Sir Freddie






Q: Your father was elected mayor, but that appointment was overturned by the four power authority.

E: Yes.

Q: Of the allies in the city.

E: Actually it was a veto from the Russians.

Q: Was he dismayed at the lack - or the comparative lack - of western allied support for him and for pro-Western political parties in general in Berlin? I'm talking about 1946, 1947. Did that upset him?

E: Yes in a way yes. But he also he also felt that this was a period of transition. One must - I think one must never forget that, after all, it was the four allies who fought that war together. And it was, after all, a deadly war. They had won that war. It was not so natural for them to apart. So this iswhat my father understood all the time. His relationships with the occupation powers was different. Maybe at in the beginning the closest relations were the British. Not so much with the French and the Americans. Not at all with the Russians, from the beginning. But then this happened very quickly that under the pressure of the Communist approach, the post-war approach taking over Czechoslovakia and all these things which happened in '46 onwards then the western allies rapidly began to understood - and I'm speaking of the people in Berlin not outside Berlin - very quickly understood and very rapidly understood that they should close ranks and must close ranks with their German partners.

Q: Was it an easy relationship between let's say the British or, later on, the Americans?

E: Not in the beginning. It was a very tense relationship in the beginning because you know those officers usually tried to interfere in operational matters of the magistraat of the city council and this is what the German partners did not always feel that it would be too positive - they took positive consequences. So there was some kind of a tension in the beginning. But again, that continued for no more than let me say three or four month. And then it changed very rapidly.

Q: You say your father, obviously because of his experience of Communists had very little contact with the Communists at that time. Did he see them there as constituting a particular threat? I'm thinking of '46, '47.

E: Clearly yes. I must say that he had - of course he knew quite a number of the German Communists working in Berlin, responsible people in Berlin, from the pre-war period. He knew quite a number of them. but his deep conviction from the beginning was that the Russians would try not to stop in the middle of Berlin, but to take over the city and to take over the occupation zone, the eastern occupation - the Russian - Soviet occupation zone as such. And therefore yes, from the first day he came back to Berlin, he began to fight or join those who were fighting Russian tendencies to take over. You must not forget that this had begun in the Social Democratic Party before his coming back, his return to Berlin.

Q: What help did you yourself give to your father? Were you a sort of an unofficial aid - assistant to your father?

E: (laughs) Well for quite some time I would describe myself as being an assistant secretary. I well remember that I even typed some drafts of his speeches, his addresses giving to party organisations and things like that. so that was an extremely exciting period, of course. At the same time, of course, I had to go to school and get my degrees and things like that, so it was a tiring, exciting and wonderful time we'll never forget.

Q: Was he a man who kept long hours?

E: Yes. Certainly, he had to. Because in his responsibilities he had to speak to an enormous number of people members of the occupational forces. His party members. His coalition partners. He had to speak to the man and the woman in the street and so on and so on. So he probably never came back home before ten o'clock at night at that time.

Q: I'm going to take you forward to the period around June 1948. Currency reform, the imposition by the Soviets of the blockade. What sort of atmosphere was there at this time?

E: That atmosphere was a very tense atmosphere again, full of possibilities that the Russians would try to enforce their power in that part of the country and in the city of Berlin, of course. That maybe the family, again, would have to flee from dictatorship. That the take-over the city would probably maybe even result in a third world war. Nobody could tell at that point of time, what really the end of the story would be. So we, as historical observers know what the outcome was. But people active at that time did not. so it was an atmosphere of nervosity, but also of an atmosphere of self reliance because at least at that time my father and his political friends, and also the other members of the city government, were deeply convinced that the population - the Berlin population - would be ready to stand. Even to very, very strong and powerful measures of the Soviets. But the atmosphere was tense enough, yes.

Q: Was there a feeling that perhaps the western allies might just pack up their bags and go?

E: Yes that was uncertain at that time. Not basically, but maybe from one day to another it could happen that he would come home and be little bit desperate, or at least uncertain what, after all, the final decisions would be. The final decisions at that time, of course, basically being taken in Washington. and also, of course, in London and Paris, but basically in Washington. And of course my father was quite well aware that inside the US administration there were at least two different basic opinions on what to do, what the reaction should be, what the degree of reacting to the Soviet challenge should be. So some kind of an uncertainty was there, yes.

Q: Your father obviously dealt with General Clay.

E: Yeah.

Q: Do you recall any discussion with your father about his discussions with General Clay about the airlift and how that was going to be organised?

E: Well again I must say that of all the generals, the allied generals, his closest relationships in the beginning, initially, were with the General Robertson. whom he admired very much because Robertson apparently was a rather warm hearted and well-educated man. At the same time, basically my father, during his whole lifetime did never hold too much of - of generals in general. Or military people in general. And therefore I well remember that his first meetings with Lucius Clay might be described as being very very low key and rather cold hearted maybe even. But then with the elapse of some time, with the lapse of meetings going on and I think then a close relationship developed in the sense of a common reliance in the other man. That you could rely on his word, that you could rely on what he said, his opinions were clearly described and that he would stand for what he said in Washington. So confidence and reliance resulted, after all. There was never a very warm hearted relationship between these two men. Till the return of General Clay after the end of the blockade when he brought the freedom bell to Berlin. At that time, of course, that was a very close relationship and they liked each other at that time. But that was when all was over.


Q: There was a famous conversation between your father and General Clay wasn't there?

E: Yes.

Q: Can you tell me about that? Right at the beginning of the blockade.

E: Yes of course I didn't witness that encounter there. But I remember that my father told my mother and myself that he had a meeting with General Clay and they had discussed what could be done and that Clay had raised the question whether the Berlin population would really be ready to stand any kind of hardships. And that is answer had been yes sir, you can rely on the people of Berlin, they will stand and they will not give in. And that this he said made quite some impression on General Clay. This is what I remember, the rest is reading in historical textbooks and memories and all things like the other. Of course I did not witness that meeting there.