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Potsdam A Symbol: Thoughts On The Occupation


UARLY in World War No. 1, Lord *"* Curzon, who had been Viceroy of India, said he hoped that one day the Bengal Lancers would ride down the Unter den Linden. He infuriated the Germans, all the more so because this demonstration of their rlefeat was imagined in terms of native troops. We have long since come to realise that it would have been better for the world if at the end of the last war Bengal Lancers, or any other Allied units you iike. had marched through Berlin'.

To-day the capital is occupied by the Allies; just before this was written, the Western armies marched in. The occupation is a tremendous proof of triumph, and if we had not been bewildered and stunned by the terrific pressure and variety of events we should find it easier to consider this state of affairs in some of its many aspects.

The British Contingent

I want to say something to-day about two parts of Greater Berlin that have been in the news. One of them, Potsdam, where the "Big Three" will meet, will be very much more in the news shortly. But first of all let me write a sentimental note on the British occupation. It must have been a difficult job to decide which units would be represented. So many • deserved the honour. Every soldier in the force will be a marked man for the rest of his life—'a Berlin man," just as we talk of "a Mons man" or "a Dunkirk man." We. may be. sure, however, that many British Tommies will take it all as a matter of course. Garrison dutv in Berlin will be iust a job, like duty in any other place from Coppnhasren to Mandalay. Wb*m the British-Indian Army .cot to Lhasa in 190-1— first. British soldiers to ent«r the Forbidden City —and found that the sacred Dalai Lama hnd fi<?d, one Tommy said: "The old bloke's done a bunk." His son or srramlson will just a.« imperturbnbly British in Berlin.

When the of the British fnrre for Berlin was first announced I was disanpolnted that there was no representation of the English eountv . regiments. There were the Guards. Well. th« Guards are the Guards, as formidable in battle as they are impeccable in drill, but thev are a show piece—an elite corps. The bulk of the .Army's fighting has always been done by, the "homely" Entrlish eountv reciments. Don't forget that out of 64 infantry regiments. exH"djn£r the Guards, who are largely recruited from Englishmen. 49 are English. These T>nnty regiments may not catch and hold the eye as well as certain other units, but their record is magnificent, I was glad, therefore, to find that two units of the county Army are included in the Berlin force of occupation—the Devons and the Queen's; that is. the Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surrey). I don't know what their regimental marches are. I do know (and you may think this odd) that if I were in Berlin and could choose a tune for the marching British, this would not be "The British Grenadiers." which is. frankly, martial and self-laudatory, but "John Peel," which breathes the spirit of the English countryside. "John Peel" is the march of the Border Regiment. The Heart of the System Berlin is the military heart of Germany, and Potsdam is the military heart of Berlin. Potsdam became a symbol of German' militarists. The very name, which sounds stiff and humorless, called up pictures of jack-boots and gooseitepping and all the arrogance of the German Army machine. Forty years ago, when the Kaiser sent his telegram of congratulation to Paul Kruger, President of the Transvaal, after the Jameson Raid, Owen Seaman addresjed William in ".Punch": Xor were you meant to solve the nation's knots, Or be the Earth's protector, willy-nilly: You only make yourself and royal Pots —dam silly. Potsdam was a place of Royal residence as well as central Berlin. The Kaiser's sons received their military education there. It was at Potsdam that Frederick the Great's father drilled his regiment of giants. There Frederick the Great lived between wars—"O to be in Sans Souci!" he sighed in hi.s tent—and there he entertained Voltaire. In 1804 Queen Louise of Prussia Irought her husband and the Emperors of Austria and Russia to the vault where Frederick lay and got them to swear over his coffin lhat they would stand by each other against Napoleon. A year later Napoleon occupied Potsdam and the story goes that he tapped on Frederick , ? coffin and said: "Hallo, old warrior, if you were living today I would not be here." General Eisenhower might say: "If you were living to-day I might not nave got here so soon." Frederick's body was found a few weeks ago in South Germany and no doubt if it has not already been restored to the vault in Potsdam it will be -some day. Education and Power Another part of Greater Berlin, less well known, is also symbolical of German power and preparations to conquer the world. This is Charlottenburg, which is, or was, the home of the greatest institution for technical education in Germany. Writing over 40 years ago on "Educational Foundations of Trade and Industry," an English authority warned his countrymen that Germany had devoted her greatest energies in the field of education to the development of technical education of university -grade. There was nothing in Britain to compare with the Charlottenburg Technical High School, which was only one of several such institutions, and its progress, said this writer; "must indeed strike disr;ay into those who fear for the industry of England." About that time there were 325 professors and lecturers at Charlottenburg and 55 private tutors and in order to get into the school a German was required to have had nine years' secondary education and to show that he had profited by it. This writer calculated that England was nearly 50 years behind Germany in provision for higher technical edur cation. ...

This German policy greatly helped to expand German industry and trade before the first' world war. Indeed, It was said that England had more to fear from Charlottenburg than from German arms. We know now that Charlottenburg and Potsdam were linked in German aims. In peace German industry was geared for war to a greater extent than in any other country. One rea son why .it was so hard to withstand Germany in the last war and in this was the size, thorough organisation, variety and high quality of her industry. Much of this success can be traced back to Charlottenburg. so Charlottenburg. like PoUsdain, wil" have to be watched.

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Potsdam A Symbol: Thoughts On The Occupation, Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 166, 16 July 1945

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Potsdam A Symbol: Thoughts On The Occupation Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 166, 16 July 1945

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