Lot 60 D 224

The Secretary of State’s Special Assistant (Pasvolsky) to the Secretary of State 1

Memorandum for the Secretary

Subject: Unity or Partition of Germany

There are attached two memoranda on the problem of unity or partition of what will remain of Germany if certain boundary adjustments discussed in another set of memoranda2 are made. The first [Page 762] memorandum3 is a brief version of the second, much longer and more detailed paper. Maps are attached showing tentative plans of possible partition.4

The weight of argument definitely appears to be against any attempt at a forcible division of Germany into several parts. This does not, of course, exclude encouragement of voluntary separation of the various sections of Germany.

In this connection, it would be of the utmost importance that, if Germany is to remain united, the power of Prussia within the country be greatly reduced. There are several ways of doing this, and we are now working on an analysis of these possibilities.5

L[eo] P[asvolsky]
[Enclosure 2]

Memorandum by Mr. David Harris, of the Division of Political Studies6


Germany: Partition

i. the problem

The problem is an assessment of the desirability, and the determination of the possible character and the duration of a partition of Germany in the interest of post-war security.

The problem arises by virtue of proposals advanced by certain officials of the United States, British and exiled Governments.

The issue involved in the proposal is not phrased in terms of a choice between partition and no control whatever, but rather in terms of the utility of partition as a possible substitute for, or supplement to, controls in the form of occupation, disarmament and restrictions on political and economic freedom of action.

ii. alternative proposals

A. Partition or Unity

1. An Introductory Statement of Basic Arguments

a. For Partition.—In favor of partitioning Germany is the judgment that, whether there be an international organization or not, [Page 763] military and economic disarmament either would be insufficient or would be abandoned by the victorious powers and that, accordingly, the way to insure peace is to break up this great concentration of force in the heart of Europe.

b. For Unity.—In favor of leaving the Reich as a unit at the end of the war are the contentions (1) that the rigorous enforcement of carefully planned military and economic controls would effectively restrain Germany, (2) that because of the prospective hostility of the mass of the German people partition would needlessly complicate the problem of control by necessitating the imposition and the maintenance of the separation by force for an indefinite period, and (3) that the nationalistic resistance evoked by partition would jeopardize eventual German reconciliation with the peace settlement and constructive German participation in the desired world order.

2. Implications of Partition

Partition as a means of stripping the Germans of the ability to make war would require a genuine dispersal of the instrumentalities which have made the Reich so powerful. Foremost among these instrumentalities have been the actual war machine built of men and matériel, the nationally integrated economy, and the centralized political control.

a. Partition and the War Machine

(1) The Period of Occupation.—The security measures desirable in the period immediately following the defeat of Germany are occupation of strategic points and areas, demobilization of the army and destruction of its equipment, and maintenance of order and other essential governmental functions. It is pertinent to ask if partition would make a useful contribution to the administration of occupation. The necessity for rapid movement of the occupying forces from one area to another and the manifest dangers to allied harmony in assigning parts of Germany to the troops of individual allies have led to the common determination that occupation of the whole of Germany should be the work of a single United Nations authority. While this single authority might subdivide its functions into regions coterminous with the hypothetical partite states without necessarily injuring its efficiency, there is no apparent ground for supposing that partition would aid in the work of occupation; in a crisis all German administrative lines would have to be ignored.

A second question relative to the occupation period would be whether partition would be an economical substitute for measures otherwise essential. It might be answered that the uncertainties prevailing in a [Page 764] defeated Germany would hardly warrant relaxing any security measures before the full effects of partition could be measured, an assessment which would require at least several years. In the meanwhile, therefore, the occupying authorities would have the duty of administering the same measures required in case Germany was left united and would have in addition the task of enforcing partition.

(2) The Period of Reconstruction.—In the subsequent and more hazardous period of reconstruction the emphasis will be placed on maintaining disarmament and on curbing dangerous economic enterprises. Again, the necessity for a common supervision of the whole of Germany seems apparent although, as in the earlier period, there might be no necessary impairment of efficiency through administrative subdivisioning to conform to the partite lines.

In case of German resistance to partition, the supervising authorities could not relax any of the established controls and would, in addition, have the further burdens of coping with the increased animus of the Germans and of thwarting attempts of the partite states to work surreptitiously together. In case, however, the German people accepted partition in good faith and the several regions went separate ways, it would be possible to reward good behavior in a given state with a progressive abandonment of restrictions. Yet since the system of controls prospectively would be the same during an indeterminate time whether Germany was partitioned or united, partition would create an additional barrier to reconciliation unless German national unity broke down through inner collapse.

In either the occupation or the subsequent period, it might be concluded, partition would seem to have no prime relevance to the problem of destroying and keeping destroyed the German war machine.

b. Partition and German Economy

Germany’s closely integrated economy constitutes a portentous war threat. If partition—as distinguished from other forms of control—is to be an effective means of weakening Germany, it is necessary to examine its implications for this potentially dangerous instrumentality. Should Germany remain united, its economy would be a potentially serious menace as soon as the original controls were relaxed. Should Germany, on the other hand, be partitioned, the attendant economic problems would place before the victors the dilemma—discussed at greater length below—of deciding whether to leave the economy wholly or partially intact and have it consequently maintain a strong pressure for national unity or to break up this formidable concentration of strength at the expense of the German and the European standards of living.

[Page 765]

c. Partition and National Unity

The creation of partite states through the action of the victorious powers would not necessarily do more than effect a nominal rupture of Germany’s political unity. A genuine break-up of the Reich would be possible only through a changed outlook of the German people or through coercion.

(1) The Prospective German Attitude.—German acceptance of partition would mean a reversal of a century-old trend, and would involve a shift of major loyalty from the Reich and from the nation as a whole to ia geographic subdivision. Such a change would be possible if marked geographic lines of cleavage either exist at the end of the war or could be fostered.

While it is possible to assert that Bismarck created the empire through blood and iron, once it was created there was no serious movement questioning the unity of the Reich. Particularism as a doctrine of independence came to an end in 1871; after that date it merged with federalism as a program for the preservation, or restoration, of the privileges of the historic states within the imperial framework. Separatism has meant a desire for separation, not from the Reich, but from one of the constituent states such as Prussia. It has normally not implied a desire to sever connections with united Germany but simply an internal readjustment. The attempts in 1919 and 1923 to establish an independent Rhineland had little popular support despite the exceptionally trying times; French patronage of the movement robbed it of all prestige in German eyes.

Loyalty to one of the ancient princely dynasties did not in the period from 1871 to 1914 appear to the average German incompatible with allegiance to the Reich, although devotion to the old states impelled a federal constitution in 1871 and prevented the formation of a unitary state in 1919. The roots of provincial differences run deep into Germany’s past, but for over a century economic, cultural and political developments have been in the direction of greater national integration.

During the Weimar period, in general terms, federalism was supported by the nationalists, conservatives and reactionaries and the centralizing, unitary movements by the liberals and radicals. The debate between the two parties, however, was not over the existence of one Germany but over the internal constitutional organization. The remarkably uniform upsurge of the National Socialist party all over Germany after 1928 suggests no material geographic variations in the strength of the national sentiment.

One of the historic lines of cleavage within Germany has been the religious, but there is little conclusive information to be drawn from [Page 766] the Weimar period to support an assumption that religious affiliations might serve as a substantial basis for the hypothetical partite states. About one-half of the Catholics regularly voted for the Center Party and consequently in preponderantly Catholic areas the Marxist and Nazi vote was somewhat less than in Protestant regions, but not enough less to indicate a significantly different kind of political life. In the Nazi period the common persecution suffered by Protestants and Catholics has drawn the two groups closer together than at any time in the past.

There have been within the past year some indications of a recrudescence of centrifugal forces, yet the present evidence points to no organically sound and popular movement that would go beyond a mild form of decentralized federalism in which Prussia’s special position would be reduced. The most reasonable expectation, accordingly, is that an externally imposed break-up of the Reich would evoke bitter opposition from the German people. Coercion would seem to be the only means calculable at present of instituting and maintaining a plan of partition.

(2) Problems of Coercion.—Coercion as the means of perpetuating the dismemberment of Germany would create several problems.

One of these problems would be the frustration of German attempts to circumvent partition. In the field of economic activity, a customs union would open the door to a wide gamut of common action; an imposed independence would probably inspire a diversity of parallel activities which would in the end be common activities. Likewise in the political field, identical political parties and identical legislation could go far toward nullifying partition. Another possible means of circumvention would be the choice by the several states of the same executive. Resentful Germans could invent countless devices not easily subject to veto.

The duration of the settlement in the face of German opposition will depend on the continued unanimity of the victorious powers. That unanimity, in turn, will depend to no little degree on how well treaties drafted at the end of the war stand the test of a peace-time sense of justice and meet the economic and political requirements of the post-war years when the dangers of Germany’s militarism will not be so poignantly felt as now and when German propagandists will exploit every occasion to divide the allies over the justice of the peace settlement. It is to be anticipated that every conflict of opinion between the victors will open the door for a German fait accompli and that every concession will be interpreted by a large body of Germans as a victory of obstruction rather than as a reward for good conduct. It can also be envisaged that the several resentful entities might either [Page 767] actively or passively invite one or more of the victor powers to stake out special claims for power and influence.

Committee Discussions of Unity vs. Partition

The Political Subcommittee

In the deliberations of the Political Subcommittee the supporters of partition took their stand on the thesis that world security demands that Germany should never again become a menace to international peace. The means to that end, they thought, was the destruction of the power concentrated in the government of the Reich and the decentralization of German energies by a divisioning that would split and cut across the political and moral forces of the land. After the world’s previous experiences there was great danger, it was emphasized, that a Germany united would in years to come be working once more for a dominant position; the United Nations could not afford to run the risk again in the face of a two-hundred year old record of dynamic power.

Partition was represented as an aid for the immediate post-war period in controlling Germany’s war industries and as a procedure which would permit a special military control of Prussia for the next quarter or half-century. The advocates of partition anticipated that in the long run the act of dividing Germany would be a powerful supplement to invasion as a demonstration of the necessity for a change of heart with respect to military ambitions. It was hoped that the proposed action might not only force the Germans into law-abiding behavior but also allow them, under the leadership of anti-Prussian and other peaceful groups, to find a prosperous and happy place in the new world order.

In opposition to the proposal the contention was advanced that it would be of questionable wisdom to rely for the means of controlling Germany on such a doubtful procedure as partition. The necessary controls, it was reported from the deliberations of the Territorial Subcommittee, would not differ materially regardless of whether Germany was divided or not, and those controls, in the opinion of certain members of the Political Subcommittee would be adequate if they were strictly enforced. It was also reported that the Security Subcommittee foresaw a complication of the machinery of control and a larger army of occupation in case of partition.

In reply to these conclusions it was insisted that, since the occupying forces would operate under one United Nations authority, the boundaries of the partite states would not be a handicap to prompt action, and it was claimed that the controls necessary in both the occupation period and subsequently could be administered as efficiently over several units as over one. One opponent of the Security Subcommittee’s [Page 768] judgment maintained that there was nothing, from the viewpoint of security, which would favor the maintenance of German unity as against dividing Germany and keeping the parts separated.

A report of the views of the Economic Subcommittee emphasized the high degree of integration of German economy and held that almost any kind of division of Germany would reduce the national efficiency. While the belief was advanced that partition would be possible in a general European organization, doubt was expressed as to the desirability of a customs union as suggested in the original proposal. It was anticipated that the entailed break-up of economic unity would mean a period of disruption and that the customs union would create pressures for further collaboration which, if successful, would reduce the partite states simply to political units of little importance.

In defense of separate political administrations despite a considerable measure of economic unity, hope was voiced that the partite states would receive the support of religious and other centrifugal forces. Criticism of this hope, however, pointed out that, under such an arrangement, Germany would be the scene of a contest between a centralized economy and a decentralized political life and that in recent years economic forces, under comparable circumstances, had won out.

Counselling against fragmentation, according to repeatedly expressed opinions, was the improbability that the victorious powers would enforce the peace settlement. While one member anticipated the probable failure to control armaments and centered his hopes on partition as the best means of security, others focussed their doubts upon the enforcement of partition. It seemed highly unlikely to certain members of the subcommittee that a decade or two hence the American public would deny German claims to unity if they were made, as they probably would be, in the name of peace and democracy. It likewise appeared questionable whether the other peoples of the world and the international organization would resort to force to prevent something as natural as the reunion of the German units.

A frequently advanced conviction held that the great danger in partition was to be found in the reaction of the German people. The protagonists of division anticipated that the Germans would protest against, and try to worm out of, any kind of controls that might be set up and they admitted that the Germans would not enthusiastically accept partition; they hoped, nonetheless, that in time a decentralized life would take root.

The opponents of partition, on the other hand, foresaw that such treatment would be psychologically disastrous in that it would make German reconciliation impossible. The attempt to reverse the trend of history, it was contended, would give the Germans a political program [Page 769] and a war cry that would make for lasting disturbance; only through military power could the centripetal forces at work be restrained.

A program, it was said in reply, would be ready for any German demagogue whether Germany was divided or not—the program of Pan-Germanism and of world domination. If Germany were partitioned, the achievement of this ambition would require two steps; if not, only one.

Tentative Views of the Political Subcommittee

In the meeting of May 2, 1942, the chairman summarized the discussion as pointing to a tentative opinion that some form of permanent or temporary division of Germany was desirable in the interest of security. As the study of the problem continued, the divergence of views led to the suggestion on July 18 that the subcommittee should offer alternative solutions, one based on unity and one on partition. No formal choice was registered by the members as between these alternatives. In the discussion of November 7, the chairman saw a definite trend toward retaining Germany as a unit.

The Territorial Subcommittee

The members of the Territorial Subcommittee were generally unsympathetic to partition.

The expectation was repeatedly stressed that partition would set in motion powerful centripetal forces and that the stronger were the external efforts to divide Germany, the greater would be the pressure toward unity. In view of the long trend of German history toward economic and political integration, several members reiterated the conviction expressed in the Political Subcommittee that partition would be an artificial solution which would have to be maintained by force and would not accordingly effect a lasting security.

In the discussion of the economic aspects of partition, there was some divergence of opinion as to whether partite German states would work together or go separate ways if incorporated in a European federation, but there was common disposition to believe that, without the broader organization, partition would raise up serious economic problems. One body of opinion, as in the other subcommittees, emphasized the danger that collaboration even to the extent of a customs union would defeat the purposes of partition; another opinion reaffirmed the conviction that the prosperity of Germany, which is essential for the well-being and peace of all Europe, would be injured by a disruption of the unity of German economy; and yet another opinion pointed to the difficulties of attempting to prevent the Germans from evading an order to break up their economy.

[Page 770]

The Economic Subcommittee

In the deliberations of the Economic Subcommittee it was pointed out that the partition of Germany would mean the undoing of the most highly integrated state in the world.

As in the other subcommittees apprehension was voiced that fragmentation might prove a greater menace than the retention of German unity because of the strong feeling of nationality among the Germans. Certain members believed that it would be easier to make disarmament a lasting means of security.

The subcommittee held that a strict economic separation of the partite states would mean a loss of economic effectiveness and a lowered standard of living, and that a customs union would be incompatible with the objectives of partition. A broad economic federation seemed to the subcommittee to be the only way of breaking up the Reich without serious injury, but the members agreed that the basic problems of the post-war period would be increased many-fold by partition.

The Security Subcommittee

While one member of the Security Subcommittee favored putting Germany in a military and political straight-jacket by means of a partition which would isolate Prussia with a view to simplifying control over the western industrial areas, the majority of the subcommittee expressed opposition. The two chief criticisms levied [leveled?] against partition were those voiced in the other subcommittees: the disastrous psychological effects on the German people, and the meager prospect that the prolonged military control necessary for enforcement would be supported by public opinion in the United States and in the other victorious countries.

In discussing the occupation period the military membership of the subcommittee pointed out the danger of assigning parts of Germany to individual national armies and insisted on the necessity of a single occupation authority. It was conceded that, from the point of view of security during the allied occupation, once the unity of military command was secured the number of subdivisions was immaterial; at the same time, however, it was denied that partition would serve a useful purpose.

With respect to the subsequent period, the subcommittee agreed to the following judgment: “After the termination of the occupation, a partition of Germany without adequate international control to maintain the separation would not be conducive to security. If such control exists, the reason for partition as a means of security disappears”.

[Page 771]

B. Relations Between the Partite States in Case of Partition

1. Political Relations

a. Independence

The best external guaranty of the breakup of German political unity would be gained by imposing complete independence on each partite state. Of the alternatives here listed, however, rigid separation would be the most offensive to German nationalism and therefore the most conducive to the perpetuation of German resistance and to the multiplication of evasive devices. On the other hand, admission of some degree of special relations between the states would legally set in motion a centripetal force hard to control in the face of German pressure and of the peace-time concerns of the allied victors.

b. Special Treaty Arrangements

The least dangerous type of formal interstate co-operation would be that permitted through authorization to make certain treaty arrangements not conceded to non-German states. The compatibility of such a mechanism with the objectives of partition, however, would require a careful limitation of the scope of the agreements and an enduring vigilance to see to it that the ostensible purposes of the treaties did not conceal ulterior motives.

c. A Common Council

A third alternative would be the concession of a common council of delegates responsible to their respective governments and restricted to the formulation of recommendations. Such a structure would be essentially a revised edition of the German Confederation (1815–1866) in which there would be no machinery either for legislation or for the enforcement of the council’s conclusions. If the German states, as in the days of the Confederation, did not wish to submerge themselves in a common policy, the council could not coerce them. If, on the other hand, the Germans continued their resistance to the imposed division, the council would provide a legal mechanism for a co-ordination of policy which would go some distance toward overcoming the handicaps of partition. If genuine centrifugal tendencies asserted themselves in various parts of Germany, the council by its resemblance to the Confederation would conceivably find roots in the past. If, however, the sense of national unity remains substantially unimpaired, the council would inherit the odium heaped on the old symbol of German impotence.

d. A Circumscribed Federation

A further alternative would be a federation of German states limited to carefully enumerated powers from which military and other potentially aggressive activities would be excluded. A federation so restricted would also offer considerable protection to particularistic [Page 772] tendencies, but the machinery itself would be no guaranty of a veto if the German people wished a strongly integrated state. The Bismarckian constitution on paper was a confused and cumbersome instrument; yet in 1914 it made possible an effective organization of the national energies for war. The social and economic forces of the present century have made heavy inroads on federalism wherever practised. Should the system be imposed on a recalcitrant German people, it would require a supreme court of the United Nations, or of the international organization, to weigh virtually each piece of federal legislation. Such a procedure could not fail to have a grave influence on the prospects of German reconciliation with the post-war order.

Discussion of the Political Subcommittee

In the Political Subcommittee there was a diversity of views as to the relations between the partite states in case of division.

The original proposal submitted to the subcommittee envisaged a “form of unity”, a “semblance of union but no practical opportunity to unite for offensive action”. One current of thought, however, emphasized the dangers of ultimate reunion inherent in any kind of federalism and held that it would be better to divide Germany into two or three independent states and forbid any special arrangements between them. A federation, one member believed, would be tantamount to the creation of a unified state and therefore incompatible with the professed objective.

In opposition to this thesis it was said that the Germans would more readily accept a federation that meant something substantial than they would an absolute separation. Out of fear of a central organization one member wished to allow only a limited economic collaboration to be carried out by treaty arrangements. Another suggested a confederation with a unicameral diet having authority to legislate in the economic sphere to the extent of establishing a federal bank, a common monetary system, uniform income tax laws and possibly social insurance regulations. In the interest of preventing further consolidation, this proposal assigned the administration of the confederation’s laws to the partite states.

In comparable vein of anxiety, it was suggested that Germany should be returned to the pre-Bismarckian confederation with a principle of majority action and that attempts should be made to reconstruct the confederation as it should have developed in the years after 1848.

Another trend of thought inclined toward recognizing the unity of the Reich but using the influence of the victors to encourage decentralization. In favor of federal arrangements it was pointed out that historical development had moved toward larger rather than smaller political units, and that, since an attempted division would provide [Page 773] material for future demagogues, the form and substance of unity should be preserved through a federal assembly sitting in a capital more central than Berlin.

According to yet another point of view, if a general system of security were created, the solution of the German problem might well be found in the creation of a federal state similar to that of either the republican or the imperial period with an executive fully responsible to a national legislature. It was further suggested that, except for the reduction of the size and influence of Prussia, the definition of the component parts of the federation should be left to the Germans themselves. Similarly another member did not wish to go beyond prescribing broad principles of decentralization, leaving it to the Germans themselves to propose the number and the character of the constituent states and the forms of collaboration.

2. Economic Relations

No matter what kind of political relations might be permitted in case of partition, there remains the further question of what should be done about the high degree of economic integration which the Nazis took over and have further intensified by government-controlled trade associations and cartels and other devices.

a. Complete Separation

The most effective means of weakening Germany’s economic war potential would be the imposition of rigid economic division, as well as political, through a most-favored-nation stipulation. If this alternative were successfully enforced, a substantial part of the advantage of specialization and division of labor would be lost and industrial efficiency correspondingly lowered, industries would be cut off from their customary markets, numerous manufacturing processes would be split by tariff barriers, and agricultural areas would be unable to compete in the world markets and would therefore lose population. In so far as there was a general diminution of world trade barriers these effects would be reduced, but an economic partition would still mean a serious disruption. The immediate advantages to world security of crippling Germany would exact a cost in terms of a reduced German standard of living with extensive repercussions not only upon the German state of mind but also upon European and world economy.

The observance of the most-favored-nation principle under current practices of quotas, exchange controls and other types of trade barriers would be difficult at best, and the problems would be greatly increased if the stipulations had to be enforced over German opposition. Enforcement would require continuous and detailed supervision of the trade controls and other commercial practices of the partite states for several decades before new vested interests took root and it would [Page 774] necessitate machinery for determining and restraining violations. Because of the many ways already perfected for circumventing tariffs and other restrictions, the effectiveness of complete separation may be subject to doubt.

b. A Customs Union

A customs union between the partite states would eliminate some of the worst disadvantages inherent in the preceding alternative. The question arises, however, whether that half-way degree of decentralization could be stabilized and perpetuated. The opportunities for illicit combination mentioned in connection with the first alternative would be increased and the purposes of the separation commensurately undermined.

At the same time a customs union would raise problems that could hardly be settled without the concession of additional forms of collaboration. A customs union alone would not make possible control over trade and payments between the partite states. Without a monetary union or other form of close monetary co-operation the equilibrium between the states could hardly be maintained. Likewise a substantial degree of uniformity in social and labor legislation would be essential, and provision would be necessary for free movement of persons and capital. Under the most restricted limits of co-operation a customs union would have to be given the machinery necessary for negotiating external economic arrangements. Since international trade is inextricably bound up with political activity, the customs union, rather than the individual states, would become for all practical purposes the sovereign entity in international relations. The jeopardy to the objectives of the victors would be all the greater by virtue of the fact that it would be hard to make a generally acceptable distinction between a purely economic policy and an ostensibly economic policy which concealed a dangerous combination of economic and political ends.

c. Incorporation of the Partite States in a European Economic Union

The proposal that the separate economies of the partite states be absorbed in a European economic federation requires first an assessment of the possibility of establishing some kind of economic federation that would mean a genuine reduction of trade barriers. While our defeated enemies could be initially coerced into such a system, there is a widespread reluctance on the part of our allies to enter or to sanction this kind of arrangement. Given the advanced development of industrialism in the Reich, there is material danger that a European economic federation would result in a German domination of the continent not totally unrelated to that aimed at in Nazi ambitions.

[Page 775]

There is, further, no apparent ground for supposing that a political division would make the federation either more palatable to Germany’s neighbors or less exposed to the menace of German control, except in the case of the Reich’s falling apart through internally disruptive forces, a contingency which cannot be counted on at the present time.

Should this solution be adopted by the victor powers, it would necessitate, in order to avoid a chaotic beginning, a period of gradual transformation in which the general European system of trade restrictions was reduced to the desired level while the German interstate barriers were being raised to it.

Committee Discussions of the Economic Relations Between the Hypothetical Partite States

The Economic Subcommittee

The Economic Subcommittee, as indicated above, was of the opinion that the first of the alternatives here given would result in an undesirable loss of economic efficiency and lowered standards of living, and that the second, a customs union, would nullify the ends sought by partition. There was agreement, however, that it might be possible to make partition a feasible measure by the establishment of a larger union. It was suggested alternatively that the German units be joined with the Danubian states, with the proposed East European Union, and with all of the other European states in one economic organization. The third form, in which national boundaries would cease to be economic frontiers, seemed to the members to offer an ultimate solution of the problem of making partition possible; it was further thought that the greater the extent of the federation, the less the danger of German domination. Doubt was expressed, however, as to the acquiescence of Great Britain to a continent-wide union.

The Political Subcommittee

In the course of the Political Subcommittee’s discussion of interstate relations the argument was advanced that the proposed customs union, together with an internationalized transportation system, would adequately meet the economic necessities of the partite units. In opposition to this view, however, were the objections previously alluded to: that a customs union, while disruptive of German economy, would in the end undermine the significance of a political division. Warnings were given on the one hand against damaging German economy and, on the other, against leaving it intact.

To preserve German viability in case of partition, there was support both for the concession of special relations through preferential treaties or common economic agencies and for the Economic Subcommittee’s [Page 776] proposal of a comprehensive European economic association.

The subcommittee agreed, before canvassing all the implications of a customs union and of other forms of interstate relations, to consider the most desirable number of partite states.

C. The Number of States in Case of Partition

The Political Subcommittee’s Discussion of the Bases for Deciding

The Political Subcommittee considered several principles on the bases [basis] of which the number of states might be determined.

An Economic Approach

One proposal, growing out of a belief in the prime importance of economic activity, advocated a fragmentation along economic lines in order to provide each unity [unit] with a considerable measure of self-sufficiency. A variant plan recommended dividing Germany into two or three large economic units and then giving the traditional small states the choice of entering such larger units or remaining separate. Doubt was expressed as to the wisdom of allowing such elasticity in the transitional period; the suggestion was defended, however, on the ground that it would offer the Germans the satisfaction of making a choice.

Several objections were offered to determining the number of proposed states on economic grounds. On the predicate of a customs union the principle of self-sufficiency for each unit was declared invalid. The further criticism was made that it would be impossible to erect self-sufficient units within Germany and that it was consequently useless to attempt to draw an economic line unless it was desired to segregate specific industrialized areas. According to another view, since there was no economic advantage in partition, the discussion and the decision should rest on political grounds; once a political decision was made, the task would be to see how the least economic harm could be done.


The chief political principles invoked in the subcommittee’s discussions were legitimacy and tradition. The conviction was expressed that, since the Germans of all the peoples of Europe are the most governed by the principle of legitimacy, the plan of division should abide by that principle.


It was urged that the victors should provide a chance for the powerful forces of decentralization to exert themselves in Germany, and religion was identified as one of them. To give wider scope for religious influence it was proposed that at least one state be designed to have a strong Catholic majority.

[Page 777]

While one member anticipated that there would be a substantial revival of religion after the war, another was doubtful of the importance of the old religious lines. In explanation it was said that many of the younger generation were no longer Christian and that the Nazi persecutions had brought the active Protestants and Catholics closer together than they had ever been before. Also in opposition it was pointed out that the German Catholics, although sympathetic to moderate decentralization on religious grounds, had not been separatist in tendency.

As an argument against a religious segregation, it was suggested that, since the Social Democratic party and the Center party had been the two most stabilizing parties of the republican period, future development of the whole of Germany along peaceful and orderly lines might be impeded by drawing political lines that would prevent full collaboration between these two groups.

Attitude Toward Numerous Small States

While the principle of legitimacy was interpreted as pointing to the revival of numerous dynastic states, the same principle was invoked as an argument against over-fragmentation. Opposite views were likewise taken on the question whether it would be easier for several states or for a few to reconstitute the unity of the Reich. The trend of the discussion, however, went against the creation of a large number of states. It was observed that it would be hard to control them and to make them prosperous, that they would necessitate giving greater powers to a federal government, that they would be the source of wars between themselves and with would-be absorbers, and that, finally, opinion in the United Nations would be alienated by too extensive a partition. The essential problem, in the opinion of one member, was the diminution of Prussia; after reducing that trouble-making state, the next problem was to make other states strong enough to resist domination while collaborating in federal enterprises. Hence the necessity, it seemed, to have units large enough to be viable and self-respecting.

1. A Tripartite Division; “F” Lines7
(Indicated on maps 16, 23, 24, and 28, German Series)

The Political and Territorial Subcommittees leaned toward the adoption of these lines in case partition is decided upon.

[Page 778]

The information here introduced to describe the hypothetical states set up by a tripartite division following the “F” lines is necessarily based on pre-war data which is at present out of date in several respects.

a. Area and Population

Percentage of total area (1937) Percentage of total population (1939) Population per square mile
Northwest 35.4 39.9 430
South 30.3 33.9 427
East 34.3 26.2 291

b. Economic Activities

Sources of livelihood in terms of percentages of stipulated area’s population gaining livelihood from indicated occupations:

Agriculture Forestry Industry Handicraft Commerce Transport Services Income, etc.
Germany 18.0 41.0 15.9 25.1
Northwest 15.3 43.2 16.5 24.9
South 19.3 42.9 14.5 23.3
East 20.5 35.3 16.3 27.9

Industrial relations:

Percent of total livelihood from industry (1939) Percent of employment in major industries Percent of labor union membership
(1925) (1930)
Northwest 42.0 44.4 52.5 52.6
South 35.5 35.0 26.4 25.6
East 22.5 20.6 21.1 22.0

While Northwest was relatively strong and East relatively weak, there was a notable consistency in the figures as arranged in these categories. The industrial strength of East, however, was based on coal mining in Silesia and on finishing manufactures around Berlin. At the present time these percentages may not be valid because of the bombing of the western industrial areas and the eastward shift of factories.

In agriculture Northwest was also the richest of the three areas in production of staple commodities and in income, gaining 44 percent of the total farm income. East, with 20.9 percent of the farm income, has poor soil for the most part and has been chronically in need of subventions to prevent wholesale bankruptcy.

The total regional income and the per capita income have steadily revealed the same disproportion between Northwest and East, although Berlin, the economic capital as well as the political, represents an anomaly in the latter region.

[Page 779]

This distribution of activity was based on the maintenance of Germany as a protected free trade area of unified legislation and administration. Any modification in that arrangement would disturb the equilibrium established through the exploitation of natural advantage and specialization within the whole of Germany.

c. Political Activities

An estimation of future currents of political development in the hypothetical regions presents insuperable difficulties at the present time. For a decade free political activity has been suspended and references to pre-Nazi trends may have only a limited validity in the post-Hitler period.

During the Weimar period there was a certain difference in the strength of the German political parties indicative of divergent influences and interests in these three areas. In Northwest the Social Democratic vote was distinctly and consistently heavier than that of other parties until it was eclipsed by National Socialism. In South the Catholic faith gave a leading position to the Center and Bavarian People’s Parties. In East the Junker National People’s Party competed with Social Democracy for first position.

Yet the differences are by no means as striking as the similarities of the three regions. Graphs representing party votes in the whole of Germany and in each of the tripartite divisions show virtually the same kind of curve for each of the major parties. In general terms the Germans of the three areas reacted in the same manner to the changing conditions of the Weimar republic.

This homogeneity of political outlook is revealed in the rise of the National Socialist Party. The following table gives the Nazi percentage of the total vote in the specified areas:

Sept.1930 July 1932 Nov.1932 March 1933
Germany 18.3 37.4 33.1 43.9
Northwest 19.2 40.9 33.2 44.5
South 16.3 31.6 28.7 40.6
East 19.2 39.9 35.2 47.0

The percentage of the total Nazi vote in each region:

Northwest 45.0 46.2 45.7 42.9
South 28.4 27.2 27.2 30.1
East 26.6 26.8 27.1 27.0

It is to be recalled that the distribution of the total population in 1933 was 39.9, 33.9 and 26.2 percent respectively.

Although South was relatively less Nazi in sentiment, the three regions showed a consistency as the party grew from 800,000 supporters [Page 780] to over 17,000,000. These tripartite lines, consequently, would effect no appreciable separation of Hitler’s followers from their opponents.

d. Religious Affiliation

The distribution of the two Christian faiths would be as follows in terms of the percentages of the 1939 population:

Protestant Catholic
Germany 61 33
Northwest 75 18
South 35 61
East 72 20

These figures, however, indicate nominal affiliation rather than active communication. The Catholic percentage of the vote in 1924, 1928 and 1932 remained in each of the hypothetical regions approximately one-half the Catholic percentage of the population, while the Marxist percentage of South’s total vote averaged only slightly less than the Catholic vote and in 1928 exceeded it. South, therefore, although there religion tended comparatively to restrain the extremes of Marxism and National Socialism, was not predominantly Catholic in politics and not fundamentally different from the other two areas.

e. The Question of Distinctive Regional Characteristics

The prospect for the continued existence of three states so divided would depend on (1) continued coercion on the part of the victors, or (2) the presence, or the development, of a distinct and separate homogeneity in each of the states.

In terms of historic experience, none of these hypothetical units has a unique homogeneity. The only two historic frontiers coinciding with the proposed lines would be that along the northern frontier of Bavaria and that separating Mecklenburg and Prussia. East, composed entirely of Prussian provinces except for portions of Anhalt and the state of Saxony, would have the advantage of a long common administration with Berlin as a center, but the other regions would be made up of traditional units that possess no unique experience and organic political background. The states hypothecated in the proposal, therefore, have no roots in the past and would be in large measure synthetic creations.

It seems plausible to suggest, therefore, that the only practical way to insure the development of sufficiently diverse ways of life in the three suggested states to have them go separate ways would be to erect high political and economic barriers between them until new vested interests and new habits of thought and conduct had emerged. The preceding discussion, however, has attempted to indicate the problems and difficulties incident to such a course.

[Page 781]

Committee Discussions of a Tripartite Division

The Political Subcommittee

General Considerations

As the Political Subcommittee continued its consideration of the most desirable form of division, the merits and demerits of some form of tripartite solution received greater attention. Against this kind of division it was urged that the plan would give Prussia the predominant role in a large section of Germany and would tend to recreate the conditions by which Bismarck unified Germany under Prussian hegemony. Fear that a third state would hold and abuse the balance of power also led to opposition. There were advanced, however, several reasons why a tripartite division was to be preferred. Such a form seemed to satisfy the demand for limited fragmentation; it would set up states strong enough to feel safe and able successfully to counterbalance Prussia; it would make a hasty union more difficult, and, finally, it would commend itself to the German people more satisfactorily than would a greater number of states.

The “F” Lines

Several different combinations of territories were suggested for the three hypothetical states; in common between them was a reduction of Prussia substantially to the East Elbian region. In July 1942 the “F” lines, as analyzed above, were presented to the subcommittee as a tripartite plan which would make a distribution of economic resources and war potential substantially proportionate to the distribution of population, although Prussia would fare less well than the other regions.

It was pointed out, in comment on this explanation, that the distribution of industrial resources between the three states was illusory since the character of German industry varied from one of the partite regions to the other. Further dissatisfaction with the “F” lines was voiced on the ground that the western line ran through the Ruhr, that the eastern state—a reduced Prussia—would resemble post-1918 Austria in that it would consist of an enormous city and an insufficient hinterland, that the agriculture of the East was dependent on subsidies and on the protected market of the whole of Germany, and that the “F” lines cut many important railways. In reply to these and other objections on economic grounds it was stated that a practical discussion would have to be predicated on a customs union and that the German transportation system should be incorporated into a general European organization rather than broken into three parts.

While it was indicated that only one segment of the proposed boundaries was an important historic frontier (northern Bavaria), the division seemed to one supporter of partition to satisfy the demands of [Page 782] legitimacy on religious grounds in that South would be Catholic and the other states Protestant.

The arguments in favor of and against a partition along the “F” lines were, aside from the foregoing points, essentially the same arguments advanced without reference to specific lines.

The Territorial Subcommittee

In the opinion of one member of the Territorial Subcommittee the “F” lines seemed to set up the fairest type of partition since they reduced Prussia and divided the remainder of Germany into two fairly even parts, one Protestant and one Catholic.

The trend of the discussion, however, was critical. The “F” lines were condemned because of their lack of historic justification and because of their economic complications.

The eastern state was seen as doomed to poverty, and fear was expressed that, since this region was the most warlike part of Germany, the resulting hardships would create a provocative and dangerous situation. The balance between the three areas was attacked as a bookkeeping balance which would not correspond to the realities of the German economic organization. Because the “F” lines would cut the major industrial districts and disrupt numerous industrial processes, it was contended that this proposed division could not be supported from the economic point of view. There was no persistence of regional specialization, it was further claimed, which would aid in locating some other partite lines.

In the course of the discussions the dilemmas of a customs union and of separate economies, adverted to above, were presented for consideration. It was emphasized that, because more than one-half of Europe’s industrial production was German, the well-being of the continent, and therefore the peace, depended on the prosperous organization of Germany.

As a means of security the tripartite division was held to be of little use; the better economic course would be to restore Germany’s dependence on foreign trade and exercise direct control over the western industrial district.

The Economic Subcommittee

The previously cited opinions of the Economic Subcommittee as to the feasibility of a political division of Germany only within the broader framework of a European economic union were based on the subcommittee’s consideration of the projected “F” lines.

The Security Subcommittee

In the Security Subcommittee likewise the criticisms of partition given in an earlier section of this memorandum were applied to the “F” lines. According to a military point of view, the northwestern state alone would have a chance to survive; the diminished Prussia would naturally gravitate toward it and an eventual union would [Page 783] result. It was also anticipated that South would either establish ties with Northwest or with Austria; in the latter case, belief was expressed that this southern union would have to expand to the east and southeast in order to survive, thereby sowing the seeds of future wars. According to this same military opinion, partition as a means of military security could be successful only if the German units were incorporated in a larger federation of similar small states.

2. A Four-Fold Partition
(Indicated on Map 58, German Series)

A recently suggested plan would divide Germany into four states:

Southern, bounded by the old frontiers in the South and East, by the Rhine in the West, and the Bavarian frontier in the North;

Western, extending from Oldenburg, with the port of Emden, in the North, to include the Rhineland, Westphalia and part of Hesse–Nassau;

Central, bounded on the South and West by the above-indicated states and on the East by the Elbe River to the western frontier of Saxony; and

Eastern, made up of Hamburg, Schleswig–Holstein, Mecklenburg, Saxony and the Prussian lands beyond the Elbe.

a. Area and Population (1939)

Percent of total area Percent of total population Number per square mile
Southern 23.2 19.1 313.9
Western 13.5 24.2 684.8
Central 19.5 17.6 344.6
Eastern 43.8 39.1 340.5

b. Relative Economic Strength

The distribution of sources of livelihood in terms of the percentage of the German total for the listed categories would be as follows (1939):

Agriculture Forestry Industry Handicraft Commerce Transport Services etc.
Southern 26.8 18.0 16.3 17.2
Western 16.5 28.7 23.9 23.1
Central 19.4 17.5 16.6 17.0
Eastern 37.3 35.8 43.2 42.7

By such a division, therefore, the Eastern state—a revised form of Prussia—would emerge as economically the strongest unit of the four, in contrast to the results of the tripartite division.

c. Religious Affiliation

The distribution of membership in the two Christian religions, in terms of the percentage of the stipulated areas’ total population would be:

Protestant Catholic
Southern 36.9 58.4
Western 37.0 56.1
Central 81.0 11.6
Eastern 75.4 14.8

[Page 784]

d. Regional Homogeneity

While the Central and Eastern states of this plan would be nominally homogeneous in Protestant affiliation, the two Catholic regions would be distinctly less so. Political behavior in terms of party votes would show substantially the same pattern in each region as in Germany as a whole. Each hypothetical unit would represent an arbitrary combination of historic states, although by tradition the Southern state would have a higher common denominator of experience and culture than the others.

3. A Bipartite Division

If it were decided to divide Germany into two parts, traditional distinctions would suggest two forms: an East and West and a North and South.

a. East and West

The Elbe River has conventionally been accepted as a frontier between two different kinds of Germans, the eastern group of whom is commonly identified as Prussian. This easy generalization, while rooted in historic fact, does not lend itself to critical examination. The region houses not only the Junker of Pomerania and East Prussia but also the radical proletarian of Berlin and Hamburg, the small farmer of Schleswig-Holstein, the coal miner of Silesia and the textile worker of Saxony. Even though the military spirit has been notoriously cultivated in the East, it would be more cautious, and more in harmony with the last century of German history to identify Prussianism with a state of mind rather with a geographic region.

A division approximately along the Elbe would mean an East of only slightly more population and resources than the East of the “F” lines and a West combining the strength of the Northwest and the South of the tripartite plan.

b. North and South

A line which gave some heed to the traditional differences between North and South would follow the religious frontier along the northern boundary of Bavaria. If a South comprised those states which were outside the North German Confederation of 1867 it would include approximately thirteen million inhabitants, leaving all other Germans in the North. If for religious or other reasons a bipartite South were extended through the Rhineland, the result would be a state similar to the South of the tripartite division and the other two regions of that plan would form the northern state.

The misunderstanding inherent in continuing to think in terms of these two historic distinctions is to be found in the fact that the greatest concentration of people and of national economic strength was developed in the northwestern part of Germany after the East-West [Page 785] and North-South polarity became rooted in popular thought. That region has no clear place under the old rubrics.

Committee Discussions of a Bipartite Division

The Political Subcommittee

In support of a bipartite division the anticipation was expressed that if there were only two states, and preferably two states completely separated, vested interests would develop and with them a sense of rivalry that would eliminate a desire for union. By an East-West division, it was asserted, Prussia would be held down and easily subjected to special controls. In opposition to such a thesis, another member foresaw that a dual partition would make future union a simple operation. A further criticism of the proposal charged that this form of division would penalize Prussia as against the rest of Germany whereas during the past fifteen years Prussia carried no more responsibility for what has happened than did southern and western Germany; hence it would be a clear injustice to punish only Prussia.

The Security Subcommittee

Opinion was expressed in the Security Subcommittee that a partition line following the Elbe River, with Hamburg assigned to the East, would offer a better chance of peace than a tripartite division.

4. Multiple Division Following Historic State Lines

a. The Tradition in Germany

Despite the century-old forces culminating in the rigorous centralizing policy of National Socialism, the ancient heritage of cultural particularism has remained underneath the acceptance of national unity. During the Weimar period numerous reformers, notably many practical administrators, were proposing a reconstruction of the federal system. There was a large common denominator among these plans in that the dismemberment of Prussia and the establishment of from ten to twenty federal units were frequently proposed. These new units were generally made up of combinations of historic states and provinces since virtually all Germans, except those content with Prussian hegemony, agreed that strict maintenance of the historic states was impossible.

It is possible that a reaction to the current excesses of centralization might lead the Germans to adopt a reformed federalism if they were free to make their own decision or if they were encouraged rather than compelled in that direction. One may expect, however, that coercion would place on the proposal something akin to the stigma borne by the Weimar republic.

b. The Number of States

If a return to historic state lines were resolved upon, the victors would be confronted with great difficulty in specifying boundaries in harmony with the principle. A literal return to the frontiers of any given date would be as undesirable for the allies as for the Germans [Page 786] by virtue of the fact that it would resurrect an extensive Prussia and a congeries of petty states out of harmony with the prospective needs of the post-war world. There emerges, then, a question as to how far the traditional states could be combined into new, and therefore artificial, groupings without compromising the principle of a return to the old order and without abandoning the centrifugal force presumably to be found through a revival of the historic states.

c. Economic Relations

A multiple partition raises acutely the problem of the economic relations between the hypothetical states. If Germany were to be spared a chaotic regression, it would be necessary to allow a wide latitude of co-operation through common agencies charged with coordinating the several domestic economies and with supervising foreign trade and payments. The danger to the effectiveness of partition would tend to be proportionate to the dependence of the individual states on the central machinery.

d. The Principle of Legitimacy

A solution along historic lines would perhaps raise as does no other basis of partition a question as to the applicability and the utility of the principle of legitimacy. A generally acceptable definition of the concept presents a difficult problem. If, following Guglielmo Ferrero, a legitimate government be defined as one which operates on principles accepted by the people and respected by the governors,8 few liberals could or would object. There would remain only the question of the propriety of using an expression which has been interpreted by over a century of liberal teaching to mean a reactionary procedure. If, on the other hand, the principle should prescribe an attempt to return to an earlier form of government, the victors would again be under the accusation from liberals and radicals of espousing an odious plan. They would also need to determine the point in history when there was a government in Germany whose legitimacy would bespeak its revival. This need would present a problem not readily subject to a logically demonstrated solution. If Hitler is charged with a revolutionary subversion of legitimate government, as the principle of legitimacy must require if it is to be invoked against him, the corollary would seem to point to a return to the Weimar republic. If, however, partition of Germany is deemed essential to security, the republic would be an undesirable halting place—as would be the Bismarckian empire. It would be necessary to demonstrate, accordingly, that neither the republic nor the empire was a legitimate state and that the principle found its proper expression in the German Confederation of 1815 or in an earlier epoch of national impotence.

[Page 787]

Committee Discussion of Multiple Division

The Political Subcommittee

During the earlier considerations in the Political Subcommittee some attention was given to legitimacy as a basis for a multiple partition but no systematic definition of the principle was attempted. In one opinion legitimacy could be found by going back to pre-Bismarckian history; in another, by returning to the historic dynasties. The bases of these judgments, however, were not elaborated. A proposal to set up eight or nine states was offered, but the majority of the members was doubtful of the desirability of so extensive a breakup of Germany because of the resulting weakness of the individual states and a specific plan of division drawn from the principles was not completed.

The Security Subcommittee

In the Security Subcommittee a partition based on historic political divisions was interpreted as being inextricably connected with the former dynasties. Any proposal to follow such a plan was criticized on the ground that the restoration of the old ruling houses would be inacceptable to the German people.

D. The Duration of Partition

Permanent Division
Temporary Division
With Definite Termination
With Unspecified Termination

If the Germans remain hostile to the peace settlement, the greatest menace to world security may appear some years hence when Germany has recovered from the disasters of the present war and when the victors have lost the sharp edge of anxiety and have become immersed in more immediate problems. It is at such a time that partition, if it be judged an effective device for weakening Germany, would be of greatest utility.

It might also be contended that only when there is no prospect of a reversal of the allied position will there be a widespread German acceptance of the peace settlement.

From another point of view one might argue that partition was necessary as a temporary measure until the ultimate intentions of the Germans were known; if they proved willing to follow a peaceful course, they might with safety be allowed to reunite.

A stipulated period of division would have the advantage of clarity of obligation, yet it would focus German anticipation on the day of liberation, and agitations such as those directed toward hastening the evacuation of the Rhineland in the ‘twenties would be an inevitable concomitant.

[Page 788]

Should the duration be indefinite, there would probably be a comparable agitation and two possible dangers in case of concessions. The first would be in the prospect that the nationalistic groups would misinterpret favorable changes as victories won by their hostility and be further encouraged in their chauvinism. The second would be in mistaking a temporary lull, such as that following Locarno, as a lasting reorientation of German thought.

Discussion of the Political Subcommittee

Several members of the Political Subcommittee thought of the proposed division of Germany as a temporary measure of the transition period because of the difficulty of foreseeing ultimate developments. It seemed desirable to one member that, at the end of approximately five years, the Germans should be allowed to come together and devise their own plans under certain reservations laid down by the victorious powers. While there was some disposition to admit the temporary character of division, exception was taken to setting a definite time limit at the outset because the announced term would invite a repetition of the propaganda and disturbances associated with plebiscites; preferably at some unspecified date the international organization might permit a union of the Germans if it decided that they could be trusted.

On the other hand, conviction was repeatedly expressed that Germany should be permanently divided. Although opponents of partition continued to emphasize the necessity for protracted coercion one proponent voiced the hope that, if the Germans could be made prosperous and content with their local governments, division would endure.

[Here follows a section headed “Documentation”.]

  1. Although this memorandum was presented to Hull in anticipation of the First Quebec Conference, the actual discussion at that conference of the possible dismemberment of Germany was in general terms and did not involve the study of specific possible lines of division. For the minutes of the Hull–Eden discussion of this subject on August 21, 1943, see post, p. 927.
  2. Supra.
  3. Not printed here. For the text of this summary memorandum, see Notter, pp. 554–557.
  4. The accompanying maps are not reproduced.
  5. Following this covering memorandum in the file is a table of contents (not printed) to the enclosed documents and the accompanying maps.
  6. The text of this document is preceded in the file by a table of contents (not printed).
  7. The “F” lines divided Germany into a northwestern, an eastern, and a southern state. The proposed boundary between the northwestern and eastern states followed the eastern and southern boundaries of Mecklenburg from the Baltic Sea to the River Elbe, and then followed the Elbe to the 1937 boundary of Czechoslovakia. The proposed boundary between the northwestern and southern states followed the eastern boundary of the Rhine Province from the border of the Netherlands southward, and then followed the southern boundary of Hesse–Nassau and the northern boundary of Bavaria to the 1937 boundary of Czechoslovakia.
  8. See Guglielmo Ferrero, The Reconstruction of Europe: Talleyrand and the Congress of Vienna, 1814–1815, translated by Theodore R. Jaeckel (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1941), p. 53.