call censorship when we, technically, we had to look at every commentary before it went on the air. If I found factual mistakes I'd talk to the author, but I don't consider that censorship. So this - nothing could be saved. I had to scratch the whole commentary, and thereupon he then resigned in a huff crying censorship and went to East Germany. The interesting thing is that he defected many years later and is today a highly honoured Professor at 90, a famous talk show participant, because he is quite simply, apart from Golo Mann, the son of Thomas Mann, with whom I sat in one office for a whole year, the most brilliant German I ever met.

Q: Did Frankfurt Radio, since we're following the example of RIAS in Berlin of sort of waging with humour and other comment, sort of a war of propaganda against the Soviets?

A: Yes, we also had political cabaret, anti-Communist in general. But nowhere to the degree either quantitatively or brilliance of the political cabaret which RIAS developed during the Cold War years.