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Volume 439: debated on Monday 30 June 1947

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Property Transfers


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what progress has been made in returning to the German trade unions the property stolen from them in 1933.

A Control Council Directive of 29th April, 1947, provides that approved trade unions may request the transfer of real property belonging to similar unions before 1933. Instructions for implementing the directive are now being worked out; meanwhile, the trade unions have, in as many cases as possible, been granted the use of former trade union property.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any instructions have yet been given to the German legal authorities to ensure that transfers of property between Germans made under racial laws between 1933 and 1945 shall not be recognised as legal.

No such instructions have been given, but property of which persons have been deprived under duress is protected in the British Zone by Military Government Law 52, which proscribes any transaction in such property without the sanction of Military Government.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that many forced sales-of property of this type were made under apparently legal cover?

Can my hon. Friend assure the House that in the considerations about the draft treaty with Germany consideration is being given to embodying Clauses with regard to this matter on the same lines as those contained in the treaties recently signed and ratified?

Usa Employee (Trial)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that Kurt Berger, a stateless Jew of German origin, normally resident in the United Kingdom and employed by the U.S. authorities in Germany, was tried by a German court in the British zone of Germany and imprisoned while wearing U.S. uniform; and whether these proceedings were in accordance with the policy of his Department.

The papers which my hon. Friend left with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster have been sent to Germany for investigation and report. I will let him have a reply as soon as the report is received.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that the charge on which this man was arraigned before a German court was that of striking a Nazi who had been responsible for sending his parents to a concentration camp?

I do not think I could comment on this case until we have had the report.

Control Commission Officers (Charges)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the five German Control Commission officials charged before the Control Commission High Court at Minden on 13th June for the illegal acquisition of cutlery and silver and for the illegal export of goods, including sapphires and brilliants, are still in the employ of the Control Commission.

In all, seven British officers were charged before the Control Commission High Court at Minden on nth June with varying offences, only one being charged with illegal export of goods. All seven officers were suspended from duty before the trial. Two were acquitted on all charges and have been re-instated. Two were found guilty and fined 10s. They also have been reinstated. I understand that one of these officers has appealed against the fine. The remaining three officers are still before the court on other charges and continue under suspension.

Even though some of these men were found not guilty under the law in Germany, does not my hon. Friend believe that the conduct in respect of which these men were charged is precisely the kind of conduct which has brought discredit upon the Control Commission in Germany, and will he, there- fore, not look again into the question of their continued employment?

No, Sir. The character of these officers was vindicated at the trial, and I do not think that that is called for.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that one of the officers, who was himself acquitted, was the head of the section in which the other people who were found guilty were operating, and will he say whether he associates himself with the statement of the court concerned that the illegal acquisition of cutlery and silver in Germany is no more serious than exceeding the speed limit?

On the second part, there is a further Question on the Order Paper, and I have nothing to say on that. On the first part, I am being invited to comment on the work of the court, and, obviously, I shall not do that.

Does the hon. Gentleman think that officials who have been found guilty, although fined only 10s., should still be members of this Commission?

I have already answered that point when I said that the fine of 10s. indicates that these offences were not sufficient, in view of the vindication of the character of these officials by the judge, to call for that action.

In view of the remark which the judge made at that trial, does my hon. Friend really think—

The hon. Member must not anticipate a Question which he himself has put down on the Order Paper.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the remark of the judge of the Control Commission, High Court, in fining the Deputy Controller of the Light Metal Production branch 10s. for the illegal acquisition of silver, to the effect that the offence was no worse than breaking the speed limit; and what action he proposes to take.

I presume that my hon. Friend is referring to the fine imposed on the Director of the Non-Ferrous Section. This case is going to Appeal, and it would be undesirable to comment on any aspect of the case which is still sub judice.

Does my hon. Friend really consider that a remark of this kind is calculated to encourage those members of the Commission who are trying to do a job of work conscientiously? Does he not think it is absolutely fantastic that a person guilty of the behaviour—even though not illegal behaviour—outlined in the report should be permitted to remain in the employment of the Control Commission?

I do not think I can go beyond what I have said, that I prefer not to comment on this matter while it is sub judice.

Food Queues


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that, as a result of the fact that inhabitants in the British zone of Germany do not have to register with specific shops for the supply of groceries and foods generally, Germans are suffering needlessly from the fruitless hours spent in queuing, and from the day-to-day uncertainly regarding the source and availability of the next day's food; and whether he will now take steps to remedy this state of affairs.

This matter has been carefully considered on more than one occasion. The German administration recently studied the possibility of introducing consumer registration, and reached the conclusion, with which both the British and American authorities agree, that it is not practicable at present. Stocks of food are insufficient to provide each shop with an adequate stock; and this is essential if a registration scheme is to operate successfully.

Interned German Officers


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many German army, navy and air force officers interned in military camps in Germany have not been brought to trial; how many have been moved to civilian internment centres and for what reason; and whether he is aware of the growing feeling of responsible British people in Germany that the retention of large numbers of German servicemen as ardent militarists, nationalists and National Socialists more than two years after the end of the war requires immediate justification.

Such officers are not normally brought to trial. Their cases are examined by Special Boards, who determine whether they should be released or retained in internment on security grounds. There are 213 officers in military camps, all but eight of whom have been, or are in the procees of being, examined. One hundred and sixty-two officers have already been moved to civil internment camps for continued detention on the ground that they are a potential danger to our occupation. The answer to the last part of the Question is, "No. Sir."

Industry And Land (Policy)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that the decision of the British Government to nationalise industry and to conduct land reform in the British zone of Germany is meeting increasingly strenuous opposition from Germans; and if he will explain more fully the grounds on which these decisions have been taken by His Majesty's Government.

No, Sir. There is no opposition in principle to either measure, both of which are in accordance with the programmes of all major political parties in the British zone. Any opposition is therefore concerned only with the details. My right hon. Friend has already explained the grounds on which the decision to transfer German heavy industries to public ownership and control has been taken, notably in his statement to this House on 22nd October last year. As to land reform, I would remind the hon. and gallant Member of the decision taken at the Moscow Conference of Foreign Ministers that the Control Council should ensure the carrying out and completion of land reform in all zones of Germany by the end of 1947.

Can the hon. Gentleman tell the House what he could not tell us last week—what is the attitude of the United States on the question of industrial nationalisation and land reform?

School, Dusseldorf


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, how many adults and how many children of school age are housed at present in the Munster Strasse Bunher, Dusseldorf.

One hundred and ninety adults and 90 children under 14 years of age are housed in this bunker.

Can the Minister say at what rate these people are being rehoused, and for how long are they likely to remain without proper dwellings?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many children attend the school situated in the Munster Strasse Bunher, Dusseldorf, each day; how many teachers are employed; and when the repairs to the school they would normally attend will be completed.

Eight hundred and forty-two children attend this school; of these 164 receive the equivalent of full-time instruction, and 678 part-time. Sixteen teachers are employed. The German authorities are responsible for the allocation of the very limited materials available for the repair of buildings. They hope that repairs to the normal school building will be completed by November.

Would the Minister say how many school sessions and how many groups of children are involved?