740.00119 Control (Germany)/7–1745

No. 855
Memorandum by the Central Secretariat 1
top secret

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

There is attached a redraft of the proposed communication to the Secretary on the objective of the United States Government in the occupation of Germany.

This redraft has been prepared by Mr. MacLeish in the light of comments in the meetings of the Staff Committee on July 16 and July 17.2


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

The Allied purpose with respect to the future of Germany was stated in the communiqué issued at the close of the Crimea Conference [Page 781] as being “to ensure that Germany will never again be able to disturb the peace of the world”.4
This objective was to be achieved by the unconditional surrender of Germany and its occupation by the Allied armies which would apply certain measures of control, political, economic, and social. The achievement of the objective by the destruction of the German people was never considered as a possibility. Even the partition of Germany was rejected. Reliance was put upon the occupation as the means of attaining the end in view.
Programs of occupation have been developed by the Allied governments, but their relation to the overall purpose “to ensure that Germany will never again be able to disturb the peace of the world” has not been defined. It is essential to the successful administration of any program or programs of occupation ultimately approved that their relation to the end purpose should be clearly understood by those responsible for their direction.
It is sometimes assumed that the occupation of Germany will remove the German threat to the peace of the world solely by destroying the German war potential. It is undoubtedly true that certain measures contemplated will deprive Germany not only of existing arms but of the materials and machines necessary to the waging of modern war. It is highly improbable, however, that the occupation will deprive Germany permanently of the material means of waging war, since it is highly doubtful that the occupation itself will be permanent.
An illustrative parallel can be drawn between the treatment of Germany and the treatment of individual criminals in modern penal institutions. It is well-known to penologists that, although numerous criminals are condemned to prison for life, and even for terms beyond life expectancy, few such criminals ever die in prison. The violence of the public demand for severe punishment declines rapidly as time passes, and life-term convicts are commonly released, at first under parole and then completely, after fifteen to eighteen years. There are already signs that the violence of the demand for German punishment is subsiding, and it is highly improbable that Allied occupation of Germany—at least American occupation—can be continued beyond the period of a few years.
Furthermore, the principal war potential of Germany is not German industry or German raw materials. The principal war potential of Germany is the German people whose industrial and scientific aptitude and whose docility in accepting military and social discipline have been demonstrated over a considerable period of time. [Page 782] Since the destruction of the German people is not thinkable, and since it is unlikely, not to say inconceivable, that the German people will be kept under permanent control and surveillance from without, it would follow that the Allies cannot put their sole or even their principal reliance, for the achievement of their over-all purpose, on the destruction of the material means of making war.
Over and above their reliance upon the destruction of the material means of waging war, the Allies will be obliged to attempt to bring about a change in the attitude toward war of the German people. If we are not prepared to destroy the German people, and if we are not prepared to police the German people permanently, we must attempt to change the German people in such a way that the German nation, when finally freed of occupation and surveillance, will be a nation which will not be a threat to the peace of the world.
A relevant consideration is the fact that weapons developed, or in the course of development, during the present war indicate not only that future wars will be increasingly destructive but that they will be waged with weapons which a scientifically and industrially minded people can produce under conditions which will make surveillance difficult.
If this analysis is substantially correct, then the purpose of the German occupation is to remove the German threat to peace by changing the German attitude toward peace. We are occupying Germany, in other words, with a view to changing the social and political character of the nation 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 have ever been before.
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 that the occupation of Germany is intended to produce a change in the German people would enable us to plan the various measures of occupation more intelligently and to administer them more effectively. 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 what is called the “reeducation” of the German people on the other. Actually, if the present analysis is correct, all aspects of the occupation, whether military, or economic, or political, or social, have one end [Page 783] objective, which is largely psychological: to create a Germany which can be trusted to exist without continuing occupation and surveillance—a Germany which can be re-admitted to the society of peaceful nations. The success of all measures taken in the occupation should therefore be judged not by their immediate consequences alone but by their ultimate effect upon the social and political structure of Germany.
There will, of course, be conflicts from time to time between the short-term objectives and the long-range purpose of the occupation. For example, the use of German output for the relief of liberated areas may create economic distress in Germany which will make the labor of the conversion of Germany to our views and our outlook more difficult. However, the explicit recognition of the true long-range objective of the occupation, whether or not in conflict with certain short-term purposes, is essential to the success of the undertaking.
Something more is required, however, than the explicit declaration of this purpose. The purpose must also be warmly approved and not shamefacedly admitted. It is our intention to employ every means at our disposition, economic and political means as well as the more direct means of education and information, to produce the change in German thinking and German beliefs and German psychology 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. We must assume, although we have no explicit knowledge, that the Russians are clear as to their intentions on this point. Presumably they propose to substitute for Nazi Germany a Germany at least sympathetic to Communism. We presumably believe that a Germany converted to respect for the worth and dignity of human beings and a belief in the basic principles of 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.
The important point, however, is to ascertain at the earliest possible moment what the other occupying powers have in mind with reference to the kind of Germany to be set up and the means by which it is to be established. It has been pointed out in a paper delivered to the Secretary on the subject of German reeducation5 that it is highly [Page 784] 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 the analysis of the present paper is correct, the same considerations would lead to the same conclusion as to the entire program of occupation. It is therefore recommended that conversations be undertaken in the early future to determine, if possible, a common Allied position as to the question of the kind of Germany we wish to see established and the means by which we propose to bring it about.
  1. Circulated to the Secretary’s Staff Committee. Cf. document No. 349, printed in vol. i .
  2. The Secretary’s Staff Committee decided at its 141st Meeting on July 17 that this paper should be forwarded to Byrnes at the Conference.
  3. Printed from the unsigned hectographed copy circulated to the Secretary’s Staff Committee.
  4. See document No. 1417. section ii.
  5. Enclosure to document No. 343, printed in vol. i .