West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt toughened his public stance on the Polish crisis today while the Bonn parliament passed an unusually strong bipartisan resolution calling for freedom for all those arrested and threatening to withhold future economic aid to Poland's military government if the repression continues.
"We hear of countless arrests, of big internment camps, of clashes, of wounded and of dead, of soldiers shooting at workers," Schmidt told parliament. "Trade unionists are arrested. Solidarity is shattered."
"I stand with all my heart on the side of the workers," he said to prolonged applause. Schmidt called for a quick end to the turmoil and asked Poland to abide by the pledges made at the 1975 Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe and to allow the process of reform and renewal in Poland to resume.
Both the chancellor's remarks and the parliamentary action will bring West Germany more into line with the general level of concern about the Polish crisis already expressed by President Reagan. The West Germans, however, continue to avoid any public mention of the Soviet Union in connection with the crisis.
The West German government and Schmidt previously had expressed concern over events in Poland, called for a solution by the conflicting forces within that strife-torn land and stressed the principle of no outside interference.
Bonn generally has been extremely cautious and restrained, however, with no official sense of outrage expressed publicly because the government believes that nothing should be done to escalate further the tensions or raise the stakes in overall East-West relationships.
American officials here and in Washington and West German officials deny that Schmidt toughened his stance in response to any direct American pressure. It is known, however, that the Reagan administration has made clear to all members of the Western alliance how seriously it views the crisis and the potential consequences. The allies were told what President Reagan would say and how important it was to have a unified display of resolve, without inflaming the situation.
Similarly, it is also reported that Bonn may have come under some indirect pressure from France to toughen its tone, as the French have done in recent days.
In some ways, some of the allied reactions to events in Poland were far less stern than those administered by Communist parties in countries such as Spain and Italy.
Aside from denying any direct U.S. pressure on Schmidt, Western officials here believe that the chancellor's clearer tone reflects the deepening of the crisis in these last few days. And, they add, public outrage in many European countries is running ahead of the governments' and this, too, may now be driving political leaders to take a sharper stand.
The Polish crisis caught Schmidt at an especially awkward moment. He was in East Germany, two-thirds of the way through the first full-scale summit meeting of leaders of the divided German nation in more than 11 years. One result is that Schmidt said nothing very harsh the day martial law was declared in Poland, and he has had problems digging out from that ever since.
When word of the military crackdown reached East Germany, Schmidt already had been there for two days. He could have broken off his trip and gone home as a sign of disapproval. Or he could have completed the final day, which included a scheduled press conference and a tour through the city of Guestrow far to the north.
The chancellor, unhesitatingly, according to his aides, decided to continue the visit.
On one level, it was clear that this summit was important. Inter-German relations are still serious business for 60 million West Germans and 17 million in the East, and for the two German governments.
But Schmidt's decision to carry on was revealing for two other reasons.
One is that it illustrates Bonn's continued, indeed growing, devotion to trying to preserve some kind of East-West detente as world tensions rise.
The other reason is that it is a reminder of the differences in instinct and approach in dealing with the Soviet Bloc that sometimes set Bonn and some other European allies apart from the way Americans might react to the same event.
For several days, there was little press or public discussion here of Schmidt's decision to remain in East Germany, which suggests that either nobody wanted to discuss it or most people agreed with it.
But the one criticism that was raised immediately was a stinging attack by Franz Josef Strauss, leader of the conservative opposition Christian Social Union in Bavaria. It defined the issue precisely in stark terms that few others used.
Strauss accused Schmidt of lack of proper instincts when the news broke about Poland and of a failure to differentiate morally between the governments of East and West.
While martial law and its consequences were being imposed on Poles and leaders of the Solidarity trade union movement were being arrested, Strauss said, the chancellor allowed himself to stay in the East and be seen on television and in newspapers as the guest of an East German leader who for months had been in the vanguard of those calling for a crackdown against Solidarity.
Just two days after Schmidt left, East German party chief Erich Honecker, through the official news agency, reiterated his country's full support for the measures taken by the Polish authorities.
Strauss chided Schmidt for suggesting at a Sunday press conference in the East that Honecker shared the dismay felt over the developments in Poland.
Today, in the parliamentary debate, another conservative leader, Helmut Kohl of the larger Christian Democratic Union that is allied with Strauss' party, picked up on what Strauss had started.
"What people did you really want us to help that way?" Schmidt shot back at Kohl responding to the question of whether he should have interrupted his visit. "A premature dramatization by us Germans, of all people, would have helped neither the Poles nor the Germans. We Germans should not set ourselves up as judges on Poland."