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BERLIN, Germany, Jan. 20-Beyond official "we are honored" courtesies, the German reaction to President Conant's appointment as High Commissioner is: "Who's he?"
Germans are quite aware that Harvard is a great university, but here presidents are merely faculty members elected for a term of one or two years. Thus the German public finds it hard to see how a university president can fit in as a statesman.
The bulk of the German press is reserving comment and judgement until Conant arrives. West newspapers carried routing stories announcing the appointment and giving a brief biography. One East Zone paper described the "Criminal" activities of the appointee in the defense efforts of the United States in the two world wars.
Because of popular unfamiliarity with Conant, the American-sponsored daily newspaper, Die Neue Zeitung, and radio station RIAS, are energetically publicizing him.
RIAS broadcast a 15 minute profile entitled "Chemist, Educator, Statesman." The script eagerly pointed out that Conant was not coming to Germany cold, but had been here for three quarters of a year in 1925, studying organic chemistry.
From science, the broadcast swiftly moved to Conant's role as educational philosopher and what the broadcasters tabbed "cultural statesman" and "social statesman." They reviewed Conant's part in the development of General Education at Harvard and described his two year college plant.
Drawing mainly on a speech he made on February 20, 1950, the broadcast mentioned his war-time work with the atomic research project. The particular speech contained his theme that "war is not inevitable" and we are in for a period of long tension. The script concluded that his policy would be based on this analysis of the world situation.
The broadcasters interviewed this correspondent for "the student's view" of Conant. Later, using his speech "A Chemist Looks into His Crystal Ball," the station interpreted it as a sign that Conant is an optimist in the good sense of the word.
Neue Zeitung in its Sunday edition arrived an article by Carl Friedrich, professor of Government, entitled "Harvard University and Germany." Friedrich write that Conant held German academicians in esteem, and in substation, noted the many Germans Conant appointed to the Faculty.
In Bonn, while all official comment was polite, some privately expressed mild anxiety that a professional foreign affairs man was not appointed.
Reaction among Americans on the High Commission staff is mixed. Some are thoroughly pleased by the appointment, while others again express doubts't that a non-professional can handle Germany's complex problems.
Initial press accounts mentioned that Conant was a stout Anti-Communist and had approved of a resolution to keep communists out of U.S. education. This caused some alarm in the academic community here, which feared Conant was an anti-communist of the McCarthy like. Latery reports clarified his position.
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