ALLIED EXPEDITIONARY FORCE
Psychological Warfare Division
Two leading Krefelders:
I. A leftist Catholic
II. A Rightist Industrialist
(From P & PW, 9 U.S. Army, dated 11 March 1945)
I. A leftist Catholic.
Willi ELFES, who lives at St. Tönis, 4 km from Krefeld is probably the most important German opposition leader now in our territory. A man of strong convictions and moral fervor, he has been a consistent and active opponent of Nazism, has carried on the struggle in Catholic circles and has been in close contact with the Gördeler group which made the attempt on Hitler's life July 20. Now Elfes sits in his little room in the parish house, where he hid himself when the Gestapo was after him in October, and observes American policy and behaviour with considerable dismay and not without understanding.
It is not so much the looting and the rape that bothers him (much of the looting at St. Tönis is done by the Belgian troops stationed there) — he understands that in war time soldiers cannot be expected to behave like followers of St. Francis. What troubles him, a fighting Catholic democrat, is to see (and hear about) Americans continuing Nazis in office and treating all Germans, Nazis and anti-Nazis, alike. In St. Tönis, he says, a town that contains numerous opponents of the Hitler regime, the Burgermeister is a Nazi party member and an ex-major in the Wehrmacht. The policy of quartering troops, he says, frequently turns out to be such that the Nazis are spared and the enemies of the Hitler system are thrown out of their houses.
"Your policy," Elfes said, "is exactly like your bombing — frequently indiscriminate. When you first came here there was joy at the liberation. Now people are bitterly disappointed. Is this the behaviour of freedom-loving men, of democrats? The people here have lists of Nazis which they hoped to hand over to the American liberators, but now they keep them for themselves and hesitate to cooperate."
Elfes is an ardent Catholic with social ideals that are, to use President Roosevelt's expression, "left of center." Were it not for his religion, he would be a Socialist. As it is, he was a leading member of the Centrist party and a member of its executive committee. Elfes knew Bruening well, but, although he respects him, he considers him too weak and also too conservative. For 18 years Elfes had been editor of the WESTDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG, an influential newspaper with a circulation of 200,000. He was a member of the Prussian Diet as well as of the Munchen-Gladbach city council. In 1923 he became Chief of Police (Polizei-Prasident) of Krefeld, a position from which he was thrown out by the Nazis when they came to power. To support himself, he opened a cigar store. Among his customers were bishops and leading clergy.