Sir Freddie






Q: How important was currency reform? I mean psychologically as well as materially?

E: Yeah.

Q: Did it mean that Germany was now going to get back on its feet?

E: Well currency reform that, of course, in times like these, when we do discuss about the European Currency Union, is a quite a significant matter. Because at that time it was very clear that that party, who gets hold of the currency would, after all, get hold of the political power. Currency and political power were synonymous at that time. And therefore it was so important that the western currency, the D-mark had to be introduced into west Berlin and not the eastern German currency. That was basically a political matter. It was not so much - in the beginning not so much a matter of getting back to the road of economic welfare and things like that, it was a political matter, nothing else. Stop.

Q: You were witness to the various distthat took place around the magistraat. Can you tell me about that?

E: Yes I especially remember very well the meeting of the city council. That must have been probably in the beginning of '47. The city council working - meeting in East Berlin. In a building called the Neustadthaus. And there was a controversial discussion, I don't know about what matter, controversial between the Communist Party and the magistraat. And all of a sudden there was shouting in that building rooms were the doors were - came burst open. And a lot of people poured into that meeting room. So called angry inhabitants of east Berlin. Angry at the magistraat backing the position of the Communist Party. After all that was an organised riot. The police tried to hold them back, but they had no possibility to do that, just three or four unarmed policemen. So there was a fist shaking, shouting period in that meeting. And then, of a sudden these people withdrew again. And the meeting continued. And probably the Communist Party members of the city council felt that this demonstration would contribute to the others giving in to their. They did not. So the meeting was brought to an end by Otto Suer who's the chairman of that city council or assembly. And we tried to go outside. Nothing happened to my parents and myself, but I witnessed that these people who were still waiting before that building hit at a lady a member of the Social Democratic City Council called Janet Wolfe. By the way, she was Jewish. and so that was after all that was truly the beginning of that separation of the city. That demonstration there. I think the result was that the members of the western parties, if I can describe them that way round, at that time understood fundamentally that there was no way of compromising with the Communists. The Communists being synonymous with the Soviets, the Russians.

Q: Did your father ever fear for his life or even did you fear for your life, being associated with your father at any time particularly if you were travelling into the Soviet sector to visit the Neustadthaus?

E: I must say no. That was a notion which was so far away from anything. I don't know what my father really felt. My mother certainly was afraid that something could happen to my father. But I don't think that my father himself was really concerned by a possibility of that kind. He did not even consider that as a real possibility. Nor did I.

Q: It strikes me as strange that he didn't. Was that due to some sense of courage...?

E: Well maybe it was some kind of fatalism. That might be one of the reasons because, you know, that my father, after all, had experienced quite a lot in his lifetime. His experiences with the Soviets, with the Communists, but then he had been put into concentration camp by the by the Nazis. He had to emigrate and, of course living in Turkey had to fear for his life. So he was probably used to that situation. And come a little bit fatalistic in understanding that the period of a lifetime is anyway limited. And that you can only contribute during a lifetime, whether it's long or short, you can only do your best. And I think that was his basic approach to things like that.

Q: We come up to the period of the rally in front of the Reichstag, 9th September 1948. And that remarkable speech of your fathers. 'Berlin fluft die welt'. That seems to suggest that he was conscious of the need to rally world opinion. What was the context of that speech and why did he make it that way?

E: Well the background of that meeting, of course we the meeting of the foreign ministers of the four allied powers. I think it was in London at that time. And there was at least in the view of the Berlin politicians and the German politicians, there was a possibility that the western allies might be ready to come to a compromise with the Russians which would be a detrimental compromise for Germany. And at that time they rallied that meeting to again demonstrate that the population of Berlin was decided to stand for their freedom and for democracy. And this exactly was the wording of my father's speech. Because he said at that time look at the city, look at its population, we are standing here in order to be free, in order to be part of a democratic country. Do not give in to anything. I think that was the background of that speech. And also of that meeting which is often forgotten nowadays. It was not an appeal for - in that sense of the word, an appeal for armed help or things like that. It was an appeal to the western allies to stand strong.

Q: And what was the feeling of the meeting like? Can you describe that?

E: Well it was enormous. I must say I'm after all not a friend, and you can well imagine that, I am not a friend of big, mass meetings. At least big mass meetings being organised by organisations. But that was a meeting where I think every attendant to that meeting felt that he was contributing to the future of his city, of his country of the future of his people. And that he must come and show what he stands for and thinks about. So it was a meeting full of emotion, of course, but also full of discipline. And that is a very rare thing. I can well imagine.

Q: The meeting ended with several people going through the Brandenburg Gate back into the Soviet sector.

E: Yes.

Q: Were you aware of that disturbance that resulted after that?

E: Well I think they even climbed the Brandenburg Gate and tore down the Soviet flag which was flying on the Brandenburg Gate. And then some shooting resulted. This is what I remember. I remember hearing the shooting going on, but I don't remember seeing or watching people going into the Soviet sector or climbing the gate. I don't. But then afterwards, of course, together with the newsreels coming about and looking at them, once could see that - what had happened there. As always in situations like this, a small number of people probably will tend to exaggerate and do things like that. of course in a way you could describe that as sheer foolishness to do a thing like that, because it was just demonstrating against a far more powerful people than those demonstrators were. But anyway, it was also a very moving experience, I can well remember that.

Q: You obviously heard the sound of gunfire, did that not create panic?

E: No it didn't. Nothing really happened. Nothing really happened. At least I can't remember. No.