AMERICAN ZONE 1946
By A B.A.O.R. VISITOR
YOU notice the difference as soon as you cross the border at Frankfurt. The German police no longer salute Allied officers, and are often to be seen chewing gum. At Munich it is the same story, and hordes of civilians brush past you and crowd to the train-barriers on their way to all the winter-sports centres. It is impossible to get anyone to carry your luggage, but occasionally one will stop and ask if you have any cigarettes to sell. There are three civilian trains a day to Garmitsch-Partenkirchen, which, being large trains, can cope with all the influx of pleasure-seekers (many of them ex-Wehrmacht). A coach is usually reserved for Allied personnel, but this being overcrowded, and many G.I.s insisting on bringing their German girls inside, the whole train becomes an admixture of Germans and Allied soldiers—the Germans In preponderant superiority as they watch the bad public behaviour of many of the G.I.s. At the winter-sports centres again, the larger number of skiers are Germans, many of whom drive to the ski-lifts and funiculars in saloon cars while we must take the bus. It is a novel experience to have to cadge lifts off Germans, even though these Germans are very polite about it. I talked to one who had thus assisted me, and he told me how he had come from the British zone, and described how much better life was here in Bavaria under the Americans than under the British, who were always "correct." He was chain-smoking American cigarettes—cigarettes, incidentally, which you rarely find in our camps of D.P.s. I talked to ex-P.O.W.s on the ski slopes. Two U-boat men, still wearing their uniforms in an Alpine ski-hut, gave me the same opinion. The British were always correct, but the Americans . . . —and they just laughed in a superior sort of way.
I was amazed to find such a rapid deterioration since I last visited this zone in August. In the officers' clubs German girls are as numerous as in those of the G.I.s, and they are usually of the cheap type which does not commend itself to the local population. I saw a full colonel one evening dancing with such a German girl. One obviously could not gain a true idea in a fortnight, but my impres- sions, though fleeting, were so perturbing that I made a point of discussing the situation with American officers I met there. To my comment that theirs was no army of occupation, but a con- glomeration of homesick G.I.s trying to amuse themselves for a 'few
months before getting back home, all American officers were in frank agreement. A Polish-American who shared my perturbation, however, said that there was nothing be could do now to influence his G.I.s. He said it had been hard enough before the invasion to make some of his men realise that this was no sideline they were going into ; they thought of the American war as against Japan. His men were non-European, and there was an end of it. Eliminating Nazism from among the German people was of little interest to them.
The American occupational force is being reduced to three motorised divisions in an area that is larger than the British zone. In spite of the short occupational service they are therefore called upon to do, there is still open unrest among the American troops wanting to go back home. Their senior officers do not like the effort of making their men realise the desperate importance of America not shrinking, as she did after the last war, from her European responsi- bilities, and the need for control before the criminal can become a self-respecting nation. Everywhere is evidence of laxity of disci- pline, which in front of the Germans of all people is most unfortu- nate. Officers give the excuse that their men are "just a bunch of kids," which would seem to be a reason rather for imposing greater discipline. A few days before my arrival, a large crowd of G.I.s had gathered outside General Headquarters in Frankfurt and booed for General McNarney to come and answer them if he dared.
I believe that these are no grounds for British complacency. One must face the hard fact that no Allied country went to war for the sake of any other country or ideal, but purely in her own defensive interests, gauging according to expediency how long she could stay out. Thus is the revenge of each measured by the amount of suffer- ing received at the hands of the aggressor. America has gained inestimably from the war and knows it sub-consciously ; it is there- fore of no worry to Americans that, in this unfortunate system of Allied zoning, their zone is too thinly occupied and their troops no longer have the temperament or discipline really to constitute an army of occupation.
In the Russian zone, no fraternisation is allowed whatsoever. The Germans are given bare-existence rations ; all efforts at revival are stamped out, and all industrial machinery removed for the benefit of the shattered homeland. The French zone is similar to a smaller degree of ruthlessness. The British, however, being further removed and not having suffered so much; can afford to encourage the resur- rection of a .democratic Germany. This is being done under strict control, and, although fraternisation is universal among other ranks, it is not countenanced among officers, whose attitude has to be as " correct " as the Wehrmacht would have had it. But this official attitude is being slowly undermined by the behaviour of new troops coming out on drafts to occupational battalions in the British zone. Unlike the old soldiers who fought the Germans from El Alamein, these boys were aged eleven when the war started, and nobody seems to have taken the trouble to inform them what it was all about. Some instruction on the origins of the war and German responsi- bility could easily be given. It is greatly needed.