Full Citation

  • Title How Moscow Pulled the Strings
  • Publication Title Picture Post
  • Collection Picture Post Historical Archive
  • Date Saturday,  Nov. 5, 1949
  • Volume 45
  • Issue Number 6
  • Page Number 20
  • Place of Publication London, England
  • Language English
  • Document Type Article
  • Publication Section News
  • Source Library Getty Images
  • Copyright Statement © Mirror Group Newspapers and Getty Images. All rights reserved.
HOW MOSCOW PULLED THE STRINGS A 'Government of the German Democratic Republic' has just been brought to birth in Berlin. How did this 'Government' get there ? How democratic is it ? Who controls it ? Probably only one man can answer those questions at first-hand. That man is Erich Gniffke who, until his escape to the West, played a leading part in the political drama of the Russian Zone. In this article, Gniffke shows that this 'democratic' Government is the anti-democratic product of a four-year conspiratorial plan, which was worked out in Moscow, and exe- cuted in Germany by a quiet German Communist, under the direction of an unobtrusive Russian General. A LONGSIDE the motor-road from Hanover to Helmstedt, near the crossing point from the British Zone to the Soviet Zone, there is a low hill. The hill is covered by a wood, and inside the wood lies a small meadow. It was this meadow that served as a rendezvous for Otto Grotewohl (the new 'Prime Minister of the East German Government') and myself, and a few other Social Democrats, on March 7, 1933-the day after Nazi Germany's first manipulated Parliamentary Election. The question we had met to decide was whether we should try to get abroad, or whether we should go into the 'inner emigration,' the underground, of Nazi Germany. The German Communist Who Executes Moscow's Orders, and the ex-Social Democrat Who Has Been Made Premier Walter Ulhrht (Ihct) is the man who, with Soviet Military and German Police backing, carried out the Russian Politburo's plan to submerge the German Social Denmocrats and achieve Communist supremacy behind a multi-party facade. Premier Otto Grotewohl (right) is one of t'Me former Social Democrat leaders whom Ulbricht 'converted.' But Ulbracht, though only a Deputy-Premier, is still the power behind the scenes. Grotewohl, who had been District Chairman of the Social Democrats in Brunswick, and I, who had been District President of the Democratic Fighting League for Brunswick County, decided to stay. But we could not stay in Brunswick. We made our way to Berlin; and I 'went into business' there, in the Biilowstrasse, with an office behind a shop- front which sold stoves and kitchen equipment. Between the years 1933 and 1938, those stoves and saucepans covered a number of communication lines to local headquarters of the Social Democratic Underground. In August, 1938, I had to go into a hospital on the outskirts of Berlin to be treated for stomach trouble. On August 16, a nurse brought in a visitor, who introduced himself as a Gestapo Commissar. He took me outside to a car, in which Otto Grotewohl was already seated. His men then chained Grotewohl and myself together by the wrists and ankles, and drove us through Berlin and Magdeburg, past 'our' meadow near Helmstedt, to the Rennelberg prison in Brunswick ..... Soon after the Red Army entered Berlin, in May, 1945, I installed myself again in my old stove- and-saucepan office in the Biilowstrasse, and to this office dozens of Social Democrats who had been released from prisons and concentration camps THE AUTHOR OF THIS ARTICLE Erich W. Gniffke, a former Chair- man of the German Social Democrats' Central Committee. When the Social- ist-Communist merger took place, entered the SED to prevent Social Democrats being further submerged. Soon clashed with Ulbricht and his secret police apparatus, and fled to Western Germany, October, 1948. found their way. Everyone wanted to know what they should do next. Nobody was qualified to give anybody an authoritative answer. The last official Social-Democrat policy-statement had been issued on January 30, 1934, from Prague, whither the old Central Committee of the German Social Democ- ratic Party had fled after Hitler's coup d'dtat. But the Central Committee which emigrated to Prague had left behind in Germany an illegal Committee of Twelve; and it was out of the survivors of this Committee, which had stayed on in Germany, that there emerged the new Central Committee of the German Social Democratic Party, with Otto Grotewohl, Max Fechner and myself, as joint chairmen. The Communists Say 'No' Now, that last policy statement which the Prague Committee issued away back in 1934, had noted that it was the disunity of the forces of the German Labour Movement which had enabled the Nazis to seize power, and had proclaimed the 'unity of all German Labour forces' as the aim for the future. So, no sooner had the new Social Democrat Central Committee re-constituted itself, in my office, in the spring of 1945, than it proposed to the German Communist Party that the unity of the Labour Movement should be achieved by the formation of a General Labour Party. The German Communist Party turned down this proposal. They rejected it because they themselves were not yet in a position of controlling superiority in relation to the Social Democrats. The fact was that the Ger- man Communist refugees in Moscow had been schooled in the alternative approach to 'the unity of the labour forces': the approach by way of a 'People's Democracy.' The man chosen to direct this alternative policy in Germany was Walter Ulbricht, former German Communist Member of Parliament. The German Communist Party H.Q. was set up at the H.Q. of the Soviet Military Administration, at that time under the political direction of the Russian General Tulpanov. And the 'Chain of Command' was: from the Politburo in Moscow to Tulpanov; from Tulpanov to Ulbricht; from Ulbricht to the rank- and-file German Communists. Meanwhile, in this May of 1945, the NKVD, the Soviet political police, were putting a drag-net over Eastern Berlin and the Soviet Zone. They Continued overleaf The Russian Political Bosses of Germany At a meeting of the 'People's Council' (now the 'Parliament') are Tulpanov (centre) and his successor--both as Russian political chief and as link between Moscow's Politburo and German Communist H.Q.-Semenov (second from right). The 'Free German Trade Union': One of a Dozen Communist-directed Bodies In order to ensure Communist voting supremacy in the People's Congress, which was destined to become the Parliament, Ulbricht created a number of 'safe' Trade Union, Youth, Cultural, Peasant, and Women's organisations, and incorporated them, as well as the Political Parties, into the Congress. released the inmates of concentration camps : they also released the inmates of criminal prisons. The genuine political prisoners went back to their home- towns : but the criminal prisoners weren't so keen. They settled down elsewhere, and masqueraded as former political-that is, anti-Fascist--prisoners. While this was going on, the Soviet Military Com- mandants had been carrying out the Moscow P'olitburo's instructions to form 'Anti-Fascist Com- mittees'; and into these committees infiltrated the disguised ex-criminals, who proceeded to assist the NKVD in making arrests in the Soviet Zone. These arrests, therefore, became a very chancy business : many real Nazis were arrested, but so were many real I)emocrats and Social Democrats-and even some Communists. Then, suddenly, on June to, 1945, the Russian Marshal Vassily Chuikov announced, in his Order Number 2, that permission had been given for political parties to be formed. Two days later, at a meeting in the Town Hall, Walter Ulbricht des- cribed what purported to be the Communist intention at that time. He said : "lW'e, the Communists, are of the opinion that it would be wrong to force a Soviet system on Germany. Germany will get a democratic regime, a Parlia- mentary-e)cmocratic Republic, with all the rights and freedoms for the people." On behalf of the Social Democrats, Gustav I)ahrendorf responded: "The Social Democratic Party of Germany wishes for the political and, if at all possible, the organisational, unity of all working people." The Russians Take a Hand Ulbricht.let that offer lie. He suggested instead that the various parties go ahead with the forming of Committees in Eastern Berlin and the Soviet Zone. No sooner had the Committees started to try to get to work, than the Russian Occupation Power showed its hand. For the first two months it was made impossible for any Committee-men, except Communists, to move about the Russian Zone. But KEY TO PANELS POLITBURO IN MOSCOW SED-Socialist Unity Party of _ Germany I SOVIET MINISTERIAL COUNCIL SED placed above the initials __ of the various organisations - shown in the bottom row, * SOVIET ARMY COMMAND signifies that such organisa- tions are controlled by Com- munist Cadres, which are themselves directed by the S AMBASSADOR AS Politburo of the German SOVIET ABASADOR AS ULRICHT Socilahst Unity Party HIGH COMMISSIONER ULBRICHT ~~Socialist Unity Pao~rty HTRANSMISSION OF SOVIET ORDERS LINKS TO THE COMINFORM .FDGB-Free German Trade C-in-C OF SOVIET OCCUPATION TO GERMAN COMMUNIST PARTY Union TROOPS IN GERMANY FDJ- Free German Youth . . /.· _ , - DFD- Democratic Women's POLITBURO OF GERMAN League of Germany SOCIALIST UNITY PARTY .AN KULTURBUND--Cultural SOCIALIST UNITY PARTY .G .;, " League for the . .. .SECRET POLICE MACHINE Democratic ., , I . P<-r- , .-. Renovation of _ " : <e- > r .-i ; -' Germany ".- VdgB-Association of x,- :-". -,. Reciprocal Peasant -"; PRIME MINISTER Help MINISTRY OF PLANNING AND VVN- Association of THE INTERIOR ECONOMIC MINISTRIES Persecuted by the REMAINING MINISTRIES Nazi Regime . " .: DBD- Democratic Peasant PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC PEOPLE'S CHAMBER UPPER CHAMBER Party of Germany - I NDP- National Democratic Party LDP- Liberal Democratic S NATIONAL FRONT CDU- Christian Democratic SED SED SED SED SED SED SED SED Union U Kultur- LDP CDU FDGB FDJ DFD bnmd VdgB VVN DBD NDP The Structure of the Latest Moscow-made 'People's Democracy' : the Channels of Power in the 'East German Government' In fact, as well as on paper, the picture is much the same today as it was twb months ago before the new 'Government' was proclaimed. Various Russian civilian oficials (such as Semenov) have replaced various Russian military officials (such as Tulpanov). But the controlling link from the Politburo in Moscow is as direct as ever, in spite of the ritual exchange of Ambassadors that has taken place, as though between sovereign states. The Leading Adversaries Erich Gniffke, Social-Democrat (left) and Walter Ulbricht, Communist (right), at a meeting of the Socialist Unity Party, after their two parties had been merged. the Communists got all the passes, cars, petrol and paper that they needed. Nevertheless, in spite of all this, the Social Democrats, after the first two months, recaptured much of the lost ground. In fact, by the beginning of December, 1945, they had roo,ooo members more than the Communist Party. So, at this point, the Russian Politburo in Moscow decided to destroy the German Social Democratic Party. The Communists had failed to destroy the Social Democrats in straight competition for members. So they felt obliged to destroy them by a merger between the two parties, in which the Social Democrats should be utterly submerged. In order to prepare for this submersion, the Russians backed the setting-up of Communist Party offices in all towns, even the smallest; and they staffed these offices with full-time, paid workers. Expense was no object to them. The Social Democrats, on the other hand, had built up their new organisation according to their tradition, with honorary, unpaid helpers, who put in a few hours devoted work at the end of their working day. The Communists calculated that when the day of the merger arrived, the unattached part of the electorate would apply for membership to the efficient, well-advertised Communist offices, which were open all day and in every town. Meantime, it had occurred to a majority of the Central Committee of the Social Democrats that this wasn't going to be at all the same kind of unity as that which they had offered to the Communists in May, 1945; and, at a meeting of our Central Committee of the SPD, on February Io, 1946, a majority, under the guidance of Dahrendorf and myself, voted against this 'rushed' merger. Among the minority, voted Otto Grotewohl. "Now, Beget Unity l" Grotewohl had been converted to this line by the main German instrument of Soviet policy in Germany-Walter Ulbricht. Just before Christmas, Grotewohl had paid a visit to the Russian General Kotikov, who was then in Halle. It so happened that Ulbricht, too, was visiting Kotikov. Mrs. Kotikov was away, and all three men had a lot to drink. Finally, Kotikov suggested that Grotewohl (the Social Democrat) and Ulbricht (the Com- munist) might as well stay the night, and he gave up his own bedroom to them. When Kotikov showed them up to the room he said : "There you are, now. Now you have to beget Unity !" But the Russian Politburo was not so successful in its attempts to convert other leading Social Democrats. It therefore decided to shove through the merger from below. Red Army Commandants throughout the Soviet Zone were instructed to entertain all members of the Social Democrat County and District Committees on two or three evenings each week, until further notice. Unlimited - .'P ` a.. .ýý.5S< 95 5· The Carefully Dressed Shop-Window of Germany's 'Democratic Republic' In its early stages, a 'People's Democracy requires platforms with a multi-party facade. Left to right are Frau Starck-Wintersieg (Women's League); E. Goldenbaum (Peasants' Party); Professor H. Kastner (Liberal Democrat Deputy-Premier); Wilhelm Pieck (Communist President of the Republic); Otto Nuschke (Christian Democrat Deputy-Premier); and Lothar Bolz (National Party). schnapps and other alcohol was laid on for these receptions; and, at an appropriate moment, it was suggested to each of these key-men Social Demo- crats that they should bind themselves to work for the Socialist-Communist merger, even, if necessary, against the Central Committee of the Social Democratic Party. By and large, this technique was successful. In fact, when the SPD Central Committee itself took a new vote on the merger question, a majority were in favour, and Dahrendorf and myself found our- selves in the minority. However, we both eventually agreed to enter the SED or Socialist Unity Party, in order to prevent the Social Democrat wing of the SED from being still further weakened and sub- dued. The New German Secret Police Inside the SED, it became my job to see, on behalf of the Social Democrats, that all the stipula- tions regarding equality as between Socialists and Communists were carried out. The merger agreement had re-stated the Communist line of the previous year that 'it would be wrong to force a Soviet system on Germany.' It had further been agreed that there should be an equal number of Social Democrats and Communists in each Com- mittee and Executive. My Communist opposite number, however, was Walter Ulbricht, who promptly built up a network of informers, to spy on every former Social Democrat leader. In this enterprise, Ulbricht had the assistance of the Russian Occupation police, and, later, of a special Police Department-K.5-which was built into the new German Political Secret Police. As soon as a former Social Democrat became politically inconvenient, he was conveniently labelled 'Agent,' and removed from his job. This process-the process of subtraction-was one of the two methods used by Ulbricht to upset the original equation between Socialists and Com- munist in the newly-merged Socialist Unity Party. The second method was that of addition. To the Continued on page 50 The Police Force on Which the Whole Structure is Based The 'Peoples' Police' are essential midwives at the birth of a 'People's Democracy.' Under Ulbricht's management, the Eastern Police have already arrested all inconvenient Democrats and Liberals. If the Red Army retires, these police will take over entirely. Continued from page 23 Communist voting strength which he had already succeeded in inflating inside the SED, Ulbricht added the voting-strength of various Commun- ist-inspired organisations which he grouped in a constellation round the SED. This second process was christened 'The People's Democratic Development.' The component organi- sations included the 'Free German Trade Union,' in which the Com- munists openly faked the first election results; the 'Democratic Women's League'; the 'Cultural League for the Democratic Renovation of Germany'; the 'Association of the Persecuted by the Nazi Regime'; the 'Association of Reciprocal Peasant Help'; the 'Free German Youth.' Packing the Parliament After these Communist-directed organisations had been duly created, the Politburo, still operating through General Tulpanov and Walter Ul- bricht, thought it safe to pull out of the bag their decisive trick. They ordered a German 'People's Congress' to be convened. And into this Con- gress they incorporated, not only representatives of the Political Parties, but also of the foregoing 'Democratic Organisations.' With these reinforce- ments, Communist control was as- sured, even on a voting basis; and it hardly seemed possible that anything could go wrong. Hardly anything did go wrong. An overwhelming majority of the Con- gress elected a 'German People's Council.' And it is that self-same body that has now been transformed, with- out formality of further elections, into the 'Democratic Parliament of Ger- many.' But, before that last step could be taken, it was necessary for Ulbricht to fight one more battle of suppression. For the Soviet world was not standing still. In Jugoslavia, people had been getting ideas about a 'special Jugo- slav way of Socialism'; in Poland, people had been getting ideas about 'a special Polish way of Socialism'; and there were disturbing whispers too, from Hungary and even Czecho- slovakia. Therefore, in spite of what Ulbricht had himself said in May, 1945-"it would be wrong to force a Soviet system on Germany"-it was deemed no longer possible to tolerate any incorrect notions about a 'special German way of Socialism.' Even the leading Communist, Anton Acker- mann, who had been mainly respon- sible for the ideology of the party, was compelled to abjure 'the special German way of Socialism,' and to castigate himself publicly. Goodbye to All That Finally, all still-existing former Social Democrats were 'invited' to be sworn-in on the Moscow line. So, on October 28, 1948, Otto Grotewohl and I met for the last time. We were not only old political friends, we were old personal ones, as well. We had left Brunswick together, gone to prison together, helped build up the new Social Democratic Party together, and entered the Socialist United Party together. Now we said 'Goodbye.' I flew to Western Germany, over the little meadow in the wood near Helm- stedt. Otto Grotewohl flew to Mos- cow, as head of a delegation. And, a few months later, Grotewohl became 'Prime Minister of the German Democratic Republic.'