Sir Freddie





This is an interview with Mr Robert Lochner, who was with the US military government in Germany after 1945 working in radio division. I want to take you back to when you were broadcasting to the Germans during the war. What sort of things were you broadcasting?

A: I was head of the German service of NBC short wave. Few people remember that during World War 2 the US did not have once Voice of America, as today the government-owned VOA, but three Voices of America, because the two big networks, CBS and NBC, had their own short wave divisions. My programme throughout the war consisted of 15 minutes of news and 15 minutes of commentary.

Q: Did you get any idea what sort of impacts it was having on German listeners?

A: Only after the war, because there was no way of measuring and I might say, we had few illusions about having a very large audience, because that much we knew, that the BBC being on medium wave was of course infinitely easier for German listeners to catch than short wave from the US.

Q: Was there any input from, I suppose you'd call it the psychological warfare division of the US army in your broadcasts?

A: No, we were totally indepenent throughout the war. (cough) The Office of War Information, which was the parent of (cough) the VOA did have sort of a - what they called a coordinator, one at CBS and one at NBC, who more or less mildly would occasionally suggest that we were not quite within the government line. But actually the two private stations remained quite independent throughout World War 2.

Q: You returned to Germany in 1945. You had been in Germany before the war with your father in Berlin, for many years. What were your impressions of Germany?

A: Well, at first I saw only the total destruction. We travelled around the first summer (cough) for an organisation called the US Strategic Bombing Survey. As the name indicates, we were charged with examining the effects of the British and American strategic bombing attacks in various fields. So we had expert committees for transportation, for oil production, for ball bearings even, and I was in what was called the morale division. Our job was to study the impact on the morale of the German population. And so we travelled around a great deal and saw nothing but horrible destruction. But it was fascinating because one of our jobs was to interview people who had something to say on the subject. So among others, I interrogated between 30 and 40 pretty much top nazi war criminals, including Hitler's Youth leader, Baldur Von Schirach.

Q: What was your assessment of the effectiveness of allied bombing of Germany?

A: Categorically that you can't win a war by trying to (cough) destroy the cities. The nazis of course had done a fantastic job in keeping production going. I visited personally whole factories they had built under forests, so that they were obviously immune to air attack. And it was known after the war that in virtually all fields of production, production still was going up. Of course in the fatal field of gasoline for airplanes, they didn't produce anything any more, so that the famous Stukas in the end were sitting ducks for American air attacks on the airplane. They couldn't fly them any more. But in other fields as I say, the production in many ways was still going up.

Q: And what about the psychological impact of allied bombing on the German population?

A: Again, we concluded that you cannot break the morale. After a certain level of intensive and indiscriminate bombing a sort of identification sets in between the nazis and the non-nazis. The non-nazis shake their fists as angrily at the planes, who obviously cannot make a distinction between them and the nazis, so that they had no serious morale problem. And as one indication of how they dealt with it, among the things we did for the Strategic Bombing Survey was to hunt for documents which would shed light on this, and unforgettable to me, documents of the so-called SD (german) security service, which was a low level (cough) part of Himmler's apparatus. These were very realistic descriptions. As they then went up the ladder, by the time they reached Hitler there was only, 'the German population is standing up like one man and condemning the air attacks.' But at this lower level they were very realistic, and I remember one particular one of one of the heaviest British fire bomb attacks on Hamburg, where in an ice cold bureaucratic style it was descriped how they roped off whole sections of the burning city by walling them up because they let everybody inside die, they didn't want the rest of the Hamburg population to see how horrible the damage was.

Q: Was there in any of these documents any idea of what would befall the Germans if the Soviets entered Germany ahead of the allies?

A: The only way I ran into that problem was that any number of Germans in the early weeks said, 'why did you stop? Why didn't you go on? The Soviets are the real enemy.' There were really a lot of Germans, unbelievable as it sounds, who saw us as liberating them from a Soviet threat, and that to me explains in part the suprisingly favourable attitude of the defeated Germans to - toward the Western occupation forces. Because of course they were scared still of being overrun altogether by the Soviets.

Q:You said you interviewed people like Baldur von Schirach, what was he saying to you?

A: He was the great exception to all the others, who all had been against it. They all had either of two explanations: a) they would have had to fear for their own life if they had refused to carry on, or b) they stayed because if they left a real nazi would take their job. And we had one standard question at the end of each interrogation: 'what do you think will happen to you?' And some of the worst mass murderers, like Prince Subheit Veitheim who was the higher SS and Gestapo chief of the city of Kassell later executed in one of the follow-up trials, he had the nerve to say, 'I'm completely innocent and I'm trusting in Anglo Saxon jurisprudence, so I'll be vindicated.' And Baldur von Schirach, I must confess, impressed me 'cos he was the only one who quietly, and not in any way sort of provocative fashion, said, 'of course I'll be hanged.' And of course the irony is he was not hanged, he was one of those who wound up in the Spandau prison. But I confess that that he impressed me.

Q: Did you interview Albert Speer, for example?

A: No. One of the other highest ones was a fella named Hollendorf, who was a section chief directly under Himmler. He was so important that he was interned in a special VIP camp in Britain, and I was flown there to interrogate him. And for a whole hour he told me how he had been at cross purposes with everybody from Hitler on down. And so I finally asked him (-) well, how could you keep your job if you were? And he sort of blushed, he must have considered that he was really stretching it a little too far and he sort of pouted and said, well, I can't force you to believe me, but that's how it was. So at the end of these interrogations like many my of my colleagues, I concluded that there had only been one nazi in all of Germany and he was conveniently dead. All the others had been against it.

Q: We're talking about 1945, and obviously you're going to go into an area of the military government that doesn't concern itself with political matters, but what thoughts were there about the political revival of Germany in any shape or form in 1945? Did the allies entertain it at all?

A: I confess nobody thought of that problem. We were faced with such total destruction and everybody had his particular job. One had generally vague feelings that probably in 50 years Germany couldn't be rebuilt. But beyond that nobody worried about the long range future, there were too many immediate problems.