– 25 –
This interview is being conducted on behalf of the Oral History Project of the District of
Columbia Circuit. The interviewee is David Ginsburg. The interviewer is Jeffrey F. Liss. This
session took place on the 22nd day of April 1998 at 10:45 a.m.
Mr. Liss: David, where we left off, you had been describing the teas you attended
with Justice Brandeis, and you mentioned that you also had come into contact with Justices
Black and Frankfurter, and I thought maybe we could talk about them a little bit. At law school,
did Frankfurter ever speak of his ambition to be on the Court?
Mr. Ginsburg: He never spoke of it. I never heard him in any way refer to
anything about the Supreme Court other than whether, for example, certiorari should have been
granted or should not have been granted in this or that case, or the analysis of the case. But
everyone around him, including the faculty, assumed that one day, with Roosevelt in office, the
odds were that Frankfurter would arrive at the Supreme Court. I was in Washington when his
name came up. The question was what problems would there be? I remember Ben, Tom, myself
and others—Jerry Frank—all joined in preparing memos for him, materials that might be helpful
in preparation for the confirmation hearing. There was some opposition, but it wasn’t serious; he
was confirmed without too much trouble.
Mr. Liss: Do you know if Ben Cohen was in on the discussions with the President
when the President decided to nominate him?
Mr. Ginsburg: I don’t know that. And I doubt it very much. Action would have
been taken in the first instance—I’d guess the President would have received some
recommendations from Cummings, who was then the Attorney General. It’s unlikely, I think that
the President ever spoke to anyone other than Cummings about that. For example, when the
court packing plan came up in ’37, Cohen and Corcoran told Joe Rauh and me that they had no
knowledge of the plan. It originated with Cummings and came as a surprise.
– 26 –
Mr. Liss: How did you meet Justice Black?
Mr. Ginsburg: Justice Black I first met when he was a Senator, in connection
with the Public Utility Holding Company Act. He was Chairman of the Committee considering
the proposed law. Sometime after the Act was passed, Tom sent me up with a memo for him. I
remember the meeting. Controlled, not loquacious, businesslike, clearly a Southerner. He
seemed very self-assured. In no way unpleasant, indeed, likable. I came to know him and later
played tennis with him, on the tennis court at his home in Alexandria. He was not a man who
showed emotion, either of affection or hostility. He was reserved, controlled. Although good
humored, he seemed to lack warmth. And for me, he did. But he was hardworking and a good
Justice. Later when I clerked for Douglas, I came to see more of him on the Supreme Court, and
came to like him more as I came to know him better. But he was a man who was uncomfortable,
I think, with emotion, affection, even hostility. He had one set of attitudes, not too much
laughter, just enough. Some enthusiasm, not too much. He simply sought to maintain stability
and control, not only within himself, but when possible with those around him.
Mr. Liss: Did you know his clerks when you clerked for Douglas?
Mr. Ginsburg: I knew some of his first clerks and later, on a couple of occasions,
I opened my home to his clerks who held a reunion there. They included many distinguished
people, able people, first-rate lawyers.
Mr. Liss: How did the Douglas clerkship come your way?
Mr. Ginsburg: Well, I was based at the SEC throughout this entire period–
Mr. Liss: Although assigned over to Interior.
Mr. Ginsburg: Although assigned, not to the Interior Department, but assigned to
Ben and to Tom personally. They happened to maintain their offices at that time in the Interior
Department as the National Power Policy Committee. I suppose that was set up for purposes of
– 27 –
organizing the defense of the Public Utility Holding Company Act. When work lagged, and that
wasn’t often, I returned to the SEC. At one point I came to know Leon Henderson, who was a
Commissioner at the SEC, one of five. Douglas was Chairman. Henderson was an economist,
had been the economist for the Democratic National Committee. Able man, thoughtful and
energetic, sometimes boisterous, always hard-driving. He needed help; I served for a while as
Henderson’s assistant. Then, from time to time, I would return to help when Ben called.
Ultimately, I returned to the SEC. This was after the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the
constitutional validity of the Public Utility Holding Company Act. Douglas asked me to serve as
his assistant, and I did. I worked closely with him on opinions and the work of the Commission,
including assisting other Commissioners as they needed help. Around that time, a new biography
had been written about Teddy Roosevelt, who was one of Douglas’ heroes. Jerome Frank,
another Commissioner, close to Douglas, came into my office with the book in his hand, opened
to a page and said, “Listen to this.” He read a paragraph or two from the book. Then he said,
“Work it into my opinion.” He ripped the page from the book. I have a passion for books and
respect them. The notion of just ripping a page out of a book and simply handing it to me—I was
shocked. He had written the opinion in the Consumer Power Company case that first required
competitive bidding for municipal bonds. Before that, those bonds had been sold and distributed
on a friendly basis to cooperative brokers and dealers. The opinion was inordinately long and
Douglas had asked me to find a way to reduce the size of the opinion. It would be too much for
the brokers and dealers dealing with municipalities around the country. I took a shot at it and
finally got the opinion down to twenty pages. It was a major effort that took weeks. I brought it
in to Jerome Frank and said, “I think I’ve got it for you. The chairman was trying to find a way to
get it into a form that could be more widely understood.” He stopped, read it, thought it was
good, and said, “I’ll tell you what we’ll do. We will use it as a summary of the case at the end.” It
– 28 –
was in that summary that I tried to work in something about Teddy Roosevelt’s life.
Douglas had been on the Commission for some years already; he and Abe Fortas had
come from Yale (Abe first served as an assistant to Jerome Frank at Agriculture) to work on
matters dealing with the New York Stock Exchange, the ’34 Stock Exchange Act, and
investigations that took place about that time. When Brandeis resigned early in ’39, the question
was who would replace him. Frankfurter and Black were there. The old men now on the Court
were fewer than nine.
Mr. Liss: Right.
Mr. Ginsburg: There was an immediate feeling among the people I knew that the
man who should replace Brandeis was Douglas. He was young, 39, and experienced. An effort
would have to be organized to get the nomination through. In particular, there was a feeling on
the Hill that geographic diversification was needed on the Court—in particular, for a Westerner.
Douglas was known as a professor from Yale. In fact, he had, as a young man, been reared in the
State of Washington. Yakima was the town. But he had spent most of his life as an adult in the
East, teaching at Columbia and Yale and, for some time, in private practice. Tom and Ben
worked with Senator Borah, and Borah finally spoke and endorsed Douglas as a man of the West.
Since Borah himself was a symbol of the West, it all worked out. Douglas took his place on the
Mr. Liss: Was there any concern about his age, about how young he was?
Mr. Ginsburg: There was talk that he was the youngest, at least in recent years,
but that was not the basis for opposition. The opposition attacked his liberalism. I don’t recall
any serious opposition after Borah’s speech. Douglas spoke with me during this period,
assuming that he would be nominated by the President and supported by the Senate; he asked me
to go with him as his first law clerk. I agreed.
– 29 –
Mr. Liss: At this time did the justices have just one law clerk?
Mr. Ginsburg: Just one law clerk. And, indeed, we had to work very hard. There
was no thought of more clerks. The Justice, his secretary and I had a picture taken at the Court
on April 20, which happened to be my birthday.
Mr. Liss: What year?
Mr. Ginsburg: This was in ’39. I was older than most of the clerks; I was 27. I
spent the rest of the term and the summer with him on one of the islands in the St. Lawrence
Seaway, at a home that Douglas borrowed from a friend who was then, I think, the Secretary of
Commerce. It was a thrilling experience for me. Stone was Chief for part of the time and
Hughes was Chief before Stone. Stone had been the Dean of the law school at Columbia, and
Hughes was the Chief when Douglas was appointed to take Brandeis’ place.
Mr. Liss: Did you spend time over the summer looking at cert. petitions?
Mr. Ginsburg: Yes, working on cert. petitions that had been sent to us in Canada.
I worked with a portable typewriter that I had brought with me, reading (sometimes in a boat as
he fished), and we’d talk about some of the petitions. It may sound like a pleasant, easy vacation,
but it was tough. Remember, this was ’39. Hitler was moving fast in Europe. As the summer
drew to a close, Thurman Arnold and his wife came for a visit. Douglas and he had been
together at Yale and were very close. I knew Thurman and his wife quite well; we were all
sitting around the fire together one night. Suddenly Mildred, Douglas’ wife, came running out of
the house saying that the Germans had attacked Poland. It was war. I remember the jolt that
came through me. I felt certain from that moment that we would be in the war; we had all heard
too many frightening details about the nature of the German rearmament, weaponry and war
preparations to feel that Hitler could easily be stopped. Douglas had asked me to spend another
year with him and I had agreed. The day after we heard the news, I told him that if it wouldn’t
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cause trouble, I would prefer to go back to Washington and begin work on what I was sure would
be a vastly enhanced, much stronger rearmament program. He agreed.
Mr. Liss: Did you have an idea then as to where you would go to work on that
Mr. Ginsburg: I thought that what would have to happen first, and in fact it did so
happen, is that hearings would be held on the Hill and a program would have to be developed.
The TNEC was then in session—the Temporary National Economic Commission—which had
been established to consider antitrust policy. Business, organized against FDR, had engaged in
unlawful cooperation. However, TNEC was an economic inquiry. Leon Henderson was a
member of that commission. I remember talking with Leon about the possible desirability of
converting the TNEC to a Commission on rearmament. He agreed. Later, Leon went to New
York to meet with Bernard Baruch, who had handled industrial mobilization during World War I.
It was then that Baruch began his almost weekly visits to Washington consulting and offering
guidance on these matters. I was assigned by Henderson, a member of the TNEC, to dig out as
much as was available about how rearmament and economic mobilization had been done in
World War I. I remember going down into the bowels of Archives, and visiting the Library of
Congress to locate whatever was available in as much detail as possible. How had they
accomplished it? And then a man named Leo Cherne—and Bill, who was later the head of the
Mr. Liss: Not Colby?
Mr. Ginsburg: No. Before him.
Mr. Liss: Before that.
Mr. Ginsburg: He was with Reagan. His name will come to me in a moment. It’s
well known [William Casey]. The three of us were assigned to do a draft of a mobilization law.
– 31 –
And over a period of months, we drafted, with help from others, the Industrial Mobilization Act
of 1939.
Mr. Liss: Is this the act that established the War Production Board?
Mr. Ginsburg: No. That came later under an Executive Order. FDR
acknowledged the existence of our draft, but decided to rely on an old World War I statute still
on the books with which he was familiar. He set up a series of groups—one to deal with price
control, one to deal with consumer interests, one to work on war production, one to deal with raw
materials, another with labor, and so on.
Mr. Liss: All under an existing statute.
Mr. Ginsburg: All under an existing World War I statute.
Mr. Liss: Right. Which was still in effect?
Mr. Ginsburg: Which was still in effect, still on the books. How he remembered
it I have no idea, but it was there. It hadn’t been repealed and he just turned to it.
Mr. Liss: Wasn’t he an Assistant Secretary—
Mr. Ginsburg: Of the Navy.
Mr. Liss: During the War?
Mr. Ginsburg: During the War.
Mr. Liss: That’s probably how he remembered it.
Mr. Ginsburg: Yes. No doubt about that. But this law was enacted, I think, it
was 1917. We are talking now about 1940. Well, Leon Henderson became head of the Office of
Price Administration, set up by Executive Order. I had worked with him at the SEC and the
TNEC and we got along well together. He asked me to become his General Counsel and I did. I
was then 27. We worked together until I went into the Army at the end of ’42.
Mr. Liss: What type of work did you do as General Counsel?
– 32 –
Mr. Ginsburg: When I left OPA, we had some 2,500 lawyers and about 7,500
investigators. We had a multi-million dollar budget. We had regional offices in each of the
Federal Reserve districts of the country. We had smaller offices in all of the major cities of the
United States. We prepared legislation and regulations to control prices and to enable us, if
necessary, to ration. When Pearl Harbor came, all of this proved essential.
Mr. Liss: And it was in place by the time Pearl Harbor came?
Mr. Ginsburg: Shortly after. The Congress delayed the legislation, but after the
attack, it was quickly passed and we went to work. Our first offices were in the Federal Reserve
Mr. Liss: Where was that at the time?
Mr. Ginsburg: On Constitution Avenue, where it is now. Later, we moved to a
building on Massachusetts Avenue, a small building that had been a private home. We could no
longer stay at the Federal Reserve Building because they were also growing to meet war needs.
Our first effort was to get legislative authority because Pearl Harbor hit us before we had any
legislation. We began with an Executive Order that created an Office of Price Administration,
with the limited authority of an Executive Order. We obtained legislation in the spring of ’42. I
stayed with OPA until the fall in order to get legislation enacted to correct errors in the initial
bill, particularly as the bill impacted agricultural commodities. The key opposition to us was
headed in the Senate by Albert Gore, Sr., the father of Vice President Gore, who was working
very closely with Bernard Baruch. But we managed to get the legislation through.
Mr. Liss: What was the basis for Senator Gore’s opposition?
Mr. Ginsburg: He had accepted Baruch’s thesis that all prices, wages, interest
rates, everything that affected the level of inflation in the country, should be frozen as of a single
date. Henderson felt, and those of us who worked with him were in full agreement, that the
– 33 –
prices of agricultural products were too low. We might not be able to grow the volume of food
needed to support an army or armies and the civilian population if prices were kept at the levels
that existed at the time. We opposed the freeze on agricultural prices. The House had enacted
legislation that precluded control of farm prices until they reached 110 percent of parity. This
simply meant that there would be an escalating upward spiral. When prices reached 110 percent,
the cost of living would have risen and the parity price on farm prices would thus also rise. In
fact, that’s the way it worked. That was in the original bill—110 percent of parity. I remember
working very closely with Kenneth Galbraith, who headed the Price Division as I served the
Legal Division. By the end of the year—’42 toward fall—we got legislation through which
amended the provision and enabled us to hold prices at parity and enabled us also to adjust
agricultural prices as needed in order to produce the volume of food that was required. These
were tough days. When Pearl Harbor hit, I remember going to my office in Tempo D on the
Mall—temporary office buildings that had been built for war purposes—and remaining there
through two nights.
Mr. Liss: These were built during World War I or built for World War II?
Mr. Ginsburg: World War II.
Mr. Liss: Because there were some that were there and then taken away, I guess.
Mr. Ginsburg: That’s right. But the ones you’re talking about were World War I,
quite substantial buildings that after some 25 years were still standing. The Navy and others
occupied them. The new ones I am referring to were at the other end of the Mall, near the
Smithsonian. Temporary buildings were built not only for government occupancy but also for
use by the young women and others who flocked to the city for the jobs as secretaries. We were
planning to create a massive army—ultimately 14 million people. Many support staff and
secretaries lived in the barracks built on the Mall. I remember going down when Pearl Harbor hit
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to Tempo D—rushing down because our first concern was, what did the Far East provide that we
would need for war mobilization.
Mr. Liss: I assume rubber was a key concern?
Mr. Ginsburg: Right. We had imported rubber from the Far East and obviously it
was no longer going to be available. Many people in the country were rushing to buy tires, so we
had to take control of the supply and ration tires. By this time, we had our legislation, we had the
authority and we acted promptly. We set up ration offices and instrumentalities for rationing
with ration cards. Teachers and schools throughout the country did the job and served us well.
Gasoline also would be in short supply. We would need vast quantities of gasoline for trucks,
planes and tanks essential for the war. We had to take control. I remember myself getting an A
Card. An A Card entitled me to three gallons of gasoline a week, which effectively meant that I
would take the bus, if there was one, and that was that. I spent the first three days at the office.
Mr. Liss: After Pearl Harbor.
Mr. Ginsburg: Immediately after Pearl Harbor. Trying to think through, what
first had to be done? What were the priorities? Henderson was there, John Hamm, his deputy,
Ken Galbraith, who headed price, and also the head of rationing. We worked out the systems for
going forward.
Mr. Liss: How would you compare the activity, excitement and general
atmosphere of the wartime effort to the atmosphere during the New Deal? Two very different
challenges, but how were they similar and how were they different in Washington?
Mr. Ginsburg: In the late ’30s, as part of the New Deal, or in the 030s, after FDR
came in, there was a sense of desperation, a need for original and different thinking, because the
thinking that had prevailed before under Hoover was simply not adequate to cope with the
problem. It was in part an intellectual effort. What could we do to solve this problem? What
– 35 –
would get purchasing power into the hands of people that would enable them to buy, utilize
reserves, require the production of other materials that put people to work, and so on? One sat
back and thought, put ideas on paper, and tried to have them tested. In wartime, an enemy was
attacking, and by this time we were fighting a war on two fronts. Germany had declared war on
us. And of course the Japanese had attacked. I had spent a lot of time in previous months
working on how we had responded in World War I. Many others, of course, were doing much
the same thing, and beginning to put in place the processes and institutions needed for
mobilization. Our big problem: how do you mobilize without inflation? That was our
problem—how do you recruit, equip, send abroad a massive army without inflation at home?
We knew the experience of Germany after World War I, Italy after World War I, books had been
written on the subject, many had thought about it. We had to provide economic controls. The
Federal Reserve was, of course, worrying about the same problem, and the Treasury Department,
too, was at work and involved. But the instruments needed to effect control of prices and
indirectly wages were the OPA and other instruments that had been created by FDR under the
World War I statute. Our job was to work with Treasury and the Federal Reserve Board to
prevent inflation. Others were cooperating. At OPA we did not have direct control of labor’s
wages. Others had to deal with that. But we had control of prices and rationing, and these were
the key controls in use during the war. I won’t go into the details, but we had individual price
controls on particular commodities, and we also had a general price regulation that controlled
almost everything else (there were of course some exclusions). We controlled rationing. We had
rent control because that was a critical element in the cost of living. Baruch was right that in
wartime you had to control everything; if some items began to move up, the cost of living would
go up. Living standards would drop if you couldn’t pay more and if you couldn’t increase your
income. This was a period of turmoil and testing. It was relatively easy to recruit able lawyers.
– 36 –
We had at the Office of Price Administration I think the greatest aggregation of the ablest
lawyers that this country has ever seen.
Mr. Liss: Where did these lawyers come from?
Mr. Ginsburg: Many came from the faculties of the law schools because they no
longer had students. They were headed for the Army. I had on my staff David Cavers, Henry
Hart and Jim McLaughlin from Harvard, all of whom had been full professors.
Mr. Liss: Did you have any of your former teachers?
Mr. Ginsburg: They were former teachers.
Mr. Liss: Of yours?
Mr. Ginsburg: McLaughlin, yes; I knew them all while in school.
Mr. Liss: Right.
Mr. Ginsburg: There were many others. Nat Nathanson of Northwestern, others
from Columbia, Yale and elsewhere. We had a very large staff although relatively few in
Washington. I doubt that we had more than five or seven hundred in Washington. They were
mostly stationed around the country, in district and regional offices.
Mr. Liss: Wasn’t Bernard Meltzer part of the effort?
Mr. Ginsburg: Bernie Meltzer? Yes, he was—he later went to Chicago, teaching
Mr. Liss: Right.
Mr. Ginsburg: For a long time. I knew him at the SEC. I think he was with us at
the OPA. I don’t have a very clear recollection. I was spending most of my time trying to
organize and deal with the necessary legislation, set up the structure, recruit, prepare a training
manual—we published a loose-leaf service. We distributed our regulations much the way CCH,
Prentice Hall and others do now. Each week I would communicate with our lawyers through the
– 37 –
service. These details were each major efforts. To organize a loose-leaf service for several
hundred offices was not easy. And these matters were important; when prices are controlled
effectively, profits are affected. If costs increase and prices are rigid, it becomes tough to do
business. Most people understood that there were no real alternatives but, understandably there
was opposition. I met LBJ, later President Johnson, when he was a young man serving on the
Hill, with the head of the King Ranch, a Congressman from Texas. Later while in Congress, he
came to me about price adjustments for people within the district. They couldn’t be granted but I
got to know him better then, and later worked with him.
Mr. Liss: Could you imagine that we could possibly organize such an effort to
control the economy today, or is the experience you had something that simply cannot even be
fathomed in today’s economy?
Mr. Ginsburg: Our government responds most effectively only to the threat of
catastrophe. Remember, there had been a Pearl Harbor and we had lost most of our Navy! The
country understood it, and the Congress understood it. Now, of course, conditions are different;
politicization is endemic and the economic and other threats are limited. If dangers and risks are
sufficiently apparent and dramatic, the country and the Congress I think will respond fully and
quickly to overcome whatever alternatives the politics might suggest.
Mr. Liss: Now, I interrupted you some time ago when you were about to relate
that you entered the service.
Mr. Ginsburg: Oh. In the fall of ’42, I was, as I pointed out, a young man. By
then married, without children, in a position of considerable authority. You must remember the
times. In race relations, the blacks suffered, but so too did the Jews. There was a good deal of
anti-Semitism. In New Jersey, there were groups of Nazis, who called themselves Nazis.
Throughout the country there was a great drift to isolation. “We don’t want any part of this. . .
– 38 –
This war is their war, not our war.” After the draft had been in effect for one year, it had to be
extended. As the war began, the administration ultimately won—continuation of the draft was
absolutely essential for defense—by one vote in the Senate. These are facts one never forgets. I
was myself attacked as a Jew by some Congressman, I think, from Virginia. I was emotionally
exhausted. We were working 18 hours every day. There was no day of the week, including
Sundays, when we weren’t doing something having to do with work. There was no relief, and I
felt shaky. So I volunteered and went into the Army as a private; I was certain that I would be
taken in the draft in any event. Bob Nathan, a distinguished economist in Washington and a
personal friend, and I went in at the same time. We reported, traveled on the same bus to the
same place, at that time called Camp Lee, not far from Richmond. When we got there a
newspaper clipping with pictures of both of us had been pinned on the bulletin board, and
underneath, handwritten: “These two sons of bitches arrive today.” It was by no means a terrible
experience, and in many ways, it was an enriching one. Bob was not in the best of health, and
ultimately he was released. I was healthy enough and went through basic training, and the rest of
it. I did everything from driving trucks to other less outdoor duties, and ultimately went to
officers’ training camp, and emerged as a Second Lieutenant. I was sent to England. There was
need for Second Lieutenants because we were losing a lot of them in North Africa. And so,
ultimately, I served in various places—supply, plans and training, other things.
Mr. Liss: How long did your service last?
Mr. Ginsburg: Nearly four years. I remained in the Army until toward summer of
’46. Not quite four years. I came home once as the war was coming to an end in Europe. There
was a need to allocate supplies between the European armies and the Far Eastern armies, and the
General with whom I was working at the time and I came back. The plane was a four-motored
one, the first I had seen. It landed in New York somewhere, and I agreed to meet him in
– 39 –
Washington since I wanted to see the man in New York with whom I had worked so closely,
John Hamm, Leon Henderson’s deputy. I got in a cab to go to his apartment, the cab drove off,
and in a few minutes, I saw the driver, head down, shaking. I leaned over, he was crying and I
said, “What’s wrong?” He replied, “FDR died.” I cried too. I visited John, and we talked about
what had happened. That afternoon, late, I went on to Washington and did the work there that I
had to do. Then back to Europe. This was April ’45; shortly after I got back, I had a call from
General Clay, Lucius Clay, whom I had known in Washington in the Office of Price
Administration. Price control affected items that the Army bought so we had to maintain a
relationship with the military in administering price control. I don’t mean that we tried to price
munitions, but the Army did buy many goods subject to price controls. Clay asked me to come
with him to Berlin. What had happened in Germany after World War I—a terrible inflation that
ultimately led to the destruction of so much wealth and human resources that many historians
believe led quite directly to Hitler—we wished to avoid this time. He wanted help from someone
involved with price stabilization, inflation control, in Europe with him. I thought it was
necessary and agreed to come.
Mr. Liss: Now this was just before Germany surrendered.
Mr. Ginsburg: Yes.
Mr. Liss: But he was anticipating the need.
Mr. Ginsburg: Oh yes. He was scheduled to take over in Berlin, but he was still
in Paris. Yes. I met with him and we talked about his concerns. I thought he was right, and got
in touch with ex-OPA people who were in the Army. Carl Auerbach and Tom Harris, and a half
a dozen or so others, and recruited them. We had worked together before. Henry Reuss, who
later was elected to Congress and became Chairman of the Commerce Committee, joined us and
a number of others. We gathered in Frankfurt before the war ended. Fighting was going on in
– 40 –
southeastern Germany. We set up offices in the I.G. Farben Building, and later the Economics
Division, of which I was part, broke up I.G. Farben and made what’s now three enormous
chemical companies in Germany from that one. Months later I went with Clay to Berlin. Before
we went to Berlin, in July, I had driven from community to community to set up rationing and
price controls, and to recruit as many local people to do that job as we could find; some were, of
course, Nazis. For this purpose, we had to use what we could find. And we did. In Berlin
afterwards, we worked with the Russians, the French and the British. My job was to work on the
Level of Industry for Germany. What industrial resources should be left with Germany? The
Morganthau Plan would have made out of Germany a pastoral country, an agricultural country.
To me it was wrong and dangerous. To destroy the capacity for making goods on a continent that
so desperately needed goods would be destructive. Many of us felt that way and ultimately
Morganthau’s approach was rejected. But setting the initial levels of industry was tough because
the French had one view, the Russians another and the British a third. We were ourselves trying
to provide what Germany genuinely required. The first serious argument was over the level of
the steel industry—how much productive capacity was really required. Now, the level seems
laughable, but at the time, we sought the highest level that we could get. I think seven or eight
million tons a year. Now they’re producing 6 to 8 times that and more. We approached these
matters with the hope that it would be possible to make of Germany a genuine ally. All of us had
the experience of World War I very much in mind. Then the allies had created desperation. We
had imposed on the Germans so many burdens and requirements that some historians tell us
many later turned to “National Socialism” out of desperation and fear. We didn’t want to risk
that again, but hostilities were deep, and as the Holocaust “camps” opened we learned what
really had happened under the Nazis. It was not only the 6 million Jews that had been
slaughtered, but gypsies, the infirm, Catholics, intellectuals generally, and others. Opponents to
– 41 –
the Nazis were destroyed. I visited two of the camps; shock isn’t quite the word that comes to
mind. We were numbed by what we saw. But let’s call it a day. The recollection saddens and
burdens me.
This concludes the interview held April 22, 1998.