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The Militant, 21 April 1945

Harry Martell

Why Fraternization Is Prohibited

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 16, 21 April 1945, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


“You are entering Germany. Fraternization is an offense.” So read the signs posted on the frontier by the Allied High Command. The penalty for Allied soldiers caught associating with any German is a fine of up to $65.

Reasons for Policy

The motives behind this official proscription of fraternization are unmistakable.

First: the Allied imperialists hope to identify the German masses with Hitler and the crimes of the Nazi regime.

Second: by thus persuading the Allied soldiers of the “war guilt” of the entire German population, they aim to justify their plans for the partition and plundering of Germany and to use the occupying forces as a willing instrument for the decapitation and subjugation of the country.

Third: by erecting a wall between the Allied soldiers and the German masses the High Command hopes to hide from the rank and file the real anti-Nazi sentiments of the population and thereby facilitate their plans to suppress any revolutionary movements of the workers.

And finally, with the pretext that all Germans are tainted with the Nazi brush anyhow, the Allied Military Authorities are already using former Nazi party members and police for posts of civil administration and to help in “keeping order” in capitalist Germany.

Ban Won’t Work

But the ban on fraternization isn’t working. Hanson Baldwin, N.Y. Times military authority, says it is “unenforceable.” American and British soldiers conscripted into the war without their consent cannot help but feel deep sympathy and understanding for a people who are no less the victim of the greed and ambitions of an imperialist ruling class than they are themselves.

“One G.I. looking disconsolately,” writes a British reporter, “out at the muddy road watched the German boy, and then I saw him reach into his pocket and toss out what I suppose was a bar of candy.

“‘Here you little bastard,’ he said.”

Another American soldier helps an old woman push a handcart across the road. When he spies the correspondent, he apologizes: “We can’t have this junk blocking the road.” Then looking up and down the street he drops the ruse, smiles and says: “Well, what the hell?”

These incidents are repeated a thousand times over. An American sergeant summarized the attitude of the men in the ranks with great clarity:

“We’re supposed to hate people, to be very tough customers, but as soon as the fighting is over it begins to work the other way – we begin to feel sorry for them. Non-fraternization works if somebody is there with a club, but right at the front, where a soldier is risking death, you can’t scare him with a $65 fine.”

Class Aim of Order

Little by little the class meaning of the non-fraternization order begins to penetrate the consciousness of the soldiers. In Cologne they see factories owned by Ford and the British textile magnate Courtald that have been producing instruments of death for the Germany army all through this war remain intact, untouched by Allied airmen.

In Saarbruecken the owner of a network of 140 mines worth $4,000,000, who sweated and exploited German miners to produce coal for the Nazi war machine, still wore his Nazi button when he arranged with American army officers to continue the same exploitation – but now for the Allied war machine.

In villages and towns the soldiers see miserable, poorly fed German workers in labor gangs while well-dressed Germans do nothing but sit at windows and walk in the streets. The Allied- appointed burgomaster exercises “discrimination” to exempt “respectable” Germans from this drudgery. One of the soldiers comments: “It seems to me that we pick on the same Germans the Nazi kicked around to do the dirty work.”

“There are a great many soldiers who frown on the brass-hat doctrine,” says Canadian B.B.C. correspondent Stewart Macpherson, “they regard it as a brass- hat doctrine, and they are going to talk to them, order or no order.”

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