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The Future of Germany: Part of a Great World Problem.
Speech by John J. McCloy,
U.S. High Commissioner for Germany,
Stuttgart, February 6, 1950



I am glad to be here today to help open the new home of the Amerika Haus in Stuttgart. It is well to state, at the outset, what purpose such a house is intended to serve.

Simply put, this house is meant to provide a meeting place where men and women can find interests and information generally related, though by no means exclusively, to the thought and activities of the people of the United States.

The Amerika Haus is not a house of propaganda. It is a house for free men and free women to exchange views, to learn and to reach understanding. Above all, it is a house for the young. In the Amerika Haus, you will find a reflection of a youthful people.

Impressions of American People

The dedication of this Haus in Stuttgart also gives me an opportunity to report to you on my recent trip to the United States. I want to tell you something of the impressions I received from the people and officials while there. I want also to restate, as simply as I can certain fundamentals of American policy in Germany.

As you know, I returned to the United States to talk with the President, the Members of the Congress particularly concerned with our foreign affairs, and other public officials. Also, through radio talks and other means I spoke to a very large sector of the American people. In the past 2 weeks, I not only answered questions put to me by the President and the Secretary of State, by Members of Congress, by publishers, editors, correspondents, and columnists, but also, as a public servant, I stood before many hundreds of people in Washington, New York, and Boston to give my appraisal of German developments and to answer their questions. I come back here much aided and encouraged by these contacts. May I, in a frank and friendly manner, recommend this healthy, if rather exacting, process to the people and officials of Germany. It would be good for all of us.

My deepest impression from my visit to the United States is of the intensity and extent of the interests in Germany. There are almost daily reports from Germany on the front pages of our newspapers. Our civic organizations devote a large amount of their time to German questions, and it is easy to understand the reasons for that interest. The people of the United States have expended an enormous amount of human and material treasure to defeat Hitler, to wipe out Nazism, and restore decent living in Germany. All generations in the United States, as is true of many other countries, have been deeply affected by the former German aggressions and they are concerned over any signs of a resurgence of these forces which led to Nazi domination. They know that Germany is a critical factor in Europe and in the world today. Among the almost infinite variety of questions I was asked, a few constantly recurred. These are samples of the main line of questioning:

What are the chances of a revival of Nazism? How important are nationalistic trends? Who is behind these movements?
What are certain German officials trying to achieve with their recurrent nationalistic statements?
How strong are the extreme rightist movements? The extreme left? What are the German people and authorities doing about them?
How strong is the will to democracy, the will to peace in Germany?
Are the Germans sincerely interested in joining the Western European community of nations?
Are significant groups and individuals working to make Germany a peaceful, democratic state?
How long will it require before one can be certain of the emergence of a sound and a peaceful state?

There were questions of deepest concern, but, as persistent as these inquiries were, there were also such questions as: How can we help the German people recover? What can we do, as private citizens, as private organizations, to help the Germans meet the great problems before them?
In other words, along with deep concern over Germany, I repeat, there was hope and a most amazing eagerness to help. Moreover, the number of people in the United States, many Germans and many Americans, who suffered or whose relatives suffered from Nazi barbarism and who still are prepared to aid Germany, never fails to amaze me.

You know, I believe, how I answered these questions. I told the American people that I was concerned over the reemergence of nationalist groups; that there was in my judgment still too much traditionalism and authoritarianism in German life; that many undesirable former Nazis and nationalists were finding their way back into important places; that there was still resistance to reforms long overdue; that too many German people were apathetic or negative in their approach to their political responsibilities.

But I also said that, in my judgment, the picture was positive rather than negative. I pointed out that there is today in Germany a freely elected Government and Parliament; that there are excellent men to be found in public life, sincere in their devotion to freedom; that there is an accumulation of progressive legislation in the Laender; that the German newspapers are showing an increasing alertness and tendency to give the people the facts.

I stated that it was my conviction that the great majority of the German people want peace and would deplore the remilitarization of Germany; but they have faith in the unity of Western Europe; and that they see themselves as a responsible part of Western Europe. I mentioned some of the very fine spirits, whom I had met in Germany during the time I have been here and who gave me great encouragement for the future of the country.

I did not minimize the dangers in Germany. I pointed out that the millions of refugees, the homeless youth, the unemployed added to these angers. I said that beneath their superficial differences the extremists on the right in Germany and the Communists on the left are totalitarian flies and that they would not hesitate to exploit for their own benefit the distress of these groups.

Overall Points on German Cooperation

Now, I want to make a few more overall points. One is that the people of the West are united in regard to Germany. There are differences of opinion and some differences of interest which appear from time to time, but fundamentally the guiding purpose of the officials and peoples of the other three occupying powers is the same. All are members of the Western world, all seek peace, all seek freedom. Moreover, the Western peoples are bound together by very vivid recollections of common sacrifices endured in many fields. In short, there is no likelihood of wide discrepancies, and there is strong likelihood of sustained and collective support for each other and toward a peaceful Germany.

Secondly, may I say a word or two on the subject of collective guilt. This is a term over which much ink has been spilt, and I hesitate, knowing the propensity of politicians to orate on the subject, even to mention it.

There is no need to tilt at windmills. No one, last of all the people of the United States, is charging all Germans with the responsibility for Hitler's crimes. Their enormity alone would preclude this. No one demands a beating of the breasts or a scene at Canessa. But what I do expect is an end to the arguments of these Germans who would not only deny their own guilt but also seek to place the responsibility for the consequences of that guilt exclusively upon the shortcomings of her peoples. There has been, recently, a tendency of certain spokesmen in this country to jump all the way from a denial of collective guilt to an assertion that other peoples and countries are responsible for Germany's postwar difficulties and problems. In all seriousness, I want you to know that such utterances do incalculable harm and set back the cause of Germany. They display a deep misunderstanding of the events of the past 17 years. They call to mind what people are now disposed to forget, that is the amazing docility and acquiescence of the greater part of the German population toward Nazi outrages. After all, it was these outrages which brought about the distress from which Germany now suffers and much more besides.

Humility leads to strength and not to weakness. It is the highest form of selfrespect to admit mistakes and to make amends for them. In this critical time of German and world history, the people and the leaders of Germany have a great opportunity to demonstrate that they have learned these lessons of the past. They can demonstrate their good will by attacking, in a democratic manner, the deeply serious but not insurmountable domestic problems now facing them. Agitation of foreign issues, however tempting, cannot distract attention from vital domestic issues and from the pressing need for domestic reforms.

In the months ahead, it is imperative that the German people, their leaders and parliaments, deal with the problems of unemployment, of the refugees, of the youth. These are major problems. If they are attacked in a statesmanlike manner, if German leaders will remember that everything they say reaches a world audience as well as a local one, the problems will be nearer solution. And Germany will find that the American people and their representatives in this country will help in their solution.

The Western nations have already made unprecedented efforts to help. The High Commissioners are prepared, in conjunction with the federal and land governments, to study and seek means to aid in the solution of these problems. I am prepared to say, for myself at least, that unemployment, for example, is not exclusively a German problem, because, if for no other reason, it is greatly aggravated by the influx of the refugees from the terror to the East. In view of the fact that the United States has already done so much to help Germany, it is difficult to think of what more we can be reasonably asked to do. Nevertheless, given a full measure of German endeavor, we are certainly prepared to cooperate to the utmost.

Let me emphasize, however, and this I say particularly to the political leaders of Germany: we Americans are not here exclusively to feed the German people and promote economic recovery nor merely to see that tanks and planes are not built. Our main purpose is to help Germany achieve political recovery. By that, I mean, to help the German people establish a political democracy in which they can live as free men and enjoy the benefits of their freedom. That is my answer to those who occasionally say that we have no right to mix into the political problems confronting this country.

Lines of American Policy

And, now, I think you are entitled to know certain lines of American policy today. Somewhat more than 3 years ago, the then Secretary of State, James F. Byrnes, sounded a note of encouragement in this city to the German people. In inking the following statements, I want to add to that hope. Here, as I see it, are the leading principles of our policy in this country.
The German people should be enabled to develop their political independence along democratic lines in close association with the free people of Western Europe. They should be integrated into a free Europe.

The German people should, when they and their governments have demonstrated their readiness and responsibility, share fully in Free Europe's economic benefits and correspondingly assume its obligations.

The German people and Government should take an increasingly active part themselves in the political and economic organization of Europe. Germany cannot be allowed to develop political conditions or a military status, which would threaten other nations or the peace of the world. That means there will be no German army or air force. German security will best be protected by German participation in a closely knit Western European community.

The German people, subject to the foregoing considerations, should have the widest freedom to shape their future. The controls exercised by the occupation authorities should be exercised so as not to hamper the full development of German political, economic, and cultural life.

Full support and encouragement will be given to democratic forces in Germany. The powers reserved in the Occupation Statute are available and intended to prevent any resurgence of ultranationalistic or antidemocratic forces which would be a threat to the peace of Europe.

Full support will be given to the development of the Federal Republic of Germany. All constructive efforts to help toward the goal of the unification of Germany on a democratic and federal basis will be made. In spite of many obstacles, we shall continue to seek a way to advance this unity.

The city of Berlin, which has already found such a sympathetic response among the free people of the world, will continue to receive aid and support of the people of the United States. Its strength and spirit can give vigor and life to the new Germany, and all measures to bring it closer to the people of the Western Republic will be encouraged.

It is American policy to foster fair trade practices through a program of decartelization and deconcentration of industry.

It is American policy that persons and organizations deprived of their property, as a result of Nazi racial and political discrimination, should either have their property returned to them or adequate compensation given; that persons who suffered personal damage or injury through Nazi persecution because of racial, religious, or ideological reasons should be indemnified. Their wrongs can never be completely redressed, but, in all decency, they must be faced and dealt with without evasion or subterfuge. A recovery built on a disregard of these obligations would be false and would constitute an omen of future disaster.

In connection with these policies, I should like to emphasize the following: We have all been shocked by the recurrence of the Soviet efforts to depress the life of the people of Berlin by interruptions in and the slowing down of the normal traffic between the Western zones and that city. It is quite clear that protests or expressions of indignation at the callousness of such action have no effect on those who employ these measures.

I am not going to threaten or to speak of what specific measures the Commission may, in conjunction with the Federal Republic, apply to this situation if it continues. All I feel, I should add, is that the present harassment will no more succeed than did the former. Whatever the High Commissioners and the Western Republic find it necessary to do to aid the city and to destroy the effect of these interferences will, I know, have the support of the people of the United States.

I would also like to say a few words about the Saar. Whatever the solution, it must not stand in the way of the great concept of Germany's participation in the organization of Western Europe. A sensible, statesmanlike solution can readily be found, and far too much is at stake to permit this issue to become again the starting point for internal political maneuvering leading only to embittered Franco-German misunderstanding.

The Future of Germany

Whatever our policies may be in whatever aid we may render, it cannot be too often repeated that only the German people hold the key to their own peaceful prosperous future. They must, therefore, do some very straight thinking regarding their position in the world.

Germans rightly take pride in the world citizenship represented by men like Goethe and Beethoven. These men did not think in terms of Frankfort, Bonn, Stuttgart, Hamburg, or even Germany. They were men of the world. Today, after a disaster of such enormous dimensions as World War II, extraordinary opportunities exist in Germany for a reappraisal of values and a break with the traditions, which hitherto have resulted in misery and disaster.

The future of Germany is not a local national question. It is an integral part of a great world problem. It requires maturity of thought and expression as well as stability of action. Germany can readily acquire a position in the world by giving the sign of a regenerated spirit, a spirit to which free peoples all over the world would quickly respond.

By such action, Germany can acquire a world position, which no amount of German political maneuvering between two great world powers could ever create. It is this world concept and world responsibility which the politician, the teacher, the pastor, the philosopher of new Germany must present. It is the antithesis of the concept of world domination with which false leaders deluded the German people to the point of destruction and even disgrace.

One other admonition, if I may venture to state it. I say this with the earnestness derived from experiences in my own country. If the people of the United States, with their long tradition of democracy must remain vigilant, certainly the German people, who have so recently emerged from one of the worst abuses of individual freedom in history, must be ever on the alert. It is essential that every German and not only a courageous few should recognize his own responsibility in the protection of individual rights and of the processes of justice. It is the price of all security, but most particularly of the security of the individual. It is so easy to let things drift, to ignore the danger signal until only heroes and martyrs dare oppose the accumulated force of oppression.

Here, I wish to emphasize that one of the primary purposes of the occupation has been and is to eradicate Nazi influence and leadership from German political, economic, and cultural life. That principle is written into the federal and land constitutions. The federal and land governments have the duty to take adequate measures to protect the German people against a revival of Nazism in any form.

We will work with and support the efforts of those who honestly and sincerely seek to accomplish that purpose. On the other hand, we shall not hesitate to use all our power and influence to expose and counteract any subversive influences, which condone or encourage the revival of Nazism in German life. If the German people hope again to take their place in the community of free nations, they must demonstrate their will to insist upon an honest and vigorous enforcement of that policy.
In the life of each nation, there are critical periods of decision. Today, 5 years after the war, such a period has arrived for Germany. If the German people take full advantage of it, they will find the road to unification, the unification of all Germany. And they will receive the full
support the democratic peoples of the West.

(Department of State Bulletin, February 20, 1950, p. 275)

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Updated: August 2001