862.00/8–1345: Telegram

The United States Political Adviser for Germany (Murphy) to the Secretary of State

291. The political situation in Berlin is one we intend to follow closely, particularly since political activities have been permitted to develop more rapidly here and because of the effect they may have throughout Germany. We have not yet had an opportunity to make a thorough survey of leaders or opinion, but the following first impressions have been gained in conversations with our Military Government officers in Berlin and with certain Germans believed to have a responsible and objective point of view.

Before we and the British entered Berlin the Russians allegedly transferred to their sector the central offices of the four political parties which had emerged under their auspices. There is evidence that they have also tried to induce, with varying success, certain party leaders and administrative officials to reside in Russian sector of city.

So far the Russians seem to have been even more interested in assuring Communist control of Berlin municipal administration than in promoting Communism as a political party.34 Besides securing certain key appointments such as Deputy Lord Mayor and Heads of Education and Social Affairs Department, we note that Wilhelm Pieck, KPD chief, heads the Berlin personnel office, thus enabling him to pass on all municipal appointments. Many mayors or deputy [Page 1039] mayors for various sections of Berlin are also Communists, thus providing Russians with continuing source of information and control even in American and British sectors of city. Our Military Government reports that these individuals do not hesitate to bring all possible pressure to bear on their non-Communist colleagues. Through an apparent Russian inadvertance we recently obtained copy of letter from Pieck to local Russian military commander urging removal of Social Democrat Mayor of Neukölln,35 which is in American sector, and charging inter alia that he had developed too close relations with the Americans.

In recent discussions for an advisory council for Greater Berlin, Russians have likewise endeavored to assure that this body will be Communist-weighted.

Leaders of Social Democrat Party and Christian Democratic Union (see my 278 of August 8, 8 p.m.) have impressed American contacts so far as relatively independent and democratic individuals. While Social Democrats are willing to cooperate with Communists in this new four-party bloc, they admit in confidence that they entertain real doubts as to long term possibilities of real cooperation. Actual present cooperation between the four parties seems best at top levels, and in particular it is said that old enmities and jealousies between the two workers parties still persist at lower levels, though to a lesser degree among the younger Social Democrat elements.

Social Democrats Berlin newspaper36 seems to be rather closely identified with present Communist party line. Apart from a certain affinity in social aims, this may be a manifestation of the close obligation to the Russians in matters of physical and material control under which all parties lie and which seems to be in part responsible for their nominal union in an anti-Fascist front which, based on experience in eastern and southeastern Europe, seems likely to result in considerable real control by the Communists.

Christian Liberal Union and Liberal Democrats seem relatively weak and inactive. Former is apparently made up of remnants of Center Party, which was never strong in Berlin, the Confessional Church37 and persons associated with July 20 plot.38 Liberal Democrats are composed of much the same elements and according to one source this party was developed under Russian auspices after Christian Liberals had shown too much independence and initiative. It also seems possible that Russians encouraged development of two center parties in order to weaken this sector of the political stage.

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It is noteworthy that Communists are said to be enlisting many small Nazis in same way that Nazi SA39 won support in 1932 from former Communists.

Despite considerable activity by all four parties, and especially the two Leftist ones, Berlin inhabitants, like the Germans in American occupation zone of Germany, seem generally disinterested in politics at present, due to their extreme preoccupation with vital questions such as food and housing, and internal apathy following extended Nazi dictatorship and impact of recent total defeat. Berlin parties may therefore be described as generals without armies.40

Local observers believe that were free elections to be held today, Communists would do very badly and Social Democrats pretty well. This would be due largely to recent Russian excesses such as looting and raping, together with exaggerated, overbearing and even stupid behavior of Communists. Latter apparently realize this and are therefore presently concentrating on retaining administrative power. In this connection, one source reports that a local Russian commander recently somewhat lightheartedly undertook a poll in township outside Berlin, result of which was to give substantial majority for Social Democrats and negligible minority for Communists.

Many reports, including open admissions from certain Germans involved, indicate that Russians are engaged in organizing a central German administration for their zone,41 the purpose of which is envisaged to be that it would give them a better bargaining position in the composition of a central government for all of Germany, or serve as a Russian-controlled organ for the eastern area in the event that a national government could not be agreed upon by the four Allied powers concerned.

  1. In telegram 376, August 27, from Berlin, Mr. Murphy transmitted a report that just after the termination of hostilities in Europe, the Russians flew ten reliable German Communists to Berlin. They were under orders to set up a municipal administration in which the top positions were to be occupied by weak non-Communists and the deputy positions by reliable Communists. All chiefs of personnel offices were to be Communists. Mr. Murphy concluded that the composition of the Berlin and provincial administrations followed this pattern “to a high degree.” “Russians have presumably adopted it as window dressing to avoid giving impression of Communist domination, and because it puts them in happy position of exercising control without bearing primary responsibility.” (740.00119 Control (Germany)/8–2745)
  2. Martin Ohm. The ostensible reason for removing him was his past association with Nazi affiliated organizations.
  3. Das Volk.
  4. The Bekennende Kirche, a Protestant church organization founded in 1934 to resist the church-state policy of the National Socialist Party.
  5. The attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler in 1944.
  6. Sturm Abteilung.
  7. Mr. Murphy reported in telegram 294, August 13, from Berlin, that in contrast to the political parties the new Free German Trade Union League appeared to have gained a great number of members in a short time, not only in the Soviet zone, but also in all sectors of Berlin. He attributed this growth in part to the worker’s apparent feeling that “if the Soviet Military Government favors trade unions they had better join.” Mr. Murphy reported also that the League was highly centralized and that its leaders “insist on unity and are building one federation to take in workers, salaried employees, and public officials of all political parties and orientation.” (862.00/8–1345)
  8. Soviet Military Administration Order No. 17, 27 July 1945, established the “German Central Administrative Agencies for the Soviet Occupation Zone” (DZV), effective 10 September 1945. Eight of these central administrative agencies were concerned with economic affairs: Transport, Communications, Fuel and Power, Trade and Supply, Industry, Agriculture, Finance, Labor and Social Affairs. In addition there were central administrative agencies for Health, Education, and Justice. The order alto appointed the German officials who were to be presidents of each agency, and provided for the creation of comparable agencies for the Soviet sector of Berlin. The text of SMA Order No. 17 is printed in Ulbricht, p. 417.

    Provincial administration had been established in the Soviet Zone in July.