HC Deb 24 June 1953 vol 516 cc1905-9
Mr. F. Maclean

asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to the use of armed force by the Soviet-occupying authorities against the civilian population in Eastern Germany: and what action he has taken in the matter.

Mr. Bellenger

asked the Prime Minister what information he has regarding the recent outbreak of rioting in Eastern Berlin; and how many British subjects have been involved.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

I have been asked to reply.

According to my information, the events in Berlin last week were preceded by strikes and demonstrations at many points in the Eastern Zone of Germany against the repressive Communist régime. In Berlin itself a spontaneous protest strike on 16th June developed on the following day into a widespread demonstration against the East German Administration.

When late on 17th June the authority of the East German Administration had broken down completely, the Soviet occupation authorities moved three divisions of troops into East Berlin, imposed martial law and took firm measures to restore order. Although the Russians appear to have behaved so far with restraint, a number of East Berlin citizens have been killed and wounded. In addition a West Berlin citizen has been summarily executed, and at least seven people died in the Western sectors after being carried in from the Eastern sector, and over 100 wounded are now in the Western sectors.

All communications between East and West Berlin were severed with serious results upon the life and economy of the city. In fulfilment of their duty to protect the interests of the population, a firm protest was made by the three Allied commandants to the Soviet representative in Berlin on the evening of 18th June.

Since the weekend, the situation in East Berlin appears to be gradually returning to normal. The Soviet and Allied authorities in Berlin are now in touch regarding the early resumption of communi- cations. The picture of events in the Eastern zone as a whole is not yet clear. So far as we are aware, no British subjects have been involved.

Contrary to Soviet allegations, these demonstrations were neither provoked by, nor directed from, the West. In expressing sympathy for those who have suffered and admiration for their courage, Her Majesty's Government must equally counsel prudence and restraint so that further bloodshed and suffering may be avoided.

The Prime Minister has received a personal message from the German Federal Chancellor appealing to Her Majesty's Government to do all in their power to realise the unity and freedom of the German nation. He intends to inform Dr. Adenauer in reply that Her Majesty's Government are in full accord with the spirit of this message. We have frequently made clear that our aim is a Germany reunited in freedom. We believe that the only way to achieve this is on the basis of the practical proposals contained in the note of the three Western Powers to the Soviet Government of September last year, but to which no reply has yet been given. The resolution passed in the Bundestag on 10th June shows that this is the policy of the German Government Coalition and also of the Social Democratic opposition.

Meanwhile I repeat that Her Majesty's Government are resolved to adhere most faithfully in the spirit as well as in the letter to their commitments to Western Germany, and that Western Germany will in no way be sacrificed or cease to be master of its own fortunes within the agreements we and other N.A.T.O. countries have made with her.

Mr. Maclean

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the action of the British authorities in Western Berlin in flying their flag at half-mast as a tribute to the victims of this barbarous massacre will command widespread approval in all quarters of this House and in the country as a whole?

Mr. Bellenger

Although the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said that the Soviet authorities have shown considerable restraint, is not it a fact that several courts-martial have taken place under their auspices and that German citizens have been shot accordingly? Does he call that the sort of restraint we should exercise in our zone?

Mr. Lloyd

After the complete breakdown of the East German Government martial law was declared. Three divisions—I think three mechanised divisions—moved in to take over law and order——

Mr. Bellenger

Against helpless people.

Mr. Lloyd

—and in the circumstances I think there was a considerable amount of restraint.

Mr. S. O. Davies

Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman had access to reports of the trials now taking place in East Germany, where confessions on oath made in public hearing—[Laughter]—I will repeat that, with your permission, Mr. Speaker; where confessions have been made in public hearing that Nazis and agents provocateurs from the West Zone of Berlin have been bribed and had promises made to them of monetary reward if they were to join in and help to create disturbances in the Eastern Zone—confessions made in public hearing in East Berlin? Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman had a report of that?

Mr. Lloyd

I am aware of the report of the interrogation of one man which led to such statements being made, but one would want to know much more about the interrogation and how it was conducted.

Mr. Wyatt

Is the Minister really trying to condone the action of the Soviet authorities in, for example, taking out Willi Goettling, an ordinary German worker who knew nothing about politics whatever, and shooting him without a trial?

Mr. Lloyd

I am certainly not trying to condone any such thing.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

While the Soviet authorities will no doubt note the unequivocal statement of my right hon. and learned Friend that in no way were these activities in East Berlin inspired or promoted by any Western agents, may I ask if my right hon. and learned Friend would consider the possibility, the advisability, in view of the likelihood that ultimately there will be a Four-Power conference, of making special representations upon this subject in Moscow through Her Majesty's Ambassador?

Mr. Lloyd

I should like time to think about the question of my noble Friend.

Mr. Blyton

Is the Minister aware that trade unionists in this country view with horror the punishment meted out to the demonstrators against intolerable economic conditions? Is he further aware that the Russian attitude to this peaceful demonstration which resulted in this tragedy is against the Charter of Human Rights of the United Nations?