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The British Army of the RhineTurning Nazi Enemies into Cold War Partners$

Peter Speiser

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780252040160

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252040160.001.0001

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The Germans

The Germans

Complaints, Criticism, and Demands?

(p.69) Chapter 3 The Germans
The British Army of the Rhine

Peter Speiser

University of Illinois Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter focuses on the German perspective of relations with the BAOR. It studies the changing expectations of and demands by the German civilian population, as well as federal and Land (state) administrations during a period of fundamental changes in Anglo-German relations. The chapter looks at attempts to use the BAOR in order to undermine German cooperation with the West, as well as German efforts to counter these threats, all within economic, political, and social contexts. When considering the occupation forces of the Western powers, the problems created by the presence of American troops have been highlighted by John Willoughby. His work focuses on the threat to US authority in Germany posed by the disorderly behavior of American troops and the resulting initiatives that prevented a deterioration of relations in the period between 1945 and 1948.

Keywords:   BAOR, German civilians, Land administrations, Anglo-German relations, Western powers, American troops, US authority, John Willoughby

There were two cases of English soldiers robbing and assaulting German youths in the town of Lueneburg in 1957. As the number of incidents in the area had increased significantly the local Free Democratic Party demanded a complete break of relations between the town and the British troops. Particularly the lack of an apology by the British officers caused anger.

—[Landesarchiv Niedersachsen], NI, Nds. 50 Acc. 96/88 Nr 165/2 Pressebericht Pressestelle Hannover, 6 August 1957.

In October 1952 the German national newspaper Die Welt reported on the curious case of the wife of a British soldier beating the owner of a pub unconscious during a bar fight in the small town of Hameln. A German disabled war veteran had blamed a group of ten BAOR soldiers and their wives for his injury and subsequent fate, which led a soldier to attack the man. The wife of the disabled German then used his crutches to knock out the British soldier. In return the British wife accidentally beat the publican with a bar stool when he tried to calm the argument. “When the police arrived all they found was the publican with a head wound.”1

It was the projection onto a national stage of seemingly minor and at times even comical incidents like this one that regularly influenced German perceptions of the British occupying forces. Local incidents commonly caused controversy, first in the local press and then at the national level, as well as leading to repeated political attacks by anti-Western political parties. As the German journalist Paul Sethe wrote in 1951, “In the past six years the number of anglophiles in Germany has dropped steadily” and bitter feeling had grown up among Germans “against this island nation.”2 In order to establish exactly how the problems created by the presence of the BAOR affected Anglo-German relations from the local to the highest levels and (p.70) how both the British and German authorities worked on eliminating them, it is essential to understand the nature and causes of grievances perceived by the German civilian population. What were the German views and experiences of the presence of the BAOR in the British Zone of Occupation? Some of the German official and individual attempts at improving relations also require exploration to allow a comparison of the British and German perceptions of the BAOR and its role.

The grievances suffered by Germans at the hand of the BAOR can largely be divided into three major categories: economic, political, and personal issues. Although there was always a degree of overlap between the economic issues, the political processes, and the lived experiences of Germans and British servicemen, they are largely addressed separately here. The first category to be analyzed concerns the economic demands of the British armed forces to ensure the functioning and efficiency of the services. These demands regularly set off outrage among the civilian population. According to the German member of Parliament and leader of the Christian Social Union of Bavaria (CSU), Franz Josef Strauss, Germany paid the same amount of money toward the occupation as France was using to pay for its entire army, air force, and colonial troops as well as the war in Vietnam. According to Strauss, an occupation soldier in 1951 cost nearly ten times as much as that of 1918, and for every two occupation soldiers there were nine civilians employed in Germany.3

The financial impact of the occupation was frequently criticized by German politicians and the press. Nonetheless, the majority of West Germans in 1949 thought that the establishment of a German army in order to replace foreign troops was “not at present necessary or desirable.” In addition to pacifist sentiments so soon after the war, there were also economic arguments in support of this view, “as a German army would attract young men from essential industries, which can ill afford such loss.” A German army would also imply an increase in national expenditure and taxes. “They consider that the Allied policy during and since the war, carries with it the obligation on the part of the Allies, to defend Western Germany.”4 On the one hand, a strong presence of British troops in the FRG was a reassuring factor for the majority of the German population. On the other hand, the economic damage caused by British troops in Germany, in addition to the regular occupation costs, was under constant scrutiny. Maneuver damage; the requisitioning of training grounds, private houses, hotels, and public buildings; as well as noise pollution by aircraft prompted the most frequent complaints. These complaints regularly evolved around material issues at a time of economic hardship for most Germans, which often stood in stark (p.71) contrast to the standard of living of the British armed services. In most cases the economic grievances stemming from the occupation subsequently generated social tensions between Britons and Germans, as will be seen in the case of the requisitioning of housing.

Secondly, in the political sphere a large number of problems arose from British official communications or, rather, the perceived lack thereof. On several occasions the Foreign Office or the British armed services themselves caused offense when implementing decisions in Germany, usually made in cooperation with the Bonn or Land governments, without sufficiently communicating these arrangements to local communities. This often led the press to criticize not only the perceived British arrogance toward local and national German government bodies but also the general lack of effort by senior British officers, unit commanders, and Foreign Office officials to publicize decisions. The increasing level of sovereignty of the Federal Republic after 1949 exacerbated this problem and led to the growth of German demands to be treated as equals rather than inhabitants of an occupied enemy territory.

The third and likely most difficult category for the British and German authorities to address was made up of the actions of individual soldiers and negative experiences by individual civilians. These often involved drunkenness, violence, theft, cultural issues, sexual jealousy, or the recent history of Anglo-German relations. An entirely independent problem that influenced all three of the categories was the issue of mishaps and errors by British personnel occurring on all levels. Furthermore, as seen above, a significant factor in turning minor complaints into threats to Anglo-German relations on a national level was the German press, both in the FRG as well as the German Democratic Republic.

It is important to analyze how these different categories developed and how they affected the various strands of Anglo-German relations. Of particular importance were the frequent cases of local discontent spreading into the highest circles in London and Bonn. Three specific examples of German discontent are particularly prominent in the available primary sources and highlight how the discontent aroused by troops was used by those political groups of the left and right in Germany (and Britain) that were against German cooperation with the Western Allies in the climate of the early Cold War. The most controversial examples are the requisitioning of housing, maneuver damage, and, curiously, fox hunting by British troops. Furthermore, the increase in German official concerns about damage caused by troops requires analysis. As the British armed services were not the only NATO troops in the British Zone of Occupation, a comparison (p.72) to the behavior of Canadian troops sheds further light on the popularity of British troops. Finally, the quality and success of attempts by German nongovernmental organizations and the federal and Land governments at countering the dissatisfaction of the public with British troops is considered in detail. Although a wide variety of initiatives were taken, there is also some evidence demonstrating a lack of interest among some German ministries to fund projects.

Economic Causes of Discontent: Requisitioning of Housing and Land

For the German population the issue of requisitioning was mostly an economic problem during times of hardship. It nonetheless led to social tensions between occupiers and occupied in its wake. As a result, much of the activity of German authorities regarding this issue consisted of reacting to the anger caused by the British military. In order to function as a defense against the perceived Soviet threat, the British forces required large training grounds. According to a British report, the amount of land under requisition in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) in 1952 amounted to approximately 125 square miles, which was one percent of the entire Land. These figures excluded new British demands for “four new airfields, a large training area for Dutch troops, an air-to-ground firing range of large dimensions, extensions to installations allowing for the accommodation of an additional 10,000 Belgian troops and the requirements of a Canadian brigade,” among others. The same report highlighted concerns that there was little coordination of further Allied demands for territory and predicted that the Germans would “oppose strenuously any further loss of agricultural land.”5 Particularly in larger cities the lack of housing due to bomb damage and requisitioning of accommodation by the army brought about severe resentment. Requisitioning of land also came at a high social and financial cost. For example, a planned airfield in the Niederrhein area in 1951 required the eviction of 151 farms at a cost of up to six million deutschmarks.6

Because of its large scale, the requisitioning of training grounds and accommodation was a potential and often real point of friction between the German civilian population and the British military. Most German cities and towns suffered from severe housing shortages resulting from Allied bombing during the war.7 The most heavily populated areas of Germany lay in the British zone, and most of the major and many of the smaller towns had been severely affected by the strategic bombing campaign that was unleashed in order to undermine German morale during the war. In (p.73) 1943 alone the city of Wuppertal, in the industrial heartland of the Ruhr, lost 153,000 homes; the nearby Krefeld lost over 40 percent of its housing that year with more than 70,000 people left homeless. Eighty-five percent of Cologne’s housing was destroyed, and 90 percent of Hannover lay in ruins.8 Nonetheless, in the FRG in 1951 the Allied forces had in their use thousands of requisitioned houses, rooms, flats, and plots of land, as well as hotels, restaurants, and numerous other installations.9

From the outset of the British occupation, one of the most publicized scandals, which greatly damaged relations with the local population, was the services’ widespread practice of requisitioning large numbers of properties only to then either leave them unused or not derequisition them when they were no longer needed. At times the military refused to relinquish empty accommodation in case units arrived from abroad, and occasionally houses were simply forgotten about, but in many cases “the well-known Army principle of never giving up property once acquired” was applied.10 It is important to go beyond the immediate postwar period and consider how German attitudes about requisitioning developed once the BAOR was transformed from an occupation force to an Allied force. Unsurprisingly, once the Federal Republic was established, German resentment of requisitioning grew. The German press carefully monitored the situation and reported that despite a considerable effort by the British to reduce these figures, according to the German finance ministry there were still sixty thousand requisitioned buildings in 1951.11

The lack of suitable accommodation in the British zone immediately after the end of the war due to bombing and the arrival of refugees is well documented.12 In the British-occupied Land of Schleswig-Holstein nearly 3 million refugees had to be accommodated alongside the 1.6 million residents. The population of Lower Saxony had grown from 4.5 million in 1939 to 6.7 million in 1947. In the British-occupied Rhineland alone there were 200 camps with nearly 100,000 refugees.13 By February 1947, approximately 906,000 refugees from the east had made their way to North Rhine-Westphalia.14 The arrival of British families beginning to join service personnel in 1946 had naturally exacerbated the “unparalleled” housing situation in the zone.15 Many Germans were evicted at short notice from their homes to make room for British families.16

What is less well documented is that despite the successful German efforts to build new homes on a large scale, the issue of requisitioning continued to threaten relations between BAOR and the Germans until at least the mid-1950s. The British Düsseldorf resident officer reported as late as September 1954 that the city’s population still grew by five hundred a day and (p.74) that “despite signs of new dwellings, the hard core of bunker inhabitants remains a constant figure.”17 In contrast, British soldiers and their families often found life in the British zone extremely comfortable. For example, the homes of the fifty families of the 15th/19th The King’s Royal Hussars in the city of Lübeck on the Baltic coast were located “in what had been before the war the smartest area of town. It was not unusual for a senior NCO [noncommissioned officer], his wife and one child to live in a six-bedroom house surrounded by a vast garden and to receive the services of a nanny and a daily help, all free of charge.”18 Many of these benefits enjoyed by British troops in Germany were only slowly given up in 1956. This change of heart, however, did not occur in order to improve Anglo-German relations but, rather, because the Germans were no longer required to pay for the costs of the cheap German labor used for the provision of domestic servants for British officers. According to the chancellor of the exchequer, Harold Macmillan, “somebody else” had been paying for the privileges, and the military had to accept “that the situation is different when this heavy new burden falls on their own people in the United Kingdom.”19 In fact, the secretary of state for war very much regretted abolishing the benefits enjoyed particularly by British officers in Germany, as previously these had been beneficial for the recruitment of new officers. The “comfortable conditions” in Germany were to counterbalance the hardship endured in other stations around the world.20 This luxury was obvious to the local population and shaped the German attitude toward the British forces’ accommodation situation. The generally slow speed of derequisitioning of homes was a frequent point of complaint by Germans.21

The German press and many political parties constantly campaigned against requisitioning, thereby causing problems for the Bonn government. For example, in 1951 the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported on the demand of the Social Democratic Party that the government ensure no more housing was to be requisitioned in case of any further increase of Allied troop strength in Germany. In addition, the restrictions that prohibited Germans from sharing accommodation with service personnel should be abolished.22 Furthermore, in 1951 the SPD issued an official request to Parliament demanding the government reach an agreement with the Allied high commissioners to not remove victims of Nazi oppression, refugees, those affected by the war, and those displaced by the occupation regime from their current premises. The fulfillment of this demand would have left very few properties for the BAOR to requisition. The SPD also demanded that the necessary housing and installations for Allied troops be built immediately.23 This put additional pressure on the Bonn government to spend (p.75) more money and resources on housing at a time when the increase of BAOR troops itself heightened the occupation costs for the FRG. There was evidently a demand by the German population that the transformation of the BAOR from an occupation force to an ally should go hand in hand with a reduction in the often lavish accommodation of British troops. (The British attempts to accommodate these demands are analyzed in chapter 5 following an examination of German civilian attempts to wrestle the control of their homes from the British.)

German civilians who were displaced by and dissatisfied with the occupation regime (the so-called Besatzungsverdrängte) increasingly organized their protests and founded official organizations in North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony.24 According to a 1951 German press report, the number of people with claims against the German government due to requisitioning was as high as 3.5 million. For six years these people had been waiting for the return of either their homes or other property, such as furniture, that had been requisitioned by the Allies.25 The same newspaper estimated that the number of displaced persons as a result of requisitioning made up as much as 6.8 percent of the entire German population.26

The Besatzungsverdrängte organizations arranged frequent demonstrations throughout the British zone, and their demands continuously increased throughout the early 1950s. Postulations ranged from the return of the requisitioned properties and the exclusive housing of Allied troops in barracks to the repatriation of all Allied families to their home countries and a general end to the “colonial policies” ostensibly represented by the BAOR.27 The Besatzungsverdrängte organization of North Rhine-Westphalia threatened to take legal action against the state of NRW after a man had been removed from his house by a force of “nearly fifty policemen.” This incident had occurred even though the requisitioned property in question had stood empty for a long time. Apparently the return of the house had been promised repeatedly and this was only the latest in a series of cases in the area.28 At least one protest march by the organization in the town of Detmold had to be dispersed by the police, as it threatened to turn violent.29 In January 1952, desperate German families in the town of Herford moved back into their requisitioned homes without permission. The local German authorities issued stern warnings to the residents, as it would be impossible to protect the families should the BAOR forcefully remove them.30 In 1953, despite the protests by displaced Germans, there were still British couples without children living in entire houses by themselves in Herford. An attempt by displaced homeowners to move into their empty but requisitioned houses ended with water and electricity supplies being cut off and German guards, (p.76) employed by the BAOR, enforcing the strict isolation of the Germans in question.31 The pressure of the Besatzungsverdrängte groups also contributed to the pressure on the German authorities.32 These cases demonstrate not only how the unpopularity of British requisitioning affected German views of Allied troops but also how the image of the Land and federal governments suffered as they enforced unpopular measures previously agreed on with the British. Thus, the largely economic issue of requisitioning also had political implications for both Britain and Germany.

Cases of displaced persons illegally occupying their still requisitioned houses were reported by the press as late as 1955. Interestingly, there were some similarities here with the occupation of military accommodation by homeless squatters in Britain in 1946. In Britain as in Germany the military seemed indifferent to the problems of ordinary people, despite the possession of many unoccupied or partly occupied premises during a period of housing shortage.33 The German authorities continually attempted to force the occupants to leave their properties by cutting off water and electricity supplies. The Besatzungsverdrängte organizations, on the other hand, keenly supported the individuals in question, much to the frustration of the British authorities.34 In one case a local German court forbade neighbors of one particular property that was illegally occupied by their owners to install an alternative gas supply to the house. The court also ordered the owner to leave his home, which, after a lengthy court case, he did in January 1956, and the requisitioning continued until May of the same year.35

In several cases where homes had been requisitioned but subsequently left empty by the British, landlords and families in need of housing simply moved back in as a sign of protest. For example, in the small Westphalian town of Lübbecke, where 160 houses with fifteen hundred rooms had been requisitioned, seven families moved back into their requisitioned but empty homes and raised the European flag as a sign of protest.36 Lübbecke had a population of approximately seven thousand people with an additional three thousand refugees when it became one of the key British administrative centers of the British zone in 1945. And the housing situation continued to be severe even after barracks for British troops were built in 1948.37 Once more this situation led to the formation of local protest organizations that supported those Germans occupying their homes. The Lübbecker Notgemeinschaft telegraphed the minister president of North Rhine-Westphalia as well as the personal security advisor to the German chancellor, Dr. Theodor Blank, to advise them that the seven families had moved in, claiming their rights in accordance with the Basic Law for the FRG. The British, however, demanded the immediate evacuation of the flats, threatening to arrest the (p.77) families in question, who then left without causing further disruption.38 Events of this type occurred all over the British zone, particularly in those more rural areas that had been spared the worst of the Allied bombing and were now inhabited by a large number of refugees from bombed-out cities and the east. The establishment of friendly relations between troops and communities that had to make way for British families as late as ten years after the end of hostilities was undoubtedly going to be a difficult task.

The worst area of the British Zone of Occupation with regard to requisitioning was without doubt the area of Bad Oeynhausen, which housed the headquarters of the BAOR until 1954. The town had largely escaped bomb damage during the war, but an unwelcome surprise of a different kind affected the majority of inhabitants in 1945: “‘Baddo’ as it was called, was a very pleasant spa, about twice the size of Southwell in Nottinghamshire, with twice the population. Unfortunately the 10,000 ‘Deutschers’ had been evicted from their nice little town to make way for 1,000 officers and 2,000 other ranks who acted as clerks, batmen, drivers, runners and every kind of dogsbody to the officers.”39 The town was substantially requisitioned until 1954. The railway station itself was requisitioned, and Germans using it were segregated to some extent. “I find it impossible to imagine a situation anywhere else parallel to that which still obtains in this town, seven years after the end of hostilities and on the eve of the Federal area resuming sovereignty.”40

Barbed-wire fences separating the British from the Germans in Bad Oeynhausen were removed only in 1951, when seventy hectares of requisitioned land, including the spa gardens, were handed back to the Germans. Nonetheless, 40 percent of all available living space in the town continued to be requisitioned by the BAOR.41 By the time the British headquarters at Bad Oeynhausen were finally closed, the physical and economic damage caused by the BAOR was considerable. The town had lost, “apart from [the damage caused by] the thirty-two minor and medium fires, the Protestant church, a 750,000 DM bathing house and four private residences,” all of which had been requisitioned by the British. A local newspaper article outlined how under British “rule,” the largest thermal spring in Europe had remained closed to anyone but the BAOR and how the only public building in town that was accessible to the German public had been a public lavatory. The entire train station, including all ticket offices and waiting rooms, was reserved for “the handful of British tourists,” while “the last remaining church bells were not allowed to ring for German but only for English services.”42

Requisitioning brought on more than economic grievances. For an increasing number of Germans, it stood in the way of achieving the reestablishment of German sovereignty. As diplomatic relations between Britain and (p.78) Germany on the highest levels increasingly normalized, it was economic questions such as requisitioning that threatened to turn the BAOR into a liability rather than an asset to Anglo-German relations. The ostensibly economic grievance of maneuver damage also clearly highlights how economic damage translated into political problems.

The BAOR and the KPD: Maneuver Damage and Its Political Consequences

The requisitioning of land and property was not the only major source of complaint created by the BAOR. At least once every year the British services, together with their allied NATO forces, conducted large-scale maneuvers across wide parts of the British zone. These inevitably caused damage to property and distress to local inhabitants. Roads were ruined by tanks and armored vehicles, farmers lost their crops, damage to forests and even houses and farms frequently occurred. Furthermore, a number of areas were repeatedly affected by their proximity to training areas, which led to an increasing resentment of British troops and the fear of a rise of political extremism. Maneuver damage quickly developed into an economic problem with serious social ramifications. On a tour of damaged areas near the Reinsehlen training area in 1951, a British officer met with local German farmers and officials who had been affected. The officer concluded that all the locals “had a full understanding that considerable damage was to be expected and unavoidable and that they accept necessary damage with equanimity.” However, they were “becoming increasingly bitter and resentful” over what appeared to be “unnecessary, avoidable and even wilful damage. […] The Germans met had a genuine fear that extremism in political feeling is being engendered.”43

British fear of providing political extremists in Germany with ammunition over the actions of the BAOR was not unfounded. West German communist groups in particular made good use of the issue of occupation forces. A 1953 British Information Services report highlighted the “increasingly frequent and more scurrilous” attacks on the Allied defense forces by the communist press in Germany. The campaign turned “every small incident involving an Allied soldier, even remotely, into an act of terrorism or drunken brutality”; damage caused by troops on maneuver was “pictured as wanton destruction which was ruining the farmers”; and protests against requisitioning of land “were published almost continuously under bold and provocative headings.” In the run-up to the 1953 German general elections, “the same type of material was repeated ad nauseam in the Communist Press” in order to (p.79)

The GermansComplaints, Criticism, and Demands?

Local inhabitants taking an interest in a British tank on maneuvers in Germany during BAOR exercise “Agility,” 1949.

attract votes for the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). The communists specifically linked the federal government with the Allied troops and demanded, “Out with Adenauer, out with the Occupation troops. Vote KPD.”44 Communist agitators frequently used British plans to create new training areas or enlarge existing ones to claim that “in the interest of war preparation they will first take your land and then your sons shall be driven to the slaughter for the profiteering interests of the war-mongers in this country and abroad. The bombed cities are still lying destroyed, the tears of widows and orphans have not yet been dried, and again the same hands—which are still smeared with the blood of the last war—are grasping at your land, at your houses, at your lives.”45

The communist press in Germany and in Moscow used every opportunity to campaign against the BAOR. In a number of cases this proved hugely damaging to the British military as well as Anglo-German relations. This damage took months of intense efforts from both Bonn and London to undo. Often these incidents were instigated by local communists. An article (p.80) in the weekly national paper Die Zeit traced how one such incident had turned into the number-one news issue for a whole week throughout the entire country. It began with a typically brief British military press note, announcing the enlargement of the Teutoburg Forest training area. The local communist press and the Soviet news agency TASS then jumped at this and fueled speculations with rumors. A local communist newspaper article, headed “Warmongering in Teutoburg Forest Demands First Victims,” called for protest after the alleged eviction of 266 people from the Teutoburg Forest region to make room for maneuver areas. The article repeatedly referred to Allied war preparations and highlighted the danger not only for the water supply but also for the lives of local inhabitants and called for mass protests to preserve the existence of communities as well as peace.46 Local German opinion apparently had been affected by the behavior of a particularly insensitive British army officer who made it very clear he did not like Germans, and by the memory of British tanks in 1945 destroying twenty houses in the village despite there being no German soldiers left and white flags hanging out of the windows.47 The issue was then picked up by the noncommunist press. According to the conservative newspaper Westfalenpost, the potential environmental impact of the decision to extend the British shooting range that had led to the evacuations had been brought to the attention of UNESCO. Environmental concerns now added to the economic problems that had resulted from the affair. The British allegedly had ordered the residents of several villages to evacuate their homes for three days per week when the BAOR planned to practice artillery and machine gun shooting.48 The forested area to be destroyed by British troops was valued at 15 million DM and considered vital for the local tourism and logging industries.49 GDR propaganda now also seized the opportunity to attack the BAOR. Radio Leipzig reported that many inhabitants of the area had protested in the name of the National Front of the Democratic Germany against the destruction and colonization of their home country, or Heimat, and for national and economic independence. It also referred to the rise in number of members of the National Front in North Rhine-Westphalia.50

Despite British attempts to calm the mood and explanations as to the real aims of the extension of the training area, the German press continued to doubt British promises and the plight of the local population received attention even in the nonaffiliated press.51 Only at a later date did the West German press report that the evacuation was designed merely as a safety measure around the actual practice area that had been used since 1945; that only two families, who previously had been informed about this, had to leave their homes for three days per week; and that logging could continue (p.81) on the days when no practice took place.52 As a result of this negative publicity, the decision on the extension was referred back to the British high commissioner, General Robertson, and also became a matter for the federal government.53 The subject dragged on for weeks and ended with a British announcement to reverse the decision to expand the training area.54 On the same day, however, the British announced the requisitioning of a different area in the Sauerland region, which promptly led to renewed uproar in the press.55 This example highlights only one of many cases receiving national attention due to a combination of factors: requisitioning and training exercises exacerbated by a perceived lack of communication by British authorities; alleged actions by British officers; and an at least partly hostile German press. The British military presence threatened to cause resentment not only because of economic grievances but also because German citizens were becoming subject to political agitation by the KPD.

It is evident from this type of propaganda that relations between British troops and the German population really were a potential source of problems for West German integration as well as European defense. Although Adenauer’s Christian Democrats (CDU) comfortably won the 1953 election and the number of communist votes dropped below the 5 percent mark required to enter Parliament, the federal government feared that Germans at large had not yet been convinced by the idea of democracy.56 Therefore, the threat to Anglo-German relations posed by the KPD was taken seriously by both the German and British administrations. The communists had entered the 1949 Federal Parliament with 5.7 percent, and the 1953 election still returned around six hundred thousand communist votes in the FRG. The poor performance of the KPD in 1953 was partly attributable to the brutal crushing of the June 1953 uprising in the GDR by Soviet tanks.57 This decline of the KPD’s popularity was certainly greeted with satisfaction by the British high commissioner Sir Frederick Hoyer-Millar.58 The fear of potential consequences of anti-Western propaganda nonetheless increased over time. Only the banning of the KPD in 1956 finally alleviated the perceived threat posed by the extreme left to the newly established German democracy.

As with requisitioning, maneuver damage caused problems not only for Anglo-German relations but also for the German Land and federal governments. Once the occupation status had given way to that of equal partnership, the demands of the German population grew rapidly. These demands could then be taken up by the press. There was to be no military training and shooting on German public holidays. The damage to trees in requisitioned training areas was to be minimized, and, among other demands, there was to be no low-level flying of aircraft. Warnings by local German officials (p.82)

The GermansComplaints, Criticism, and Demands?

British Centurion tanks with mounted platoons “causing traffic jam” in Haltern, Germany, 1955.

about the political consequences of maneuver damage steadily increased.59 According to the trade minister of Niedersachsen, by 1953 the population’s anger was mainly targeted at the Bonn government, which, considering the looming elections, was a problem. Furthermore, many of the claimants of previous years were still waiting on compensation for maneuver damage.60 The number of disgruntled German voters was potentially growing year by year. Problems for Anglo-German reconciliation also arose from other unexpected problems as the case of fox hunting demonstrates.

Fox Hunting as a Cause of Intercultural Friction

Hunting impressively demonstrated the fragile nature of Anglo-German relations at the local level. It also highlighted the willingness of both the British armed services and the German citizenry to use the issue of “friendship” as a bargaining token. What was intended to promote intercultural communications was instead sometimes a significant hindrance. Tensions arose from the fact that the traditional British way of fox hunting had been outlawed in the Federal Republic, considered as being cruel to animals. After 1949 this ban also applied to Allied troops in Germany. In spite of the Bonn (p.83) government banning the practice, in at least one case a local British unit had different ideas and strongly demanded an exemption from the ban.61 The British desire to use dogs for fox hunting in the town of Wolfenbüttel even led to the British resident officer in the area, a Colonel Day, who was responsible for liaising between troops and German civilians, using his influence with local German politicians. Apparently Day and Captain Lord Blandford of the British Life Guards put considerable pressure on the German official who was responsible for hunting in the town of Wolfenbüttel. A letter by Lord Blandford to the German official used drastic language to highlight the potential damage of the hunting issue for Anglo-German relations in general. Apparently fox hunting was taking place in a large number of European countries, and “the only reason it was outlawed in Germany was due to Hermann Goering’s decision in 1937.”62 It is doubtful, however, that this letter would have swayed the German official’s view in favor of the British request. The British government had informed BAOR units that, in the interest of Anglo-German friendship, hunting was now allowed for troops but only with the permission of the local German owners. In the eyes of some officers, these owners had endangered British-German friendship by their refusal to “leave a few hares, which was really not much to ask.” After all, British officers had spent considerable amounts of time and money to buy and train their dogs and would, “due to this unfriendly and short-sighted action of yours, receive preciously little joy and amusement in return.”63 Lord Blandford stressed that the Germans had to be aware that Anglo-German relations in the area would suffer considerably unless the Germans were willing to compromise.64 This thinly veiled threat, however, was only the beginning of the conflict over fox hunting in Wolfenbüttel.

The German official Herr Lieberkuehn subsequently complained to the Lower Saxony Land government. Apparently British troops had harassed him after he refused to grant the desired exemption for British fox hunting in the area. According to Herr Lieberkuehn, such decisions could be made only in Bonn or Wahnerheide, and local Germans were very upset about the British practice of employing dogs for the chase. To make matters worse, the night after the refusal of an exemption, Herr Lieberkuehn’s house was attacked by “heavy and very heavy” British pyrotechnic devices, and it appeared obvious that this was a response to the refusal.65 The excuse given by the British for launching three “attacks” during that evening was that apparently the soldiers who had launched the flares meant to deliver an ovation to their commanding officer to celebrate “Battle of Hastings Day” and that they had accidentally picked the wrong house!66 The German police report concluded that the fire from the flares that were used easily could have led (p.84) to the entire house burning down and that the home of the commanding officer was located in a completely different part of the town.67 Naturally, the incident, which caused considerable damage to the house as a number of small fires were started, was gratefully taken up by the communist press in the GDR.

This was a remarkable case of the problems incurred by the attempts of individual officers to circumvent British orders from high levels on the ground. The consequences in return had to be dealt with by the minister president of the Land government and the British Land commissioner. The issue was finally resolved with a British apology to Herr Lieberkuehn and the end of fox hunting in the area. The British hunting dogs “were returned to England.”68 It is questionable, however, whether after this incident the local BAOR unit or the German population had much interest in improving Anglo-German relations. Incidentally, a British Information Services report for 1952 highlighted the emergence of “a violent and obviously organised Press campaign in Lower Saxony against hunting by Allied troops.”69

Individual Officers and Social Causes of Anti-BAOR Sentiment

There is further evidence demonstrating the damage done to the British image in Germany by individual officers. At times, apparently insignificant episodes led to enormous problems. It is worth considering some examples here in order to understand the varied nature of German grievances against the BAOR. In September 1952, the senior head of the Lüneburg City Council was denied access to the tennis court of his requisitioned estate by a British officer. Claiming the borders of the requisitioned area were unclear, the German official went on to openly attack the British officer in a public council meeting. The incident led to a formal protest by the city council and naturally attracted the attention of the press. One parliamentarian stated that the Lüneburg public was aghast that seven years after the war a single British officer could still remove the first representative of a large city council from his own private property using military police: “Incidents which may still be possible on the Fiji Islands should belong to the past in Europe.”70 This in return prompted a letter of protest from the British Land commissioner of Lower Saxony and a lengthy argument between German and British officials aiming to establish whether or not the tennis court had in fact been requisitioned. British officers in command in 1945, when the requisitioning took place, had to be consulted, and detailed plans of the property were produced in order to establish the exact boundaries of (p.85) the requisitioned premises. Both the British and German authorities once again had to spend considerable amounts of time and effort to minimize the damage and propaganda value for both left- and right-wing political factions in Germany. Another noteworthy case of this kind occurred in 1952 when an officer purposely drove his tank into the garden of a restaurant in Lower Saxony because he had been refused a drink. Having caused “some thousand pounds worth of damage,” the officer was officially “severely reprimanded”—“unconfirmed reports however had it at the time that he had been subsequently congratulated by his commanding officer for showing ‘initiative.’”71 Similar grounds for complaints were provided by one British major who had to be dealt with by the military police in Hamburg after crashing his car into a German taxi and subsequently kicking the driver in the stomach while “under the influence of drink.”72 This type of incident provided ample ammunition for the German press to ridicule British attempts to use the BAOR to display the values of Western democracy. However, German complaints about British behavior were by no means limited to the actions of individual officers.

Incidents Caused by British Troops

The relations between troops and civilians were frequently overshadowed by minor as well as major incidents created by British troops in Germany. The frequent reports of clashes between soldiers and Germans gave an indication that things did not always progress as smoothly as planned. British resident officers generally produced positive reports about relations between British troops and German civilians, but the monthly newsletters issued by the Public Safety Department of the British High Commission shed a different light on the situation on the ground. For example, the April 1954 Public Safety Report for the Westphalia area alone listed two serious late-night incidents between soldiers and civilians. One German civilian died from his injuries, and one British soldier was stabbed in the back and seriously wounded.73 The same report for July 1954 listed nine cases of malicious damage by British personnel, ten common and four indecent assaults, and one case of rape by servicemen, not to mention seven brawls involving service personnel and four thefts.74 In Hamburg one typical incident occurred in May 1954 when “a soldier grabbed a German woman by the breast and hip and offered her five DM for permission to have sexual relations with her.”75 Local incidents such as these brought frequent complaints, but particularly during the mid-1950s the behavior of British troops in some parts of Germany deteriorated and caused major reasons for concern.

(p.86) Incidents Caused by Canadian Troops

Despite the threat to Anglo-German relations arising from certain British actions, it is noteworthy that Canadian troops were often regarded as far worse than the British, and German authorities recorded widespread complaints about their drunkenness, violence, prostitution, and black market activities.76 One example involved twenty-five Canadian soldiers who had organized the raid and destruction of a bar in the town of Bergen and injured guests because the publican had called a Canadian officer to calm an argument between Germans and Canadians a week before.77 As a result, three Canadian soldiers were sentenced to one and a half years in prison with hard labor. In another incident in December 1951, two Canadian officers were set upon by a group of twenty German youths armed with sticks and chains. Further reports of unprovoked attacks in the town by German youths had led up to the incident in the pub.78

As in Britain, relations between troops and civilians led to comments in the Canadian press. The fact that the Federal Archive in Koblenz holds records of Canadian press reports on relations between troops and Germans demonstrates the considerable level of concern among the German authorities. The Vancouver Sun reported in 1956 that Germans “resented the presence of Canadian troops in their country” and that although there was little open hostility, there was “continual sniping at Canadian soldiers in the German press.” Going further, the article claimed that “the effort at good community relations appears to be all one-sided—on the part of the Canadians.” According to the Sun article, the German attitude toward Canadian soldiers was hardly surprising inasmuch as many Germans who were opposed to rearmament resented their own soldiers, and it was therefore likely that Canadian and German troops would get along much better than Canadian troops and German civilians.79 One Canadian reporter claimed he had not found a single man who did not want to go home as soon as his tour of duty was completed. One frequently heard Canadian reaction was that “the Germans like our money but not us.”80 However, according to the German embassy in Vancouver, the Vancouver Sun itself consistently demonstrated a hostile, subjective, and tendentious attitude toward Germany.81 Clearly it was not only Anglo-German relations that posed a potential threat to the German commitment to Western defense in the British Zone of Occupation. However, the fact that Canadian behavior was rated worse by many Germans arguably worked in favor of the British.

(p.87) German Official Concerns over British and Other Allied Troops

As the above examples demonstrate, the presence of British troops in particular and Allied troops in general was not universally welcomed by the German population. In 1952 a survey by the German political opinion polling company Emnid Institute attempted to gauge how successful the Allied attempt to transform occupation troops into protective forces had been. Only 14 percent of those polled throughout the three Western zones saw the troops as “welcome protection.” Sixty-seven percent regarded them as either unavoidable or even as an unwelcome nuisance. This view was spread equally across all zones.82 Despite these negative attitudes, a poll conducted by the American High Commission revealed that 75 percent of respondents were against a withdrawal of Allied forces from Germany for fear of a Soviet attack. Seventy-four percent thought it unwise to engage with the Soviet suggestion to withdraw all Allied troops from Germany. This constituted an improvement, as at the end of the Berlin blockade in 1949, only 46 percent had declared support for a continuation of the occupation.83 These figures suggest a fairly widespread and increasing German willingness to accept the presence of Allied soldiers for reasons of anticommunist expediency. However, the statistics do not demonstrate a particularly friendly attitude toward the occupation troops.

Despite this, the behavior of the soldiers in Germany was rated better than their role as “welcome protectors.” Forty-one percent of those polled by Emnid thought the behavior was “very good” or “good,” 34 percent answered “average” or “bad.” In fact the British fared the best, with 48 percent “very good” or “good” and only 22 percent “average” or “bad.”84 German sources suggest that the unpopularity of French and American troops was at least partly due to German resentment of the allegedly poor behavior of black American and French Moroccan troops. According to a report by local German officials on relations in the southern German Land of Baden Württemberg, Moroccan troops had committed “countless cases of rape” in 1945.85 French Moroccan soldiers were frequently the subject of complaints to German authorities. The American troops not only demonstrated appalling, “rowdy-like” behavior, but particularly black American soldiers were blamed for continuous sexual assaults of German women.86 Statistics compiled by German authorities in areas occupied by French and American troops revealed a long list of crimes, including several cases of children (both girls and boys) and pregnant women being raped, as well (p.88) as murder and assault, among others.87 Compared to the severity of these cases, the behavior of British troops indeed appeared better, and the issue of racial prejudice was largely nonexistent in the British Zone of Occupation. These statistics reflect the findings of this chapter, as the unpopularity of British troops did not necessarily stem from their behavior but rather from the economic disadvantages, political resentment, and inconvenience caused by their presence.

It is nonetheless surprising that the highly rated British behavior deteriorated in the mid-1950s and gave rise to increasing concern by German federal and Land governments. Particularly after the admission of the FRG as a full member into NATO, German official concerns and attempts to improve relations and minimize crimes committed by soldiers grew. Apparently the behavior of at least some British troops markedly deteriorated, particularly from 1955 to 1957. At the very moment when London and Bonn considered relations between the BAOR and Germans crucial to ensure West German integration into the Western orbit, local incidents in Germany indicated a turn for the worse in several areas. By 1955 the frequent occurrence of incidents as a result of the actions of individual servicemen became a serious concern to the federal government. In particular, serious crimes like theft, rape, and even murder gave constant rise to complaints by the German press.

The growth of British crime did not go unnoticed by the German public and in fact coincided with a decrease in popularity of Allied troops recorded by opinion polls. A poll published in Die Welt in July 1956 on German views on the behavior of Allied troops in the FRG revealed that now only 3 percent of those questioned thought the behavior of Allied troops was “very good.” Thirty-one percent rated it as “good,” 40 percent as “fair,” and 17 percent as “bad,” with 9 percent not having any views on the subject. Further questioning revealed that 45 percent of those polled considered the presence of Allied troops “an unavoidable necessity,” and 38 percent “an undesirable burden.” Despite this decline in popularity, the chancery of the British embassy in Bonn considered the reaction of the public “quite reasonable,” as there was little doubt that the results had been influenced by “recent press publicity given to incidents in which troops were involved.”88 In July 1956 this significant rise in the number of incidents led the Bonn government to send requests for statistics on the numbers of incidents and cases of prosecution to the Land governments. Furthermore, the Federal Ministry of the Interior (Bundesinnenministerium) inquired about the quality and truthfulness of local German press articles. These steps were taken in order to consider whether or not to take diplomatic actions.89

(p.89) As a consequence of the increasing number of press reports on crime committed by Allied soldiers, the NRW interior ministry had already compiled a list of all crimes perpetrated by Allied soldiers during the second half of 1955 and the first half of 1956. The statistics clearly revealed an increase in the number of crimes by British soldiers.90 Particularly incidents involving drunkenness in bars and restaurants showed a rise for the British (from eighteen to twenty-eight). Burglaries rose from thirty-one to forty-eight. According to the interior ministry of NRW, the level of crime had decreased slightly among the Canadians, whereas it had risen significantly among the British. There had been no change in troop numbers among any of the forces. The interior minister demanded that the minister president point out the rise in crime to the British authorities and suggest measures to deal with them, such as an increase in military police, the eviction of criminal elements, and sharper punishment.91 The demand even included a template for a letter of complaint to the British Land liaison officer.

Moreover, German officials raised concerns over perceived damage to Anglo-German relations the BAOR’s behavior was causing in Britain. In September 1956 one observer highlighted the negative publicity the rise in crime had caused abroad. Particularly the Beaverbrook press reporting—which, unsurprisingly, had blamed the rise in crime on a resurgence of German nationalism—was viewed with concern, as it insisted that the best solution to this problem was the complete withdrawal of Allied troops from Germany. In light of such reports, it appeared wiser to deal with the issue informally with the British Land liaison officer rather than file an official complaint.92 Nonetheless, the interior ministry did send an official letter to the Land liaison officer and pointed out that in some garrison towns—mainly Minden, Detmold, and Münster—the number of crimes had risen alarmingly. The letter asked to prevent crimes specifically over the Christmas period, as in January 1957 a large number of civilian properties in these areas was due to be requisitioned by British troops.93 Despite this plea at least one German newspaper reported that over Christmas numerous incidents had occurred in eastern Westphalia, the very area in question.94

Not all Land governments chose to complain formally to the British as in the case of NRW. In fact, the interior minister of Lower Saxony decided against reporting individual cases to the federal government as requested, because he simply did not want to draw further attention to the issue, reasoning that “relations were rather better than those in the American zone.”95 The minister also pointed out that many cases reported in the German press turned out to be false and he was against any diplomatic steps as a result of recent cases.96 Nonetheless, between July 1955 and July 1956, (p.90) 302 British soldiers committed crimes in Lower Saxony, including 2 cases of manslaughter, 17 cases of rape, and 130 cases of theft.97

Despite the attitude of the Lower Saxony interior ministry, the federal government was so concerned about the behavior of Allied troops that a meeting with members of the military police of all three allies was organized at the British headquarters in Lower Saxony in November 1957 to come up with solutions to the most pressing concerns. A federal interior ministry consultant outlined some of the main German apprehensions.98 The problem of relations involving soldiers had long been a concern of the federal government, and German statistics showed that in some areas relations had deteriorated significantly since the spring of 1955. The timing of this deterioration of relations was important, as it occurred at exactly the time the Federal Republic was to be treated as an equal ally against communism. The federal government had begun to collect data in 1955 when reports of incidents increased. The nationality of troops was an important factor, and figures for American troops in Bavaria and Baden Württemberg were “alarmingly high.” Conditions in the northern states with British troops were significantly better despite a number of serious incidents. According to the Germans, the main reasons for misbehavior were the attitude of “being in occupied enemy territory” and the fact that most soldiers were young and unmarried, had too much money, and in some cases wished to import “cowboy manners” from their homeland.99 The interior ministry stressed the view that no army stationed abroad could afford to accept attacks on the civilian population, as this undermined morale and discipline and thus endangered fighting power and capability of the troops. The federal government clearly regarded the issue as a real threat to the defense of Western Europe.

In order to improve relations, the German interior ministry suggested soldiers engage socially with Germans—for example, in sports clubs. This was considered more productive than having sports events with teams from each country, because such competitive interaction potentially proved counterproductive. These measures, however, were considered to be feasible only when they involved “the older, more reasonable, intellectually interested soldiers.” In many cases all efforts with “the young, inexperienced, intellectually close-minded, primitive soldiers” would be doomed to failure.100 In the view of the Germans, this type of soldier often had left home for the first time and was “confronted with problems he then failed to deal with.” Apparently such people naturally tended to spend their free time consuming alcohol and consorting with the local fräuleins. It was felt that these soldiers did not use their time in Germany for their own more ostensibly rational personal development. The ministry advised that if all efforts failed (p.91) to bring this type of soldier into the fold of civilian life, the only thing left was strict disciplinary supervision. Finally, the Germans urged the Allies to be more careful in their selection of troops sent to Germany in the first place and to consider if it was possible “in the interest of good relations to only send soldiers to Germany who could be expected to behave and send those home who did not.”101

Despite the federal government’s concern over the situation in some parts of the country, German crime statistics of 1957 revealed just how favorably the behavior of British troops compared to that of the Americans. Between July 1956 and September 1957, US troops in Bavaria committed 8 murders, 319 cases of grievous bodily harm, 136 robberies, and 207 rapes. The corresponding figures for the British area of Lower Saxony were 0 murders, 27 cases of grievous bodily harm, 9 robberies, and 23 rapes. Corresponding figures for North Rhine-Westphalia, which was also predominantly under British control, were 0 murders, 64 cases of grievous bodily harm, 26 robberies, and 36 rapes. The overall number of offenders in Bavaria during this period was 714, whereas in Lower Saxony this figure was remarkably low, with only 26 British offenders. In North Rhine-Westphalia there had been 195 delinquents during the period in question.102 The collection of data by the federal government continued, and in March 1957 the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs produced a list, compiled by the Länder, of incidents between the Allied forces and the local population for the eighteen months ending December 1956. For Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Hesse, and Rhineland-Palatinate (the areas where French and American troops were stationed), the total number of criminal incidents was 1,051; in contrast to this, North Rhine-Westphalia, Lower Saxony, Hamburg, and Schleswig-Holstein (the British and Belgian area) totaled a mere 137 incidents. The British Foreign Office commented that “even after making allowances for the greater number of the American forces, we had every reason to feel satisfied with the general behaviour of our troops.”103

Although the statistics provided by the German authorities do not indicate an overall rise or fall of crimes committed by the BAOR, they certainly demonstrate the restraint exercised by British troops compared to the other Allies. Overall, the British forces were relatively well-behaved. According to the British embassy, most disturbances were of very recent occurrence and should be seen against the background of the generally acceptable behavior of the British services in Germany.104 Therefore, German official attempts at reconciliation, analyzed in the next section, were not terminally undermined by the articulated disquiet about the excesses of some members of the BAOR.

(p.92) German Efforts at Conciliation

The attitudes of the German civilian population toward British troops varied considerably depending on the geographical location, proximity to the Soviet Zone of Occupation, and whether garrisons were in urban or rural locations. The changing economic and political situation of the FRG also had an impact here; as a result, attitudes in 1957 often differed significantly from those expressed in 1948. Some of the views held during the early period of occupation are outlined in the official history of the 15th/19th The King’s Royal Hussars, who arrived in the northern German city of Lübeck in October 1949. According to this source, the initial attitude of the 250,000 inhabitants was ambivalent at best. In the eyes of the author (who wrote his account in 1981), this “depended mainly on just how much the Germans needed to get on with the military authorities in order to make a living.” This meant that the majority of Germans avoided the British altogether, but, unsurprisingly, those civilians who were employed to work in British garrisons and those who hoped to engage in black market activities were very friendly. The German “shopkeeper would almost literally roll out the red carpet when a soldier or his wife entered the shop,” and “these were still the days when a pretty German girl would somehow manage to swallow her pride when a bar of chocolate or a packet of cigarettes were on offer.”105 The citizens of the Westphalian town of Münster apparently developed “a somewhat stolid, almost off-hand attitude” to the British presence, which some Britons considered to be a result of the traditional Westphalian hostility to any military presence, regardless of nationality. However, “if one is to indulge in generalizations it is probably best to record that the further away from the East German border the less spontaneous Anglo-German relations tend to become and the faults do not all lie on one side.”106

German attitudes recorded by British observers in smaller towns were often more favorable, and there is evidence of German attempts at cooperation and genuine interest in the occupation troops on local levels. The local policeman of the small town of Wesendorf, for instance, defused a potentially embarrassing situation when the military band of the 15th/19th The King’s Royal Hussars gave a concert to entertain the villagers. When the German and British national anthems were played at the end, the spectators “stood firm” to the playing of the German anthem “but began to wander off during ‘God Save the Queen,’ presumably from ignorance rather than bad manners. One loud grunt of disapproval from the policeman and the crowd stopped in its tracks where it remained until dismissed.”107 At times during exercises in the German countryside, troops found they even had to fend off curious (p.93) local Germans visiting from neighboring villages “in the hope of picking up the odd treat such as a bar of chocolate or ‘finding’ some useful spare bits and pieces with which to mend their cars.” Fencing off the entire area to keep out civilians was not considered an option, as “we’re supposed to keep good relationships with the locals.”108

Despite the hostility in parts of the German press and public, there also were large-scale concerted efforts by German authorities and also by non-governmental organizations to improve relations between Allied soldiers and civilians. The Anglo-German Association (Deutsch-Britische Gesellschaft), founded in May 1949 in Düsseldorf, quickly became the most prominent organization fostering understanding between the British and German people. Its privately arranged bilateral Königswinter conferences aimed at planning meetings to “discuss matters of particular substance and moment [sic].”109 Although nongovernmental organizations largely focused on Anglo-German relations in general rather than the BAOR in particular, the annual appeal for “Christmas in peace and freedom—union of hearts” by the Anglo-German Association, which was widely advertised in the German national press, stood out as a prominent example to include service personnel.110 This appeal called for Germans to invite Allied soldiers into their homes for Christmas. In particular, troops who spent their first year in Germany were to be shown a traditional German Christmas. Noteworthy was the nonmilitary character of the appeal, as the invitations were designed as a thank-you to those Allied soldiers who themselves had provided many German children and elderly people with gifts in the past. The invitations by German families were to be sent to local unit commanders and contain special requests based on age, profession, religious affiliation, and language skills of the soldiers.111 To further emphasize the nonmilitary character, the appeal was continuously widened so that by 1954 the program also included foreign students and refugees from the Eastern Bloc. In order to tempt more people to join the appeal, the organizers constantly pointed out the value of the invitations to the Germans, who could improve their language skills and learn about other cultures.

German official efforts also continuously increased on all levels. German politicians made regular appeals to both the German population and British troops to improve relations. For instance, as early as May 1951 the minister president of NRW, Karl Arnold, called for an improvement of relations between the British and the German civilian population when visiting BAOR headquarters at Bad Oeynhausen. He suggested transforming the BAOR from an occupation force to a protection force and asked for the British officials to work toward this aim.112

(p.94) In a similar vein the state-run northern German radio station (Norddeutscher Rundfunk, or NDR) broadcast a program in December 1956 on the relations between the civilian population and Allied troops. This included a two-minute address by the German chancellor Konrad Adenauer, thanking those who worked to create friendly and cordial relations. Adenauer stressed the willingness on both sides—from the grass roots of local people up to federal authorities and Allied headquarters—to foster better relations. He also reminded his German audience of the many benefits they had gained from the presence of Allied troops, ranging from sports grounds built by soldiers to support of children in need to employment opportunities. Furthermore, he stressed the considerable economic benefits presented to the Germans by the presence of the troops.113

Efforts by the various German ministries affected by relations with the British services varied in scope and success. The German Foreign Office compiled a directory for Allied soldiers with suggestions on how to improve relations between themselves and German civilians. This effort came at the height of the debate about misbehavior of Allied troops in November 1956. The means toward this goal was to foster the personal and professional interests of the soldiers stationed in Germany. The directory aimed to provide an overview of cultural and professional bodies in Germany that could be of interest to the soldiers in order to encourage the development of contacts with the local population. Copies were initially sent to the American and French headquarters, but British and Belgian troops were also supplied with them. The compendium was divided into trades, industries, agriculture and forestry, sports, music and arts, technology (engineering), universities, and tourism. Essentially it provided a detailed list of a wide range of trades and leisure activities, ranging from subjects as diverse as agriculture and boxing to dog training.114 When compiling the directory, the German Foreign Office sought advice from all minister presidents asking for additional suggestions to be made by the ministries involved. The trade and transport minister of NRW reported that companies and factories had already offered guided tours for Allied soldiers and their wives, which had been a success.115 The Ministry for Food, Agriculture, and Forestry suggested that a useful addition would be to include youth organizations in Germany, as most young soldiers had expressed the desire to establish contacts with organizations related to those in the home country of the soldier.116

Despite good intentions, the compilation of the directory above all provided an example of a lack of cooperation between the German and British authorities and demonstrated the complexity of such a task in the FRG. The publication of this expensive brochure was significantly delayed due to a (p.95) legal battle with the German printing company, as large numbers had been printed before important amendments had been made, essentially rendering them worthless.117 When it was finally available, it proved less popular with the British than had been anticipated. The reason for this was simple: although the directory demonstrated the willingness of German authorities to improve relations, the British response to the directory, which was essentially a very long list of addresses and phone numbers, was reserved at best, because it was written in German. The German Press and Information Bureau offered three thousand free copies of the directory to the British embassy, but the reply to the “generous offer” stated that, “due to the very particular nature of this guide book,” it was of very limited use to the simple soldier: “If in the future you should again consider producing brochures in English for Allied Service personnel I would be most grateful for an opportunity to see a draft as we or the military authorities surely would be able to make some useful suggestions before the brochure is actually printed.”118

Other promising German initiatives failed to materialize altogether. For instance, a member of the German Lower House (Bundestag) suggested the German-wide establishment of meeting places for Allied soldiers and German youths, based on one successful example in the American Zone of Occupation. The idea was to organize coach tours, dances, movie screenings, and talks, aimed at both Allied soldiers and Germans.119 The plan envisaged three such meeting places in the British zone (as well as eight American and three French) and was in principle approved by all German ministries involved. However, when it came to funding the project, the idea was axed after a lengthy debate. The defense ministry refused to contribute the 300,000 DM necessary for 1957. Because the project involved only German civilians, the defense ministry did not consider itself responsible. The interior ministry refused to pay on similar grounds, as the impact of the project was mainly related to foreign policy. When the foreign ministry disagreed with this assessment, the member of Parliament was duly informed that there were no federal funds available for the project.120 The apparent lack of interest on the part of the federal ministries involved raises the question of how seriously at least some German ministers were taking the issue of relations between Allied soldiers and German civilians.

Despite the varying attitude of German ministries, it was the concern about crimes committed by Allied troops that led the German foreign ministry to establish an inter-allied commission involving the embassies of the FRG and those of the Allies. Its overall aim was to examine incidents between troops and Germans. The German interior minister, defense minister, (p.96) and federal press office were also involved. Depending on the subject of the meetings, commanders of Allied headquarters and local German officials were also in attendance.121 The findings of this group again stressed that in general the British efforts to bring troops and civilians together compared favorably to those of the United States. The statistics of negative incidents also put the British into a positive light. According to the German Foreign Office, the comparatively low number of incidents involving British soldiers stemmed partly from successful British measures such as the establishment of local Anglo-German committees; jointly organized events; the distribution of English books on Germany; and the showing of films about Germany. Further measures included discounted travel in Germany for BAOR soldiers and encouragement to join activities of the Anglo-German Society.122

Despite the aforementioned concerns from Land governments about crime levels among Allied troops, by November 1957 the German foreign ministry decided that the situation had sufficiently improved and postponed a planned meeting of the Allied working party, due to “the lack of specific concerns.”123 It is apparent that despite a temporary rise in crimes committed by British troops between 1955 and 1957, in the view of the German foreign ministry the situation had improved by the end of that year. It was not until the 1960s that the behavior of British troops became the focus of federal concern and the German Foreign Office suggested a renewal of the talks between Germans and the BAOR.124


It is evident that from a German perspective the presence of the BAOR in the Federal Republic increasingly threatened Anglo-German relations precisely because of the improvement of diplomatic relations between Bonn and its new Western partners in the defense against communism. The requisitioning of housing and land that was imposed on German communities in 1945 continued into the late 1950s and attracted increasing hostility from the significant number of civilians affected. Added to this was the regular negative attention troops attracted because of maneuver damage, which was frequently used by the German press to stir up anti-British sentiment and even invited communist propaganda. During election campaigns, the presence of British troops was a potential problem to be exploited. It was used in attempts to damage the reputation of the Christian Democrats under Konrad Adenauer. Even when acting within the boundaries of policies agreed upon between London and Bonn, the BAOR often attracted widespread criticism based on the lack of communication with the German press (p.97) and local German officials. This in particular was harmful to relations and frequently led to lengthy arguments and complex attempts at minimizing damage at the highest levels.

When considering German efforts to improve relations, it is apparent that, compared with French and American troops, the British were regarded as very civilized and willing to facilitate more harmonious relations between servicemen and civilians. Many of the official German efforts—such as the directory for Allied soldiers—were well-intended, yet, through a lack of consultation with the British, severely flawed and often not effective. Whereas many nongovernmental organizations successfully brought British troops and German civilians together, there was a notable reluctance in the German interior and defense ministries to fund initiatives, even when these clearly had been proven to be successful. It is also apparent, however, that, according to the German administration, the rise of incidents caused by British soldiers noted after 1955 had been sufficiently brought under control by 1957. Efforts to use the BAOR as a tool to improve Anglo-German relations were regarded as less urgent in Bonn, as might be expected, considering the view of the British Foreign Office on the matter. However, before analyzing the British administration’s concerns about the impact of the changing relationship between Britain and Germany brought about by federal sovereignty in 1955 and its attempts to change the behavior of the British armed services, it is necessary to consider the position of the services themselves. In order to fully understand the relations between the BAOR and the Germans, the situation in Germany as seen by British troops requires investigation. This allows for an evaluation of the efforts made on all levels by the armed forces themselves to work toward better Anglo-German relations. (p.98)


(1.) [Landesarchiv Niedersachsen], NI, Nds. 100 Acc. 60/55 Nr 1142 27, Die Welt, 6 October 1952.

(2.) TNA, FO 371/93379, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 30 March 1951.

(3.) NRW [Hauptstaatsarchiv, Düsseldorf, Ministerialarchiv], NW 115/174, Ruhr Nachrichten, 16 February 1951.

(4.) TNA, FO 371/85226, Monthly Report of Land Commissioner North Rhine-Westphalia Bishop to High Commissioner, December 1949, 2.

(5.) TNA, FO 1013/2439, Letter Deputy Land Commissioner W. J. Bate to Land Commissioner on “Military Accommodation Programme and Allied/German Relations Generally,” 19 March 1952.

(p.174) (6.) NRW, NW 115/174.

(7.) See, for example, Jeffry Diefendorf, In the Wake of War: The Reconstruction of German Cities after World War Two (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993).

(8.) TNA, AIR (Air Ministry) 48/223, 129, cited in Patricia Meehan, A Strange Enemy People: Germans under the British, 1945–1950 (London: Owen, 2001), 35.

(9.) According to one German newspaper report, all in all “the Allies had under requisitioning over 16,000 houses, 11,000 plots of land, and 679 barracks, over 13,000 flats, over 8,000 single rooms, 1,200 hotels, and 600 restaurants”; NRW, NW 115/174, Kölnische Rundschau, 16 July 1951.

(11.) The Allies had returned 14,000 houses, 13,000 flats, 1,600 hotels and restaurants, and 3,900 office buildings by 1951. NRW, NW 115/174, Stuttgarter Nachrichten, 18 August 1951.

(12.) See, for example, Meehan, Strange Enemy People, and Volker Koop, Besetzt. Britische Besatzungspolitik in Deutschland (Berlin: Be.bra, 2007).

(14.) Ibid., 99.

(15.) Commander-in-Chief and Military Governor, Air Marshal Sir Sholto Douglas, quoted in Meehan, Strange Enemy People, 137.

(17.) TNA, FO 1013/2451, British Resident Düsseldorf Report, 30 September 1954.

(18.) Jeremy Bastin, The History of the 15 th/19th The King’s Royal Hussars, 1945–1980 (Chichester: Keats House, 1981), 52.

(19.) TNA, CAB 129/82, C. P. (56) 157, on “Forces Conditions of Service in Germany: Memorandum by the Chancellor of the Exchequer,” 27 June 1956.

(20.) TNA, CAB 129/82, C .P. (56) 155, “Forces’ Conditions of Service in Germany: Memorandum by the Secretary of State for War,” 25 June 1956.

(21.) TNA, FO 1013/2451, British Resident Düsseldorf Report, 30 September 1954.

(22.) NRW, NW 115/174, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 3 January 1951.

(23.) NRW, NW 115/174, Rheinische Post, 3 January 1951.

(24.) One example in North Rhine-Westphalia was the Notgemeinschaft der Besatzungsbetroffenen (Hardship Association of Those Affected by Occupation), expanded in 1951 to Schutzverband der Besatzungsbetroffenen Düsseldorf und Umgebung (Association for the Protection of Those Affected by Occupation in Düsseldorf and Surrounding Areas), NRW, NW 115/174.

(25.) NRW, NW 115/174, Rheinische Post, 11 January 1951.

(27.) NRW, NW 115/174, Head of Press Office (Chef der Pressestelle), 9 February 1952.

(28.) NRW, NW 115/175, Die Welt, 22 April 1953.

(29.) NRW, NW 115/175, Freie Presse, 27 April 1953.

(30.) NRW, NW 115/175, Chef der Pressestelle, 31 January 1952.

(31.) NRW, NW 115/175, Ruhr Nachrichten, 29 May 1953.

(32.) NRW, NW 115/175, Chef der Pressestelle, 26 May 1952.

(p.175) (33.) David Kynaston, Austerity Britain, (London: Bloomsbury, 2007), 122–23.

(34.) NRW, NW 115/175, Westfalenpost, 12 November 1955.

(35.) NRW, NW 115/175, Abendpost, 10 January 1956.

(36.) NRW, NW 115/174, Freie Presse, 27 January 1951.

(37.) Stadtarchiv Bad Oeynhausen, B II 18, cited in “Lübbecke und die Britische Kontrollkommission 1945,” Lübbecke Kompakt, http://www.luebbecke.de.

(38.) NRW, NW 115/174, Freie Presse, 27 January 1951.

(39.) Lance Corporal Gordon Cox, RAMC Bielefeld, cited in Roy Bainton, The Long Patrol: The British in Germany since 1945 (Edinburgh: Mainstream, 2003), 61.

(40.) TNA, FO 1013/2439, Letter Deputy Land Commissioner W. J. Bate to Land Commissioner on “Military Accommodation Programme and Allied/German Relations Generally,” 19 March 1952.

(41.) NRW, NW 115/174, Rheinische Post, 2 July 1951.

(42.) NRW, NW 115/175, Der Nordwestspiegel, 3 June 1954, 3.

(43.) TNA, FO 1010/171, Report on Damage Caused by Training in the Reinsehlen Training Area, 1951.

(44.) TNA, FO 953/1424, Information Services Quarterly Report, 30 July 1953.

(45.) TNA, FO 1013/1978, Translated copy of KPD pamphlet, Siegen, 1951 (emphasis added to translation in red pencil presumably by British officer).

(46.) NRW, NW 115/173, Volksecho, 18 March 1950.

(47.) NRW, NW 115/173, Die Zeit, 30 March 1950.

(48.) NRW, NW 115/173, Westfalenpost, 20 March 1950.

(49.) NRW, NW 115/173, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 26 March 1950.

(50.) NRW, NW 115/173, Radio Sender Leipzig, 28 March 1950.

(51.) NRW, NW 115/173, Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, 30 March 1950.

(52.) NRW, NW 115/173, Radio NWDR, 27 March 1950, NW 115/173, Westdeutsches Tageblatt, 28 March 1950.

(53.) NRW, NW 115/173, Westfälische Nachrichten, 5 April 1950.

(54.) NRW, NW 115/173, Der Mittag, 9 May 1950.

(55.) NRW, NW 115/173, Rheinische Post, 10 May 1950.

(56.) Alistair Horne, Back into Power: A Report on the New Germany (London: Parrish, 1955), 194–95.

(57.) Ibid., 191.

(58.) TNA, FO 371/109264, “Annual Political Report for 1953,” Hoyer-Millar to Eden, 15 March 1954, 2.

(60.) NI, Nds. 50 Acc. 96/88 Nr 167/3 Wirtschaftsminister Seebohm to Minister-präsident Kopf, 30 June 1953.

(61.) NI, Nds. 50, Nr 248 Teil 2, 254, Wolfenbütteler Zeitung, 7 November 1952.

(62.) NI, Nds. 50 Nr 248 Teil 2, 253, Letter from Lord Blandford, 8 November 1952.

(p.176) (65.) NI, Nds. 50 Nr 248 Teil 2, 248, Letter from Mr. Lieberkuehn to Niedersachsen, Minister for Food, Agriculture, and Forestry, 11 November 1952.

(66.) Ibid., 250.

(67.) NI, Nds. 50 Nr 248 Teil 2, 257, Bericht Nr 104.

(68.) NI, Nds. 50 Nr 248 Teil 2, 265, Vermerk, 17 January 1953.

(69.) TNA, FO 953/1423, Information Services Quarterly Report, December 1952.

(70.) NI, Nds. 50 Acc. 96/88 Nr 163/3, Lüneburger Landeszeitung, 25 September 1952.

(72.) TNA, FO 1013/2075, Hamburg Public Safety Report, Public Safety Branch, Land Commissioner’s Office, 28 June 1954.

(73.) TNA, FO 1013/2075, Public Safety Reports, Special Police Corps Monthly Letter, April 1954.

(76.) NI, Nds. 100, Acc. 60/55, Nr 1142, 2, Letter from Dora Dittmann to Canadian Camp Commander Hannover, 10 September 1952.

(77.) Ibid., 58.

(78.) Ibid., 60.

(79.) Bundesarchiv, Koblenz (hereafter, BK), 145/610, Vancouver Sun, 12 October 1956, “Germans Snipe at Canadian Troops: ‘Go home, Canucks’ Is Attitude Overseas Soldiers Run up Against.”

(81.) BK, B145/610, Bericht Nr 191/56 Konsulat der Bundesrepublik, Vancouver.

(82.) NRW, NW 115/175, Rheinische Post, 08 April 1952.

(83.) NRW, NW 115/173, Düsseldorfer Nachrichten, 7 June 1950.

(84.) NRW, NW 115/175, Rheinische Post, 08 April 1952.

(85.) Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amts, Berlin (hereafter, AA), B86/937, 507/81/38/2, Deutscher Städtetag an Auswärtiges Amt, Stimmungsbericht des Städteverbands Baden Württemberg, Dr. Krebsbach, 9 January 1960, 4.

(86.) AA, B86/937, 507/81/20/6, 211-81-24-1-2360/56, Aufzeichnung vom 6 Juli 1956, Graf von Baudini an Bundesminister des Innern, der Verteidigung und der Justiz.

(87.) AA, B86/937 MB 1531/56, List of crimes compiled by Minister President of Baden Württemberg, 18 July 1956.

(88.) TNA, FO 371/124625, Letter from Chancery British Embassy Bonn to Western Department Foreign Office, 31 July 1956.

(89.) NI, Nds. 100 Acc. 2000/034 Nr 8, 9.

(90.) Sexual offenses by British soldiers rose from fifteen to eighteen; those committed by Belgians rose from two to three; and those by Canadians decreased from six to one. Violent crimes committed by British soldiers rose from forty-six to sixty; those committed by Canadians decreased from eighteen to thirteen; and those by Belgians rose from eleven to twelve. NRW, NW 179/1336, 1.

(91.) NRW, NW 179/1336, 1–3, Letter from Interior Minister to Minister President NRW, 5 September 1956.

(p.177) (92.) NRW, NW 179/1336, 7, Letter from Ministerialrat Dr. Kordt, 29 September 1956.

(93.) NRW, NW 179/1336, 51, Letter from Herr Biernat to Mr. Plaice, 17 December 1956.

(94.) NRW, NW 179/1336, 49, Rheinische Post, 29 December 1956.

(95.) NRW, NW 179/1336, 11, Letter from Ministerialrat Dr. Kordt, 29 September 1956.

(96.) Ibid.

(97.) NRW, NW 179/1336, 49, Rheinische Post, 29 December 1956.

(98.) NI, Nds. 100 Acc. 2000/034 Nr 8, 122–30.

(99.) Ibid., 130.

(100.) Ibid.

(101.) Ibid.

(102.) Ibid., 152.

(103.) TNA, FO 371/130776, WG1195/16 Minute from British Embassy, Bonn, to FO, London, 12 August 1957.

(106.) Ibid., 100.

(107.) Ibid., 60.

(108.) David Finlay Clark, Stand by Your Beds! A Wry Look at National Service (Glasgow: Dunfermline, 2006), 168.

(109.) Sir Robert Birley, Educational Advisor to the British Military Government, cited in Peter Alter, “Building Bridges: The Framework of Anglo-German Cultural Relations after 1945.” In Britain and Germany in Europe,” ed. Jeremy Noakes, Peter Wende, and Jonathan Wright (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 341.

(110.) See, for example, Neue Zeitung, 27 November 1951, cited in BK, B145/610/250-2-2, Einladung von Angehörigen der Besatzungsmacht durch deutsche Familien zu Weihnachten, 1951–1956.

(112.) NRW, NW 115/174, Rheinische Post, 26 May 1951.

(114.) NRW, NW 179/685, “Wegweiser für alliierte Soldaten in Deutschland,” November 1956.

(115.) NRW, NW 179/685, 33, Letter from Minister for Economics and Transport to Minister President of North Rhine-Westphalia, 22 January 1957.

(116.) NRW, NW 179/685, 36, Letter dated 8 February 1957.

(117.) BK, B145/60, 250-4.

(118.) BK, B145/60, 250-4, Letter from J. M. Fisher, British Embassy, Bonn, to Hanns Küffner, Presse-und Informationsamt der Bundesregierung, Bonn, 16 May 1958 (my emphasis).

(119.) BK, B136/5528, 4-24109-2175/57, “Begegnungsstätten der Soldaten der alliierten Einsatzkräfte mit der deutschen Bevölkerung und deutschen Soldaten,” 21 March 1957.

(121.) BK, B145/610, 250-2.

(122.) BK, B145/610, 211-81-24-03/3620/56, “Aufzeichnung über die Besprechung am 28 September 1956 im Auswärtigen Amt über Übergriffe von amerikanischen Soldaten gegenüber der deutschen Zivilbevölkerung.” See also BK, B250/80 D10216/56 “Beziehungen zwischen der deutschen Bevölkerung und Angehörigen der Stationierungsstreitkräfte,” 29 September 1956.

(123.) BK, B145/610, 250-1-III, “Rundbrief betr. Arbeitskreis zur Verbesserung der Beziehungen zwischen der deutschen Bevölkerung und Angehörigen der Stationierungsstreitkräfte; Verschiebung einer geplanten Sitzung im November 1957.”