Living Under Occupation

by Ralf Dahrendorf

When I hear Americans such as US National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice compare the occupation of Iraq with that of Germany (and sometimes Japan) after WWII, distant memories flood in, for I am a child of that experience. Indeed, in the twelve months following the unconditional surrender of Hitler's Nazi regime in May 1945, I lived under serial Russian, American, and British occupation. Sometimes I think of myself as an expert in comparative occupation studies.

The first conclusion I draw from such experience is this: everything depends on who the occupying power is. When Soviet troops invaded Berlin at the end of April 1945 many of us went into the streets to welcome them. Such enthusiasm did not last long.

One day, Red Army tanks turned from the main street in our quarter towards the crowd. When the crowd dispersed, the soldiers started looting, raping, and pillaging. This continued for only a few days, but fear of the occupying Soviets never left even as they began to distribute food and set up a rudimentary administration. It soon became clear that they were in fact creating another dictatorship in place of the one they had removed.