EUR Files

The Director of the Office of European Affairs (Matthews) to the Secretary of State


With reference to your coming conversation with the President on Sunday with regard to French views on the Rhineland and on a French zone of occupation in Germany, the following may be of use:

I General. You will recall that the French have proposed, and the President has already approved in principle, the following:

French participation in the supreme authority in Germany.
French participation in signing the German instrument of surrender.
Allocation to the French army of a zone of occupation in Germany and a part of greater Berlin.
Substitution of quadripartite for tripartite agencies in the agreement on control machinery.
Preparation of a French text of the instrument of surrender to be equally authentic with the Russian and English texts.

In a note dated January 13,1 the French have formally notified the American, British and Soviet Governments of their desire to participate in the coming “Three Power” conference. We have no knowledge of any decision which may have been reached by the British and Soviet Governments regarding this request. It can be safely assumed, however, that the British will inform the French that they are favorably disposed. If the Soviet Government were sure that we would oppose an invitation to General De Gaulle, it can also be assumed that they would take a similar line with the French in order to leave us with the onus.

II French Zone of Occupation in Germany. So far, the French have given no indication concerning the boundaries of the zone that they would like to have, although they have indicated informally that they would be satisfied with a small zone at the outset, provided it was made clear that this zone could be expanded at a later date. It seems safe to assume, however, that they will eventually wish to occupy all German territory touching the boundaries of France, and [Page 298]they may well seek to occupy all German territory up to the Rhine. This would involve taking over a part of the British zone and a part of the American Zone as presently envisaged (a map showing these zones is attached2). While such a solution would appear logical it would present a problem with respect to our communications with the American zone, since to reach it we would have to pass through either the British or French zone.

When he was in Paris, Mr. Churchill informed General De Gaulle that he would be willing to cede “a small part” of the British zone to the French, and expressed a hope that the United States would be willing to do the same.

III French Views on the Rhineland. Only last week General De Gaulle informed Ambassador Caffery that France is not interested in annexing German territory, but firmly hopes that an international organization, in which France will play a prominent part, will be set up for governing the well-known Rhine regions. General De Gaulle added that within that region no semblance of war industry or near war industry would be retained. This is the same view which Foreign Minister Bidault has expressed over a considerable period of time. It should be borne in mind, however, that as long ago as July 10. 1944, General De Gaulle stated in Washington that “the flag of the French army” will have to fly over the Rhineland for a long time, and that on November 21, Mr. Bidault publicly referred to the Rhine as “this French river”. Furthermore, Ambassador Winant reports that in the opinion of all British officials who have studied the so-called “Massigli Plan”, the French proposals involve separatism and “can only be considered seriously on that basis”.

It is possible that the French have not yet definitely formulated their views on the Rhineland. It is also likely that even if they favored annexation, they would deem it prudent not to put forward such an extreme claim at this time. It is clear, however, that they at least envisage a military occupation of so long duration that it might easily lead to annexation if the French consider that feasible in the light of future developments.

Although there are increasing indications, (in spite of official denials) that the French are thinking of the Rhineland in terms of eventual assimilation, it is believed that as far as the Ruhr is concerned they may be satisfied with the establishment of some form of permanent international control in which France will, of course, have an important part.

H. F. M[atthéws]
  1. See supra.
  2. Not reproduced.