Memorandum by the Officer in Charge of German Political Affairs (Kidd) to the Director of the Office of German Affairs (Lyon)1



  • Some Thoughts on Rising Public Resistance to Rearmament in Germany and the Practical Effects that may be expected therefrom.

Summary and Conclusions

Recent reports from Germany indicate the presence there of strong and possibly growing sentiments against rearmament. GPA believes this to be the result of a combination of Communist pressures, tactical maneuvers of the Socialist opposition to Adenauer and general doubt and disillusion over the substitution of a German national army for the integrated German-Allied forces foreseen under EDC arrangements. The effectiveness of each of these forces is increased by various historical, psychological factors which affect German public opinion deeply.

To offset these things, there are other substantial forces, including the fully committed and firmly entrenched Adenauer Government, the leadership of the booming community of German industry and commerce, the bulk of the middle, upper-middle and professional classes, the veterans organizations, the refugee and expellee organizations, etc.

Given the paternalistic nature of a German society and its reaction to the voice of authority, it seems most unlikely that the scattered sources of opposition to rearmament will coalesce in any way that will pose a threat to the carrying out of Federal Republic commitments under the London and Paris Agreements. GPA expects that there will be some difficulty, possibly even including rioting on a minor scale in the early stages of bringing German manpower under arms. The degree of such difficulty will depend a good deal on whether the government shows ineptitude in handling the problems that arise or whether it will be able to act smoothly and quickly to take care of smaller troubles before they become larger.

We have recently observed a marked increase of agitation in Germany over the subject of rearmament. In July at the SPD convention in Berlin an overwhelming majority of delegates gave enthusiastic support to anti-rearmament and “negotiation first” policies. In October the Trade Union convention adopted a strongly worded resolution against taking up arms with only three or four dissenting voices. The state election campaigns in Hesse and Bavaria, coming not long after the completion of the London and Paris Agreements, were regarded as a first test of German public reaction to the new arrangements [Page 1488] designed to replace the defunct EDC. Not only was there much talk during these campaigns of the folly of rearming without talking first to the Russians (a straight SPD line), but even more remarkable, there were a number of youth demonstrations against rearming and against military service, culminating in a fracas in Augsburg where Herr Blank, the Minister in charge of defense arrangements for the Adenauer Government, was first shouted down and then physically injured. This last incident served greatly to enlarge the already substantial German press comment on the entire subject and there appears now to be doubt in some quarters whether the Federal Republic Government can draft and train troops and establish an army without considerable difficulty.

In the GPA view, there is probably some difficulty to be expected, but it should not be “considerable.” In the area of physical violence, we think that the most to be expected would be draft rioting on a sporadic basis and demonstrations, marchings, or hecklings at the speeches or appearances of prominent government figures. We would expect such physical disturbances to occur usually on the initiative of Communists or crypto-Communists who would use local disaffected elements, especially draft-reluctant youth, to add mass and weight to the effort. We think any chain reaction of such incidents, starting in one community and spreading from town to town across any large part of the country, an extremely remote possibility.

We would also expect that on paper the opposition to arming would look a good deal stronger and the dissension seem much greater than will actually be the case. The SPD can be expected to use the subject to underline its demands for negotiations with the USSR and, for purely German reasons, the whole matter of rearmament is one which provides excellent copy for the German newspaper and magazine world.

It must be understood that the problem of German rearmament, as seen by the Germans, is a very complex and difficult one. There are wrapped up in it any number of lesser subjects which have, at one time or another, played a real and agonizing part in German life and opinion and which continue to affect them. In listing a few, one might include: the Socialist doctrines of internationalism and pacifism beaten down in 1914, but later reappearing at many times and places; the long dynamic force of Prussian militarism beaten down in 1918, revived and then smashed in 1945; the militaristic trappings and adventures of National Socialism so disastrously discredited in the most recent war; the sincere efforts of the post-war period to outlaw the military idea by provisions in the Basic Law (constitution), and, when it became necessary to amend that, to arrange for rearmament only under the safeguards of a European Defense Community. The attitudes engendered among several generations of Germans by these thoughts are [Page 1489] a real part of their total make-up and can be played upon with some effect. We have seen how, when German rearmament became a real subject in 1950 and 1951, a wave of “ohne mich” feeling swept widely through the country. Now, to play on these attitudes, there are several substantial forces.

The first is the Communist Party, its front organizations and its hidden followers. By definition, the party and every instrument it can command or influence will use every means available to stir up anti-armament and anti-enlistment feeling. Because of the almost total distrust of the Germans for the Communists, the antidote for these efforts is obviously exposure. This is a task the Federal Government and the various Laender Governments are well equipped to do. The Verfas-sungsschutz organizations are well organized and have effectively penetrated the Communist Party and its affiliated organizations.

The second is the Socialist Party (SPD) which does not oppose rearmament as such, according to its latest (July) official platform, but which does hold as axioms of policy that the reunification of Germany must be the first aim of the Federal Republic, that rearmament will stiffen Russian resistance to reunification, and that, consequently, rearmament should be delayed until the matter of reunification has been re-explored in international conference negotiation with the Russians. In feeding fuel to the fire of this argument, the SPD has, and will, make use of a good many others. There is, for example, no doubt in the light of the elections of September 1953 that a large majority of the German population had accepted the idea of rearmament within EDC. To arm within an international framework with automatic checks established against a revival of German militarism old-style was a cardinal point in the successful appeal of Chancellor Adenauer’s CDU/CSU. Again and again before August of 1954, the Chancellor and his party specifically rejected the idea of a German national army as a solution to the German problem. The collapse of EDC was a severe shock to the Germans. The amazing recovery of the situation by Western statesmen, using the devices of NATO and WEU, did much to offset this shock, but the fact that the new scheme called for a German national army, left many Germans doubtful and upset. There is an evident fear in many that the forces of German militarism, Prussian-ism, and political influence by a military cast will be more than the democratic forces or the Federal Republic can keep under control. The SPD is fully cognizant of the depth and extent of this feeling and is not failing to make use of it in political speeches, even though SPD parliamentarians are participating in Bundestag committee activities designed to keep civilian and democratic control of the armed forces which are to be established.

Thirdly, one must reckon with the German Trades Union Group (DGB) which, in its policies and pronouncements, parallels the SPD [Page 1490] in large measure, but which has several specific reasons for looking on rearmament with a dubious eye. The DGB has a number of influential members who are old Socialists of the pacifist stripe. It has a vast number of others who hold tightly to Marxist-Socialist doctrines of worker exploitation by the capitalist class and fear the capitalists who produce munitions and weapons above all others. The DGB also includes a substantial element of younger workers, who are pleased to have good jobs in an expanding economy and have an understandable reluctance to spend 18 months or two years away from their families working with a gun instead of a lathe. This group has the further concern that their places will be filled from the ranks of the unemployed or even by labor imported from Italy, thus increasing the competition they will face when they leave military service.

As a fourth factor, one must consider the subject of neutralism. Besides being promoted by the Communists as something useful to them, neutralism has two sources of strength that have nothing to do with Communism. The first is Protestant pacifism. The second is a sort of psychological retreat from reality which rationalizes its position by concluding that Germany is indefensible from Russian assault or that the secret plans of the Allies (especially the French) call for using West German territory only as the foreground of a defense in depth strategy which will make no serious effort to fight east of the Rhine. The pacifist group of neutralists is very small, but the impact of its arguments is much greater than its size would suggest, particularly because many of them are spread by prominent Protestant clergymen and lay leaders. Gustav Heinemann is the most prominent political figure in this group. The other group of neutralists is too scattered to have any coherence at all. It includes writers, professors, some ex-military figures, etc., who do not act together, but who do have an effect because their better argued points achieve wide circulation in the German community and frequently appear in the arguments of organized groups who actually oppose rearmament on other grounds.

This rather long exposition of the forces opposed to rearmament suggests immediately why they can be expected not to succeed. If they were a coherent, unified, well directed force, it would be possible to describe the opposition much more briefly. However, it must not be forgotten that these forces, though often shadowy, are real, and that if they should manage to coalesce under some leadership, the trouble they could cause would be very great indeed.

The job of seeing that they do not coalesce, falls to the forces favoring rearmament in general and the carrying out of the London and Paris Agreements in particular. These forces are powerful, well organized, capable of integrated action, and already, under the leadership [Page 1491] of Chancellor Adenauer, have political leadership of Western Germany by a wide margin. The principal elements in these forces are:

The Federal Government with its two-thirds majority in the Bundestag. Overwhelmingly successful in the 1953 national elections, it has lost some prestige through the events of 1954, including the failure of EDC and a diminished vote in local elections, but it still has firm control of the internal political situation and shows no sign of losing it.
The almost unanimous support of the business community, industrial and commercial. West German business is firm in its support of Adenauer and in its opposition to all things Communist or even Socialist. It also includes large numbers of German community leaders who lean toward the traditional attitudes of respect for the military idea and a belief in the virtues of military strength.
The professional and upper middle classes, including the widespread and immensely powerful Civil Service. Here again is a tradition-bearing element of German society firmly convinced that its future lies in a position of German strength, aligned with the West.
A variety of influential organizations, including veterans groups and associations of refugees and expellees who are animated as much by a profound hatred (and even fear) of Russia, as by any attachment to the glories of militarism.

The German disposition to respect the voices of those in positions of leadership and authority is well known. It may have been diminished by the events of this century, but it is still a major factor in German social structure. With Adenauer himself and the overwhelming proportion of German upper and middle class leadership lined up in favor of rearmament, there is little doubt that opposition will prove futile, unless some radical change of international cirumstance intervenes. This does not, however, exclude the possibility that through poor handling of potentially troublesome situations, the progress of rearmament may be made noisier and somewhat more difficult than it need be.

  1. Drafted by Elwood Williams.