Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 13, No. 17. August 3, 1950
Kahn to Pol. Sci. Soc. — Report On Germany
Kahn to Pol. Sci. Soc.
Report On Germany
Although the weather was far from attractive, the Political Science Society had a succesful first evening on July 13 with Dr. J. F. Kahn as guest speaker and an attendance who followed the speaker with interest and, finally, with a cross-fire of questions.
Dr. Kahn knows Germany from the Weimar and Hitler days, as perhaps few others. His recent visit has enabled him to link past with present, and even to venture on some estimate of future developments. He talked, so he said, to hundreds of people in all walks of life—in Western Germany and in Berlin, both East and West. What follows is no more than a brief resume of some of the most important points he raised.
What appears to be most indicative of the German mentality since the war. Is the complete absence of any collective or even individual feeling of "guilt." They are today half-amused, half-penitent onlookers at the East-West drama, in which their own fate is involved, but they will not accept any blame for what went before. The one point of agreement with Stalin seems to be in his dictum that "Hitlers come and Hitlers go, but Germany remains." How can Germany be guilty? It was the allies who had helped Hitler to power—why blame "us" for having him?
What of democracy in Germany? Dr. Kahn says there is nowadays "more talk about democracy in Germany and less belief in it than ever before." And that, he thinks, is equally true of East and West. To say that the Eastern Republic is popular is simply mockery, seeing the millions of refugees who are still pouring in from the East. Dr. Kahn ascribes the antipathy against the Soviets, prevalent in East no less than West, to the reports from the thousands of German ex-prisoners in Russia. The Eastern Government is as alien to the Germans as the Bonn regime; the former is a Communist regime forced on the Germans with all the trappings of mass propaganda, the latter is labouring under the shadow of its unfortunate Weimar predecessor. Already Dr. Adenauer (Federal Chancellor) has been called "Chancellor of the Allies." His reply is to be as nationalistic as he dare be. De-nazification, says Dr. Kahn, was and is a farce, for the simple reason that in Germany practically everybody was a Nazi—and the better trained experts were so without exception. Result ? They are in influential posts again, and not only in the West. In the West, it is true, pseudofascist groups are vociferous and less bridled; in compensation, the Eastern Republic is allowed to be officially more rabidly nationalistic. Economically, the West is at the mercy of Capitalism unbridled—social conditions are poor, wages low, collective bargaining logging far behind Western Europe. The shops are full, but only for the rich. This is not so noticeable in Eastern Berlin. There shops are emptier and people have to work for a currency only one-seventh to one-tenth the value of the Western Mark. Does that mean (it was asked, of the speaker) that in the East there is more social justice? Dr, Kahn was not convinced that that was the case. Poverty in the East is as rampant as in the West, and it is a mistake to think that inequalities there have ceased to exist. In either sector, some people live in affluence or at least in great comfort, while the mass of the people have little but hard work.
This is a grim picture of Germany indeed. Germany hates her occupiers, the Yanks, because they said they came as liberators and behaved like victors (and the Germans say, "if that is democracy, we don't want it"), the British, because they are economic competitors trying to strangle Germany's recovery, the Russians because they are Russians and "Inferior," "infesting pure German blood, so that 18 million Germans will be lost to Germany, which means, to Europe, which means to civilisation." Germany is not to blame for the war (only perhaps, for losing it, and even that was not necessarily Hitler's fault. . . . ) or for the atrocities in the extermination camps which never took place, anyway, because no German government would have permitted them. To prove this point: The Fuehrer was too humane even to use the Atom Bomb, which is a German invention and could have been used by him. The Yanks stole the bomb, after their victory, and used it; the Democrats, not Hitler, are to be blamed again.
Is there no light? One lonely elderly woman told Dr. Kahn that she felt ashamed of what Germany had done—One, mind you, of all the hundreds to whom he put this same question. Secondly, the French are better occupiers than the rest. The reason? "They've learned from us how to behave as occupiers," suggest the charming Germans. Dr. Kahn says this "preference" is largely due to the fact that the French did not admit refugees from the East, so that their economy is in a better position. One member of the audience tried to point out that the British Occupation Army was, to a distressingly large degree, in jail "for quite natural reasons." This astonishing state of affairs may account for the fact that so few of them are seen around Germany these days.
The German problem has not been, solved, and its solution will never be accepted by the Germans as long as It Is not "Made in Germany." Dr. Kahn's realism 'was distressing, but a masterly example of objective reporting which the Society hopes to maintain in the coming talks of this year.
It is hoped that Mr. James Thorn, until recently N.Z. High Commissioner in Canada, will be the next speaker to the Society,