Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Robert A. Stevenson
STEVENSON: Yes, of Willy Brandt in Germany and of Allende in Chile. We certainly were not friendly in Chile and made no bones about it. But in Germany at that time, we had very open contacts with the SPD. The Communist Party was declared illegal while I was in Dusseldorf. Well, not illegal, but they were non-registered because they didn't make five percent in one of the elections, as I remember, so they were then barred as a party.
Parker Wyman and I went to their last rally and reunion in Solingen. We got on a train from Dusseldorf one Saturday morning and went over to Solingen. We got right out in the crowd and listened to the communist leaders, Max Reiman and—I've forgotten; there was a younger one, Gup Angenfort, I believe. Everything was going along fine until finally we noticed that one of the speakers was talking about, “Watch out for agents provocateurs in the crowd,” and we noticed these women were looking at our shoes. You know, American shoes were a dead giveaway. (Laughter) I got nervous. I said, “Parker, let's get out of here. I'm getting awful nervous.”
“Nah, that's all right,” he said, “there's a lot of kids here.” (There were a lot of children in the crowd). “They're not going to make any trouble.” So we stayed until the end. But I was kind of relieved when the rally ended about noon and we went off to get some lunch. Just around the corner were about 500 heavily armed German riot police, just out of sight around the corner. So if anything had happened, I think they would have moved in on it.
Dusseldorf was an interesting experience, a completely different area, but I was glad to get back to Latin America.
Q: You were obviously due for a post in Washington after a good solid ten years out.
STEVENSON: Yes, and I did get one, of course.
Q: Your job was the Cuban desk?
STEVENSON: I went to Harvard for a year and got a Master's in Public Administration at the Littauer School, and then was assigned back to East-West Trade, which was the deadliest job I ever had in the Department. I didn't know whether I could stand it or not. It was such a dull job, where we were for example trying to find out who was shipping ten pounds of cobalt under the running board of their car, etc. I'm exaggerating, but there was a lot of petty stuff involved, and tedious, dull work.
So after about six months of that, which was in the Division of Economic Affairs. I can almost remember the fellow who headed it up for years and years and years, and I always felt he must have been uniquely qualified for it to stay there so long, Bob—what was it? A Scottish name.