Galbraith, JK.



Nitze, Paul H

Tucker, R.



Q: It's the 7th of January 1996, we're in Berlin and this is an interview with Wolfgang Leonhard. Mr Leonhard, I'd like to start by asking you to go back to - very briefly to the year before you returned to Berlin in 1946. Tell me, immediately before that what were you doing and how was it that you came into - to Germany at that time?

A: From 1945, 1944 to 1945 I was a radio speaker for the Radio Broadcast National Committee Free Germany. This was an an radio station in Moscow pretending to be an oppositional anti-nazi German radio station. And every day, six-eight times a day, I was announcing - giving the news, giving the commentaries and so on in this radio station. And it was my 10th year in the Soviet Union, I had spent from 1935 to '45 in the Soviet Union, and my optimistic year, because 1944, it was the time where the Soviet troops came nearer and nearer to the German border, where the British, American troops were in the West, where everybody already could feel that soon nazi Germany will be at the end, and in the Soviet Union at that time very little written about, although it's the most important, there was hope that after the end of World War II it will be more free, more tolerant, more democratic and more liberal. The camps would be opened, the prisoners would return, the churches would be allowed, the collective farms would be dissolved, and together with Britain, America and France gradually the Soviet Union would become more democratic. So this was the great hope I had in 1944 in Moscow.

Q: So you then, even at that time you knew about the - the camps and the situation, the nature of the regime, but were hoping for change, is that so? I mean, you were aware yourself in 1945, 44-45, as to the nature of the Soviet apparatus and Soviet State, yes, is that true?

A:Yes. I think I was like the majority. There was a minority of Communists and Party officials who liked it the way it was done under Stalin and not on pretended to like it but really liked it, and liked terroristic suppression. There was another minority who was against Communism altogether and simply wanted a Western system. But that was also minority. And the majority said socialism is a good idea but it is too harsh, too suppressive, too dictatorial, too much censorship, too little cultural freedom, unneccesary atheism, it should be the same but freer and more tolerant, reforms. And I being 23-24 at that time, I belonged to the majority of the people who wanted not a change of the system but reforms to make it more leisurely, pleasant, tolerant, democratic and flexible.

Q: Tell me then, how was it that you actually came - when did you come back and in what position and capacity? Did you come back, did you re-enter Germany and Berlin?

A: In the Soviet Union under Stalin you are never told anything. The withdrawal of information is one of the most important aspect of a dictatorship. If you will get all information and babble around about everything, like people in Western democracies, then of course it doesn't work. But you never get information. So, I was doing my job as the radio speaker, and literally, on the 27th of April 1945 I was told to come to the Hotel Lux, which was the place where all the Comintern, leaders of the Communist International were living, and go to that and that room, I think it was second floor, to Walter Ulbricht. So I did what I was told, and there was Walter Ulbricht and a few others, and he said, 'well, you're a member of the Ulbricht Group.' I didn't know what on earth the Ulbricht Group was, but you never ask a question under Stalinism, never. So I just waited. So the Ulbricht Group, and then he said, 'well, you'll get money, you'll get, you have to give away your documents, you go there and there you get new clothes and tomorrow we meet again.' So I never heard about such a thing. So I did what I was told, like usual. Came again and then, well we are soon flying to Germany. Not why, when, what to do, how long, forever or nothing. And so, very short, then got 2,000 marks that was printed by the Western powers, the allied money after World War II already, we already got it. And on the next day he said, 'well, everything's finished now, tonight we all go to Wilhelm Pieck. And Wilhelm Pieck was the leader of the Communist Party of Germany. And there we nine sat around and it was a casual talk, which I never had had before. Casual talk, very friendly, each had a little glass of vodka, and then Pieck stood up and said, 'well, my best wishes for your future work in Germany, Comrades.' And that was it. And at that moment Ulbricht said, 'tomorrow, six o'clock in front of the side entrance of Hotel Lux, you have to be there, six o'clock in the morning.' All right. So I was there, six o'clock in the morning, and only a little handbag, nothing more. With my little handbag, six o'clock. And there was a bus and off we went to the airport, to the Moscow airport. Now, at that time I had lived 10 years under Stalin and I knew that you most likely would spend five or six hours there because you have a thing called propusk, a document, and you always have to show the documents and it's controlled and you have to wait. Anyhow, anyhow, now this time he pulled up and we immediately we immediately went through. So the last day in the Soviet Union after 10 years was a day of miracles. So we went through it, came to an airplane, it was an American DC3 transport aircraft, which the Americans, hundreds of thousands gave to the Soviet Union during World War II, and they said come on. And there we were and off the thing went. And at this moment I didn't know what on earth we are going to do. I didn't know if this is a short visit, called commadirovka in the Party language, you have a little task and come back, or if I'm going back forever to Germany. And most of all where we're going to land. But you never ask questions. So after three hours, it looked like the airplane lands somewhere. But it was a very primitive military, provisional kind of small airport. So we landed and so now all of a sudden you can get out. Well, we got out and I didn't know where it was. So only much later I've heard that it was in (Kalama) formerly Karlau, just East of the Oder-Neise line, but already on new Polish territory. And then well I - a figure, a Soviet officer came, embraced Ulbricht, to us nine he nodded, you always have hierarchies, yes, one - the higher you embrace, the other you not, and talked to Ulbricht, whom he obviously knew, and excused himself that he - there was - will be only a lorry and not a real bus or real private cars. So I didn't expect private cars you know, so they came, it's only for a few hours. So off we went