740.00119 (Potsdam)/5–2446

No. 331
Briefing Book Paper1
top secret



It is recommended that this Government oppose the partition of Germany into two or more separate states as distinct from border cessions or readjustments.


Previous Considerations: When the question of a possible dismemberment of Germany as a security measure was first discussed in governmental circles in Washington, the late President Roosevelt was disposed to favor the proposal. At the Tehran Conference it is understood that he was prepared to see Germany divided into five separate states. By the time of the Crimea Conference, however, he had reconsidered his original judgment and expressed himself in opposition to considering partition prior to termination of hostilities [Page 457] and an opportunity to study actual conditions and trends in Germany. He agreed, none the less, to a modification of the original instrument of unconditional surrender to provide for German recognition of the right of the victor powers to dismember Germany if they deemed it desirable. It was further agreed that a committee consisting of Ambassador Winant, Ambassador Gousev, and Mr. Eden (Chairman) should study the procedure for effecting dismemberment and whether it appeared desirable.

The committee at its first meeting in London decided to consider not only procedures but also the prior questions of the desirability and the feasibility of dismemberment. In comment on the report of this meeting, Mr. Roosevelt wrote on April 6, “I think our attitude should be one of study and postponement of final decision.” The committee has not had further meetings.

In the Department of State the Committee on Post-War Programs, composed of the higher officers of the Department, in May 1944 unanimously approved a recommendation of the Inter-Divisional Committee on Germany that this Government oppose the forcible partition of Germany.

The Bases of the Recommendation: Opposition to partition rests on the following considerations:

Partition as a device for stripping the Germans of the ability to make war would necessitate a genuine and lasting dispersal of their national energies. This dispersal would imply prevention of political and military collaboration and, to be effective, would likewise entail a break-up of Germany’s economic unity since, without it, a political dismemberment would be useless.

It is submitted that such a program is unnecessary as a security measure, that it would be injurious to the economic rehabilitation of Europe, and that it would be a source of disturbance and danger to the peace of Europe rather than a source of tranquillity.

Partition could not for some time to come be trusted as a substitute for the basic demilitarization controls which, if adequately enforced, would provide adequate security. In the uncertainties of the coming years it would not be prudent to give up the strictest supervision of Germany’s war-making potentialities whether Germany is divided or not. It would follow, therefore, that the victor powers by adding the enforcement of partition to the enforcement of the basic demilitarization controls would be assuming an unnecessary burden—unless it could be foreseen that, in time, partition would be accepted by the German people and could be considered assured grounds for relaxing otherwise necessary measures.

The best calculation is that the German people will not willingly accept dismemberment as a permanent fate. The growth of the [Page 458] sense of German national unity has been such that no significant group has questioned the verdict of 1871. The attempts to promote separatism in the Rhineland after the last war had little popular support and French patronage robbed the movement of any decency in German eyes. At the present time, while there is probably some reaction to Nazi over-centralization, the collapse of Germany in defeat has as yet given rise to no regional expressions of a desire to separate from the rest of Germany.

It must be anticipated, consequently, that when the Germans have recovered somewhat from the shock of defeat their patriotic sense of national unity will again assert itself—unless the victors can discover and exploit some geographic lines of fissure within Germany.

There seems at present little likelihood that such lines can be found. The historic divisions of Germany offer little basis of hope. The old Laender provide at best some grounds for moderate decentralization. Religious differences, as indicated by voting habits during the Weimar period, indicate no substantial cleavage. The historic differences between East and West on the one hand and North and South on the other have virtually no substance in contemporary Germany, certainly not enough to count on as bases of lasting partition. And even if these areas were substantially different, they would be inappropriate as partite states; the great concentration of population and economic development which has taken place in the Northwest has robbed them of usefulness in seeking a balance between German regions. As further evidence of the present-day homogeneity of Germany it may be noted that a political analysis of the northwestern, southern and eastern regions shows a remarkable consistency in the growth of National Socialism throughout Germany.

These considerations indicate, accordingly, that the four zones of military occupation would offer no prospect of serving as effective lines of internal cleavage and therefore of partition, and they were certainly not drawn for the purpose of partition.

The only tenable calculation is that partition, regardless of the number of partite states and their specific boundaries, would have to be maintained indefinitely by force. It would follow that the end consequence would be that the victors could not rely on partition as a substitute for demilitarization controls and would therefore not only have to continue a machinery of control adequate to restrain a united Germany but would also have to take on the additional and superfluous burden of maintaining partition.

It should furthermore be emphasized that a partition of Germany could also result in a highly dangerous competition on the part of various states to control or to influence the governments of the partite [Page 459] states. The Germans will thereby be enabled to play off one ally against another in pursuance of what could well form a common plan on their part. By inviting the east or the west to stake out special claims and exert a predominant role in one or more of the new states, the Germans might well obtain special concessions for one state or another and jeopardize the unity of the Allies in preventing the renewal of German aggression. The skill with which the Germans played one power off against another during the Hitler period is evidence of their capacity to take every advantage of the political possibilities that would be provided by the establishment of several German states.

The judgment that dismemberment of Germany would be injurious to the economic rehabilitation of Europe derives from the conclusion that, if it is to be more than a nominal or transitory device, substantial economic barriers must be erected between the partite states. A customs-union or other form of special economic collaboration could only result in a consolidation of resources, partly legitimate but in large measure probably illicit, which would jeopardize the purposes of partition. Economic dismemberment, however, would entail an economic regression, not only for Germany but also for the whole of Europe. Segments of Germany could undoubtedly be ordered to live, and perhaps with outside assistance made to live on a lowered standard, but economic frontiers erected within Germany would stand as barriers to the most effective contribution of Germany to immediate reparation and reconstruction and to the ultimate improvement of the European standard of life.

The judgment, finally, that partition would be a source of disturbance and danger rests on the implications of continued resistance and on the possible consequences for Allied policy of changing conditions.

If continued German resistance be a reasonable anticipation, there is need to canvass the means whereby the Germans could circumvent partition by actions short of those that would expose the several states to disciplinary action.

Any permitted form of special economic collaboration between the states would open the door to a considerable area of common action. Complete economic separation, on the other hand, would inspire a diversity of parallel activities, some ostensibly innocent and legally unimpeachable and others surreptitious, which would in the end be common activities. Under such circumstances a system of controls would inevitably be only partially effective while vexations and bickerings would be the usual order of the day. Identical legislation in the several states, or the choice of the same executives, could easily go a considerable distance toward defeating partition. The co-ordinating [Page 460] work of like-minded, and for all practical purposes identical, political parties would tax the ingenuity of the most skillful and far-sighted enforcement officers. The activities of the Nazi government of the Free City of Danzig paralleling those of the Nazi Reich offer an illustration of what might be done and of how difficult it would be to take effective action against it.

The result of such a state of affairs might be a Germany unable to make war but nonetheless a Germany able to keep the world in lasting perturbation.

A greater danger for the peace settlement and for world security would arise from the problem of the continued unanimity of the victors in the face of German evasions and equally unremitting protests. The history of the treaty of Versailles,2 if it can be translated into a general principle, points to the dangers inherent in a disagreement between the United Nations as to whether the various treaty provisions are compatible with a peace-time sense of justice and with the economic requirements of peace-time life. The more rigorous, the more obviously unnecessary the provisions of a treaty the more quickly divergences of opinion among the Allies will arise. Any concessions born of a changed sense of what is just will merely encourage the Germans in patriotic protests and resistance; any conflicts of opinion among the enforcing Powers over the merits of a given prescription would prepare the way for some German fait accompli. Once this process had begun there would be no logical halting place in the emancipation of Germany from external control.

Since at the present, when most of the world is embittered by Nazi misdeeds, almost no responsible statesman and few voices of public opinion in Europe favor partition, it would be prudent to anticipate the time when partition, if imposed, would appear unjust and economically bad and one or more of the enforcing powers would refuse further responsibility for it.

That possibility, with its disastrous consequences for the whole program of control, might well counsel the adoption of a program of [Page 461] restraint that would not lend itself to a reversal of policy when the dangers of Germany’s aggressive militarism are not so poignantly felt as during and immediately after the war.

  1. Annex 15 to the attachment to document No. 177.
  2. Signed June 28, 1919. Annotated text in Foreign Relations, The Paris Peace Conference, 1919, vol. xiii, p. 57.