Courtesy Reuters

German Reparations in the Soviet Empire

TO get "reparations" is to get something for nothing, and, unless an economy is threatened with immediate underemployment, they are as welcome to a state as to an individual. British and French experience has, however, shown that to be profitable they must be carefully chosen and absorbed. The utmost profit from reparations can be obtained only if the government responsible for their collection can chop and change its plans as circumstances change, can afford to be internationally selfish in addition to being domestically ruthless, and is also engaged in a drastic scheme for industrialization. The United States can do and be none of these things, the U.S.S.R. is and does them all.

Only the Germans and the Russians have so far managed to absorb large-scale reparations successfully. Both have been influenced exclusively by considerations of gain with little concern for the welfare of the vanquished. Since the end of the Second World War the Russians have hardly been confined by the Three-Power Agreements of Yalta and Potsdam. Whatever the intentions, the words of the Agreements were often ambiguous; and in matters on which the protocols were silent, such as the acquisition of capital within Germany, the Russians took silence as approval, while the Western Powers took it as prohibition. In fact the Russians were concerned with acquisition of German goods and services, while the Americans and British were primarily interested in depriving Germany of them in order to weaken her strategically. On July 9, 1946, Molotov declared in Paris that the reason "Allied and Soviet troops are at present in Germany [is] . . . to ensure reparation deliveries." No American diplomat would have put it like that.

Like a child long deprived of chocolate, the first Soviet "dismantlers" flung themselves on all the available tidbits. They were part of the Red Army itself, and had performed similar tasks in "liberated" Poland, Czechoslovakia and Manchuria. Since, according to international law, the taking of war booty is legitimate, these early pickings were labelled "military

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