Who's Who in New German & Berlin Governments
Chapter section from:
Airbridge to Berlin --- The Berlin Crisis of 1948, its Origins and Aftermath
By D.M. Giangreco and Robert E. Griffin
(Used with permission)
As a result of the October 1946 elections, the Berlin City Assembly elected Otto Ostrowski (SPD) as Lord Mayor and 17 others to the Magistrat to administer the various departments of city government. After continued delay and stalling by the Soviets, all but two of the Magistrat members finally received Kommandatura approval. However, the Soviets used Article 36 to prevent the new Magistrat members from removing deputies and other leading officials in their departments without Kommandatura approval. This meant that the new department heads were forced to retain many of the Communist officials originally installed by the Soviets in May-June 1945 and, naturally, these officials owed no allegiance to the new city administration.
Ostrowski, recognizing the city administration could not function under these conditions, entered into negotiations in February 1947 with the SED without the approval of SPD-Berlin leaders. When the SPD-Berlin leaders learned of Ostrowski's dealings they brought the matter before the City Assembly which overwhelmingly disavowed Ostrowski and forced him to resign. The City Assembly then elected Ernst Reuter (SPD) as Lord Mayor on June 27, 1947, and Reuter was promptly vetoed by the Soviets because of Reuter's anti-Communist views. Luise Schroeder (SPD), who had been appointed Acting Lord Mayor upon Ostrowski's resignation, then continued on in that capacity until December 1948, when new elections were held. By this time, the city had been split and Reuter was unanimously elected Lord Mayor.
Reuter, who became the spiritual leader of Berlin during the Blockade, had an interesting and unusual past. He had served in the German Army in World War I and had been taken prisoner by the Russians in 1916. He joined the Volga German community after the Bolshevik revolution and returned to Germany a Communist in 1919. He became disgusted with the stark crudities of Communism, joined the SPD, and became mayor of Magdeburg and a member of the pre-1933 German Reichstag. He was arrested by the Nazis in 1933, released in 1934, and immigrated to Turkey where he worked as a school teacher and an official in the Ministry of Economics.
Reuter did not arrive back in Germany and Berlin until January 1947, but almost immediately he was accepted as the outstanding SPD leader in Berlin. This galled Franz Neumann, who until Reuter's arrival, had been the SPD-Berlin leader. It was Neumann who had stood up to the Communist threats in 1945-46 and had fought for the independence of the SPD when the Communists and the Soviet military had attempted to merge it out of existence. It was Neuman who had secured the backing for the SPD referendum in the three Western Sectors of Berlin on March 31, 1946, which had overwhelmingly demonstrated the opposition of the SPD in Berlin to fusion with the KPD.
Neumann considered himself to be Kurt Schumacher's deputy in Berlin. Schumacher was the acknowledged leader of the SPD in the US and British Zones. However, Neumann's fiery radicalism was offset by the experience and quiet leadership of Reuter, "the little man in the beret." Willy Brandt, then a young disciple of Reuter, described him as "the prototype of a humanist, who, never compromised in the pursuit of his ideals, also never forgets that all human toil is ephemeral."(34) When the City Assembly elected Reuter Lord Mayor of Berlin on June 24, 1947, the Soviets vetoed him and claimed he had called the Soviet Union "a nation of slaves" and an "ant-heap of a state."(35)
Political activity in the US and British Zones of Germany started later than in the Soviet Zone and without the sponsorship of any particular party as the Soviets did with the KPD. By September 1945, all applicants had been licensed except former Nazis to form political parties. There was a multitude. However, almost immediately four major parties, the SPD, the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU), the Communist KDP, and the Liberal Democrats (LDP), later to become the Free Democrats (FDP), became the principal players.
Local elections were followed by Land elections and all resulted in either Christian Democrats or SPD victories. Where the Christian Democrats won, their principal opposition was from the SPD, and vice versa. The Communists and Liberal Democrats usually maintained representation, but seldom challenged for leadership. In some instances, other political parties with special interests or local support gained some representation, but never challenged nationally and most gradually died out. Under the basic "nonpolitical" auspices of the US and British authorities, German political parties and behavior, with the exception of the extreme right, gradually reverted to the pre-Nazi era.
Konrad Adenauer, who was later to become the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, gradually emerged as the leader of the Christian Democrats. He was the Lord Mayor of Cologne in 1933 when he was forced out by the Nazis. He was arrested in 1944 and barely avoided being sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp by feigning a heart attack. After the German surrender, Adenauer was reinstated as Lord Mayor of Cologne by the Americans.
The leader of the SPD was Schumacher, a former Reichstag member, who had constantly attacked the Nazis before Hitler came to power. Arrested in 1933, he spent the entire Third Reich era in Nazi concentration camps. A veteran of World War I where he lost an arm, he disliked the French and the Americans, and hated the Communists whom he called "red-painted Nazis."(36) Although he got along with the British, Schumacher was a German patriot and a dedicated Socialist. His relationship with Clay was often strained. Clay, who never fully understood the German political party system or the SPD relationship with the German labor movement, did not like Schumacher's meddling in local politics and labor disputes. Clay did not understand the control and loyalty Schumacher was able to maintain over local SPD leaders. Brandt described Schumacher as "sincere, courageous, and honest" and as "a dedicated socialist with a real hatred of injustice and privilege."(37)
The French, based on their fears, rivalry, and long history of conflict with Germany controlled political activity much longer than the other three occupation powers. The French opposition to any form of centralized German administration power carried over to their zone. Political activity remained localized almost until the French agreed to merge their zone, minus the Saar, into the Federal Republic in 1949.