How to Save Democracy From Technology
Ending Big Tech’s Information Monopoly
On October 6, 1945, Konrad Adenauer, then Mayor of Cologne by grace of the British Occupation authorities, was notified by Brigadier John Barraclough, Commanding General of North Rhine Province, as follows: "I am not satisfied with the progress of your city. . . Effective today you are dismissed as Mayor of Cologne. From here on you will no longer pursue, either directly or indirectly, any political activity whatever." A remarkable document, if only because four years later Adenauer was inaugurated Chancellor of the newly created Federal Republic of Germany, a post he was to assume, incredibly, at the age of 73, and to hold longer than any Chancellor since Bismarck. Even though only 16 years have gone by since then, it almost transcends the power of the imagination to reconstruct reality as Adenauer found it when he was chosen by a majority of one vote-his own-by the new German parliament on September 15, 1949. True, Germany had made some progress since the end of the war four years earlier. Still, the country was destroyed, devastated, crushed in the most comprehensive sense of these words. Its cities were in ruins, its factories a shambles, its transportation network punctured at a thousand vital points, its agriculture in disarray-but all that was just part of it. There was no real administration, no real economy, no real education, no real courts, poor medical facilities, poor housing and few building supplies. Administrators, entrepreneurs, labor leaders and editors were trying to get their bearings under unprecedented circumstances, and all were suspect-with regard to what they had done under Hitler and what they would do after Hitler.
Perhaps more paralyzing and dangerous even than all that was the fact that the political religion to which the majority of Germans had clung crazily or opportunistically to the last had been shot away from under them like a horse from under a traveller, and been revealed as a vicious and contemptible sham. At the same time, there was no way back to any of the ideological systems that had preceded it. The Germans seemed finished- materially, morally, philosophically and, shame upon shame, culturally. Personal living conditions and standards during the immediate postwar years had defied belief-emaciated children stealing a piece of bread or a lump of coal; families without food huddled together through long winters in icy rooms with broken windows; black marketeers riding high; women to be had for a candy bar. And even though the West had no intention of wreaking vengeance but was instead inclined to help resurrect the fallen and eviscerated nation-if one could really call it a nation-Germany had no friends in the world, and its few travellers abroad were shunned like the plague.
Under such conditions Adenauer took on his job as Chancellor of one-half of an arbitrarily divided country and dourly set out on a course that he was to follow for 14 years. In the pursuit of his task he said very little, and few quotable words came from his thin lips. One brief sentence deserves to be recalled: "The vanquished must have patience." And patience he displayed as only some basically impatient people can.
Adenauer proceeded in the only way in which anybody could have proceeded in the face of all the devastation around him: as though nothing had happened. He disregarded the German mania to engage in grandiose soul-searching and a quest for an ideological, weltanschaulich guide. Instead, he was a pragmatist, as distinguished from an opportunist, in that his entire effort was devoted to pragmata-actions, works. Apparently, he felt that to get the rubble off the streets was more important than to cerebrate on what had happened; or to safeguard the nation against a recurrence of political disaster; or to punish the guilty; or to reward the innocent; or to seek new basic answers. The ideological rubble left behind by Hitler, the despair in the minds, was absolutely of no interest to him.
This was one reason, perhaps, why many of the new German intellectuals never liked him. They felt that a monumental calamity had happened, and that monumental philosophical and ideological novae would have to precede all basic reconstruction. They felt it was naïve, and worse, simply to grab hold and go on "blindly." More, they felt that it was simply impossible. (In this they were proven wrong.) They also felt that there would never be another opportunity for a really basic reorientation of the German nation; that in the event of a purely mechanical restarting of the machinery the wave of events would wash over Germany's deeper problems and lead to the emergence of a new "establishment" full of false pride and repressive tendencies; and that after the reconstruction and resolidification of society into a mold, the golden opportunity for a true change of heart would be irretrievably lost. (As to this only time can tell.)
Whatever their misgivings, it turned out within a short time that Adenauer was the solution-he was right, lucky and so skilled that one could not easily tell whether some of the things he accomplished were due to his political genius or luck or both. For one thing, he centered all German energies on the single, narrow, yet very green path of economic reconstruction. Absolutely nobody could disagree with him that that was necessary, wholesome and opportune; it was the one and only noncontroversial issue in all of Germany (and in the eyes of the West that had long since abandoned Morgenthau's ideas); it was the one noncontroversial way for Germany to regain some respect and self-respect. Viciously, sadistically, cynically, the Nazi monsters had written on the portals of Dachau: Arbeit macht frei (Work makes men free). Adenauer restored this inherently true motto to its real meaning, and made it Germany's beacon, without ever pronouncing it. And his Germans, probably feeling on the whole more guilty in their hearts than they ever admitted, were driven to work as a sort of personal and national, conscious and unconscious expiation. Their labors during the period of reconstruction were certainly remarkable to behold, particularly in view of the fact that they had almost nothing to eat in the beginning. Yet they worked furiously, willingly, on all levels-it was the only thing they could do to make themselves feel better in their shame, poverty and unpopularity. And Adenauer, surely without ever giving the slightest thought to such psychological interpretations of their zeal, felt this zeal and used it, steered it, and let it flow into the noncontroversial channel of the sweat of the brow.
It seems so simple and obvious in retrospect, but it was a stroke of genius nevertheless. Nothing could have saved the Germans at the time (or perhaps even Western Europe, of which they remained a vital part by virtue of their very existence) except those Herculean, super-Germanic labors that also kept them from quarreling with each other, or sinking into a nationally suicidal catatonic state, or breaking their best minds and hearts against moral and intellectual problems of such magnitude as to be without solution. Instead, under Adenauer's guidance they went to work and created the Wirtschaftswunder-the Economic Miracle-pulling themselves up by their own boot straps, like Baron Muenchhausen. True, they received munificent Marshall Aid, but what they accomplished was prodigious in any event.
At the same time, Adenauer performed-or merely presided over?-a political miracle in the international arena: he gained a degree of prestige in the West's most powerful country, the United States, that no other German statesman ever had before him. True, he was aided by the Russian spectre. The fact remains that within a tiny span of time he rose in American esteem to superhuman size; no government official, no Congressman, no newspaper of the right or left criticized him. America's tough and skeptical Secretary of State listened reverently to his every judgment on world affairs. In 1953, his first year in office, President Eisenhower sent a New Year's message of encouragement and friendship to Konrad Adenauer, leader of the most disgraced of nations. This vast prestige enjoyed by Adenauer in the United States in turn consolidated his powers at home as nothing else could have done. And eventually his diplomatic legerdemain completely won other mighty friends without losing his earlier ones.
How could Adenauer do all this? Because, to use a truism, he was the man he was. What kind of man? He was, at one and the same time, a very typical and a very untypical German. To explain the seeming paradox: he had many traits found in many Germans individually, but very rarely in such combination. He was a civilian through and through who said in 1956 to a visitor from Israel: "I never disliked anything so much in all my life as a Prussian general." Yet, contrary to most of those Germans who would share this particular feeling, he was no leftist but a conservative patriot. He was devoted to free enterprise without being an imperialist. He was an autocrat, yet willing to establish and submit to some controls over the executive branch of the government. He was a believer in basic human rights and values without being a Social Democrat. He was a nationalist, but with- perhaps Catholic-reservations. He was a believer in European unity without believing in German hegemony, or a socialized Europe. And he certainly was no anti-Semite, which is unusual for a conservative German. He was no Bismarck, even though he was frequently compared to Bismarck. In fact, he did not like Bismarck. To an American journalist in 1953 he said: "I am not one of Bismarck's admirers. He is the man primarily responsible for the circumstance that democracy could not take hold in the German Empire."
Adenauer has other striking qualities. One is that he has apparently been genuinely fearless at all times. When Hitler, already German Chancellor and chief jailer of the newly established concentration camps, had come to Cologne in 1934, and had swastika flags hoisted on all public buildings, Adenauer as mayor ordered them taken down again from the municipal buildings under his control. He was very direct, and absolutely not "public- relations conscious" in the American sense of that term. When he was interviewed rather late in his régime by C.B.S.-T.V. for a film of clearly great public-relations importance for Germany in the United States, he brushed the somewhat unctuous American interviewer away with: "Oh leave me alone with your democracy-not everything is perfect in your country either." Such frankness might have distressed his press chief, but it helped Adenauer communicate with his people in critical situations. It has been said in Germany that he was what some exalted Germans are, a great Menschenveraechter-one who despises people because they are people. There really is no evidence for that. But he could be tough and sarcastic, as when he said, at a Bundesrat meeting in 1955: "If the Austrians should dare to ask reparations from us, I shall send them Adolf Hitler's remains." And he could be humorous and of Olympian unflappability, as when he said in his eighty-fifth year to a very prominent German diplomat who had come to offer his resignation because he had been caught in a scandalous affair with a married lady: "No, no, just forget it, that can happen to any of us."
Last but not least, Adenauer was not one of those dangerous German romantics steeped in an evil mythology of death, love, soil, blood, valor, fealty, iron. And he was not sentimental. He was no Goering who petted and fed his tame deer and called them all by name before a deeply touched Lord Halifax who then rushed home to report to Chamberlain that the stories of the concentration camps and war plans just could not be true, and that nothing need be feared from such a decent fellow. Goering, like so many of his countrymen at the time, was not decent, he was just a sentimental brute. Adenauer, on the other hand, was not sentimental. But he was decent.
Those were and remain some of Adenauer's principal traits. How did they-and he-become so solid? In the first place, Adenauer had seen and done a great deal in his life. Already during the days of the turbulent Weimar Republic he had been Lord Mayor of one of Germany's big cities, where traditionally the ranking civil servants were the best, most able and honorable of men; Brauer, Goerdeler and particularly Ernst Reuther were examples of such enormously well-trained administrators. After Hitler had come to power and Adenauer had been removed from his post, shortly after the episode with the flags, he did practically nothing for 12 long, lonely and undoubtedly contemplative years. One of them-it was early in the Hitler era-he spent in a monastery. He said much later that after much meditation there he found he had been "right all along."
This is an interesting statement. It obviously does not mean that he felt he had "all the answers." It simply means-and this placed him in sharp contrast with many Germans of various stripe at the time-that he had felt confirmed in his mind that Hitlerism was altogether wrong. This may seem like a simple, obvious conclusion for any man to reach, but it was decidedly not-not for a German at that time. In rapid succession, the Kaiserreich, the Revolution, the Weimar Republic (as well as the League of Nations) had collapsed, and no matter how men tried in Germany, all time- tested methods and venerable conventions, applied to the contemporary scene gone wild, did not fit and yielded no yardsticks. World War I and the ruin that followed had completely shaken the trust of many Germans in basic human values. To confuse men further, fantastic technological and scientific advances and radically new political and psychological theories conjured up in many minds the notion that everything held true in the familiar past was now really obsolete; that something entirely new was in order; that Nietzsche's heralded "transvaluation of all values" was at hand.
Thus it was only too easy to think that perhaps one had been wrong all along and that Hitler, though he was perhaps repugnant in some ways, represented nevertheless the wave of the future, and that, as even some prominent Americans believed, all his atrocities were merely scum on that wave. The Nazis kept jeering that all that had ever been said and done in history was trash, and as dead as the dodo. It took considerably more fortitude of mind and soul for a German than we can appreciate today to look at the mad Nazi tide swirl and rise all around him, then look into his own heart, and still conclude that everything that was so cocksure and brassy, and above all so unbelievably successful and growing by leaps and bounds, was wrong; had no validity or durability; was a crazy crime without basic significance in the evolution of human events.
But Adenauer, after his year's meditation, came to feel, doubly strongly as the result of the exercise, that all the bloody insanity in his country was wrong, without a future, and that his belief in something entirely different had been "right all along." As a result, he never was one of those many Germans who during and after the Hitler calamity kept using a "but" in their arguments. Hitler was not so good, of course, but he was getting the unemployed off the streets, he had undone the shame of Versailles, he was saving the West from Communism. No such "but" ever seems to have come from Adenauer's lips, before or after Hitler's collapse; he never was one of those reluctant adherents without whom Hitler could hardly have succeeded, nor one of those distressing apologists after Hitler was dead and done with. This also set Adenauer apart during his rule from those other Germans who were either limited apologists or unlimited breast- beaters, and it gave him great authority; his active rejection of Nazism, total and by now long behind him, no longer absorbed any of his thoughts and energies when the war was over.
This total rejection of Nazism also explains his outlook at the end of the Nazi era and at the beginning of the postwar journey out of ruin and rubble. Contrary to so many other Germans, when the smoke had cleared Adenauer was apparently not deeply shaken by the Nazi episode. Many men, intellectuals and others, emerged from the Nazi madness with very negative, sick, depressed feelings about mankind in general. They were disillusioned and despaired of life altogether. Adenauer, never having lost his faith in human decency and sanity to begin with, and never having been sucked in by Nazism in the slightest, had the great advantage, after its collapse, not to be shaken by that experience either. He apparently felt, as he always had, that human affairs were meant to develop according to certain patterns and principles, such as law and order, thrift and industry, decency and propriety, conservatism and piety. His set of standards, convictions and beliefs had remained entirely intact, and his strength and calm, his lack of anxiety in a hair-raising situation, must have sprung from that reservoir. And what Adenauer had always had, and had further consolidated in his mind and soul during the year at the monastery, he had anchored still more deeply there during his imprisonment by the Nazis some ten years later, toward the end of the war. Most of this imprisonment of about one year was spent in solitary confinement, and "the complete solitude in prison," Adenauer said in 1954 during an election campaign, "greatly added to my strength." Unlike Hitler, he was indeed a very strong man.
Was Adenauer a democrat, and did he help transform Germany into a democracy? A great deal can be said on this either way. The point is, perhaps, that a German democrat is not necessarily, or perhaps not yet, the same as an American democrat. When Adenauer was departing after his first visit to the United States in the spring of 1953 he was asked by a correspondent of the Staatszeitung what had been his greatest experience during his visit. Without hesitation Adenauer replied: "To have been able, with all my heart, to intone at the German-American Club in Chicago, Ich hatt' Einen Kameraden" (an old German army song). Here he was, one of the leading statesmen of the world, having for the first time seen the West's mightiest republic. Yet he said that to have sung that old nationalist song in some smoke-filled, unattractive hall in the Midwest, surrounded by politically dubious people, was his greatest experience in this country. And when reporting on this trip, which had also led him to Arlington Cemetery, at the C.D.U. Party Day in Hamburg, he said: "The Chancellor of the Federal Republic, my dear Party brethren, was first of all received by a gun salute, and that really swelled the hearts of those gentlemen in my entourage who had been active soldiers. . . ." Militarist? Hitlerist? Of course not. Just different.
Adenauer certainly never had much respect for his domestic political rivals, the Social Democrats, who incidentally are more truly democratic in the American sense than many men in Adenauer's party. But in struggling against the Social Democrats he felt himself to be the defender against a fatal internal menace: "We believe," he said at the C.D.U. Party Day in Nuremberg in May 1957, "that with the victory of the Social Democratic Party Germany would perish." Considering that the Social Democrats were the only substantial party in Germany outside of Adenauer's C.D.U., these were not exactly the words of a believer in the two-party system. They were the words of a German, not an American, democrat.
Did democracy flourish under his rule, and did he leave a legacy conducive to its further development? This is very hard to say. During the famous Spiegel affair in 1963, when his defense minister arbitrarily arrested a magazine publisher and closed his shop, democracy worked: Adenauer was forced to give in and fire his outstanding "strong man," Defense Secretary Strauss. True, Adenauer himself had been on the wrong side of the fence in the dispute and had not acted "democratically;" he had even maligned the suspects before their trial. But one can make a case for it that he had largely been the architect of a system, and the gardener of a garden, where in the end even his own powers turned out to be reassuringly limited, not only in the Spiegel affair, but also in the eventual election of his unbeloved successor Erhard. But the case is hard to judge. In Germany there are those who say that whatever democratic rule there is now is there because of Adenauer; others say it has grown in spite of him. Considering the material he had to work with, and the various alternatives, it seems safe to say that the spirit of orderliness and restraint which at present pervades German government and politics, and which must be one of the bases of all democracy, is to a considerable extent his work.
How about the famous Globke case? As almost everyone knows, Hans Globke, Secretary of State in the Chancellery, was one of Adenauer's most trusted aides. Yet Globke was more implicated in the Nazi past than any other leading man in the Bonn establishment. In fact, he had participated in the drafting of the Nuremberg racial laws. Repeatedly, great pressure was brought to bear on Adenauer to dismiss him, but Adenauer never even considered doing so. "I need him," he used to say, with cantankerous obstinacy. Globke was indeed very useful to Adenauer. He was a sort of Malenkov, a walking archives, who knew everything official and unofficial about everybody. He cannot have been irreplaceable, simply because no man is. Yet Adenauer stuck to him at a time when the world at large watched every German for Nazi sympathies, and when political opponents inside Germany tried to make capital of Adenauer's intimate bonds to him. Adenauer never made any "policy statement" from which one might learn his basic position in the matter. Two guesses come to mind. The first, as already said, is that this was a case of sheer obstinacy which increased with growing age but was used quite cunningly by Adenauer (as he was wont to use everything else, large and small, personal and impersonal) to cement his particular brand of leadership. The point was, perhaps, that Adenauer was not the man to give in to anything that was urged on him by others. He did not "give," and obtained strength not only from that but also from advertising his rigidity.
However, Adenauer probably had a second, more important reason for keeping Globke. As everyone remembers, after the war the Allies and also the Germans made an effort to divide the German nation into Nazis and anti- Nazis, white sheep and black sheep. This unrealistic attempt turned out to be incredibly bewildering, and produced ludicrous results in scores of individual instances. The guilt and participation in Nazi crimes defied measurement and classification. With regard to the massacre of the Jews and the unleashing of a world war almost everybody was guilty only indirectly, or in some roundabout way; the number on whom direct blame could be pinned was small. As a result, Germany was for some time at the point of drowning in casuistry, with loopholes becoming ever wider and injustices ever more glaring as proceedings and standards became more complicated. Moreover, "white sheep" and pseudo-white sheep began to demand privileges, while "black sheep" threatened to become an unmanageably large group of pariahs who, if effectively excluded from the new life, would grow into vast hordes of antisocial elements threatening the new state with destruction. Under these circumstances, Adenauer's clinging to Globke was a signal that he for one did not go along with the separation of Germans into white and black sheep. The Bonn establishment was replete with "victims of Nazism;" Luebke, Heuss and others had all been in Nazi jails. Thus there was room, in Adenauer's opinion, for at least one of the others.
Also, as a political realist and practitioner, he was aware of the unconditional obedience that German civil servants particularly had always made the basis of their existence. No one has ever satisfactorily answered the key question whether German civil servants, soldiers, policemen and others did or did not have an obligation to disobey the constitutionally elected Hitler government. Nor has anyone ever answered the question whether those who served Hitler willingly were worse than those who served him reluctantly. Adenauer must have felt, without ever saying a word about it, that despite all pious protestations far too many Germans had served Hitler to be excluded now from national life. De-Nazification made sense to him at best only as a means to do away with Nazism, not with Nazis-there were too many. He symbolized this stand by his dealings with Globke. Was this good or bad? For Western democrats it was repugnant. But it may have been a necessity arising out of Hitler's melancholy legacy. Looking at all those who cried so loudly for Globke's scalp, Adenauer may well have thought that whoever among them was without sin might cast the first stone. This was Christian, after a fashion-and it certainly was good politics.
Adenauer's attitude in the Globke affair provides perhaps also the only answer to his view on the tragedy of the Jews. He never seems to have said anything specific on the subject. In all probability, he considered the Jews the victims of a mad crime rather than of some trait rooted in German politics or nationalism. For example, in 1963, during a long T.V. interview, when Adenauer had briefly discussed his own flawless record under the Nazis, the interviewer asked him: "You do not, then, subscribe to the concept of collective guilt?" Adenauer shook his head and said: "No. I have confidence in the German people." A striking answer, in that it showed, first, a form of stern individualism; he, Adenauer, having acted the way he had, was not one of the many to throw up their hands and mumble, "Heavens, aren't we all responsible?" He flatly refused to consider himself co-responsible. And secondly, in its seemingly evasive turn, "I have confidence in the German people," the answer reveals the man of action who looks to the future.
In all, Adenauer never said what the tragedy of the Jews meant to him. It would seem that he considered it, just like Germany's physical devastation after the war, a horrible fait accompli, over and done with, impossible to undo and not to be pondered or explored. He simply pressed for reparations to the Jews, for which he received recognition from them, such as this tribute from Nathum Goldman who had been instrumental in negotiating restitution affairs: ". . . Adenauer, against the influence of many experts and advisers, including some of his cabinet members, and basing himself on the large moral concepts of his policies, did not try to get off cheaply, but largely accepted the demands which, by standards then prevailing, were very large." There again, Adenauer acted with realism and probity. He knew that nothing could ever make up for what had been done to the Jews. But he also knew that some financial restitution was the only practicable, honorable and at the same time useful thing, and in advocating it "he did not try to get off cheaply."
How attuned was Adenauer to the world we live in? He certainly knew Germany. This he not only demonstrated by the things he said about his fellow countrymen, some of them rather striking ("Germany," he said to a correspondent of the Gazette de Lausanne in 1947, i.e. before he became Chancellor, "is one of the least Christian nations of Europe, and in Berlin I feel as though I were in a pagan city."), but primarily by the successes of his election campaigns; he was never defeated in 14 years.
As regards the Soviet Union, however, he certainly had a very simplified picture. After his trip to visit Khrushchev and Bulganin in Moscow in 1954 he reported: "Even though I travelled only a few miles through the countryside, I could tell from the faces of the [Russian] people that they had lost their souls. The people in Russia can no longer laugh or cry; they have become soulless." It seems surprising that a sophisticated statesman of our day should make such sweeping judgments on so little evidence. But Adenauer often lived by them, just as he said of the first Soviet Ambassador to Bonn, "That Smirnov is a good sort of fellow."
In his opposition to the Soviet Union, Adenauer at times went ominously far, as when he told Pope John during a visit to Rome in 1960: "I believe that God has allotted to Germany in the present stormy times the special task of being protector for the West against those mighty forces that rush toward us from the East." Did that not sound-except perhaps for the reference to God-alarmingly much like the words of that great savior of mankind against the Red menace, Adolf Hitler? It sounded like them, but it was different, for Adenauer at least took the threat from the East seriously, while Hitler merely conjured it up for his own nefarious purposes. And Adenauer certainly favored no punitive or preventive, alias imperialist, expedition in the direction of Moscow, even if he said in September 1953 that "our aim is the liberation of our 25 million brothers in the Eastern territories" before an audience of 20,000 in Bonn. But he had clearly no intention to liberate them by German force of arms.
As far as the United States is concerned, there are indications that Adenauer labored under some misconceptions. The foremost example was his great fear, in 1960, that Kennedy would be elected; like quite a few other Europeans, Adenauer assumed that the Democrats were appeasers vis-à-vis the Soviet Union, and that only the Republicans were sufficiently firm.
With regard to space affairs, Adenauer did not quickly grasp their significance. When the Soviets launched their Sputnik, he said to Willy Brandt: "I'll tell you what I think of it. That is a great bluff." But when Brandt told him that he thought the matter was a little more serious than that, and that according to one of his American friends, the people in the United States were very concerned, Adenauer said: "Well, in that case, some good can come of it, if it finally makes those fellows [the Americans] shake a leg."
As to his foreign policy, Adenauer used his own positive feelings for France, perhaps based on the fact that he was Catholic, non-Prussian and a Rhinelander, to let bygones flower into the grand de Gaulle-Adenauer Axis, while, at the same time, through a balancing act that is not to be underestimated, remaining persona gratissima in Washington. The dream which he expressed again and again was Europe's unification, as when he said in 1954 to France's ambassador of Hitler days, François-Poncet: "Do not forget that I am the only Chancellor Germany has ever had who preferred the unity of Europe to the unity of his country. Please tell Mr. Mendès-France, the problem is not what happens to me personally. What matters is whether France prefers Germany's unity or Europe's unity." He knew, of course, that some French nationalists, just as in earlier days, though they did not like Germany, considered German unity a lesser evil than European integration.
But nothing ever persuaded Adenauer that a rebirth of the Wehrmacht was necessary. He was opposed to the creation of the Bundeswehr to the last, and obstinately preferred an integrated European Defense Community. When finally, in 1954, it was decided that Germany was to contribute all-German forces to NATO and thus have an army of its own, Adenauer in great agitation (in London late at night at Claridge's) said to his friends Paul- Henri Spaak and Joseph Beck, of Luxembourg: "That I should be forced to set up a German national army . . . is that not real nonsense? . . . it is really grotesque . . . I am fully convinced that the German national army Mendès-France forces us to build will become a great danger for Germany and Europe . . . I don't know what will become of Germany once I am gone if we don't succeed before my exit to create an [integrated Europe]."
However, despite his aversion to arming Germans, Adenauer had, on his own and without consulting anyone, offered troops to the Western Allies during the Korean episode. He revealed this officially only ten years later, when, in high spirits after a few glasses of champagne on his 84th birthday, he said to the journalists present, "Write down carefully what I am now about to say for it will be commented on throughout the world." He then told them that he had offered German troops in 1950, and added: "It was clear to me that in our day political efforts have only as much effect as the power that stands behind them. If you have no power, you can't engage in political action. Without power our word was worth nothing." And so, reluctantly, he had opted in favor of political action and honor, supported by power, but was not taken up on it-no doubt to his great relief.
What was Adenauer's greatest accomplishment? He himself did not hesitate when asked that question by a journalist in 1963. It was, he said, to have persuaded his party colleagues, when he first became Chancellor, to keep the Social Democrats out of the government coalition because of their fence- straddling between East and West. He apparently felt he needed to be completely free to embark on an unequivocally Western course, regardless of the domestic tensions entailed by dealing with the Social Democrats in that manner. His answer reveals that he considers the Federal Republic's unwavering Western course, set at the crucial party caucus in his living room in 1949, as his crowning achievement.
Then, when he had grown very old, Adenauer became very ornery, and did not want to give up his post for anything, and particularly not to Ludwig Erhard, though it is hard to tell whether he particularly disliked Erhard as a man or merely because Erhard was his heir apparent. This hostility has never abated. Even in the 1965 elections, in which Adenauer vigorously campaigned for his old party, he never had one word of praise for his successor; in fact he seems never to have mentioned him by name. Why did Adenauer persist so long in office? Was it personal love of power? A sense of mission? An old man's obstinacy? It is impossible to tell why he clung to his post, marred his historic reputation of standing above personal considerations, and was literally brought down in the end by men who without him would hardly have been where they were then. Age, which had been in his favor when he assumed the Chancellorship, and had given him the wisdom, equanimity and experience of the long-travelled, finally turned against him and made him incapable of judging himself and the situation any longer.
But Adenauer has remained an obstinate friend of the United States, despite some recent appearances to the contrary. True, in August 1965 he launched a violent, almost desperate attack on the American proposal to the Geneva disarmament conference regarding proliferation of nuclear weapons, calling it "monstrous" and "horrible," and predicting that it would deliver all Europe into Soviet hands. But the same day he explained, "I said that in order to wake America up." He added a month later that "a frank word among friends will do more to preserve friendship than evasion," and, in October, he stressed again that "the world was much in need of close ties between the United States and Germany." This progression of statements, particularly if seen in the context of the severe criticism Adenauer also leveled at British and Canadian disarmament proposals, seems to indicate that he has remained as always friendly and grateful to the United States. He disapproved of a specific American move, and responded with a straight and strong frontal assault. Nevertheless, Adenauer's opposition to West Germany's "Atlanticist" orientation, a position taken in harmony if not in partnership with Franz Josef Strauss, and his continued concern that Western Europe should not rely excessively on United States support against the East in either war or peace (and must lead a separate political life), have made him of late an increasingly perplexing American friend.
Will he be honored? The well-known German journalist Friedrich Sieburg, francophile and Nazi supporter, in a valedictory piece on Adenauer called "Ingratitude Will Be His Certain Reward," concluded: "Adenauer can be sure of Germany's ingratitude. The Germans will not do justice to his accomplishments, indeed his greatness, because he has broken our habit of being extraordinary." This is probably a wise word. Upon the Germans, that clamorous nation of hectic dreamers and extremists, descended this utterly sober, cool, frugal, practical, spare man with the thin smile; he pulled the reins tight, forced every drop of intoxicating political and philosophical firewater out of their veins and made them settle down to work. He broke-or so it seems-their proclivity to act in grandiose and extraordinary fashion, and made them behave, for a change, like everyone else. Megalomaniacal psychiatric patients, when brought back to grey normalcy by their doctors, tend to enjoy the results but never quite forgive their healers for having deprived them of their paradise of fantasies. The German nation may well bear Adenauer a similar grudge for having cured them-if cure them he did.