- Historic Sites
After The Air Raids
An insider’s account of a startling— and still controversial—investigation of the Allied bombing of Germany
April/may 1981 | Volume 32, Issue 3
However, managing Baran had its anxious moments. One German we much needed for work that summer was Dr. Rolf Wagenfuehr, the senior economist and statistician of the Speer ministry. Exceptionally among the high staff of such departments, he had remained behind in Berlin. Other German officials brought to Bad Nauheim claimed to have known him as a roast beef Nazi, brown outside, red inside. He was finally located in West Berlin, where he was engaged in rehabilitating the German statistical services for the Soviets in East Berlin. A diligent man, he had spent the days immediately following the surrender completing the manuscript of a book on the history of German war production. Although we had the right of summary arrest, I was uneasy as to its use and had specified that for professors, scientists, officials, and the like, notice should be given. On being told of our desire that he go to Bad Nauheim, Wagenfuehr removed himself to a house in Neukoeln in the Russian sector. Baran led a posse there and, quite literally, lifted Wagenfuehr out of bed from beside his wife. He was flown to Bad Nauheim, and the Soviets, very properly, were outraged. A strong protest went up to Marshal Zhukov and across to General Eisenhower; I, of course, was the person responsible and in line for Ike’s anger. The matter was resolved when Jürgen Kuczynski, a German Communist on our staff, advised me that he much wanted to go to Berlin to see if his house and library had survived the war. Were he allowed to go, he could, as a practicing comrade, square things with his fellow Communists. So, a fortnight or so after the kidnaping, as the Soviets called it, and after Wagenfuehr had given us much useful guidance on the German war production statistics, Kuczynski took him back to Berlin. I asked Colonel James Barr Ames to go along and keep an eye on the operation. And sure enough Kuczynski was warmly welcomed by the Soviet officials, our well-rehearsed explanation of our aberration was accepted, Wagenfuehr was reinserted in the Soviet statistical operations, and Ike’s anger was averted.
Baran was equally resourceful in other matters. In Flensburg he interrogated a senior steel magnate who, taking note of Baran’s rank, barely supportable military bearing, and possibly also his recognizably Jewish aspect, said, “I am accustomed to talking only with vice-presidents and leaders of industry. Who are you?” Baran replied that such was his official position that he could keep the tycoon in jail for one day for each question he failed to answer, and that was his intention. The answers were thereafter fluent and detailed. Later in the summer in Wiesbaden, Baran uncovered General Franz Halder, the commander in the early campaigns on the Eastern front who was fired by Hitler in disagreements over strategy at the time of Stalingrad and arrested after the July 20 attempt on Hitler’s life. He had expected on the day of the surrender to be taken . promptly to see General Eisenhower and maybe then to General Marshall. Instead, not uncharacteristically, he had been left in total neglect for several weeks by American soldiers who had never heard his name. Baran, who had specialized in these matters for the OSS, interrogated him for many hours on the details of German operations on the Russian front. When finally Baran showed signs of being satisfied, Halder begged with great respect to have a turn: “Could I now ask my interrogator a question?”
Halder: “Has the American Army many intelligence officers like you?”
Baran, in an unprecedented sacrifice of truth to modesty: “I wouldn’t know, General.”
German General Franz Halder to Paul Baran: “I may tell you that your knowledge of the problems facing the Wehrmacht on the Eastern front is markedly greater than was that of the Führer.”
Halder: “If it has, it explains much about this war. I may tell you that your knowledge of the problems facing the Wehrmacht on the Eastern front is markedly greater than was that of the Führer.”
The stories could continue. One night in a normal breach of military regulations, Paul Baran was dining with George Ball, some others, and me at the Villa Grunewald, the officers’ billet where we lived. The military commander at Bad Nauheim, a lieutenant colonel of deeply offensive personality—in civilian life a car dealer from Ohio—arrived and loudly demanded that Baran, as an enlisted man, be sent back to his quarters. George and I protested; the colonel became violent and obscene. We surrendered Baran but intimated to the colonel that he would somehow be made to suffer for his intrusion and insolence. Then we considered how this might be accomplished. A few days later a military police detachment arrived in Bad Nauheim, arrested the colonel, and took him away. Thereafter high-ranking officers stepped into the street and saluted on our approach.