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GERMANY: Caught Red-Handed

4 minute read
TIME

A great scandal broke out in West Germany last week. There, standing in the middle of it, fidgeting unhappily, was Uncle Sam.

Among 30-odd youth organizations to grow up in Germany since the war, none seemed more vigorous, better organized and more comfortably financed than the right-wing Bund Deutscher Jugend (League of German Youth).

Claiming 20,000 members, BDJ stood foursquare for hiking, democracy, outdoor fellowship and against Communism. If not actually supported by Chancellor Adenauer’s government, BDJ was benevolently regarded as a West German answer to the East zone’s 2,000,000-strong Communist Freie Deutsche Jugend. It practiced direct action; it had a knack for breaking up Communist meetings and was expert at exposing the sheeplike West German businessmen who clandestinely supported the Reds as “just in case” insurance.

But some West German oldtimers were skeptical. The way BDJ battled the Reds reminded them disconcertingly of the temper and tactics of the old Hitler youth. They noticed that BDJ did not stop with the Reds, but also attacked the Socialist youth. BDJ was secretive about its membership and refused to explain how it financed its recruiting and propaganda campaigns. Last May Frankfurt police discovered BDJ buckoes toting truncheons, whereupon Georg August Zinn, the Socialist Minister President of Hesse, decided then & there to have a closer look at BDJ.

Plan for Action. What he found sent him rushing to the floor of Hesse’s Landtag last week to report. Said Zinn: BDJ had been created and bankrolled by the U.S. Moreover, on U.S. orders, BDJ had set up within itself a clandestine little army called the “Technical Service.” Its function: to sabotage Soviet communications and supply depots and wage guerrilla warfare in case Russia should invade West Germany. Periodically, BDJ units went to a secret camp in Odenwald forest for U.S.-supervised training in Russian, American and German weapons, including machine guns, grenades and knives. These elite “youths,” said Zinn, were between 35 and 50 years old, all former German officers and some of them old Nazis and SS men. The U.S. bill: 50,000 marks($11,900) a month. Then Zinn sprang a real shocker. The Technical Service had prepared long lists of West German “unreliables” to be “put on ice” on Invasion Day. Only a handful were Communists; the rest were Socialists, including such prominent anti-Reds as West Germany’s No. 1 Socialist Erich Ollenhauer, the mayors of Hamburg and Bremen, and the Minister President of Lower Saxony.

Enter CIA. All German eyes turned to the U.S. High Commissioner’s Office for a denial, but got none. HICOG tried to explain, stammered and stuttered, then wisely subsided and firmly requested the West German government and Socialist Party to join in a U.S.-German investigation of the whole affair. Said High Commissioner Walter J. Donnelly: “Let’s get to the bottom of this. Let the chips fall where they may.”

Some of them fell embarrassingly close. Apparently the State Department and Donnelly were correct in saying no “responsible” American official at HICOG knew of BDJ’s covert U.S. support. The previous High Commissioner, John J. McCloy, had steadfastly refused to meet BDJ leaders. But shortly after the Reds invaded Korea, the U.S. cloak & dagger Central Intelligence Agency decided to prepare for a similar Red move into West Germany. It organized BDJ as a potential partisan group, and thought it could control its sympathies. Whether CIA was worried by the Nazi caste in BDJ is not yet clear. But last spring, to its horror, the CIA discovered the BDJ blacklist and learned that it had been played by BDJ for a patsy. CIA quickly tried to shake itself free, but it was too late.

At week’s end, the Reds ecstatically brought up their heaviest propaganda guns and boomed that the episode was “final proof” of a U.S.-Nazi conspiracy against democrats and for war. The independent Frankfurter Rundschau editorialized: “One would like to assume that the secret American sponsors knew nothing of the assassination plans. However, their support of a fascist underground movement is bound to produce distrust of American officials. We refuse to fight Stalinism with the help of fascism.” No one seemed to understand that the U.S. had not been sinister, just silly.

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