Background: This amusing Cold War pamphlet was issued in 1950, accusing the United States of dropping potato beetles (or Colorado beetles) on East Germany. Not only was the U.S. trying to ruin the East German potato crop, it was also trying to establish a market for a new pesticide. There was, in fact, a serious potato beetle infestation in the GDR in 1950, but the U.S. had nothing to do with it. At about the seame time, the Czechoslovakians were claiming a similar American plot.
The BBC did a 2013 story on the topic, complete with interviews from East Germans at the time who say that they didn’t believe the charges, since potato beetles had been around for a long time..
These stories have a history. During World War II, the Germans accused the Allies of dropping beetles from aircraft, and the British accused the Germans of the same.
The source: HALT Amikäfer (Berlin: Amt für Information der Regierung der DDR, 1950).
STOP Yankee Beetles
Crimes against Humanity
As the first reports that American planes were dropping Colorado or potato beetles (called Yankee beetles by the people) over the territory of the German Democratic Republic, even those who had never doubted the lack of conscience or scruples of American warmongers were reluctant to believe them.
People had still not forgotten the “Open Letter” written by the state bishop of Württemberg, Dr. Wurm, to the American occupation forces on 17 May 1949. The bishop stated that the bombing of thickly populated cities like Dresden, Darmstadt, Heilbronn, Pforzheim, and many others, when there was no military need and the victory of the Allies was assured, was a crime against humanity. Tens of thousands of civilians were killed by such cold-blooded mass murder, above all old people, women, and children.
The wave of resistance and active opposition against the American government’s preparations for war and its growing armaments increases every day.
An avalanche of signatures against the atom bomb increases.
Nonetheless, people who are fighting to prevent a third world war, who are fighting to maintain world peace, had doubts about the first reports. Why? Because the extent and enormity of the American government’s crimes, both those already carried out and those planned, exceeded their worst fears! They are done in service of the Wall Street billionaires and American imperialists
Both private farmers and members of collectives have expressed their outrage at the most recent crimes of American air gangsters. German and foreign journalists on an information tour of the German Democratic Republic had opportunity to visit the village of Schönfels near Zwickau on 17 June 1950, one of the areas most attacked by potato beetles. In a protest declaration, the German and foreign journalists stated:
“The unanimous testimony of the farmers who saw this problem in their fields is that the large number of Colorado beetles appeared a day after American planes flew over the area.
Colorado beetles are smaller than atomic bombs, but they are also a weapon of U.S. imperialism against the peace-loving working population.
We journalists who serve peace hereby condemn this new criminal method of the American warmongers.”
This protest carried the following signatures:
The farmers assured the journalists that there could be no other cause for the infestation than from the American planes they had seen. Potato beetles normally appear at the earliest in mid-July, but this time they appeared at the end of May. If they had developed from larva, there would have been numerous signs of their activity. There was no potato foliage at the time for them to eat. The previous year, four potato beetles were discovered. This year, it was 1300. The farmers were particularly struck by the fact that all the potato beetles they found were of the same size, which suggests they had been bred.
The unassailable proof for the intentions of a notorious gangster diplomacy, which has taken over plans for a total war of annihilation from German and Japanese fascism, is offered in the following pages. It shows everyone the true face of the deadly enemy of progressive humanity and of world peace.
The current American government, which is using the most brutal fascist methods to silence those fighting for social progress and peace in their own country, wants to use the most terrible means of atomic bombs and bacteriological warfare to bring the whole world under the control of dollar imperialism. The German people, and all those fighting for peace, demand that the American government, its hirelings and servants, along with the Bonn separatist government of the traitor Adenauer, be brought before the court for war crimes.
The next thirteen pages include a report from an investigative committee and a protest from the East German government on the matter. The following section is titled:
E 838: The Sensational Background to the Potato Beetle Crime
On Wednesday, 7 June 1950, a Berlin radio commentator presented a sensational report that drew the attention of the entire world to the criminal spread of potato beetles by American planes over the territory of the German Democratic Republic.
The commentator stated:
Today I received information that, under the code name E 838, IG Farben in Leverkusen is committing one of the greatest crimes of the post-war period. What kind of crime, and who are the criminals, you ask?
The best answer as to the criminals comes in a film now showing in our theaters: DEFA’s “Council of the Gods.” The names are not important, since they are all the same. The type of person is what is important — members of the system of international big capital.
You will also know that between 20 and 25 May, American planes dropped large numbers of Colorado beetles in the south and southwest of our republic. These insects do terrible damage to potato plants. Because of rainy weather, and because of the necessary examination of the details, it took a while to make the connection between the sudden mass appearance of the potato beetles and the over-flights by the American planes. Naturally, not every potato beetle infestation is the result of such a crime.
After our republic’s information service announced this attack on our agriculture, a vehement campaign of denial began in the Western press. However, across the ocean, “Harpers Magazine” had reported that the destruction of the agriculture of foreign countries has long been one of the most important areas of study by the U.S. general staff, and that there were already experiments to develop practical methods to destroy useful crops.
More discoveries were made. In Zwickau, beetles were found in the square in front of the railway station. Near the dam at Sosa, they were discovered in bath tubs inside houses, Although everyone knows that even the most eager and ambitious potato beetle normally avoids such areas, the Western press called the sudden appearance of this destructive swarm in our republic “an entirely normal and natural phenomenon.” And with a considerable delay, there were reports of the sudden appearance of huge swarms of potato beetles in areas where they had not been seen before. At the same time, however, a report from an American investigative committee leaked out that discussed the bad tactics and insufficient preparation of the whole potato beetle campaign, and also criticized the fact that the spreading of the beetles over the GDR had not followed the distribution plan.
The investigation by the government of the German Democratic Republic, and information that we have since learned, proves that his attack on our harvest was only a part of a much larger crime.
From the first, it was unclear why the pests had been dropped not in the middle of the republic rather near the borders, which carried the risk of infesting West German territory as well.
The code word E 838, the designation of a new pesticide against the potato beetle developed by IG Bayer in Leverkusen, provides half of the answer. It was a matter of big business for the American war minister and the stockholders of I.G. Farben, Johnson and his crew — both a war exercise and profitable business at the same time.
The Central Biological Institute in Braunschweig has already tested this new pesticide developed by German scientists. This poison penetrates the shell of the insect, and with even the slightest movement kills the insects, larva, and eggs. This product is the property of a newly-founded subsidiary of the Pittsbourgh (sic) Coke and Chemical Company and the Oeary Chemical Corporation, two large American chemical companies. In order to be marketable, it needed a major test.
The big speculators on Wall Street, however, are not interested only in damaging our harvest, in making money with E 838, with earning more from sales of American potatoes to replace those destroyed by the beetles (also in West Germany). There is more! Our investigations prove beyond any doubt that it was a test of their plans for bacteriological warfare!
Bacteriological weapons are feasible only when their user has a way of dealing with the destructive effects.
When the Americans dropped the beetles in the south of our republic, thereby also endangering West German territory, they were primarily preparing for bacteriological warfare. The goal was to test the distribution equipment, the influence of the wind and weather on the creatures, the accuracy of the drops, the effects on the “enemy,” the impact on one’s own territory, and the effectiveness of defensive means. They were also interested in business goals, in securing a market for potatoes on the world market. Who does not remember the poison gas I.G. produced during the war and for Auschwitz? Hitler fascists had already gone beyond the traditional methods of testing on rabbits and guinea pigs, using people for their criminal experiments. The war criminals of 1950 use still larger measures, as they would call them. They are using whole regions in the east and west of our fatherland, along with the inhabitants, for their experiments, and as the battleground for the war they ar preparing.
It takes one’s breath away to imagine the intellectual and spiritual condition of these supposed Christian citizens of the West who are capable of such inhumanity.
In my opinion, it would be right and good if the resolutions of our farmers won a world hearing, and if their demand was heeded that:
Is such an American provocation on German soil a surprise? However surprised one may be, we should remember that it is only a link in a larger chain. Just as the American warmongers want to carry out Hitler’s plans with their atomic strategy, they have also taken over terrible Japanese imperialist plans for bacteriological warfare. Above all, they have proved their intellectual relationships by protecting the Japanese war criminals condemned by the Soviet Union at Chabarowski, who had prepared and carried out bacteriological warfare. They have not answered Soviet demand that the Japanese emperor Hirohito and his accomplices, who are guilty of the same crimes, be brought before an international criminal court.
American conduct of the cold war takes on ever hotter
forms, as these developments show, the more the will of the peoples
— all peoples — for peace shows itself. The imperialists
are enraged by the growing millions of signatures against the atomic
bomb. Their methods grow ever more ruthless, blatant, more open, typical
of monopoly capitalism. Their hysteria betrays their weakness! The best
defense is our burning, unforgiving hatred against such subhumanity,
the watchfulness and determination of all Germans, of our workers and
citizens, our farmers and our scientists, above all our youth, to free
Germany from the plague of warmongers. Our strength is our will for
construction and peace, our friendship with the peace-loving world!
The next two pages claim that the U.S. had done similar things in 1944 and 1948. It concludes with three pages on fighting potato beetles.
Go to the GDR Page.
Go to the German Propaganda Home Page.