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Labor Action, 25 November 1946


Jack Porter

A Portrait of a Town
in Occupied Germany – II


From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 47, 25 November 1946, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


This article is the second of two describing life in a tiny Bavarian hamlet, which was written by a friend recently returned from Germany, His account makes concrete and vivid the general idea of the social and political disintegration of German life as a result of the Nazi reign, the war and the Allied imperialist occupation. It should be remembered that the section of Germany which he describes has always been the most politically backward of the country.


The attitude of German soldiers toward the Communist Party is in part based on a rejection of the practices of the Russian Communist Party and the Russian army, even though many Germans are attracted to theories of socialism. Strangely enough, as a result of tremendous hostility that exists toward Russia the local Stalinist Party, and it is true of many or branches in or cities, unofficially advocates a German brand of Stalinism.

“A dictatorship might be well and good for Russia, but we Germans,” observes a leading Communist Party candidate for local office, “will have our own brand of Communism here.” In the course of another discussion, she stated that re is no culture in Russia. “I know. I have talked with too many German soldiers who were at the Russian front.” There is a dictatorship in Russia almost as bad as Hitler's brand, but the Social Democratic program is too weak to solve Germany's problems. Only a Communist program can solve our problems. “Anyone who has read the pitiful SPD program knows this to be true.”

Unfortunately, many German Communists today remain Communists on basis of the 1932 Communist model and have not been in contact with any other program. It is also known that the theory of German Communism is deliberately pushed in order to overcome the attitude of German workers to the Russian army. It is interesting to note that although the Communist Party in town is small, the storekeepers will accept their posters and display their literature for fear that Stalinists may take power when the American Army leaves. the fear of GPU is even apparent in this small medieval town.

The Stalinist Party may be small in Hammelburg, but as usual, they carry on much more activity in the trade unions and in general make themselves more conspicuous than the Social Democrats.

Social Democratic Party

The old Burgermeister, Adam Marterstock, is typical of most Social Democrats in Hammelburg and in Bavaria generally. Approaching 70, he had already spent 50 years in the party. His children had voted Social Democrat and so did his grandchildren. Nearly all his life had been spent in Hammelburg. He is a storekeeper. On a few visits that he made earlier in his youth to Nuremberg and Munich, he relates that he visited these cities to hear the great socialist leaders, Bebel, Wisner, Kautsky and or old timers. Like many Socialists of Bavaria, he expressed provincial hostility to Berliners, whether Socialist or otherwise. Although acknowledging great reverence for Marx and Engels, it was obvious in conversation that Marterstock was a Socialist more out of habit and tradition and as a result of activities of his earlier years than from a conscious understanding of the principles of Socialism. With the younger Social Democrats between the ages of thirty and forty, the reasons were more patent. they were Socialist in the same sense that Southerners are Democrats. they carry on the grand tradition of the family.

There is no doubt that the ideas of the Social Democrats have in course of many decades penetrated into the smallest village and to the most backward strata of the German people. There is a much greater percentage of Protestants among the Social Democrats, than Catholics. Nearly all the Hammelburg Social Democrats attend church and use the common Bavarian phrase of greeting, “Grüss Gott.” the only atheists present are those from the big cities, mainly from the Germany.

The young Polish Socialists have difficulty in receiving membership in the local party branch. the basis of the hostility against m was very simple: they are not Germans. At meetings they maintained a reserved silence in order to avert any antagonism. Recently the Polish Socialists left the party as a result of hostility exhibited by the branch members.

Little information regarding the political parties of or countries has reached Germany. the Social Democrats were astounded to hear that the Communists had worked together with the NAM in America during the war. they found it difficult to believe that Stalinists had broken strikes and in general acted as the agents of capitalism. To m the German CP has always been too far to left. their objections to the Communists were in many respects objections to the doctrines of Lenin. In Hammelburg as in many German cities, that support of a more radical program must lead to the KPD (Stalinist Party).

Many of the Social Democrats as well as many or people in Hammelburg, in spite of the imperialist arrogance of the Americans and notwithstanding the dictatorship imposed by the American Army, desire the latter to remain a good long while in Germany. Only a few militants among the SPD think otherwise. A prominent Socialist recently expressed himself in one of the newspapers as hoping that Americans would remain fifteen years in Germany. This desire is motivated by the fear of Russia and the fear of the Nazis who still exert moral pressure and play an important role in the Christian Socialist Party.

The appointment of numerous Nazis to various municipal positions has of course increased the standing of the Nazis. the feeling is further emphasized by the attitude of suspicion and odium displayed by numerous Germans toward the kazetlers, former concentration camp prisoners. the moral atmosphere is such that an ex-prisoner of a concentration camp finds it wiser to remain silent about his past. These conditions help many a quisling and opportunist sell Social Democrats the desirability of advocating that American Army remain.

The Social Democrats in their written as well as spoken propaganda stress that a program is not important today. What is proclaimed by their placards to be important is immediate rehabilitation of homes, schools and jobs. Like American politicians seeking election they avoid issues and declaim against sin. Only recently has Shoemaker, the head of the party, offered critical remarks about the American regime. He, however, resides in the British zone.

Political Literature

With the exception of a few topical pamphlets, political literature written by Marx, Engels, Lenin or Trotsky does not exist. Hitler did a thorough job. Here and re one may find Marxian literature in a Socialist home. One old Socialist showed the writer some old pamphlets by Karl Kautsky that he had kept buried in ground during the period of Hitler’s rule. But few individuals dare to save their books. Such literature that is published consists mainly of magazines containing translation of articles of current modern writers.

The daily newspaper, the Neue Zeitung, carries articles by writers such as Malraux, Silone and other modern authors in a rather interesting literary section for a daily newspaper. But the newspapers, however, are greatly restricted by American censors who remove any article that might conceivably reflect on the military regime. the shortage of newspapers in Hammelburg is emphasized by the long queues that form to purchase m.

The most important political force in the town is the Christian Socialist Union. In Hammelburg it is dominated by Adam Kaiser, who, in turn, is dominated by the Catholic Church. It is well known in Germany that the thinking for the leaders of the CSU is done by church fathers. Not only does the clergy do the thinking, but they carry on recruiting for the organization. the priests exhort people to join the party from the pulpit and in the past two elections urged m to vote CSU.

The majority of people, especially women, can be found attending church on Sundays. the mass meetings of the Christian-Socialist Union in Hammelburg are staged with churchly ceremonies. the speaker delivers his remarks in liturgical fashion, glances frequently to heaven; recites a prayer and frequently calls upon God’s help.

In many ways the Christian Socialists are more critical of military government than the Social Democrats; this despite the fact that the Christian Socialist Union receives much more support than Social Democrats from the American Military Government. Social Democrats still retain that respect for legality they so fatally exhibited under the Weimar Democracy. the church knowing that their hold on the people especially among the workers is constantly slipping, finds it necessary to be critical of the American regime to retain their influence. the AMG resorted to suppressing a bishopric letter issued one day before the elections that was strongly critical of American rule. the Vatican slipped around the American censorship by reading the letter over the radio. the local Nazis support Christian Socialists and have honeycombed the structure of organization. In some cities the extent of Nazi penetration into party forced the AMG to suppress the Christian Socialists. When Nazis in the nearby prison camp heard of the CSU electoral victory they gathered around to cheer and applaud.

The local Military Government officers consort with girls related to the CSU officials, giving the latter added access to the military officials. Appointments for jobs are procured from officers in the oldest of ways: through women. In the town of Hammelburg not one Military Government officer could speak German. they relied entirely on Germans for translations. the officer in charge of teaching democracy to the good burghers of Hammelburg was a youth who hailed from a model democratic state, Texas. His main interests were collecting “frauleins” and cameras, Leicas and blondes preferred. He was, of course, very friendly to the CSU.

Some Concluding Remarks

Hammelburg does not symbolize all of Germany. It does reflect conditions in many small cities and towns in Bavaria.

In spite of their backwardness and provincialism, the Social Democrats have made many gains in these towns compared even to their palmy days before Hitler. they are terribly handicapped by physical loss of their best leaders without the infusion of new blood. There is a rather vague tendency in the party that is critical of the old Social Democratic policies, but confused as to the correct program to follow.

The people as a whole are disillusioned with the Nazi program. they are critical of the American regime though they accept presence of American troops as insurance against Russian domination. On the or hand, the Communist Party finds it impossible to make any real headway in Bavaria and will not do so for a long time. Many who adhere to the Social Democrats do so for traditional reasons; ors adhere to the party because they accept it as the lesser evil.

The worker, the small farmer, the dispossessed, the displaced, all seek a way out. But the future seems black to many. Still there are those among the Social Democrats and disillusioned Stalinists who, if given proper direction, could form the basis of a revolutionary socialist party. Such a party would find many recruits among the Germans today.

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