Executive Secretariat Files
Briefing Book Paper
1) Role in United Nations Councils
American interests require that every effort be made by this Government to assist France, morally as well as physically, to regain her strength and her influence, not only with a view toward increasing the French contribution to the war effort, but also with a view toward enabling the French to assume larger responsibilities in connection with the maintenance of peace. It is likewise in the interest of this Government to treat France in all respects on the basis of her potential power and influence rather than on the basis of her present strength.
2) Zone of Occupation in Germany
The President has already approved in principle five proposals forwarded by the French which are designed to place France on a [Page 301]footing of equality with the United States, United Kingdom and the Soviet Union with regard to German affairs. It is not known what zone the French will ultimately ask for, but they have expressed continued interest in the Rhineland and there is every likelihood that they will favor an occupation of the Rhineland over so long a period that it may easily become permanent.
3) Control Machinery for Germany
One of the French proposals approved by the President in principle is that the French will have an equal part in the control machinery for Germany.
4) Attitude Toward Future German Economy
Indications are that the French do not wish to see Germany reduced to economic misery since they believe that this would inevitably breed trouble. They do, however, favor the elimination of all German war industries and near war industries. General De Gaulle is also known to favor an international administrative and economic regime for the Ruhr.
(1) Role in United Nations Councils
Since liberation, France has made enormous strides in regaining her former position of influence and may now be regarded as occupying a place in the United Nations Councils directly after the United States, Soviet Russia, Great Britain and China. This development has been high-lighted by such events as the recognition of General De Gaulle’s regime as the Provisional Government of France, the visits of Mr. Churchill to Paris and of General De Gaulle to Moscow, the conclusion of the Franco-Soviet mutual assistance pact, and the adherence of France to the United Nations declaration. Cognizance was also taken of France’s new status by her inclusion as a permanent member of the European Advisory Commission, and by the Dumbarton Oaks proposal that she should in due course have a permanent seat on the Security Council.
The best interests of the United States require that every effort be made by this Government to assist France, morally as well as physically, to regain her strength and her influence, not only with a view toward increasing the French contribution to the war effort, but also with a view toward enabling the French to assume larger responsibilities in connection with the maintenance of peace. The vital interest of France in the solution of the German problem and the importance of the part she should and will inevitably play in maintaining the future peace in Europe were publicly acknowledged by this Government on November 11, 1944 when France was invited to accept full membership in the European Advisory Commission. [Page 302]It is recognized that the French Provisional Government and the French people are at present unduly preoccupied, as a result of the military defeat of 1940 and the subsequent occupation of their country by the enemy, with questions of national prestige. They have consequently from time to time put forward requests which are out of all proportion to their present strength. It is believed that it is in the interest of the United States to take full account of this psychological factor in the French mind and to treat France in all respects on the basis of her potential power and influence rather than on the basis of her present strength.
(2) Zone of Occupation in Germany
The United States, United Kingdom, and the U. S. S. R. have agreed that any nation which takes part in military operations against Germany may contribute troops for the occupation. It has been further agreed that Great Britain shall have the right to use “auxiliary contingents” from the other United Nations under British command. This special provision was not to prejudge the more extensive participation by other nations and it was clear from the outset that France would never be satisfied with such a position. In this connection Foreign Minister Bidault declared on October 16 that France should be given a voice in deciding the methods and policies to be followed in occupied Germany, and not merely representation in the forces of occupation.
The French have now proposed the following in the European Advisory Commission:1
- French participation in the Supreme authority for Germany.
- French participation in signing the instrument of surrender for Germany.
- 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.
These proposals have been approved in principle by the President.
So far the French have given no indication concerning the boundaries of the zone of occupation which they would like to have, although they have suggested that they would be satisfied with a small zone at the outset with provision for increasing its size at a later date. It is likely that they will eventually ask for the entire area bounded by the west bank of the Rhine. If granted, long standing French ambitions in this area may lead to more or less open efforts to favor separatism, as was done in 1919. There is no official indication that France at this time desires to annex German territory, and official spokesmen have made [Page 303]the point that the French do not wish to take on an added problem of assimilating large numbers of Germans. Present indications are that French official thought now envisages at least a long military occupation of the Rhineland. In this connection General de Gaulle stated on July 10, 1944 that “the flag of the French Army will have to fly over certain areas for a long occupation”. On November 21 M. Bidault referred to the Rhine as “this French river”, and General de Gaulle is known to desire that France remain permanently on the Rhine. Other examples can be cited to support the view that although France does not today make a claim for German territory she will favor an occupation of the Rhineland of such length that it might easily become permanent.
There is no indication that the U. S. S. R. has made definite commitments to support the French with regard to the western boundary of Germany, although Stalin is reported to have told de Gaulle that he recognized that the Rhine was a natural frontier.
The British are not known to have made any definite commitments to the French except that Churchill informed de Gaulle that he would be willing to cede “a small part” of the British zone of occupation to France and hoped that the United States would be willing to do the same.
This Government may well wish, after the early period of occupation, to withdraw a considerable proportion of its troops from Germany. It would be logical to assume that they would be replaced by French forces and this replacement is likely to be facilitated if the French are fully associated from the outset with plans for the occupation. In general, this would appear to be entirely in harmony with our efforts to assist the French to gain in strength and influence in order that they may be in a position to assume larger responsibilities in connection with the maintenance of peace.
(3) Control Machinery for Germany
The reasons in favor of permitting the French to have an equal part with the United States, Great Britain and the U. S. S. R. in the control machinery for Germany are similar to those relating to the question of a zone of occupation.
(4) Attitude toward Future German Economy
In a memorandum presented to the European Advisory Committee on January 8,2 the French Provisional Government called for the determination of a general economic policy towards Germany which will balance, for the better protection of Allied interests, the relation between economic activities maintained for purposes of reparation and activities which must disappear for security reasons, without prejudging [Page 304]the economic status of certain parts of German territory which may be subjected to a special regime.
The French Foreign Minister indicated a short time ago that the Government did not wish to see Germany reduced to economic misery because this would inevitably breed trouble. They did feel, however, that all German war industries and near war industries should be eliminated. General de Gaulle is known to favor an international regime for the Ruhr, to control that important industrial area administratively as well as economically.