Truman Papers

No. 333
Memorandum by the Joint Civil Affairs Committee of the Joint Chiefs of Staff 1
top secret

Civil Government in Germany—When Should It Be Established and How?


1. It is the United States policy that state, municipal and local administration in Germany should as quickly as possible be reestablished, purged of Nazi personnel and practices, and thereafter operate under the close supervision and control of the military government. Consistently with this policy local German agencies of government have been and are being reestablished.

2. At the present time there is no central civil government of Germany. On 5 June the four Allied powers assumed supreme responsibility with respect to Germany.2 The four Allied Commanders, representing their Governments on the Control Council, are jointly vested with supreme authority in matters affecting Germany as a whole and are empowered to control such German agencies of central administration as may be permitted to function.

3. It is United States policy that when and if an independent-Germany is finally reconstituted, the powers of its national government shall be limited, and regional and local autonomy encouraged. Accordingly, it has been provided in the directive to General Eisenhower 3 that “the administration of affairs in Germany shall be directed towards the decentralization of the political and administrative structure and the development of local responsibility”. General [Page 463] Eisenhower has been instructed to seek agreement on this basic principle in the Control Council. If it is accepted, it will delay the formation of a national civil government in Germany. United States policy, however, permits the establishment, under Allied control, of a minimum of centralized administration with respect to essential national public services such as railroads, communications and power, and with respect to finance, foreign affairs and the production and distribution of essential commodities.

4. The establishment and utilization of German national agencies of administration and government is a matter affecting Germany as a whole, and, therefore, under the protocol on control machinery,4 cannot be dealt with unilaterally outside of the Control Council. If the policy of dismemberment should be adopted there would, of course, be no question of reestablishing a permanent national civil authority. Whatever policy may be adopted, it is considered important that the reconstitution of a central German government, as distinguished from agencies for the control of essential national services, should be postponed until latent forces of democracy have been given an opportunity of asserting themselves locally, and until the Control Council has been able to estimate the nature of emergent tendencies within Germany.


5. It is recommended that the United States make no present commitment as to the time when a central indigenous government should be established in Germany. The time and means of its reconstitution should be a matter for determination and recommendation to the governments by the Control Council. The Control Council, however, should immediately seek to effect the necessary minimum of centralized administration of those essential national services as to which uniformity of policy and procedure throughout Germany is necessary, such as railroads, communications, and power and with respect to finance, foreign affairs, and the production and distribution of essential commodities.

  1. This memorandum was prepared in response to a request from Leahy (document No. 155) for recommendations which would be “useful to the President in preparing himself for the [Berlin] conference”. It was forwarded to Leahy by the Secretary of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on June 26, together with other reports, under cover of a memorandum which stated explicitly: “These reports represent the views of the committees only and have not been approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.” Leahy subsequently passed it to Truman.
  2. Text of the “Declaration Regarding the Defeat of Germany and the Assumption of Supreme Authority With Respect to Germany” in Treaties and Other International Acts Series No. 1520; 60 Stat. (2) 1649.
  3. See Department of State Bulletin, vol. xiii, p. 596.
  4. Signed at London, November 14, 1944, as amended by a further agreement signed at London, May 1, 1945. For texts, see Treaties and Other International Acts Series No. 3070; United States Treaties and Other International Agreements, vol. 5, pt. 2, p. 2062. Text of the agreement of November 14, 1944, also in Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Malta and Yalta, 1945, p. 124.