862.5043/8–2245: Airgram

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

A–160. Here are further notes on the Free German Trade Union League (FDGB) in Eastern Germany. Refer to my Despatch No. 786 dated August 16, 1945,47 and my telegram No. 298 dated August 14, 1945.48

Jakob Kaiser, the Christian trade union representative on the Berlin executive committee and one of the leaders of the July 20 plot, stated the following to officers of my staff: Of the eight members of the Berlin executive, four are Communists, Otto Brass, Roman Chwalek, Paul Walter, and Hans Jendretsky. Hermann Schlimme and Bernhard Geering are Social Democrats; and Ernst Lemmer, a former Democrat, represents the former Hirsch-Duncker unions.49 Otto Brass is old and merely a figurehead. He and the other Communists take their orders from Walter Ulbricht, who is the real leader of the KPD. The non-Communists wanted Schlimme to be president. Kaiser knows about Hans Jahn’s connections with OSS but has no personal acquaintance of Jahn.

As currently organized, the Berlin executive is limited in its activities to this city. The decision to restrict its geographic scope corresponded to the desires of the Communist members but had been opposed by the others. Kaiser stated that the non-Communists functioned under considerable pressure but would not give further examples. The regional executives outside Berlin, he added, were self-appointed, like the Berlin committee. When questioned about newspaper reports of one hundred per cent organization in various shops, he answered that pressure was no doubt applied and that democratic methods were not being used.

In spite of this situation, Kaiser strongly supported the centralized organizational structure of the League, saying that it was necessary to unite the force of organized labor. Under further questioning he [Page 1045] admitted that he and the other leaders were influenced to a certain extent by the example of the German Labor Front,50 and did not feel that German workers were yet able to integrate a decentralized organization. Again Kaiser asked when he and the other democratic leaders could go into the Western zones of Germany to organize workers there. He felt that he and his friends would be able to rally the workers in the Rhineland more effectively than the Communis[ts.]

Franz Neumann of OSS, who has seen Otto Brass, Eichler (president of the Berlin Metal Workers Union), Schlimme, and others who are old friends, has expressed a somewhat different point of view. He is convinced that Brass is in full mental and physical vigor and, though he may be a nominal member of the KPD, retains an independent viewpoint and is a firmly democratic trade unionist. From his examination of the lists of officers of the 18 Berlin unions in the League, he is satisfied that they are led in the main by sincere and experienced Social Democratic unionists. Moreover, he believes that if union elections are held they will be fair. In short, he thinks that the Western Allies can do business with the FDGB. However, he objected to the idea of forcing the Berlin executive to add members from the West, as these might then be viewed as agents of the occupying powers. Better in his view would be to arrange a meeting of labor leaders from all Germany, where common problems could be discussed and an organizational plan worked out for Allied approval.

If Hans Jahn becomes its provisional president, continued Neumann, then the Berlin League could be counted on to be entirely cooperative. Jahn is really an anti-Communist, and he and Oldenbroek51 were even more responsible than Citrine52 for blocking at the February Congress the Soviet plan to dominate the World Trade Union Federation. This information Neumann gathered from talks with Citrine and other trade union leaders.

  1. Not printed; it transmitted a memorandum of conversation of August 6 between U.S. officials and members of the Provisional National Executive of the Free German Trade Union League. In his covering letter, Mr. Murphy emphasized that it was still too early to draw hard and fast conclusions about the Sovietsponsored Trade Union movement. “The one thing which is already clear, however, is that this is a formidable movement which will have important implications for American, French, and British policy toward trade unions. At present it would seem that the League is too centralized and undemocratic for the American Authorities to allow it to organize in the U.S. Zone.” (862.5043/8–1645)
  2. Not printed.
  3. The earliest German trade unions.
  4. Deutsche Arbeitsfront, Nazi-sponsored labor organization.
  5. J. H. Oldenbroek, Belgian trade union official.
  6. Sir Walter Citrine, President, International Federation of Trade Unions.