740.00119 Control (Germany)/7–1745

No. 349
Memorandum by the Central Secretariat1
top secret


Proposed Communication to the Secretary at the Berlin Meeting on the Objective of the United States Government in the Occupation of Germany

It is suggested that the Staff Committee forward to the Secretary for his possible use in connection with the Big Three meeting, a statement of views on the clearer definition of the objective of this Government in the occupation of Germany. The reason for such a communication is indicated in the attached draft prepared and submitted by Mr. MacLeish.


Subject: Objective of the United States Government in the Occupation of Germany

There are indications that common agreement as to the American purpose in the occupation of Germany does not exist. No comprehensive definition of purpose is to be found in existing documents. Directives to cover the various phases of the occupation are not based upon explicit statements of the objective to be achieved.
It is essential to the proper planning and administration of the program for occupation that the end purpose of the occupation should be explicitly declared.
It is submitted that the purpose of the occupation can be stated by reference to the factual situation as it now exists.
There were three logical possibilities open to the Allies at the moment of the German surrender. They were determined, in part, by the unconditional surrender of the German Government; in part by the past conduct of the German nation[;] and, in part, by the fact that weapons have become increasingly deadly with scientific advance and that access to such weapons, by a scientifically-minded nation which cannot be trusted with their possession, is, and will increasingly be, a danger to mankind. The three possibilities were:
To destroy the German nation as a nation which had proved itself to be criminal and which could not be trusted to continue to exist in the modern scientific world with its scientific means of destruction.
To condemn the German nation to be forcibly and permanently deprived of the means to make war, including the industrial and scientific means which can be readily converted to warlike use.
To attempt to change the character of the German nation by changing the mentality of the German people to the end that Germany might be permitted to continue to exist as a nation and might eventually be permitted to live without surveillance and control.
The third of these three possibilities has, in fact, been adopted, although certain public statements imply that the second choice has been made by this Government and its Allies.
The first of the three possibilities was never considered. The destruction of the German nation was unthinkable, at least to the people of the United States.
The second possibility has, in fact, not been adopted, whatever forms of language may have been used. The fact that we propose to destroy the German war potential during the period of occupation does not mean that we have thereby destroyed the German war potential for good. It is clear, from the history of Germany itself over the past twenty-five years, that, if the safety of the world, so far as Germany is concerned, is to be entrusted to the occupation of Germany and the policing of Germany to prevent her from rearming or preparing to rearm, the policing and occupation must be permanent. Permanent occupation of Germany by the Allies, and particularly by the United States, is inconceivable.
There remains the third possibility. If we are not prepared to destroy the German nation, and if we are not prepared to occupy or police Germany permanently, we have no choice but to attempt to change the German character in such a way that the German nation, when finally freed of occupation and surveillance, will be a nation which can be trusted with access to modern industry and modern science, and therefore to modern weapons of destruction.
The real objective of the German occupation can therefore be stated as follows: we are occupying Germany for the purpose of changing the inward character of the German nation and the German people to such an extent that Germany can be trusted at some future time with independent existence as a nation in a world in which weapons will be more destructive and more difficult to control than they are today.
It should be noted that this objective conforms to the objectives of the United Nations Organization and to the situation which the establishment of that Organization will create. A peaceful and peace-loving Germany could be introduced at some appropriate time into the United Nations where the measures of the Organization for security and for peace could be brought to play affirmatively rather than negatively.
The explicit recognition of the purpose defined above would enable us to plan the various measures of occupation more intelligently [Page 502] and to administer them more effectively than we can today. At the present time, there is a tendency to make a distinction between political, economic, and military measures for Germany, on the one hand, and measures for the reeducation of the German people, on the other. Measures for reeducation have been treated as though their objective differed from the objectives of economic and political and military measures. Actually, if the above analysis is correct, all aspects of the occupation, whether military or economic or political or social, have one ultimate objective, which is largely psychological: to create a Germany which can be trusted to exist without continuing occupation and surveillance in the modern scientific world. All measures taken in the occupation, including measures for the destruction of the present German power to make war, are measures of “reeducation” in the sense that their success should be judged not by their immediate consequences but by their ultimate effect upon the German mentality and the German national character.
If, however, the true purpose of the occupation is the purpose stated above, then something more is required than its explicit declaration. The purpose must also be warmly approved and not shamefacedly admitted. In the past, the American position has been too frequently expressed in “realistic” terms which represented entirely unrealistic thinking. We have played down any serious intention to reeducate the German people, protesting that our real purpose is merely to destroy their power to make another war. As a matter of realistic fact, we cannot destroy the German power to make another war unless we are prepared to (a) destroy Germany, or (b) occupy Germany permanently. Since we are not prepared to do either, we are remitted to the “reeducation” of the German people as our sole effective means of preventing Germany from waging another war. Moreover the reeducation we must bring about is not reeducation in the academic or educational sense alone. It is reeducation by the use of every means which can produce the change in German thinking and German beliefs and German psychology and German character which we desire.
Furthermore, we must be clear in our own minds, not only as to the Germany we wish to change but as to the Germany we wish to put in its place. The soul of man abhors a vacuum quite as much as nature abhors one. You cannot replace something with nothing in the mind of an individual or the mind of a nation. The Russians have no difficulty on this point. They propose to substitute Communism for Nazism. They believe that a Germany converted to Communism will be a Germany no longer dangerous to them. We presumably believe that a Germany converted to respect for the worth and dignity of human beings and a belief in basic principles of [Page 503] justice and in the right of men to govern themselves would be a Germany which we could trust. If this, however, is our purpose, we must recognize it and pursue it consciously. We must play again the role we played at the beginning of our history. We must be ready and willing to propagate ideas of liberty and justice and human dignity.
It has been pointed out in a paper delivered to the Secretary on the subject of German reeducation3 that it is highly desirable that the occupying powers should reach an understanding as to the common denominators of a policy for reeducation in order that Germany may not be turned, under the occupation, into an ideological cockpit. If, however, no such understanding can be reached, it is essential to the success of the American occupation that we should be clear in our own minds as to the beliefs we wish to see adopted by the German people in the interest of peace and security.
  1. Circulated to the Secretary’s Staff Committee (a body comprising the officers of the Department of State of the rank of Assistant Secretary or above, or their deputies). For the revision of this paper actually forwarded to Byrnes at Babelsberg, see vol. ii, document No. 855.
  2. Printed from the unsigned hectographed copy circulated to the Secretary’s Staff Committee.
  3. Document No. 343.