White, Grey Black: An Introduction to the Colorful world of the ICD

Edward Breitenkamp, in his early study of the effect of information control on German authors and publishers, notes that the ICD used various lists to determine the suitability of an individual to fill a role in the cultural machinery of post-war Germany. However, the existence of these lists seemed to be controversial. Breitenkamp notes that these lists were not for general distribution, though the four occupying powers did exchange lists on a somewhat regular basis. The closest relationship in this regard was that between the Americans and the British, who assiduously honoured one another’s lists of banned individuals. This point, however, appears to be contradicted in History II, where it states that "[t]he Information Control Division furnished black lists to the other three powers, but received no information in return." [1] In this particular case it is most likely an error on the part of the compiler of History II, since there is mention of these lists in the minutes of the meeting of the quadpartite Information Services, and British lists do appear in the American archival records. Moeover, there are instances of at least the British blacklist having been received by the Americans. Evidence of this being the case is readily available in the ICD files.[2] However, this may indeed have been the case of with the Russians and the French.

The ICD approached the task of cataloguing and classifying performers, publisher and film makers, to mention but a few of the catagories, with thoroughness. Evidence of their meticulousness may be found in the "White, Grey, and Black List for Information Control Purposes" dated November 1, 1946, which was a supplement to the initial list created on August 1, 1946.[3] The classification criteria were initially set out December 21, 1945 by Robert C. Martindale, who was acting Chief of the Intelligence section of the ICD and a civilian serving with the Military Government. The new criteria superceded those put in place December 1, 1945, which in turn had replaced a policy that was announced on October 1, 1945. It appears that there was an extremely fluid situation in regard to who might be licensed. However, it seems that this set of guidelines was the final authoritative iteration.

This does not mean that there may not have been a certain amount of "fudging" going on in the creation of these lists. History II indicates that "[t]he task of denazification was complicated by the pressure on the Intelligence Branch to lower standards so that German Information services could be turned over to the Germans."[4] Further evidence of this may be found in the hiring of Germans to run the radio services in the American Zone of Control. Allegations were made that the Americans favoured those who had a right-wing slant, with the implication that they were Nazi sympathizers, in the appointment to the leading positions within the German Radio media.[5] In some respects this was a red herring used by supporters of the SPD to try to establish themselves in crucial media roles that were to help form Germany’s future political direction.

By November 1946 there were still some ICD district offices using the older standards. This is apparent from the explicit manner in which the change from the older six category system needed to be noted.  The ICD had pared the number of possible classification from six to five. Instead of being classified A, B, C, D, E, or F applicants were catagorized as either White, Grey, or Black, with White and Grey being further subdivided.

Those classified as being "White" were sorted into A’s and B’s. A’s needed to have an impeccable record, which warranted licensing in the fields of press, publishing, major theatrical or musical enterprises. They were considered suitable for leading positions. The individual had to be determined as not having been a collaborator with the Nazis nor a beneficiary of Nazism. In addition, having been a member of one of the following organzations did not preclude a White-A designation:

Potential "White A" Organizations

Reichsbund der deutschen Beamten

NS Rechtswahrerbund






Deutsche Studentenschaft



Reichskammer der bildenden Künste


Deutsche Jaegerschaft




Reichsbund deutscher Familie

Deutsches Rotes Kreuz

NS Reichsbund für Leibesübungen

Reichsarbeitsdienst (if compulsory; if vocational, then Grey C not acceptable)

NS Bund deutscher Technik

Deutsches Frauenwerk

NS Lehrerbund


However, rank in these organizations indicated Party membership and only allowed a ranking of Grey acceptable or lower.

White-B’s were suitable for licensing or employment in leading positions of all media except in the fields of press, publications, or film production. This initial differentiation shows which of the areas the ICD were to consider the most sensitive areas of cultural activity in terms of forming future public opinion. This classification indicated that the applicant had not been a member of the NSDAP or affiliates, except for the above listed organizations and the following additional organizations:

HJ and BdM

Deutsche Akademie Muenchen (before 1934; after 1934; Grey C acceptable)

Rank in KDF

Deutsches Auslandsinstitute (before 1934; after 1934; Grey C acceptable)

Deutsche Glaubensbewegung (Note: Membership in any principle suborganization: Grey C acceptable of better)

Deutscher Fichte-Bund (before 1934; after 1934; Grey C acceptable)

NS Altherrnbund

Ibero-Amerikanisches Institute (before 1934; after 1934; Grey C acceptable)

Deutsche Christen-Bewegung

NS Frauenschaft (before 1936; after 1936; Grey C acceptable)


Amerika-Institut (before 1934; after 1934; Grey C acceptable)

VDA (if abroad before 1939, Grey C not acceptable. If any rank was held, then the classification was Grey acceptable or lower)

Ost-Europa Institut (before 1934; after 1934; Grey C acceptable)

The candidate could also have shown no evidense of collaboration with the Nazis or benefits under Nazism. Additionally, they were also considered suitable for a probational White-A classification.

The second classification was "Grey," which was also divided into two subgroups. Those deemed "Grey Acceptable" were suitable for employment but not in a policy making position or in an executive, creative or personnel capacity. They were really not suitable for licensing and were to be replaced by "Whites" at the first opportunity. They were NSDAP party members or members of one of the following organizations:

Party member or member of one of the above two lists or the following:


Deutsche Akademie Muenchen (after 1934)

Deutsche Frauenschaft (after 1936)

Deutsches Auslandsinstitute (after 1934)

Ibero-Amerikanisches Institute (after 1934)

Deutscher Fichte-Bund (after 1934)

Amerika-Institut (after 1934)

NS Reichskriegerbund

Ost-Europa Institut (after 1934)


If they held a rank in one of these organzations they received a designation of Grey Unacceptable. If they had been a member of one of the following organizations, they applicant would need to explain the circumstances of their having become members:




Deutscher Gemeindetag (Membership implies NSDAP membership)


Institut fuer deutsche Ostarbeit


Alldeutscher Verband

A rank in one of the above organizations warranted a Black classification. There could also be no evidense of Nazi or nationalistic convictions. This is where the small, non-party, opportunists were placed.

Those considered Grey Unacceptable were not suitable for employment other than in ordinary labor as defined under Military Government Law No. 8. Those having belonged to the following organizations automatically found themselves in this category:

Reichsarbeitsdienst (vocational)

NS Reichsbund deutscher Schwestern

VDA (if abroad before 1939)

NS Aerztebund

A final classification was "Black." These individuals were simply judged to be unsuitable for any employment in any information control media. Members of the following organizations were automatically classified as Black:

Waffen-SS (unless drafted after 1943)



Kameradschaft USA

Staatsakademiefuer Rassen- und Gesundheitspflege

Werberat der deutschen Wirtschaft


Reichsring fuer Propaganda

Verband Zwischenstaatlicherverbaende

Allgemeine SS

Sicherheitsdienst der SS

Institut zur Erforschung der Judenfrage

The individual could also not have held an office or rank in the Nazi Party, its subordinate organizations, organizations furthering militarism. In addition, the following conditions also disqualified an individual from activities regulated by the ICD:

An Officer of the Wehrmacht, unless a specific exception is made by Information Control

An Officer or Non-Comissioned Officer of the Waffen-SS

A marked beneficiary under the Nazis

A participant in Nazi crimes, persecutions or racial discriminations

One whom evidense shows to have been a believer in Nazi, racial, or militaristic creeds

One who voluntarily gave substantial moral or material support to the NSDAP, its officials or leaders

While there may have been some confusion of policy at times, the discussion of where an individual might be categorized had already begun well before the end of the war in Europe. On February 11, 1945 Alfred Toombs, Head of Intelligence for the ICD, released a document relating to the treatment of NSDAP members and their suitability for involvement in the cultural industries of post-war Germany.[6] There was a suggestion that May 1, 1937 be considered a cut off. That is, those who had joined the party after that date be disqualified from holding a publications license. However, he saw no room for members of the NSDAP in the new German media. In fact, as Eva-Juliane Welsch notes, he managed to ensure that only those who actively opposed the National Socialists in German were granted the priviledge of a holding a license as a publisher.[7] Toombs was ever vigilant in ensuring that tight control was exercised over publishers and was always concerned that they were getting out of control as in directive he issued in May of 1946.[8]

The "White, Grey, and Black List for Information Control Purposes" supplemental inventory dated November 1, 1946 had a total of 2529 entries of all classifications. Neither the very old nor the very young could escape classification by the ICD. The oldest to appear on the list is an 86 year old bookdealer from Immenstadt by the name of Max Wengenmayr, who was "Grey Unacceptable." The youngest to appear on the list is Alfred Gruber, a musician, who at the age of 11 years was classified as "White-B." Gruber was by no means an anomaly. The youngest applicant to receive a Black designation was Johannes Bollmann, a newspaper employee from Nuremberg.

The statistics of the ICD’s "White, Grey, Black List" show some interesting trends. 1919 had been declared as a benchmark year for Allied occupation policy. It provided the cut off in terms of those they would consider to potentially culpable for Germany’s crimes. Age, however, did not exclude individuals from the ICD vetting process. In addition to the cases already mentioned above, 186 of the individuals appearing on the list are under the age of 21. No one 18 years of age or younger was classified Black. Four people between the ages of 18 and 21 were designated Black. Most of those under 21 received a White-B or Grey-A classification. At the age of 18, banning of individuals from Germany’s cultural machinery began. For example, at 18, Valentin Salzberger of Pfaffenberg, a musician (it does not indicate whether it is the Pfaffenberg in Baden-Wuerrtemberg or Bavaria), was considered enough of a threat to have been categorized as black. There is no indication of what he might have done to warrant the classification. It might have been nothing more than having lied on his or her Fragebogen,[9] which was considered a serious transgression.

The largest group of applicants fell into the Black classification (30.5%) and only 8.0% of the applicants were given a classification of White-A, the category that allowed the greatest freedom and required the greatest trust on the part of the ICD. White-B was the second largest classification, which allowed them to do most things in their profession; however, they were not allowed to make policy decisions. "Grey-A" (19.6%) and "Grey-U" (11.7%) represent the remaining 31,3% of the applicants.

The largest single group on the list of 7797 names is that of musicians. To a large degree they skew the statistics. Of the 3146 musicians (40.3% of the total list) only 2.0% are granted a White A designation. The overall average is 8.0% with the large group of musicians keeping the number artificially low. By the same token, very few musicians find themselves at the other end of the spectrum with only 12.0% being classified as Black. Here the overall number is 30.5%. What this indicates is that musicians had a relatively easy time passing muster in order to be musicians, but where not necessarily a priority when it to assigning them leadership position. This could be a result of the profession itself. Publishers of books and newspapers were by the very nature of their profession cultural decision makers.

Of greater interest are these culturally sensitive professions. In the case of writers (14.2% of 590) and editors (18.5% of 373), their rate of White-A designation falls within the norm when one factors out the musicians. They also have normal designation rates in the other classifications. On the hand, there is a group that stands out. Publishers (32.2% of 755) have a rate of White-A designations that outstrips all the others. This indicates that the ICD may either have become more lenient with this group in an effort to launch a publishing industry that was now being set up to compete with that of the Soviet sector, or there was something in the process itself that led to a high number of applicant being accepted. Though the former may be part of the truth, it is most likely the latter that led to these results. The vetting process for publishers, as will be described in some detail later, was quite different and more strenuous than for any other group. This in itself would have resulted in some self-removal or selection.

Blacklists, or lists of proscribed individuals, were a common occurrence in all of the zones of control and did not follow a set pattern in terms of how the information was presented. The "White, Grey, and Black List for Information Control Purposes" dated November 1, 1946, is the most comprehensive in terms of the information it provides. It gives the year, and place of birth, as well as the current address and profession of the applicants. Other lists, while not as thorough in terms of locating and identifying the applicant, did sometimes provide the reason for a license having been rejected and the organizations, or people, the applicant was in some way related to. Despite indications from some ICD officers, the lists current in the various sectors were exchanged on a regular basis with the understanding that lists established in one sector would be honoured in all sectors. This, however, may have been more theoretical in nature than actual practice. That is to say, the lists may have officially been exchanged, but may not have been passed on to the DISCC level or enforced once it did arrive there. In any case, there still seems to have been instances of individuals having been blacklisted in one sector moving to another sector and being able to work there with no difficulty.[10]

While the lists emminating from the Soviets seemed to have had little effect on the blacklists in the western sectors and the French showed little interest in the cultural issues, there was considerable cooperation between the British and the Americans. This may be seen in the number of British lists appearing the American archived files and vice versa.[11] 

The blacklisting of publishers went further afield than only those located only in Germany. The "vetting" included Swedish and Swiss publishers as well, though the authorities were not able to enforce their procedures on these individuals and entities. A February 1945 PWD (Psychological Warfare Division) document intended as preparation for post-war control procedures in occupied Germany provides insight into how far the Americans were willing to go.[12] They used the 1941 members list of the "Börsenverein der deutschen Buchhändler zu Leipzig" as the basis for their list of publishers to be investigated. Publishers such as Braus-Riggenbach (formerly Henning Oppermann) were blacklisted though they were located in Switzerland. Braus-Riggenbach was accused of being "strictly pro-Nazi" with the owner having close ties the former editor of the Swiss Nazi paper Neue Basler Zeitung. A further publisher, Francke A.G. of Berne, was found to have "dispatched German propaganda periodicals to the United States" and was thus also blacklisted. Some of the firms had reached arrangements with the PWD, like Hug & Co. of Winterthur and Zurich. The owners, Adolf Hug Senior and Junior, signed an undertaking with the Allies "submitting to Allied control of their exports and neutral imports."

While the ICD could censor the production of books produced in post-war Germany, it had to also keep a close watch over material that survived the war. In an effort to control the trade of the surviving stocks of books the ICD regularly read and vetted communications between publishers and their dealers. An example of this is an intercepted invoice from the C.H. Beck'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung sent to Das Bücherkabinett located at 14/16 Königstrasse in Hamburg. The censorship form indicates that the invoice was sent on the 7th of November 1945 and postmarked on the 8th of November. The intercepted document was examined on the 17th of November and was found to contain billings for four works by Walter Flex: [13] Demetrius[14], Frauenrevoire[15], Wallenstein[16], and a final item simply named Novels. The censor further notes that "according to the second edition of the Neue Zeitung books by Walter Flex have been banned."[17] Unfortunately the records do not indicate what the result of the investigations. Most likely it ended up the same as that of the Klostermann publishing house, which was found guilty of having produced works by Ernst Jünger, an author who was banned, and was subsequently stripped of its license to publish.[18] In addition, a warning was sent out to publishers of the dangers of releasing material of which the ICD did not approve.

There are a few things that call attention to themselves here. The first is the meticulous nature of the ICD overwatch of the publishing industry. A second point is that the ICD covered every avenue in trying to ensure that the German publishing industry complied with their list of proscribed authors. A final point is that the overt newspaper Neue Zeitung was used to indicate to disseminate to the German publishing industry as well as ordinary people which specific authors were banned in post-war Germany. It was, afterall, the mandate of the Neue Zeitung to communicate the wishes of the Military Governments to the German people. 

[1] History II, 27.

[2] RG 260 5/268-2/17 Bundesarchiv Koblenz.

[3] NARA RG 260 390/42/16/5-6 Box 69

[4] History II, 27.

[5] The Americans were not the only ones to suffer through such allegations. The British experienced similar difficulties with NDR in Hamburg.

[6] RG 260 OMGUS 5/268-2/7 Bundesarchiv Koblenz.

[7] Eva-Juliane Welsch, „Die hessischen Lizenzträger und ihre Zeitungen,” Dissertation Universität Dortmund, 2002, page 35.

[8] RG 260 5/269-2/8 Bundesarchiv Koblenz

[9] For more information see section entitled Fragebogen

[10] History II 66-67.

[11] An example from October 15, 1947 may be found in RG 260 OMGUS 5/268-2/17 Bundesarchiv Koblenz.

[12] RG 260 5/265-3/12 Bundesachiv Koblenz

[13] Born 1887, died 1917. His works were used by the National Socialsists to indoctrinate the youth with nationalist ideals.

[14] Initially published in 1910.

[15] This title must have been copied in error, since it does not appear that Flex published a book with this title.

[16] Initially published under the name Wallensteins Antlitz. Gesichte und Geschichten aus dem Dreißigjährigen Krieg in 1916.

[17] Bundesarchiv Koblenz OMGUS RG 260 5/265-3/12.

[18] RG 260 5/269-1/7 Bundesarchiv Koblenz.