The Douglas S-47 described a spiral. Below, as far as the eye could see, extended a cemetery of ruins. We must be over Berlin. The prospect beneath resembled a relief map rather than a city. In the slanting rays of the sinking sun the burnt-out skeletons of the walls threw sharply cut shadows.
During the fighting in the streets of Berlin it had not been possible to see all the immensity of the destruction. But now, from above, Berlin looked like some dead city, the excavations of some prehistoric Assyrian town. Neither human beings nor automobiles in the streets. Only endless burnt-out stone chests; gaping, empty window-holes.
I had gained all my knowledge of Berlin from books. I had thought of it as a city in which the trains were more reliable in their punctuality than a clock, and all the human beings went like clockwork. I thought of Paris as a city of continual joy, of Vienna as one long carefree song; but I thought of Berlin as everlastingly grim, a city without smiles, and a city whose inhabitants had no knowledge of the art of living.
I had first come to know Berlin in April 1945, at a season when the blood pulses faster through the veins, as the poets say. But it was not love that sent it coursing faster, but hate. And it flowed not only in the veins, but also over the roadways of the Berlin streets.
Our first encounter reminded me rather of an American wild-west story. All means of killing one another were justified. A dead soldier lying in the street flew into the air at the least touch, thus taking revenge on the victors even in death. Individual soldiers were shot down with anti-tank guns intended for tank battles. And the Russian tanks stormed down the stairs into the underworld of the Berlin Underground and danced madly in the darkness, spurting fire in all directions. War till 'five minutes past twelve'.
Now I was returning to Berlin for the purpose, in the language of official documents, of demilitarizing Germany in accordance with the agreement between the victorious powers.
A major in the Army Medical Service stared through the round window at the picture of Berlin slowly flowing beneath us. His face was thoughtful, expressive of regret. He turned to me and remarked: "After all, these people didn't have such a bad life. So you can't help asking yourself what else they wanted."
The Alder airport. All round the edges of the flying field were Junkers with their tails up, like gigantic grasshoppers. Above the administration building rose a bare flagpole. In the control room the officer on duty, an air force captain, was answering three telephones at once and trying to reassure an artillery colonel whose wartime wife had got lost in the air between Moscow and Berlin.
A lieutenant-colonel walked up to an air force lieutenant standing close by me - evidently the colonel had more faith in junior officers. Five paces earlier than necessary he saluted, and asked with an artificial, hopeful smile: "Comrade Lieutenant, could you be so kind as to tell me where the Bugrov household is to be found?" (At this time most of the troop formations were familiarly called 'households', being distinguished by the name of the formation's commander.) He spoke in a whisper, as though betraying a secret.
The lieutenant stared in amazement at the lieutenant-colonel's tabs, and was obviously unable to decide whether he was suffering from an acoustical or an optical illusion. Then he ran his eves blankly over the lieutenant-colonel, from head to foot. The senior officer was still more embarrassed and added in the tone of a help-less intellectual: "You see, we've got our orders, but we don't know where it is they order us to."
The lieutenant gaped like a fish, then snapped his mouth shut. What was this 'lieutenant-colonel', really? A diversionist?
I, too, began to take an interest in the lieutenant-colonel. He was wearing a new uniform, new military boots and a rank-and-file waist-strap. Any real officer would rather have put on a looted German officer's belt than a private's strap. On his shoulders were brand-new green front-line tabs. Normally, real officers even at the front preferred to wear gold tabs, and since the end of the war it was rare to find a front-line officer wearing the front-line tabs. A pack hung over his back, and he was clearly not used to it.
But officers generally aren't fond of packs and get rid of them at the first opportunity. His belt was stranded well below his hips, a challenge to every sergeant in the Red Army. All his uniform hung on him like a saddle on a cow. At his side was an imposing, Nagant-type pistol in a canvas holster. No doubt about it, he'd come out to fight all right! But why did he use such a tone in speaking to a lieutenant? A real army lieutenant-colonel would strictly observe regulations and never speak to a lieutenant first; if he wanted him, he would beckon the junior officer across. And without any 'would you be so kind'!
A little distance off there was a group of fellows looking equally comical, hung about with packs and trunks, and clinging to them as tightly as if they were on a Moscow railway station. I turned to the flying officer and asked, with a glance at the lieutenant-colonel and his companions: "What sort of fish are they?"
The officer smiled, and answered: "Dismantlers. They've been so intimidated at home that they're afraid to stir hand or foot now they're here. They take their trunks around with them, even to the toilet. What are they afraid of, the dolts? Here in Germany nothing's ever stolen, it's simply taken. That's what they themselves have come here for. They're all dressed up as colonels and lieutenant-colonels, but they've never been in the army in their life. However, they're pretty harmless. They'll strip Germany of her last pair of pants. Those colleagues of theirs who have been here for some time have settled down so well that they're not only sending home dismantled installations, but also even cows, by air. Not to mention gas-fires and pianos. I'm on the Moscow-Berlin route myself, so I know!"
A furious roar from an automobile engine interrupted our talk. A little way off a small tourer automobile stood puffing out blue exhaust gas, and trembling all over. Red pennons were fluttering at the front mudguards. A thickset major was at the wheel, working the gear lever and pedals determinedly. His neck was crimson with the unaccustomed exertions. He was attempting to drive the car away, but each time he engaged either the fourth or the reverse gear. Unfortunate gears! Against human stupidity not even Krupp steel would be of avail! At last the poor victim started off and vanished in clouds of smoke and dust, just missing a concrete post at the gate.
I turned to the flying officer again: "Who is that ass?"
He was silent for a moment, as though the subject did not deserve an answer. Then he replied with the contempt that the men of the air always have for infantry: "Some riffraff from the commandatura. They're introducing cleanliness and order here! Before the war that man was digging up potatoes in some collective farm. But he's struck lucky, he's a major, and he's out to make up for all his past dog's life. Strip him of his epaulettes and he'll mind cows again."
After a while we managed to get through on the telephone to the staff of the Soviet Military Administration, and to order a car. In the evening twilight we drove to the S. M. A. headquarters.
The staff of the Soviet Military Administration had taken up quarters in the buildings of the former pioneer school at Karlshorst, a suburb of Berlin. In this place, a month earlier, one of the most remarkable historical documents of our times had been signed. On 8 May 1945 the representatives of the Allied Supreme Command, Marshal Zhukov and Air-Marshal Tedder for the one part, and representatives of the German Supreme Command for the other part, had signed the document of the unconditional capitulation of the German armed forces on land, on sea, and in the air. The headquarters consisted of several three-storied buildings, rather like barracks, unequally distributed round a courtyard, and surrounded by a cast-iron raffing, in a typical quiet suburb of Eastern Berlin. From this place we were to re-educate Germany.
The day after my arrival in Karlshorst I reported to the head of the S. M. A. Personnel Department, Colonel Utkin. In the colonel's office I clicked my heels according to regulations, raised my hand to my cap, and reported: "Major Klimov, under orders from the Central Personnel Department of the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, reports for duty. May I present my documents, Comrade Colonel?"
"Hand over whatever you've got." He stretched out his hand.
I took out my documents and gave them to him. He opened the carefully sealed packet and began to glance through my numerous testimonials and questionnaires.
"So you were in the Military-Diplomatic College too? We've already got some men from there," he said half aloud. Then he asked: "Which course did you attend?"
"I graduated with the State examination," I replied.
"Hm... hm... How did you do that so quickly?"
"I was posted straight to the last course, Comrade Colonel."
"I see... 'Awarded the rank of repporteur in the diplomatic service,' " he read. "In that case we'll have plenty of work for you. Where would you prefer to work?"
"Wherever I can be of most service."
"How about the Juridical Department, for example? Issuing new laws for Germany. Or the Political Adviser's Department? But that would be rather boring," he added without waiting for my reply. "What would you say to the State Security Service?"
To turn down such a complimentary suggestion outright would have been tantamount to admitting my own disloyalty, it would have been an act of suicide. Yet I did not find the idea of working in the secret police very attractive; I had passed the age of enthusiasm for detective novels. I attempted to sound the ground for an unostentatious retreat: "What would my work there consist of, Comrade Colonel?"
"Fundamentally it's the same as in the Soviet Union. You won't be kicking your heels. Rather the reverse."
"Comrade Colonel, if you ask me my opinion, I think I'd be of most use in the industrial field. I was an engineer in civilian life."
"That's useful too. We'll soon see what we can find for you."
He picked up a telephone. "Comrade General? Pardon me for disturbing you." He drew himself up in his chair as if he were in the general's presence, and read the details of my personal documents over the phone. "You'd like to see him at once? Very good!" He turned to me. "Well, come along. I'll introduce you to the supreme commander's deputy for economic questions."
Thus, on the second day of my arrival in Karlshorst I went to General Shabalin's office.
An enormous carpeted room. Before the window was a desk the size of a football field! Forming a T with it was another, longer desk, covered with red cloth: the conference table, the invariable appurtenance of higher officials' offices.
Behind the desk were a grizzled head, a square, energetic face, and deeply sunken gray eyes. A typical energetic executive, but not an intellectual. General's epaulettes, and only a few ribbons and decorations on his dark-green tunic; but on the right hand breast was a red and gold badge in the shape of a small banner: 'member of the C. C. of the C. P. S. U.' So he was not a front-line general, but an old party official.
The general leisuredly studied my documents, rubbing his nose occasionally, and puffing at his cigarette as if I was not there.
"Well... Arc you reliable?" he asked unexpectedly, pushing his spectacles up on to his forehead in order to see me better. "As Caesar's wife," I replied.
"Talk Russian! I don't like riddles." He drew the spectacles back on to his nose and made a further examination of my documents.
"Then why haven't you joined the Party?" he asked without raising his eyes.
'So the badge is talking now!' I thought. "I don't feel that I'm quite ready for it yet, Comrade General," was my reply.
"The old excuse of the intelligentsia! And when will you feel that you're ready?"
I answered in the customary Party jargon: "I'm a non-party bolshevik, Comrade General." In ticklish cases it is always wise to fall back on one of Stalin's winged words. Such formulae are not open to discussion; they stop all further questions. "Have you any idea of your future work?"
"I know it will be concerned with industry. Comrade General." "Here knowledge of the industrial sphere is not sufficient in itself. Have you permission to work on secret matters?"
"All the graduates of our college receive permission automatic-ally."
"Where was it issued to you?"
"In the State Personnel Department (G. U. K.) of the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, and in the Foreign Department of the C. P. S. U. Central Committee."
This reply made an impression on him. He compared the documents, asked about my previous work in industry, and my service in the army. Evidently satisfied with the result, he said: "You'll be working with me in the Control Commission. It's excellent that you know languages. My technical experts are duffers at languages, and my interpreters are duffers at technical matters. Have you ever worked abroad before?"
"You must understand now, once for all, that all your future coworkers in the Control Commission are agents of the capitalist espionage. So you must have no personal acquaintance with them whatever, and no private conversations. I take it you know that already, but I may as well remind you of it. Talk as little as you can. But listen all the more. If anyone talks too much, we cut out his tongue by the roots. All our walls have ears. Bear that in mind. It is quite possible that attempts will be made to enlist you in a foreign secret service. What will you do in that case?"
"I shall agree, but making my terms as stiff as possible, and establishing really practical conditions for the work."
"Good, and then?"
"Then I report the matter to my superior authorities. In this instance, to you."
"Do you play cards?"
"Do you drink?"
"Within the permitted limits."
"Hm, that's an elastic conception. And what about women?"
"I'm a bachelor."
He took a deep draw at his cigarette, and blew out the smoke thoughtfully. "It's a pity you're not married, major."
I knew what he meant better than he thought. The college had a strict law that bachelors were never sent to work abroad. This, however, did not apply to the occupied countries. It was quite common for an officer to be summoned in the middle of the school year to the head of the college, to be notified that he had been assigned to a post abroad, and at the same time to be told to find a wife. It was so common that men who anticipated being sent abroad looked about them betimes for a suitable partner and... hostage.
"One thing more. Major," he said in conclusion. "Be on your guard with those people on the Control Commission. Here in Berlin you're in the most advanced line of the post-war front. Now go and make the acquaintance of my chief adjutant."
I went into the outer office, where a man in major's uniform was sitting. By my look the adjutant realized that the interview had had a favorable outcome, and he held out his hand as he introduced him-self: "Major Kuznetsov". After a brief talk I asked him about the kind of work that was done in the general's department.
"My work consists of sitting in this seat until three in the morning as adjutant to the general. As for your work... you'll soon see for yourself," he answered with a smile I did see, quite quickly. And I was reminded of the general's advice to be careful in my contacts with the Allies. A morning or two later the door of the general's room flew open violently and a brisk little man in major's uniform shot out.
"Comrade Klimov? The general wishes to see you for a moment." I did not know who this major was, but I followed him into the general's office. Shabalin took a file of documents from him and handed it to me: "Examine those papers. Take a typist who has permission to handle secret matters and dictate to her the contents of the material you will find in them. The work must be done in the Secret Department. You may not throw anything away, but hand it all back to me, together with your report, as soon as you've finished."
As I went past the adjutant sitting in the outer room I asked him: "Who is that major?"
"Major Filin. He works in the Tagliche Rundschau," he answered.
I shut myself into the Secret Department room and began to study the contents of the file. Some of the documents were in English, others in German. There were lots of tables, columns of figures. At the top was a sheet of paper stamped 'Secret' in red in one corner. An anonymous rapporteur stated:
'The intelligence service has established the following details of the abduction of two workers in the Reich Institute for Economic Statistics, Professor D. and Dr. N., by agents of the American intelligence service. The Americans sent agents to call on the above-named German economists, and to demand that they should make certain statements to the American authorities.
The two Germans, who live in the Soviet sector of Berlin, both refused. They were forcibly abducted, and returned home only several days later. On their return Professor D. and Dr. N. were examined by our intelligence service and made the following statement: "During the night of July - we were forcibly abducted by officers of the American espionage and taken by plane to the American economic espionage headquarters in Wiesbaden. There we were examined for three days by officers of the espionage service... The data in which the American officials were interested are cited in the appendix."
The appendix consisted of further statistics taken from the Reich Institute for Economic Statistics. This material had obviously been duplicated and run off in many copies, and it contained no profound secrets. Evidently it had been issued before the capitulation, to serve internal German requirements. Despite their 'forcible abduction' the two Germans thoughtfully abstracted the material from the Institute archives and had given one copy to the Americans. Then with the same forethought they had given another to the Russians. The documents in English were more interesting. Or rather, it was not the documents that were so interesting, but the very fact of their existence.
They were copies of the American reports on the examination of the German professors made in Wiesbaden, together with copies of the same Institute material, only now in English. Clearly our intelligence service did not entirely trust the Germans' statements, and had followed the usual procedure of counter-check. The American documents had no official stamps, nor serial numbers, nor addresses. They had come from the American files, but not through official channels. So it was clear that our intelligence service had an invisible hand inside the American headquarters of economic intelligence. Evidently Major Filin was used to working with unusual accuracy, and the Tagliche Rundschau was engaged in a decidedly queer line of journalism.
A few days later a bulky packet addressed to General Shabalin arrived from the American headquarters in Berlin-ZehIendorf. The Control Commission was not yet functioning properly, and the Allies were only now beginning to make contact with one another. In a covering letter the Americans courteously informed us that as the terms of establishment of the Control Commission provided for the exchange of economic information they wished to bring certain material relating to German economic affairs to Soviet notice.
Enclosed I found the same statistical tables that Major Filin had already supplied by resort to 'forcible abduction'. This time the material was furnished with all the requisite seals, stamps, addresses, and even a list of recipients. It was much more complete than the file Filin had provided. It was interesting to note that whereas we would stamp such material 'secret' the Americans obviously did not regard it as in the least secret, and readily shared their information with the Soviet member of the Commission.
I went to the general, and showed him the covering letter with the sender's address: 'Economic Intelligence Division'. He looked through the familiar material, scratched himself thoughtfully behind the ear with his pencil, and remarked: "Are they trying to force their friend-ship on us? It certainly is the same material." Then he muttered through his teeth: "It's obviously a trick. Anyhow, they're all spies."
The Administration for Economy of the Soviet Military Administration was established in the former German hospital of St. Antonius. The hospital had been built to conform to the latest technical requirements; it stood in the green of a small park, shielded from inquisitive eyes and the roar of traffic. The park gave the impression of being uncultivated; last year's leaves rustled underfoot; opposite the entrance to the building the boughs of crab-apple trees were loaded to the ground with fruit.
The main building of the administration accommodated the Departments for Industry, for Commerce and Supplies, for Economic Planning, Agriculture, Transport, and Scientific and Technical. The Department for Reparations, headed by General Zorin, and the Administrative Department under General Demidov were in two adjacent buildings. The Reparations Department, the largest of all those in the administration, enjoyed a degree of autonomy, and maintained direct relations with Moscow over Shabalin's head. General Zorin had held a high economic post in Moscow before the war.
The Administration for Economy of the Soviet Military Administration was really the Ministry for Economics of the Soviet zone, the supreme organ controlling all the economic life in the zone. At the moment it was chiefly concerned with the economic 'assimilation' of Germany. In those days it was by no means clear that its real function was to turn Germany's economy, the most highly developed economy in Europe, completely upside down.
When I arrived in Karishorst General Shabalin's personal staff consisted of two: the adjutant, Major Kuznetsov, and the head of the private chancellery, Vinogradov. The plans made provision for a staff of close on fifty persons.
According to those plans I was to be the expert on economic questions. But as the staff was only now beginning to develop, I had quite other tasks to perform. I accompanied the general on all his journeys as his adjutant, while the official adjutant, Kuznetsov, remained in the office as his deputy, since he had worked for many years with the general and was well acquainted with his duties. Kuznetsov was very dissatisfied at this arrangement, and grumbled: "You go traveling around with the general and drinking schnapps, and I stay at home and do all your work!" Many of the departmental heads preferred to deal with Kuznetsov, and waited for the general to go out. The major's signature was sufficient to enable a draft order to be put through to Marshal Zhukov for ratification.
I once asked Kuznetsov what sort of fellow Vinogradov really was. He answered curtly: "a ?.U. official." "What do you mean?" I queried. "He's a ?.U. official, that's all." I soon realized what he meant. To start with, Vinogradov was a civilian. He had a habit of running up and down the corridors as though he hadn't a moment to lose, brandishing documents as he went. One day I caught a glimpse of one of these documents, and saw that it was a list of people who were assigned a special civilian outfit for their work in the Control Commission. Vinogradov's own name headed the list, though he had nothing whatever to do with the Control Commission.
Outwardly he was not a man, but a volcano. But on closer acquaintance one realized that all his exuberant activity was concerned with pieces of cloth, food rations, drink, apartments, and such things. In distributing all these benefits he was governed by the law of compensation, what he could extract from those on whom he bestowed them. He kept the personnel files, occupied himself with Party and administrative work, and stuck his nose in every-body's business. There was only one thing he was afraid of, and that was hard work.
Once I saw his personal documents. Kuznetsov was right; he was nothing but a ?. U. official. He had spent all his life organizing: labor brigades, working gangs, enthusiasm, Stakhanovism. He had had no education, but he had an excess of energy, impudence, and conceit. Such people play no small part in the Soviet state machinery, functioning as a kind of grease to the clumsy works, organizing the song and dance round such fictitious conceptions as trade unions, shock labor, socialist competition, and enthusiasm.
Soon after my arrival a Captain Bystrov was inducted as head of the Secret Department. He spent the first few nights after his appointment sleeping on the table in the Secret Department room, using his greatcoat as a blanket. Later we learnt the reason for this extraordinary behavior. There was no safe in the Secret Department and, in order to foil the plans of the international spies, General Shabalin ordered the captain to make a pillow of the secret documents entrusted to him. Captain Bystrov treated Vinogradov with undisguised contempt, though the latter held the higher position. One evening Bystrov met me in the street and proposed:
"Let's go and drop in on Vinogradov."
"What on earth for?" I asked in astonishment.
"Come along! You'll laugh your head off! Haven't you ever run across him at night?"
"He prowls around Karlshorst like a jackal all night, looking for loot in the empty houses. Yesterday I met him just as dawn was coming: he was dragging some rags across the yard to his apartment. His place is just like a museum."
I didn't want to give offense to my new colleague, so I went with him. Vinogradov opened the door half an inch and asked:
"Well, what do you expect to see here this time?"
"Open the door," Bystrov said, pushing at it. "Show us some of the treasures you've collected,"
"Go to the devil!" Vinogradov protested. "I was just off to bed."
"Going to bed? I don't believe it! You haven't ransacked all Karlshorst yet, surely?"
At last Vinogradov let us in. As Bystrov had said, his apartment was a remarkable sight, more a warehouse than a living-place. It contained enough furniture for at least three apartments. The captain looked about him for things he hadn't seen on previous occasions. A buffet attracted his notice. "What's that?" He asked. "Open it up!"
"Open it, or I will!" Bystrov raised his boot to kick in the polished; doors.
Vinogradov knew that the captain would not hesitate to do as he had said. He reluctantly took out a key. The buffet was full of crockery. Crockery of all kinds, obviously taken from abandoned German houses.
"Would you like me to smash the lot?" the captain asked. "You can always lodge a complaint. Shall I?"
"You're mad! Valuable articles like them, and you talk about smashing them!" Vinogradov protested.
I looked round the room. This man talked more than anybody else did about culture, our regard for the human being, our exalted tasks. And yet he was nothing but a looter, with all his thought and activity concentrated on personal enrichment. Bystrov thrust his hand into an open chest and took out several packages in blue paper wrappings. He tore one of them open, and roared with laughter. I, too, could not help laughing.
"What are you going to use these for?" He thrust a bundle of ladies' sanitary towels under Vinogradov's nose. "For emergencies?"
Only after much persuasion did I succeed in getting him to leave Vinogradov's apartment.
During the early days of my stay in Karlshorst I had not time to look about me. But as the weeks passed I learned more and more about our relations with the rest of Berlin. For security reasons Karlshorst lived in a state of semi-siege. The whole district was ringed with guard posts. All street traffic was forbidden after 9 p. m., even for the military. The password was issued only in cases of strict necessity, and it was changed every evening. I frequently had to be out with General Shabalin on service affairs until two or three in the morning. As we went home, at every fifty yards an invisible sentry called through the darkness: "Halt! The password!"
The general lived in a small one-family house opposite the staff headquarters; most of the S. M. A. generals lived in the vicinity. The guards posted here were still stronger, and special passes were required.
Later, as we grew more familiar with conditions in Karlshorst, we often laughed at the blend of incredible strictness and vigilance and equally incredible negligence and indolence, which characterized the place. The front of the S. M. A. staff headquarters, where Marshal Zhukov's private office was situated, was guarded in full accordance with regulations. But behind the building there was sandy wasteland with dense forest, quite close up, beyond it. But here no guard was posted at all. Anybody acquainted with conditions in Karlshorst could have brought a whole enemy division right up to the marshal's back door, without giving one password or showing one pass.
Major Kuznetsov and Shabalin's chauffeur, Misha, had their quarters in a small house next to the general's. The general had a sergeant, Nikolai, an invariably morose fellow, in his house to act as batman, though batmen are not recognized in the Soviet army. There was also a maidservant, Dusia, a girl twenty-three years old, who had been brought from Russia by the Germans for forced labor.
I asked her once how she had got on under the Germans. She answered with unusual reserve: "Bad, of course, Comrade Major." Her words conveyed something that she left unexpressed. Without doubt, like all the Russians waiting for repatriation, she was glad of our victory; but there was something that took the edge off her joy for her.
From time to time groups of young lads under armed escort marched through Karlshorst. They wore Soviet military uniforms, dyed black. These lads were former forced laborers brought from the east, which we had organized into labor battalions to do reconstruction work. They looked pretty miserable. They knew that they could not expect anything pleasant on their return to the Soviet Union.
Apart from the buildings on Treskow-Allee, and certain other; large buildings occupied by various offices of the S. M. A., the Karlshorst district consisted mainly of small one-family residences, standing amid gardens and trees, behind fences. The German middle class had occupied most of them. They were plain and tasteless outside, built of smooth concrete blocks and surmounted by red tiles. But the internal arrangements, all the domestic fitments and equipment, greatly surpassed anything Soviet people were accustomed to.
The doors often showed traces of bayonets and rifle-butts, but the handles were not loose, the hinges did not squeak, the locks were effective. Even the stairs and the railings shone with fresh paint, as if they had been newly decorated for our arrival. No wonder we were struck by their apparent newness. In the Soviet Union many of the houses haven't been redecorated since 1917.
During my first few days in Karlshorst I was accommodated in the guesthouse for newly arrived S. M. A. officials. But after I had settled down and familiarized myself with conditions, I simply took over empty house standing surrounded with trees and flowering shrubs. Everything was just as its former inhabitants had left it. Evidently Vinogradov hadn't been there yet. I made this house my private residence.