Executive Secretariat Files

Briefing Book Paper

French Views on the Treatment of Germany

General Observations

A very considerable proportion of the French population—possibly a majority—still holds that some Germans are not beyond salvation and that a purged and chastened Germany must eventually regain an important position in Europe. The most consistent exponents of this viewpoint have been the Socialists. However, the Socialists have few illusions about the Germans and regard a European federation as primarily designed to keep Germany in check. During the past year the attitude of the Socialists has hardened on the German problem.

The Communists, while generally avoiding comment on the German problem, have shown some tendency to distinguish between “good” and “bad” Germans.

The elements commonly referred to as Christian Democrats are probably in accord with Foreign Minister Bidault, whose view has been that Germany should not be enslaved but should be rendered incapable of waging another war.

General de Gaulle recently declared that for France, the German problem is “the center of the universe” and the country may be said to be unanimous in demanding effective security measures. There is still considerable division regarding the method of achieving this objective. Dismemberment has considerable support in political Conservative circles, and possibly among the rank and file of Frenchmen as well. The majority of prominent Frenchmen, however, appear to consider dismemberment impractical.

Even those Frenchmen who outspokenly oppose dismemberment appear willing to see extensive territorial transfers carried out. For [Page 308] instance, it is reliably reported that General de Gaulle was disposed to approve the potential cessation of Trans-Oder region to Poland. The separation of Austria from Germany is also taken for granted and the Provisional Government is committed to the restoration of the Sudeten areas to Czechoslovakia. Some sentiment has been expressed for additional frontier rectification in favor of the Czechoslovakians.

The French agree that Germany, whether dismembered or not, must be subjected to a long military occupation, coupled with rigid economic controls. The exact nature of these controls remains a subject of discussion and has not been greatly clarified by the so-called “Massigli Plan”. Foreign Minister Bidault believes that industrial controls might be modeled after those used by the Germans in France and believes that German industries and university laboratories should remain indefinitely under Allied supervision. The Communists have been fulminating against the trusts, but are apparently inclined to leave German industry in German hands. The French Communist line at present appears to harmonize with that followed by the Soviet-sponsored “Free Germany Committee”, which holds out the hope that the Germans may continue to run their own affairs once they have repudiated the Hitler regime.

While both Right and Left in France demand direct security measures in Germany, the Socialists are the most inclined to persist in their old faith that collective security, organized on both a European and world scale, will in the long run be of equal importance in curbing German aggression. They are particularly attracted to the idea of a European federation.

With regard to the Rhineland and the Ruhr, virtually every Frenchman who has expressed an opinion favors special measures of some sort in that area. These views range from outright annexation of all or part of the area to measures of international economic control which single out this region from the rest of Germany. Recently, there has been increasing evidence of a desire to sever the Rhineland from main German state.

General de Gaulle’s statements on the Rhineland have been growing increasingly frank. Latest information indicates that he prefers outright French annexation rather than French control of an autonomous state. He is believed to favor the establishment of an international control for the Ruhr.

Those who favor international rather than French control of the Rhineland believe that such a policy would commit other nations to the maintenance of French security. They are therefore against annexation by France, either outright or disguised.


Although a consistent French program for defeated Germany is still in process of gestation, the following tentative conclusions seem justified: [Page 309]

The French will contend that their security requires, as a minimum, a long occupation and effective economic controls, the nature of which remains to be defined.
A general dismemberment of the Reich will not be advocated by the French, although they would not be likely to oppose such dismemberment if it were suggested by other powers. The French will not sponsor the destruction of German industry and the reduction of Germany to an agrarian state.
The French seem prepared to approve the transfer of German territory east of the Oder to Poland and the U. S. S. R. and the possible cession of border areas to Czechoslovakia. Extensive territorial transfers in the east would tend to strengthen potential French claims in the west, for the principle of German sovereignty over German populations would thus be partially abandoned, and the French could match any strategic arguments which might apply to cession of territory to the Poles.
The present French Government apparently aims to secure the annexation of the Rhineland to France. French policy may, however, remain flexible until the three major powers have clarified their positions as regards Germany. Adapting themselves to circumstances, the French may consider it advisable to propose disguised rather than open annexation. Such a proposal would probably involve the creation of a Rhenish state or “mandated area”, separated from Germany by political and economic barriers, and occupied by the French. The latter program might be accompanied by a demand for outright annexation of the Saar and perhaps some adjoining territory. As for the Ruhr, it appears likely that a share in international economic control of the area will satisfy the French.
The spirit of French policy toward Germany will be influenced by the distribution of party strength within France. The Provisional Government as now constituted represents what might be described as a moderate-conservative attitude in respect to the German settlement. Strong Communist influence in the Government, if it should appear in the near future, would introduce a relatively unknown factor, since Communist policy toward Germany remains to be defined. Finally, a shift of power to the parties of the less extreme Left (notably the Socialists) would probably result in a more moderate French attitude, especially if an effective international security system is established.