- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 13 Jan 1949, p. 155-172
- Fleming, Donald, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference. Some comments on the Conference, and on an interesting speech made by one of the delegates from Pakistan. Important changes occurring in the Commonwealth in recent months. Recovery in Europe. The tide of Communism in Western Europe receding. The subject of Western Union and the Atlantic Pact. A Scandinavian Agreement of mutual defence. The situation in Greece. The Greek people fighting against a Communist invasion. Aid to Greece from Canada. Paying tribute to the work being done in Greece by the Canadian Ambassador, General LaFleche. Comments on the way in which this war in Greece is being carried on by the aggressors. Source of weapons and ammunition of the aggressors. Appeals being made for assistance in the form of night fighters to the Western nations. Tactics of the Communist guerillas. Reports of Communist atrocities. Conditions under which Greek refugees are living. Starvation and disease. The heroic fight that the Greek people are making against overwhelming odds. The obligation of Western Democracies to do all we can materially to aid Greece. Consequences of Greece falling behind the Iron Curtain. The presence of British troops in Greece saving them from being communized. Berlin. The four sectors of Berlin and the anomalies of arbitrary division. Berlin as a city of ruin. A description of that ruin. Shortage of goods. Currency problems. The success of the Airlift. Food rations. Fuel. A development shortage of raw materials which has curtailed industrial operations in many factories in Berlin. Unemployment. The costs of the Airlift. The Airlift reflecting the determination on the part of Britain and the United States to stand up to the Russians and the effect of that on the morale of the Germans. The need for the Airlift to continue, and why it is so important. The speaker's belief that there will be no war at present. The need for the Canadians, Americans and British to prevent war by strengthening ourselves militarily and economically.
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- 13 Jan 1949
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- Full Text
- WHERE THE IRON CURTAIN FALLS
AN ADDRESS BY DONALD FLEMING, K.C., M.P.
Chairman: The President, Mr. Thos. H, Howse
Thursday, January 13th, 1949
HONOURED GUESTS AND GENTLEMEN
I am sure all right thinking people would agree that the future welfare and prosperity of Canada is dependent on a peaceful settlement of the complex political drama which is being enacted in Europe today,
The political leaders who form the cast in this drama are all skating on very thin ice with the final outcome possibly even more uncertain now than it was a year ago,
We therefore look forward with intense interest to an address from a keen observer who has recently returned from an extended trip in Europe,
Our guest speaker, Mr. Donald M, Fleming, K.C., M.P., was one of the Canadian Delegates to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in London and after an extended tour of the British Isles spent many weeks on the Continent.
While in England, Mr. Fleming was presented to Their Majesties, the King and Queen and met leading members of the British Cabinet and of course the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth.
He was also presented to the King and Queen of Greece and met the Prime Minister and members of the Greek Cabinet.
While in Scandinavia, Germany, Italy and several other countries he met most of the leading figures in public life, too numerous for me to mention.
Mr. Fleming had a brilliant scholastic career which culminated in him being called to the Bar in 1928. Since then he has devoted much time to public service. In 1938 he served as a member of the Toronto Board of Education and for the next 6 years was Alderman for Ward 9, during which time he was Chairman of many committees and gave generously of his talents in the interests of Public Welfare.
In 1945 he was elected to Parliament for Toronto-Eglinton, where his natural brilliance and sincerity resulted in him being a candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party at the National Convention in October last. It now affords me very great pleasure to introduce another member of The Empire Club of whom we are very proud, Mr. Donald M. Fleming, K.C., M.P., who has chosen as his subject"WHERE THE IRON CURTAIN FALLS".
Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen: I count myself honoured indeed by the invitation received from our President to address my Fellow Members of The Empire Club.
I cannot forget that I am speaking before a Toronto group and therefore I must report to you on two compliments that I think were very high compliments indeed, extended to our city,
Your President has referred to the fact that I had the very great privilege of being presented, along with the other delegates to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference, to Their Majesties at Buckingham Palace. I had the great privilege of a short chat with Her Majesty and a short chat with His Majesty also, at the conclusion of the formal reception. His Majesty's first question was, "Well, how did the Exhibition get on this year?" I told him with some pride it had the greatest success from many points of view, including attendance, it had ever enjoyed, He said he had received glowing reports from his cousin, Earl Mountbatten, on his return to England after opening the Exhibition,
When speaking to Her Majesty, when she learned I was from Toronto, quick as a flash she said, "Oh, that was the city where they had the wonderful arrangement for our reception on our Tour in 1939. Wasn't that the city where they had the big platform in front of the City Hall with all the decorations?"
Again it was with pride, as a Torontonian, that I was able to tell Her Majesty that was the place.
After an absence of two months during which one saw many changing signs and had enough interesting experiences to fill ten or twenty normal years of one's lifetime, it is indeed difficult to compress within the space allotted on an occasion of this kind impressions that must necessarily be of general import.
I want to say just a word, however, concerning the Conference itself. The Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference was probably the most largely attended, the most carefully planned Conference of the kind that had been held throughout the long and useful history of the Empire Parliamentary Association. Representatives were present there from no fewer than thirty-seven parliaments all over the Empire. Representation was not confined to the parliaments of the self-governing dominions, but the colonial legislatures were represented as well. The discussions were exceedingly interesting. The deputations from the various countries within the Commonwealth and Empire contained some very interesting figures--not least of all, perhaps, the delegates from India, of whom there were fifteen, including many men now distinguished in the public life of India, and I may say most of whom being followers of Gandhi had had prison terms in their fight f or independence.
I wish to say this concerning them, and I made it my business to get intimately acquainted with as many of them as possible: in no case did I find the slightest trace of bitterness. On the contrary, their attitude was one of whole-hearted gratitude to Britain for the gift of independence and an assertion of their determination to prove themselves worthy of the gift of self-government. They said this, too, that Gandhi insisted there should be no bitterness toward Britain, that what he was fighting was what he called "the system" that he objected to, but certainly not Britain.
I should like to pause to make one comment on an interesting speech made by one of the delegates from Pakistan. He happened to be the Hindu leader of the Oppositon in the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. You are aware, of course, that at this conference there were representatives of every colour, almost all the races of the globe, and almost every creed as well as almost every political party. We were rebuked by the delegates from Pakistan for calling ourselves "white men" in distinguishing ourselves from those we perhaps unthinkingly choose to call "coloured people", He said, "There is'no such thing as a white man. The only white man is a ghost. You people who call yourselves white people are in reality pink".
Now, he may have been accurate enough in his remarks as applied to some of the delegates present. I will say no more about that.
There have been important changes occurring in the Commonwealth in these very recent months. Profound changes have taken place. Eire and Burma have left us. India, Pakistan and Ceylon are now self-governing nations. India has not yet finally settled her course with reference to her relationship to the Commonwealth but it appears that even if she does choose to become a republic, a question which is being weighed now in the meetings of the Constituent Assembly in New Delhi, she will seek some close relationship with the Commonwealth and for the sake of the world peace and stability in Asia it is to be devoutly hoped that she will.
It is not possible I think to give a categorical statement on this subject of recovery in Europe. Undoubtedly, Western Europe is recovering, but the degree of economic and political recovery varies greatly as among different countries. Italy is sharing in the recovery although she still has two million unemployed, I may say of the countries of Western Europe, Italy is the only country today that has a surplus of labour. In every other country you find the governments crying for more labour. There is a great dearth of labour in the Scandinavian countries and for that reason I don't believe there is very much hope of immigration to Canada from those countries on any substantial scale,
This fact, however, stands out crystal clear: with the exceptions, to which I will devote a little more time later on in my remarks, the tide of Communism in Western Europe is receding, It has substantially receded in the last two years. That is the experience that one encounters in all the countries of Western Europe with two exceptions that I wish to mention.
We are hearing a great deal these days on the subject of Western Union and the Atlantic Pact and I was particularly interested to see in this morning's newspaper a comment concerning the attitude of Sweden toward adherence to the Atlantic Pact or indeed to a Scandinavian Agreement of mutual defence. I made a good many enquiries on this subject in Sweden as well as in Norway and Denmark. Undoubtedly, while there is high hope held for the Western Pact in many countries, we are not going to convince the people of Scandinavia and in particular the Swedes who have come through two wars as neutrals, that they can pin their hopes for defence and peace on the Western Pact unless there is more stable support for the ideas of the Western Pact in France.
I spoke about exceptions to the picture and it is partly because of the able and masterly way in which somewhat the same ground in the countries of Northwestern Europe was covered last week in the address we listened to from Mr. James Duncan that I wish to concentrate my remarks in particular on two situations that were not covered in his trip to Europe. I want to speak particularly about Greece and Berlin,
I had five days in Greece, along with a small party of Canadians--I think six in all--at the end of October, They were five memorable days there and the scenes which
I saw there I think are permanently impressed on my memory. I can never forget many of the things I saw in Greece.
Greece is a country at war. Let no man think that is any mere civil war in Greece. What the Greek people are fighting against today is Communist invasion. And this comes at a time when the people are war weary, after eight years of war. The day after we arrived in Greece, the 28th of October, Greece celebrated a national event, known as "ONI Day", the anniversary of that day, the 28th of October, 1940, when the courageous people stood firm and said "No" to Mussolini's ultimatum that they should submit to the occupation of the country by the Italian Army and occupation of the Greek ports by the Italian Navy.
The end of the war with Germany found that nation literally on the verge of starvation. A whole nation had been reduced by the rigours and cruelties of the German occupation to the verge of starvation,
It is a great thing to be a Canadian and go into Greece because it was Canadian wheat arriving just in the nick of time which literally saved that nation from starvation and there is no limit to the gratitude that the Greek people entertain toward Canadians.
It was the same thing everywhere one went. We visited various centers which are operating with equipment furnished by Canadian funds, either the Aid-to-Greece Fund or the Red Cross. We saw chest examination clinics, child clinics, prenatal clinics. We saw the outstanding Cancer Institute, just outside Athens,--all of which were cleaned out of all equipment by the Germans in their withdrawal--an old German habit--and which were re-equipped in their entirety with equipment from Canada, supplied from Canadian funds. Canada's prestige is almost incredibly high in Greece. There is no nation which commands more good will on the part of the Greek people than does our nation.
I want to pay tribute to the excellent work which is being clone in Greece by the Canadian Ambassador, General LaFleche. He has seen to it that when Canadian help is going to Greece the recipients of that help have known it came from Canada.
Well, I haven't time to dwell further on the subject of Canada's prestige or the gratitude of the Greek people, except to say that when the car of the Canadian Ambassador drives through the streets of Athens flying the Red Ensign, it is met with cheers from the people on the streets. When our party went to the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Athens to lay a wreath, a crowd gathered around very quickly, in a few minutes, and when it was made known we were Canadians the crowd cheered and cheered. This is more than the same people always receive in Canada.
I feel it my duty to say a word about the way in which this war is being carried on by the aggressors. When they have been operating in force they have operated from bases in the Communist countries immediately north of the Greek border, principally Yugoslavia and Albania, and to some extent, Bulgaria. There have been incursions into Greece in force. You remember, about a year ago a large scale battle was fought in the Grammss Mountains. We were quite close to the scene of battle during our tour of the relief areas in the north of Greece. It was hoped at that time that the Government forces would be strong enough to surround that invading army and to cut off the retreat but fighting conditions in Greece are almost incredibly difficult. The country is completely mountainous. It is ideal country for guerillas to operate in, and the government forces weren't strong enough to cut off the retreat, and the guerillas made good their escape on that occasion.
But I would not wish to give the impression that Communist aggression is confined to the north of Greece, because literally there are Communist guerilla bands operating all over Greece. They are even down in the south, Peloponnesus, all over the country.
Naturally, one asked, how on earth are these bands being equipped? Where are they getting their arms and ammunition? because they are well equipped.
The answer I was given by a very high source in Greece was that they are receiving their arms and ammunition and equipment from Russian planes flying over from the countries north of the border at night.
Appeal has been made for assistance in the form of night fighters to the Western Nations, principally the United States, but up to the time when we were there the request had not been complied with.
I am sure that all here today are familiar with the despicable tactics of these Communist guerillas. They raid in hands of varying size. They swoop down on the village, they give the men of the villages their choice of being shot or conscripted into the ranks of the guerillas. The young women are carried off. The children are abducted and sent to the countries north of the border to be brought up there in Communist schools, to be filled with hatred, in the hope that those children will be prepared, when old enough, to go back and fight against their fatherland with a view to overturning the Government in the country and setting up a Communist Government. Over 13,000 Greek children have thus been stolen from their parents by these guerilla raiders.
You ask me how I know, I tell you I received that on very high authority and I believe the authority from which it comes. As to the numbers, I can't say I counted those children, but I will say when I was in Paris and attended the meeting of the Political Committee of the United Nations Assembly there, if you please, I heard the Yugoslav delegate and other delegates representing the Communist satellite countries complaining very bitterly about Trygve Lie banning under United Nations auspices of a Yugoslav film depicting what that delegate described as "the happy conditions under which Greek children are being schooled in Yugoslavia".
Well, what they can carry off in goods they carry off. What they can't carry off they burn. The homes they burn. Over half of the homes in the villages of Greece have been destroyed. In a nation of little more than seven million souls, over 700,000 of those people are refugees today, driven out of their homes. One out of every ten persons in Greece is a refugee from his home today. Translate that into Canadian terms, gentlemen, and think what it would mean to Canada if she had come out of this recent war in an utterly exhausted condition, if they were a very poor country in addition, and if one-tenth of her population were driven out of their homes and were refugees and a charge on a poverty-stricken state.
Of course the Communists particularly love to indulge their hatred of religion and one doesn't go very far without receiving reports of many of the atrocities that have been committed on priests in that country. There are many reports that one receives of crucifixions of priests with the complete enactment of all the details of the Crucifixion of our Saviour. There was one case where a young girl was kneeling at prayer before a shrine when the Communists descended upon the village and to exhibit their hatred of things religious they cut off her legs at the knees.
There are many dark aspects of the Greek picture. The refugees are living under almost incredible conditions, I am not giving you anything in this respect second-hand, because several of us were flown up to the north of Greece to see first hand the conditions under which the refugees are living and we spent a good deal of time one day driving throughout the country seeing these refugees. Here is a group of refugees living in tents-children running about barefoot and shabbily clothed, women in shabby clothes, many of them, barefooted. I go into a tent, 18 feet by 35 or 40 feet at the very most, and I ask how many people are living here. The answer is 55.
I go into Yannina, a city in normal times with a population of 22,000, on top of whom 25,000 refugees have been placed there by the Government, I saw as many as seven people living in a small room. How they can all sleep at the same time I don't know, because there isn't room for seven people to lie down together. We saw many a case of a whole family having their best meal of the day on a pot of beans or a pot of onions. A very lucky family got out with a bag of grain. An occasional family got out with a goat or a calf or a couple of hens, but most of the refugees were driven out of their homes with nothing more than was on their backs and perhaps an odd blanket.
The relief appropriation is six cents per person per day. They are not living on that-they are starving on it, I would not have you think that starvation is anything new in Greece because the standard of living in many parts of Greece is very, very low. I visited an area just outside Piraeus, settled by refugees driven out of Asia Minor by the Turks in 1921 and 1922-small places, one room each, usually. These little houses or hovels accommodated one family or, in some cases, two families, ridden with tuberculosis in many cases, as the refugees are in the north of Greece. Tuberculosis is on the increase all the time and rickets is prevalent among the children. We were there while people were at their main meal of the day. The main meal of the day in Greece is eaten at noon, There we saw them at their main meal which consisted of bread and olives. We wandered up and down the alleyways separating these little houses. I heard sounds of grief coming from one quarter and I made it my business to follow those sounds to their source. I found myself standing outside one of the houses at the open window looking in on a gathering of many women and children who were sitting in a circle in stony silence while in the centre two women in an hysterical condition were weeping over the body of a little girl, a ten-year-old girl who had died that morning of tuberculosis. I asked about her family. She was one of ten children and the other nine children were all suffering from tuberculosis.
My Friends, there isn't anything I can say that adequately bespeaks my admiration for the Greek people in the heroic fight they are making against overwhelming odds. I have a most profound admiration for the heroism of those people and as a Canadian I have a sense of obligation to that nation, to its modern inhabitants, when I recollect what the Western World owes to that nation, the cradle of Democracy; and when one appreciates the strategic position which Greece holds in the Eastern Mediterranean and how much it would mean to the designs of the Communist aggressors, bent upon world revolution, if they could swing Greece behind the iron curtain, I have no hesitation in saying that it is the obligation of those of us who enjoy the priceless benefits of Freedom and Democracy in this Western World to have some regard to our obligations to those people and do all we can, at least materially, to come to their succour and rescue.
If Greece should fall behind the Iron Curtain, just think for one minute what it would mean in the Eastern Mediterranean. That would put Russia alongside the Dardanelles, Russia has been demanding a voice in the control of the Dardanelles for years. How long does any one of us think that the Turkish Republic could stand up to Russian pressure if Turkey were isolated in the Eastern Mediterranean, and if Turkey were compelled to compromise with Russia, what stands then between Russia and the Suez but Palestine, and if the use of the Suez should be neutralized, then, my friends, the whole balance of power in the world shifts and it will affect the course of history, not merely for us but for our children and our children's children.
Greece would have been Communized had it not been for the presence of British troops, landing there on the heels of the withdrawing Germans. Greece was the one country in the Balkans into which either the British or Americans got any troops and that leads me to say something, though an amateur in these matters, a confessed amateur, about the subject of strategy. Many of you have seen the recent book published by General Eisenhower in which he deals with this question of the Allied strategy in the assault upon Europe, You remember, Mr. Churchill held out in conferences with Mr. Roosevelt for an attack through what he called the "soft under-belly of Europe". Churchill knew the Russians so well and with that vision that has characterized so many things that he has said and done, he foresaw clearly that unless the Western powers made some landings in the Balkans, the Communists would seize control of the resistance movement in all of the Balkan countries as they did, and Russian troops of occupation would be in there, and the free governments of those countries would be overthrown and Communist dictators set up in their place,
Well, as you know, the Americans were not prepared to give in to Mr. Churchill's point of view in this respect. Apparently, General Eisenhower felt the Americans could not use their heavy military equipment to the best advantage in a Balkan campaign and he advised Roosevelt in favour of the assault on Western Europe.
Wherever the merits of that discussion may lie, the fact of the matter is that what Mr. Churchill foresaw happened, precisely, in all the Balkan countries, with the exception of Greece, and Greece would have gone Communist, as the Prime Minister, Mr. Sophoulis, told us while there, if it had not been for the presence of General Scobie and the force of British troops in Greece, Britain got troops into Greece on the heels of the Germans. The Communists were the only people in the country who had arms and they were set to strike; as a matter of fact, feeling thwarted in the execution of their plans, they did strike, and you remember British troops actually had to participate in the suppression of the armed outbreaks on the part of the Communists. There was bitter and bloody fighting around Athens itself and you can see the marks of it today.
I wish to speak about Berlin. It is hard to conceive a more interesting place on the face of the earth today for anyone interested in public affairs than Berlin, I arrived in Berlin about the middle of November. Berlin, due to the wisdom or the lack of foresight on the part of the Western leaders is an island; a little island in a sea of the Russian Zone of Occupation. The nearest point in the British zone to Berlin is 130 miles away. Berlin was divided into four sectors: Russian on the east, American on the southwest, British in the middle west, and the French on the northwest, Of course, arbitrary division of a large city along those lines results in all kinds if anomalies. For instance, the Russian War Memorial is in the British sector. The Berlin radio station over which Goebbels used to broadcast his propaganda is in the British Sector, and is occupied by the Russians. They are staying there and they have made it clear they are staying there until they are forced out, and the suspicion is if they are forced out the Russians will cut off all the power to the western sectors because their power outside of small generating plants comes from the Russian sector.
Berlin is a city of ruin. It is impossible to conceive the scale and extent of the desolation within that city without seeing it. I am told a greater weight of bombs was dropped on Berlin than on all the British Isles. One can believe it as one travels mile after mile through that city seeing little but ruin, An unharmed building is a rare exception. A building that is partly usable is the exception. Ruin and rubble stand everywhere,
When I commented to some of the officials in the Control Commissions whom I met that I couldn't see much indication of clearing even of rubble, they chided me and said, "You should have seen this place when we came in. The streets were filled with mountains of rubble." Well, the streets have, for the most part, been cleared of rubble, but the buildings have not. The only clearing of rubble in Berlin today is carried on by women by hand. There are no trucks or bulldozers available for that purpose. One wonders in amazement how four and a quarter millions of people can find places to live in that city. Four and a quarter million people! The answer is that they are living in the cellars of the ruins of the buildings-in the cellars because the ability of that city to accommodate people in any place but the cellars has been almost completely destroyed. One official in the British Control Commission in charge of Housing, told me they have succeeded in providing in repaired form 40,000 housing units since they began operations. I listened to that statement with amazement because it is so hard to see the physical evidence of it.
There is a great shortage of goods in Berlin, a great shortage of needed goods, I spent some hours wandering up and down what is left of the shops in the main shopping district in Berlin. The people are very stern looking. One doesn't see any smiles. One doesn't hear any laughter in Berlin. The shops where one would go to look for clothing have practically nothing to offer. The chauffeur from the Canadian Military Mission, my guide on that shopping tour, told me his sister had had a pair of shoes on order for a year and a half, and was still waiting for them. We passed one shop where a small consignment of shoes had just arrived. There was a long queue in front of the shop. We looked at one women's dress shop--they had two dresses in the whole shop and it probably is the best women's dress shop in Berlin.
I haven't time to talk about currency troubles, except to say since the recent reform of currency in Berlin there has been a substantial reduction in black market operations. When we were there Westmark was worth about 33 cents. The Russians do not permit circulation of the Westmark in the Russian sector, and you have been reading about the steps taken to check more closely the entry of workmen in the Russian sector to see where they are committing the offence of carrying the Westmark issued under the Allied Control authorities on their persons.
The Airlift has been a thrilling success. The Airlift unquestionably is the greatest triumph of organization and execution in the history of aviation. Even in the war the degree of organization that exists in connection with the Airlift today was at no time attained. The Airlift is possible only today there are two air fields in the Western sectors in Berlin-Templehof Airport in the American sector and Gatow Airport in the British sector. Gatow hasn't the buildings that Templehof has. Templehof has fine buildings but the runways are on the short side for the great craft being used as cargo planes in the Airlift. At both air fields I saw the Airlift in operation and I had the inestimable privilege of being in the control tower at Gatow Airport and seeing the management and organization of the whole area as far as the R.A.F. is concerned. On each of those air fields when the Airlift is operating at capacity -and it does operate at capacity as far as weather conditions permit-one of the four-engine craft is landing every three minutes carrying a load of seven or eight tons. They taxi to a stop, a ten-ton truck rolls up, the plane is unloaded and off again in the air inside of forty minutes. There is a plane leaving each of these air fields every three minutes. That means there is a landing or a departure from that air field every minute and a half and it is all directed by one man. The aircraft are coming in, flying at four different altitudes, four strata, because of the varying makes and speeds of the planes, and one man directs the approach and landing of those planes.
If there is any disturbance in the schedule of landing that schedule is so tight that the planes whose schedule is affected by the upset must return to the base from which they came without landing.
I said the Airlift has been a success. Well, the Russians never expected when they imposed the land blockade last June in the hope of driving the Western Powers out of Berlin that the Western Powers could supply between two and a quarter and two and a half million Berliners in the Western Sectors with what they required in the way of food. The Airlift has made possible the maintenance of the food ration in the Western Sectors. As a matter of fact it was slightly increased in the fall, very slightly. The ration isn't very large today. It averages 1800 to 1900 calories per person per day.
Fuel is a different story. Fuel has been coming in but by reason of bulk the Western control authorities had not been able at the time I was there to promise the Berlin people in the Western Sectors more than 50 pounds of coal per person for this winter.
Likewise there is a developing shortage of raw materials which has compelled the curtailment of industrial operations in many factories in Berlin. Already, when I was there, there were 90,000 unemployed in the Western Sectors and the number was increasing all the time. Gentlemen, the Airlift is a very costly operation-very costly. And it apparently gives our erstwhile Russian Allies a great deal of satisfaction that the Western Powers should be compelled, in order to provide food and fuel and means of employment for the Berliners in the Western Sectors, to be put to this expense and hazard.
Well, they are trying to supplement that fuel ration by cutting down every second tree in the streets of the Western Sectors this year and I saw many people while I was there out in what is left of the Tiergarten and Grunwalt out gathering twigs, little bits of twigs. I saw people coming in with their arms full of twigs, the kind of twigs that might provide a flame for ten or fifteen minutes, or at the most, twenty minutes, such is their desperation.
Now, I had the opportunity of conferring with two of the leading Berlin political figures while I was there--Dr. Fredensberg, then the Acting Mayor in Berlin, the head of the Christian Democratic Party, and Dr. Ernst Reuther, the head of the Social Democratic Party, the party which scored such a resounding success at the polls on the first Sunday in December. Both of these men foretold very confidently the result of the forthcoming municipal elections and they said this, too, that if the Russians would permit the holding of elections in the Russian Sector it would show precisely the same resounding defeat for the Communists as in the Western Sectors.
I was interested in finding the reasons. One reason was the treatment meted out to Berliners, principally Berlin women, by Russian soldiers in the early weeks after the defeat of the Germans by the Russians. The other thing was the Airlift. What an amazing thing this world is! There are those British and American-not Canadian-planes, flying over the Russian Zone into Berlin, carrying food and fuel to those Berlin people. They are the harbingers of mercy today-the planes whose arrival was execrated by those same Berliners only three and a half years ago.
The stiffening of the morale of not only the Berlin people but the German people in general against both the blandishments and the incursions of Communism is attributable to the Airlift because they see at last clear evidence of both the power and the determination on the part of Britain and the United States to stand up to the Russians, and the effect of that on the morale of the Germans is simply incalculable.
Not only that, but the Airlift operation is well known behind the Iron Curtain and I was assured by those Berliners that not simply in the Russian zone of Germany east of Berlin but in the other countries living in blackness behind the Iron Curtain today they see in the Airlift the strength of their hopes that some day they may recover their freedom,
The Airlift must be continued. To abandon the Airlift today would be clear intimation, not only to Berlin, not only to Germans in the Russian Zone but to those people behind the Iron Curtain-yes, and to those nations west of the Iron Curtain who stand next on the list for the visitation of Communist aggression, that they are being thrown on the mercy of Russian Communism. That is what it would mean. That is what the abandonment of the Airlift Operation would mean in Europe today and I think it means much to Canadians, not simply the people who live in Western Europe, that Central and Western Europe should not be thrown to the wolves of Communism.
There are two questions I shall endeavour to answer just briefly, The first question I am asked is this Will The Airlift Continue or will the Western Powers be compelled to attempt to force the blockade? All I can say to you is that I had it on high authority that there was a disposition to attempt to force the blockade when it was first imposed, but that the Governments of the United States and Britain were not prepared to attempt it. Personally, I don't think that under present conditions an attempt is going to be made to force the blockade by land. I think under present conditions at least for a considerable period of time the Airlift will be continued. It will have to be continued and every effort made to expand it.
The other question is this: Is war coming? Many people were asking those questions in Britain when we were there in October, Will the cold war in Berlin become a shooting war? The British, American and French officials to whom I put that question had no firm opinion to express on it. They said, "Perhaps we are not in the best position to judge. Perhaps we are so close to this picture that we can't see the woods for the trees. However, we know if war is coming there is nothing we can do to prevent it, so day by day we are concentrating on making the greatest success of the Airlift that can be made."
My own conclusion, for what it is worth is there will be no war at present. The Russian people certainly would not want war, though they would not be consulted about it. For the present, the Communists, in keeping with their schemes of world revolution, apparently plan in Northwestern Europe to do everything they can, short of war, to weaken the Western nations.
What does this mean for us? I think it means for Canadians, just as it means for Americans or British, that in no way can we do so much to prevent war as by strengthening ourselves militarily and economically. (Applause.)
The thanks of the Club to Mr. Fleming was expressed by Mr. Kingsley Graham.