Circular Letter # 8.
Bachstelsweg 11, Dahlem, Berlin, Germany.
1 June 1946
Just back from an emergency trip to Munich – and gathered some impressions which I’d like to try to get across to you good folks. The fact that the trip impinged on a holiday made it somewhat more interesting, as you shall see. But let’s launch the story – in a series of pictures:
In the overcast, en route from Berlin to Munich. We’re riding an old, war-weary C-47 bucket seat job – dingy and battered but still in the ring. So it is with most of the planes now doing double duty in the European Theater. These old troopers, brothers to the Douglas two-motored jobs which are on most of the commercial airlines in the States, are kept in commission only through periodic cannibalism – wrecking one ship to provide parts for others, for new parts are unattainable. But by the grace of God and the ingenuity of the mechanics working for EATS they are kept flying – and the passage time between these two cities is cut from two nights and a day by train to four hours by air. It’s worth taking a gamble for that saving.
There are seventeen passengers, all in some sort of uniform except one civilian, – Army officers, a WAC lieutenant, enlisted personnel, three French National gals in the employ of U. S. Military Government, two Russian officers, and several civilians. As we bump along and try to get comfortable in the depressed aluminum seats, made to fit a parachute pack and not that critical part of the human anatomy I see two air corps lieutenants deep in a game of rummy, a number of the group are reading in the poor light which filters through the unwashed windows, others are sprawled in various relaxed postures trying to get a wink of sleep. Beside me a WAAC sergeant from Fort Worth, reporter for the Stars and Stripes, is industriously sewing her T/3 chevrons on her ETO jacket, her field coat thrown carelessly over her shoulders, for it is a bit cool at this altitude. The air is filled with the drone of the motors and the swish of the props, for these utility jobs are not insulated as are the plush jobs. Visibility would be poor even with clean windows for the overcast is fairly continuous below us. It is purely a duty flight – the quickest and easiest way of reaching one’s objective – in a veteran plane which has seen its best days as a transport for air-borne troops, a glider tow or a cargo carrier to the front line troops.
We circle the airport at Furst, on the outskirts of Nurmberg and squat down in the rain, raising again after 45 minutes for the continuation of the journey. Most of us alight at Munich, but our steed carries on and finds its terminus at Vienna. It’s not my job I’m on, but no one who should have gone could get away – and, as I’ve said before, I get most of the cats and dogs which come prowling around the shop, always interesting but a bit frustrating when it means slighting my own assigned duties. It’s an emergency personnel problem – three mal-adjusted civilians, two of whom will probably have to be shipped back to ZI (Zone of the Interior, which is the quaint nickname we have for God’s Country). We are having an increasing number of such cases, altho the number is not more than might be expected, just folks who came over on a wave of glamor or expecting to find something which proves lacking – and they can’t take it. For, despite the “Sumptious dinners” of the high officers’ which a cousin of mine mentions in a critical description of life here, recently received from her (the Lord only knows where she got that, for we are eating Army rations, cooked in Army style), there are adjustments to be made and some folks are unable and/or unwilling to make that adjustment. Such people must be weeded out or have their sights realigned quickly for their discontent can quickly spread. This is part of the job of G-1, the Personnel Officer.
It is too late to get transportation, the hardest thing to find in Munich for the visitor, so I settle down for the balance of the rainy afternoon in the Hotel Excelsior, U. S. Transient Officers’ Billets, on Hauptbahnhof Square, surrounded by almost total architectural ruin. Quarters are good, as they are in the Carlton in Frankfurt, but it must have been quite a feat for the Army engineers, with German civilian labor, to make them so. Tuesday and Wednesday I spent at the Compound, formerly SS Headquarters in Bayern, completing my mission – and scrounging a Chevrolet and German driver for a trip to Garmish-Partenkirche over Memorial Day. Tuesday evening I was delightfully entertained by three of the officers of OMGBavaria, dinner at the Haus der Deutsches Kundst, a lovely art gallery which now serves as an officers’ mess, then at the home of a U.S. Lieut. Col., and subsequently dancing at the Chinese Towers, formerly a German place of entertainment and now run by Special Services for Americans and their guests. There are few American girls in Munich, so our companions were “Fräuleins”, very charming German girls who provide the social contacts for the Americans, officers and enlisted men. And I’d like to digress for a moment on the subject of “fräuleins”.
I care not where you are, New York City or Munich, Paris or Tokio, people are socially very much akin – youth cries out to youth and everyone craves the companionship of congenial friends of the opposite sex. Sometimes this companionship transgresses the bounds of propriety (NYC, M, P, or T.), and sometimes the social code of morals gets badly bent. But most of the German women and girls I have met are a pretty swell group – and before this mess is entirely cleared up many of them are coming to America as the wives of our fellows who have met them over here – and darned good citizens they will make too, if I may generalize, as witness the quality of the German-American population we now have in our midst. Please don’t get the idea so many have at home that our international relations are necessarily ugly – and when they are be prepared to blame our own boys – your own boys – fully as much as the girls, for the man has unquestionably been the pursuer in the development of intersexual friendships which cross the international border line. And please don’t get the idea that I’m a German-lover, ready to forget the past five years. All of these people need orientation and indoctrination, mainly politically, before they will be qualified for American citizenship. This job our boys are starting, often subtily and possibly unwittingly, but I have had enough talks with them to know that there are plenty who crave that liberty which they hope to find in America. Witness the Letter of Edith Pieper, enclosed with my last circular. And there was a darling youngster, lovely as a picture and gently reared, hostess at our OMG rest hotel at Garmish, fiancée of an American officer who is heir to a steel mill in Connecticut, two weeks younger than my daughter Adah [editor: Adah was born in 1925], but serious fundamentally with the seriousness which comes after seven years of close contact with war. Ruthie told me, “I have no illusions about America, I expect to find good and bad in the people, the social and economic conditions. But I will find there one thing I can never find in the Germany I know, – opportunity and personal freedom. That’s what I look forward to when I go to join Kieth”. Things here are pretty realistic and we get the unobstructed view of the grass roots. —- But, personally, I prefer the company of Americans, all else being equal, and the greatly reduced tendency toward “fraternization” in Berlin, where we have a goodly crowd of American girls, makes it apparent that others among us feel the same way.
But to return to my story. About 2:30 Wednesday afternoon Bill (Lieut.) Fortney, one of our Personnel staff in Munich, and I took off for Garmish. This famous sports center lies roughly 85 miles south and slightly west of Munich, within a stone’s throw of the Austrian border and right in and among the first peaks of the German Alps. The two towns of Garmish and Partenkirche lie close together. They are quaint, with the chalet type of architecture predominating but not entirely replacing the more typically Bayrische houses of further north. There are a number of resort hotels, all taken over by the Americans of the Third Army and Military Government for rest and recreation of the occupying forces. Our OMG hotel, formerly the Höllerthalkamp, lies about six miles down the lovely lush valley in the settlement of Höllerthal (literally, Hell Hole), tight up against the abruptly rising mountain, and you look almost directly upward from it to the top of Kleine and Grosse Waxenstein, which rises to a height of 7100 and 7475 feet respectively. The valley altitude is about 3000 feet. Most of the snow is off of these lower peaks, but in the sheltered hollows there are still heavy deposits.
Our hotel, the Wetumpka, is named by its genial manager, Captain Stu Martin, after his home town, a little whistle stop about 15 miles from Montgomery, Alabama. It is typically indigenous in its architecture and the several dining rooms are gorgeously decorated with carved wood, – beams, posts and lintels, carved with designs of Bavarian mountaineers, flowers and coats of arms. The rooms are simple but the beds are comfortable and I defy anyone to keep awake in them down in that mountain air. Beside the hotel is the little village church, – whitewashed, with religious pictures painted on the exterior walls. These paintings, in soft flat color are characteristic of the locality and can be seen decorating the walls of villas and hovels alike. Often the paint is applied to simulate architectural decoration, the name of the house is included in flamboyant Gothic letters on the wall, and overhead the wooden balconies with flat jig saw cutout decoration add their festive touch. Incidentally, it was wonderful to get away from the signs of war and destruction, the last indication of bombing having been left behind about twenty miles south of Munich. There were but a handful of guests at the Wetumpka and we all ate supper that evening al fresco in the yard in front of the hotel, a plain but wholesome meal washed down by a couple of steins of good beer.
We spent the evening relaxing, finally winding up in the little Cellar Bar, four American men, including Bill Fortney and myself, and three German girls. And pretty soon the conversation brought out two surprising things. One of the other two fellows, a Major in charge of the local Land-Kreis Detachment, was a Washington architect with whom I had worked in previous years and in a former existence in committee work of the American Institute of Architects. And the other, sitting there in the little Alpine bar, six thousand miles from home, was a keen handsome and totally engaging young blond, the youngest son of a girl of whom I was more than mildly fond in my teen-age days in Montclair, Hala Hungerford. And what a talkfest young Lieut. Brownell and I had – about his family, his Moodus (Conn.) home and the summer home on Bashan Lake. A delightful evening, and I’m afraid the girls came out last for attention.
Memorial Day morning I was up by eight and awoke Bill for our trip up Kreuzeck. But Bill decided that he preferred to sleep, so after a big breakfast I started off alone through the quaint single street of Höllerthal and up the right of way of the little narrow gauge electric railway, about a kilometer and a half to the foot of the Kreuzeck-Bahn, the aerial cable way which hoisted its passengers up to the attractive sky lodge on the top of Kreuzeck. Never have I seen more lovely country than I viewed that day, from the pastoral landscape in the valley with pastures and foliage a brighter green than anywhere in America and the fields a riot of color from the profusion of wild flowers – about eight varieties of which I could identify, but all larger than at home,- asters, wild geranium, daisies, buttercups, forget-me-nots, red clover, wild roses and a host of others. Rising from this fertile paradise were long green slopes and forests of tall evergreens, mainly of a species I didn’t recognize, with the cute Swiss type buildings dotting the parked-like expanses. And above these were the jagged rock peaks, rising almost vertically in many cases to dizzying heights against the clouds and deep blue sky.
The trip up the cable in a suspended car holding about twenty people and swinging in the wind over the ground below took about twenty or twenty five minutes and deposited us possibly 2500 feet above the floor of the valley. It was a Catholic holiday, Ascension Day, and none of the Bayrischers were working, but all out in their best and most colorful costumes, women in brightly colored, full dresses and the men in their embroidered leather short pants, heavy wool “socks”, extending from below the knee to above the ankle, fancy suspenders linked across the chest with an ornamental gimcrack, rough homespun linen shirts and little heavy felt hats with colored cord band, gorgeous feather and frequently a little bouquet of brilliantly hued alpine flowers. They were all over the trails, interspersed with groups of highly vocal boy and girl scouts, who wore the fleur-de-lis pin and saluted with the open two fingers just as in America. I tramped for several miles over the rough trails and took in all of the view permitted by the clouds which almost completely obscured the tops of the higher Alps over the Austrian border, but which broke often enough to give me an idea of what existed there. The mountain flowers were almost as profuse as were those in the fields below, all strange and all brilliant in their coloring.
Back to the hotel for lunch and a loaf, and a ramble through the valley and up a beautiful ravine with Bill before we took off about 2:30 for the trip back to Munich. It was a roundabout trip, including a visit at the schloss of the mad king Ludwig of Bavaria. The setting is magnificent, on the sweeping hillside of a crag-locked valley but, as an architect, I’m not quite in sympathy with the introduction into this natural grandeur of the pedantic formality of precise gardens, marble statues, gold fountains, formal water cascades, gazebos and finally the schloss itself, more baroque and ornate than anything I had ever imagined existed. Then 11 kilometers to Ober Ammergau, which I was very curious to see. It is in another valley, more pastoral in its surroundings, and is a quaint town of greater size and importance than I had imagined. We took in the Passion Theater, a huge barn of a place which has not been used since before the war and shows all of the signs of its lack of use. Back to Munich on a different road, via Ausberg, and I believe I can truly say that I have a pretty comprehensive idea of what southern Bayern looks like. It is the garden spot of Germany, favored both by the natural beauty and the interesting way in which it has been developed. While I like our station and immediate surroundings here in Berlin better than those in Munich, I envy those folks down there for their opportunity to get out into such gorgeous country as that around Garmish, Salsberg and Berchtesgarten. And that latter is the next spot in Bavaria that I want to get to.
Thursday night back at the Hotel Excelsior, a morning spent writing reports and then the 1:00 P.M. plane back to Berlin. It was a bit bumpy over the mountains and forests of Thuringia but we all survived it and reached Berlin by 4:15, ahead of schedule. It was a good trip, successful insofar as my mission went, and delightful in its holiday aspects. ——But I groaned when I saw my “IN” basket on returning to the office and spent most of yesterday trying vainly to catch up with my responsibilities. For I’m now finishing this on Sunday, with Ahyaks head on my leg and Schnappsie vainly trying to attract his attention. I had dinner last evening at George Vadney’s, present Goerge and myself, Frau Edith Pieper, who is now his housekeeper, Tommy (Lt.) Thomas, George’s administrative assistant and Ilsa, George’s German secretary, the most beautiful natural blond in face and figure whom I have seen in Germany. In the evening two delightful little Mägdchen who live in the neighborhood, sisters, one 12 and the other 7, dropped in on us and we had a very happy and domestic party. I’ve never seen two more beautifully brought up children, the older completely and sweetly material in her care of kleine Schwester, the youngster just a ball of fun. It’s all a swell bit of international understanding with genuine friendship underlying it, and, in its small way, more effective than the efforts of the so-called statesmen.
This morning after breakfast Erika and I gave the two dogs a bath, the first that Ajax ever had. As Frau Römer told me, “It is not good for a dog to be bathed in his first year – and after that we had no soap and very little water to spare”. But he has been kept well brushed and was completely odorless. He protested violently at the indignity of the bath, but quieted down as he got used to it and then sat immobile as always when I gave him a complete brushing after he dried off. That he loves. I brought Ajax home from George’s last evening and he and Schnappsie have been getting adjusted to each other, amicably enough, and now they are both stretched at my feet awaiting a later romp on the lawn.
A number of letters recently received from the States correspondents have been much concerned with conditions over here and the questioned success of our efforts at government. About that I’d like to make a few remarks from the sidelines. Before you start appraising the situation in Europe there are certain basic facts which you must take into consideration:
- Europe, and particularly Germany, has been through the most devastating war in history and, in fact, while hostilities have ceased, the war has not yet been declared over. Germany’s cities lie a mass of ruins, most of her industry is paralysed by destruction, almost complete dearth of raw materials and fuel to start the wheels a-rolling. Her manpower is shot, and much of the little that remains is needed for such extraordinary work as replacing the thousands of road and railway bridges which have been blown up, repairing railways, clearing up the destruction in the cities and, in many other ways, diverting the labor from normal industrial channels. The people are not starving, except for possible isolated examples, but they are weakened by malnutrition, badly disorganized and still dazed by the terror from which they have never recovered. There is still much resistance to any efforts by the conquering powers to bring order out of virtual chaos. There is no established government on which to build, as there is in Japan. We, in the U.S. Zone are trying with what seems to us considerable success to teach democratic principles of government to a people who for generations have been taught, often by brutal methods, that they must not think politically but must accept what is given them by the dominant ruling class. War ideologies still exist, Jews are anathema. The economy is completely disrupted and the country is practically bankrupt, with a long future ahead of them trying to pay for the war and the reparations resulting from it, trying to finance industrial recovery. That is the background, the material with which we are working. Try to imagine what these conditions would do to America – and the Americans.
- Four world powers have split up Germany, politically and geographically, and each is stubbornly insisting on training the new Germany along its particular form of government, its ideologies, its economies. This divergence of dominant leadership does not lie primarily in the four military governments in this unhappy land – it stems from the capitals of those countries, and we are forced to follow the policies which are laid down for us. And many here, Americans as well as Germans, feel that Germany can never be a self-supporting unit in the congress of nations as long as it is divided, for each part is integrated with the other segments. I don’t happen to feel that way. I believe that north Germany (Prussia), south Germany (Bavaria, Wuerttemberg, Baden, Hesse), and the Rhineland have been forceably joined and that politically and economically they can survive as separate nations. The Prussians have the greatest contempt for the south Germans, and the latter cordially dislike or even hate the Prussians. I believe each section should be master of its own destiny, but ever partially dependent on each other, agriculturally and industrially, That, very roughly, is the international handicap under which we must work.
But despite these almost insuperable conditions Germany is rising. I speak of the Germany of the U. S. Zone, for I know too little about the other areas to make my opinions of any value. A democratic form of government has been established, the Germans are voting their own leaders (carefully screened for anti-nazi background by U. S. Military Government) into positions of political power. The Weimar Republic did not succeed largely because of the mass of inconsequential political parties none of which dominated and all of which were too disorganized to carry authority when their leaders were elected to positions of authority. To-day two strong parties have developed, the Catholic Democrats (who are not all catholics by any means) and the Socialist Democrats. The elections last week indicate an almost perfect balance of power between them – a very healthy sign. More and more the people are getting to understand their political responsibilities and the percent of accredited voters who cast ballots in that election would have done credit to the voters of America. We are not here to govern the Germans, we are here to see that the way they govern themselves and the way in which they develop their own economy is not predjudicial to the future peace for the world. That is the basic philosophy behind our military government which must not be forgotten and which may not have been understood by some of you.
Germany is getting fed. Conditions are possibly worst in the British Zone, for that is more completely industrial and cannot feed itself to the degree that the Russian and the U. S. Zones can. All of the country people I have seen are sturdy and well looking, rosy cheeked and properly plump, insofar as the children are concerned. It is true that much of that plumpness comes from a too-starchy diet but it is not emaciation, rickets and starvation. The city folks don’t do so well and many of the children here look pinched and under-nourished – although I cannot believe the situation is nearly as bad as it has been painted. Soon this season’s crops will be harvested and conditions will improve, altho the harvest will not be normal, due largely to lack of seed, manpower, other vital factors. Germany will need the help of those nations which can afford to spare some of their food for several years, for at best it has never been self-supporting agriculturally.
On this trip, even more than in March, I noticed that valiant efforts are being made to rebuild, to clear up the awful destruction. Industries are getting into production on a small scale. The Agfa camera works in Munich is half destroyed, but in the other half they are turning out cameras of pre-war quality – and this is true elsewhere.
Germany is in healthy condition despite under-nourishment, lack of sufficient heat and clothing last winter, despite the necessity for living in unsanitary conditions and for drinking water which we have not considered potable without treatment unavailable to the Germans. With all of these conditions there has been no epidemic or unusual sickness and death in the U. S. Zone. V.D. is unusually bad, but this is natural after war in which the country is overrun by the armies of other nations. But so is it unusually high in many of our American cities. Our Public Health Branch of military government is taking this in hand and the intent is to pretty completely stamp it out here.
Our relations with the other powers, notably Russia, handicap us greatly in our efforts to bring our Zone back to reasonably normal conditions. Superficially and individually relationships are friendly, but again the policies determined in the nations’ capitals cannot be contravened by the military governments.
Personally, I feel that we are doing a pretty good job, now that we have developed our policies, our organization and our procedures. These had to be developed from a background of nothing, the organization staffed by army officers, most of whom were completely untrained in civil government and industrial development. Our organization in Berlin is now about two thirds civilian, with men trained for their jobs at the helm. In the field the military still predominates, as it must be as long as we feel that we must keep our Land-Kreis Detachments – two officers and two enlisted men, for the most part, who live in and keep control of government and security at the county and city level. We have made mistakes, many of them, but the present military government, without precedent, had to learn by trial and error.
But now let me, on my side, ask, “What of America?” With a sound and stable economy, with no unusual internal complications except the minor one of conversion of industry from war to peace production, America’s present situation is hardly one about which any can boast. How can we succeed in selling democracy and hold America up as an outstanding example of the “proof of the pudding” when the Germans read of the strikes, the lack of harmony in government, the unemployment and the disorders in our country. It seems to this miniscular ex-patriate that you citizens of the United States should put your own house in at least reasonably good order before you complain of U. S. Military Government in Germany. It seems as though there should be some very slight effort at gustatorial self-denial in order that these people may grow robust and develop the resultant will for recreation. Of what consequence are the “sumptious dinners of the higher officers” among the few Americans in Germany compared to the selfish overeating indulged in widely in our own country? These are questions which disturb us and which handicap us in the discharge of our responsibilities. ——- But enough of that, I started this as a report, not a denunciation.
This is an unusually long letter, and I’m afraid if I have to add a personal cover sheet to each of the six copies I send out I will never get them off, so I’ll ask you to excuse the omission this time. My best regards to you all, and thanks for the letters which you have written and which I shall try to answer in the not too distant future.
[handwritten] Hoped to find a letter from you on my return but was disappointed. But I got a good progress report on you all from Uncle Warren.
Lots of love-