Beyond the Blackout

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Characteristically, the Russians had blacked out news from their zone in occupied Germany. The inevitable result was a flood of rumors: the Red Army was still heavily massed, Soviet looters were stripping German industry and agriculture. But when five U.S. reporters were finally permitted to tour the zone last week, the New York Herald Tribune's Russell Hill wondered "what the secrecy has been about."

Russian guides and interpreters kept close check on the traveling reporters and their G.I. drivers. Nevertheless the Americans saw all they had asked to see, and talked with Germans along the way. When the trip ended some new facts were out:

The Soviets had removed much Germany machinery, but had left enough to support the population.

Farmers, many of them newly settled on the old Junker estates, were working under tight controls. They could be jailed for failing to meet quotas.

The average German in the Russian zone had at least as much in food, clothing and manufactured goods as Germans elsewhere. He had more coal to heat his house. While the pro-Soviet press in the U.S. howled for a more drastic denazification program in the U.S. zone, the Russians went slower. Key production men could stay on the job, be tried later. A Russian general coldly explained that demobilization was not permitted to break up occupation units. The "let's clean this up and go home" spirit so evident in the U.S. zone was frowned on.

The Russians did not hesitate to intervene directly in German politics. In Berlin, ponderous, serious Dr. Andreas Hermes and quiet Dr. Walther Schreiber resigned as chairman and deputy chairman of the Christian Democratic Union after a press campaign against them inspired by Russian occupation authorities.

At the same time the Soviet-zone press triumphantly reported a resolution by Communist and Social Democratic leaders favoring a merger of their parties. Without it, the Communists stood a poor chance at the polls. The Soviet-zone press failed to report that the Social Democrats had set conditions: both parties must be organized on a national scale and the merger approved by majority vote of the Socialist rank & file. The Socialists did not want to repeat the fatal rivalry of the 19205; but they obviously sought to evade Russian pressure for an outright merger's kiss of death.