Sir Freddie






Q: I want to take you to - well through the period of the blockade. What impact did the Soviet blockade sort of make on you and your father and you personally?

E: First of all the blockade meant that we had to ration our food, we had to ration our heating. And travelling of course was almost impossible. Except with the allies taking you by plane to West Germany. So it meant quite a lot. Physically. Mentally it was a period of growing self reliance, the Berliners. Of growing of closing of ranks between the western allies and the Berliners. The growing perception of the population that democracy is synonymous to freedom. Which was not so self understanding in the beginning. Democracy, the acceptance of democracy in Germany. After all, in the first and the early post war period was not so natural. People had no experience at all regarding the Hitler period. So together with the physical situation of lacking things, on the other hand there was a growing feeling that the Germans, after all, can be satisfied to accept democracy as their own ways of living and to become part of the western world. And that was what really went on during the blockade, together with the airlift, together with the experience that those courageous young chaps flying those - those airplanes into Berlin to one every two minutes which was an enormous thing and enormous achievement. That also, of course, contributed to a closing up between the population and the military. So everything came together, after all it was very, very positive experience.

Q: It must have been an extraordinary time to be in a city where the sound of aircraft engines was a constant future of your life.

E: Yeah, absolutely. Whole day and whole night.

Q: recollection do you have of that? Was there anyparticular time which struck you as particularly vivid?

E: Well, the first thing, of course, is as you say, that sound, that noise of aircraft flying all the time. Daytime, night-time. But then also watching sea aircraft, water aircraft landing in one of the lakes of Berlin. British aircraft at that time. And then, of course also the experience of mourning when there was an accident which happened, time or another. Number of young pilots died and sacrificed their lives, of course. That also was an experience. But after all the one memory which stays in my mind is those so-called coal aircraft which brought the coal, heating to Berlin. These aircraft being dirty, black, dusty inside. And transporting people back to West Germany. I for once or twice could also fly with one of these aircraft to Hamburg or Hannover. And then going on to Gottingen where I studied. Those coal aircraft were quite symbolic - a symbol of what really went on at that time. It was dirty, it was down to earth, but it was also very emotional- a wonderful experience again.

Q: For Berliners who had lived in a city during the war, and who had experienced allied bombing this must have been a rather ambiguous experience to begin with, do you not think?

E: Yes but nobody and it's true what you say of course, but curiously I can't remember anybody telling me that the noise of those aircraft flying there which, of course, was similar to the noise they had experienced two years before bombers coming into the city. But nobody was really terrified by the noise. After all it was a noise which contributed to the confidence of people.

Q: And what was the reaction when the blockade was lifted?

E: Oh that was enormous. That, of course, was when the news came that the blockade was lifted that the first vehicles could travel on the road to Berlin again, when they arrived at the at the outskirts of Berlin and were received there by the population, that was enormous. Everybody was out in the street shouting from joy. Thinking, of course, that everything would be over, that freedom had arrived after all. But also that now the period of welfare would begin. Which certainly did not come out to be true. Because after the end of the blockade for the city of Berlin, times did not get too well from one day to another, it was a difficult period. But anyway, that day I will never forget it. It was a day of enormous joy. Probably comparable to VE day in London. At that time. The end of the war.

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ROLL 10073

Q: You were a student in Gottingen for much of the time of the airlift. What reaction was there from your colleagues, your fellow students who were not in Berlin, were not Berliners? What did they feel about the Berlin blockade and the airlift?

E: Basically there was very little support for what was going on in Berlin at that time. Very little interest even. Also I must say that Gottingen was, of course, a very conservative little town at that time. People concentrating themselves on just having a university and university being very conservative as such. And also the students studying there. Actually I found it difficult to convince a small number, at least a small number of my colleagues, my fellow students that was a matter which was also concerning themselves what goes on in Berlin. And a lot of discussions at that time being very dissatisfied, disappointed with the situation there. With the approach of these people there. But in a way, it probably maybe was characteristic for the approach of a great part of the German population. Of the West German population at that time. Because most of these people, maybe understandably did dream of nothing else than living peacefully having no problems, no concerns, no troubles. Concentrate on their own welfare, on their own well-being. And not share anything dangerous with anybody else. At the same time it was the beginning of, in a way, of a Conservative revival of western Germany, of a re-formation of the pre-Nazi - I must say pre-Nazi - society. Which also meant that, at that time, the readiness of the West German population basically to accept democracy as a way of living was rather superficial. It was a matter being asked for by the occupying powers, but it was not their own matter, now their own perception at that time. So that probably - all this coming together had a lot to do with the approach of my fellow students in Gottingen at that time. And because of this experience I am personally so much convinced, so deeply convinced that this period this - this post-war period, the Cold War period in Berlin was really the core, the root of democracy in Germany. Post-war democracy in Germany. Because after the end of the blockade or the arrival of the Federal Republic then, of course the notion of democracy began to dissipate among the population.

Q: Therefore, was the Cold War necessary?

E: Oh yes. I think it was absolutely necessary. You know historians will find out whether it is true that Stalin, at that time, really concretely planned to take over western Europe - or at least the western part of Germany. It is, for sure, that after all he took over Czechoslovakia. He tried to do the same in Austria. He had taken over Poland and he had taken over Hungary and all the signs we had at that time showed that yes, he would have a great appetite to swallow western Germany also. But that has to be studied by historians. Anyway, but the one thing is sure, that the dissipation of Communism into western Europe had to be stopped at some time, and that was not a matter of politics, it was a matter of power and of politics and the power was the Soviet power, the Russian power behind that dissipation of Communism. So I am deeply convinced that if the western allies, then afterwards together with the Germans, had not decided to stop the Soviet Russians at that borderline, then chaos probably would have resulted in West Germany and together with West Germany of course you can well imagine that Italy would have followed, and probably also France would have followed. So therefore my answer is clearly yes, the Cold War was necessary.

Q: Do you think there was a significant proportion of the German population that would have accepted after it had accepted Nazi dictatorship, a Soviet or a red dictatorship, do you think? Was there that danger? Was dictatorship still an appealing concept, although this time it would have come from the Soviet...

E: Maybe not so much the notion of dictatorship. But the yearning for peacefulness. For somebody to take decisions. Not to ask the individual itself for taking responsibility for common welfare. Which is, after all, maybe deeply rooted in every individual to take care for himself and not ask for the common welfare, common good. And with all - remembering what the German population had gone through, the bombing, the war and all these things well yes I can well imagine that they would have not applauded a new dictatorship, but that they would have accepted it. Or do you think may I just return that question, do you think that the Czechoslovaks at that time really fully accepted that the dictatorship? No they did not accept it, but it arrived after all.