740.00119 (Potsdam)/5–2446

No. 402
Briefing Book Paper
top secret



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(2) Views on the Rhineland.

While the French government has not put forward concrete proposals or formalized her desiderata with respect to the German settlement, the expressed views of French officials may be summarized as follows:

France disclaims any designs involving annexation of German territory.

She advocates the separation from Germany of the Rhineland and of Westphalia including the Ruhr, opposes their being combined into a single State and wishes them to be governed by distinct regimes.

Ruhr-Westphalia should be placed under an international regime.
The Rhineland, from the Swiss frontier to beyond Cologne, including the Saar and appropriate bridgeheads on the right bank, [Page 593] should be placed under permanent French military and economic control, possibly with Luxembourg, Belgian and Dutch participation.

While it is not possible now to foresee the degree of support we shall afford French desiderata in the German settlement, we should recognize that France considers the German problem as the cardinal point of her foreign policy and will pursue her ends with great tenacity. In view of the value to us of a strong and friendly France, we should oppose treatment of her claims less favorable than that accorded our other major allies.


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(2) French Views on the Rhineland

While the French government has not yet put forward concrete proposals on the subject of the Western part of the German settlement, General de Gaulle and other French officials have made numerous public utterances on this question. In a press conference on January 28, 1945, General de Gaulle stated that the security of France (and consequently that of Western Europe and hence a large part of the world) lay from one end of the Rhine to the other, and that France would not end the war without being assured that her forces would be permanently stationed along the entire length of the river.2 In his radio address of February 5th, he enumerated among the conditions of the peace settlement which France considered essential: “the definitive presence of French forces from one end to the other of the Rhine, and the separation from what is to be the German State, or States, of the territory on the left bank of the river and of the Ruhr basin”.3 While French officials have assiduously avoided the word “annexation” their views clearly anticipate the separation from Germany of both the Rhineland and the Ruhr. General de Gaulle told Spaak, in February, that “while his views on the Rhineland had not crystallized, he did feel that the Ruhr should be placed under international administration”. He again stressed the separation theme in a conversation in April with Mr. McCloy when, in stating France’s desire to control the left bank of the Rhine from Cologne to the Swiss frontier, he stated that the Rhineland should be made up of small semi-independent States, not Rhine confederation, but operating under French influence. The Ruhr area, he again indicated, should be under international control, its mines and industries being operated for the benefit of all Western European countries.

[Page 594]

A memorandum obtained by a journalist from the French delegation in San Francisco,4 and purporting to have been prepared by General Juin’s Committee of National Defense, envisages the creation of a broad security zone in Western Germany for the period following total military occupation. It contemplates the division of this zone into three parts: a British-dominated area, with Netherland participation, beginning North of the Rhine, and running along the Dutch border to the North Sea; next, an internationalized Ruhr basin administered and policed by an inter-allied Commission; lastly a French-dominated zone largely corresponding to the present French occupation zone but reaching North of Cologne, in which Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands would participate. These three zones would form a permanent occupation region.

The most recent and authoritative declaration of French views on the Rhineland and the Ruhr were made by M. Bidault to the Acting Secretary on May 19th. He presented the following definitive ideas:

The Rhineland, and the Ruhr plus Westphalia should be separated from Germany but should not be combined into a single State under international control. Such a State would be too strong and might ultimately form the rallying point for a new, unified Germany. Also, Russian participation in the control of such a State would lead to disagreements and complications. They should be separated into:

Ruhr–Westphalia. This region was the source of the power and wealth of Germany and should be definitely placed under the control of an international regime.
The Rhineland. France does not wish to annex this region or the Saar basin within it. She wants economic control of the Saar and security control of the whole Rhineland up through Cologne with the necessary bridgeheads on the right bank. She does not want the area internationalized since in an international regime France might be outvoted. She will insist on control without any restrictive international supervision.

To summarize, the French want both the Ruhr and the Rhineland separated from Germany, but regard administration of the two zones as distinct problems. With respect to the Ruhr, the French appear to agree that it should be under international administration with British and possibly American participation. While French ideas on the ultimate form of government of the Rhineland have not yet crystallized, the French will insist on permanent occupation and control thereof plus bridgeheads on the right bank from Duesseldorf to Karlsruhe.

France’s obsession with the idea of complete and final security against Germany will cause her to pursue her desiderata on this [Page 595] question with the utmost tenacity. The German settlement lies at the heart of French foreign policy, and it is believed that she will make broad concessions elsewhere in order to obtain her ends there. The economic motive, while mentioned less often than the security one, is likewise strong and may well become stronger as the fear of a German resurgence subsides and gives way to the fear of a new enemy; or the military obsolescence of the Rhine as a security frontier finally becomes apparent to the French people. While it cannot yet be anticipated to what extent France will wish to make her military occupation of the Rhineland an economic exploitation thereof to the detriment of German economy as a whole, it is probable that she will take steps during the military occupation period to assure for herself exclusive exploitation of the Saar basin. The exercise of these exclusive economic rights over the military occupation period may well mean the permanent loss for Germany of the resources of the Saar.

While it is difficult to frame at this moment a recommendation as to the degree of our support of or opposition to French desiderata, they should be given extremely careful consideration. France’s friendship for us will depend to a great extent on the support we give her in the German settlement. Whether or not she receives any appreciable degree of satisfaction, we should oppose treatment for her less favorable than that accorded our other major allies.

  1. For the other sections of this paper, see document No. 222.
  2. See de Gaulle, Discours et messages, 1940–1946, pp. 546–547, 552–553, 557.
  3. See ibid., p. 561.
  4. i. e., the French Delegation to the United Nations Conference on International Organization, which met at San Francisco from April 25 to June 26, 1945.